Shawn Michaels Final Run; Wrestlemania Matches Ranked Worst to Best By John Brecko

 

Image credit via TWMWrestling

 

Shawn Michaels in unquestionably one of the greatest performers to ever step in a wrestling ring.

In the mid-90s, Shawn Michaels was one of two men to define a generation of talent in the World Wrestling Federation.

The other was Bret “Hit Man” Hart, who he had an all-time classic wrestling match with at Wrestlemania 12. However, Shawn Michaels injured his back in 1998 and everyone in the wrestling industry as well as the fans thought it was a career ending injury.

Shawn Michaels did not wrestle again until Summer Slam in 2002 and from Wrestlemania 19 to Wrestlemania 26, he had the best string of Wrestlemania matches of his career. That’s saying something when you almost never have a bad night…

Here is Shawn Michaels’s final run of Wrestlemania matches ranked from worst to best.

#8:Shawn Michaels vs Vince McMahon – Wrestlemania 22

This was a match that had soap opera levels of drama, as many McMahon matches do. The storyline going in was that Shawn thought it was time for the god fighting, diva kissing, kiss my ass club having boss to “grow up”(to be fair…he was 60 around this time…).

From there, Vince McMahon decided to screw over Shawn Michaels at every turn, costing him matches, having his other employees jump him, having him literally kiss his boss’s ass on live television, etc.

It was time for Shawn Michaels to royally make him pay in a way we have never seen. The payback was so glorious and the beatdown was so intense that it almost turned heel (bad guy) McMahon into a babyface (good guy).

Despite interference from the Spirit Squad (a group of five male cheerleaders because WWE has always seemed to have a thing for bad gimmicks…at least it gave us Dolph Ziggler, who we used to like…) as well as Shane McMahon, Shawn hit his boss in the head with a steel chair, a ladder, a trash can and dropped an elbow on Vince off a ladder through a trash can and a table before sweet chin music and 1…2…3.

Vince McMahon leaves on a stretcher, but not before he flips Shawn Michaels the bird (icing on the cake at its finest). It was a great match that did what it was supposed to do, boss tries to screw employee, and still nearly gets beaten to death. Two people who could add the most drama to this scenario and you have a memorable match. However, I cannot say it was an in ring classic (McMahon matches just are not those type of matches) and as great as it was, it is the first spot on this list.

It is so insane to watch, that it is worth seeing.

#7: Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho – Wrestlemania 19

Wrestlemania 19 has one of the strongest cards of all 36 Wrestlemanias that have taken place. Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho adds to that strong card just as much as any match.

The story was that Chris Jericho was taking on his idol. It would have been a compliment in the beginning of his career to be called “the next Shawn Michaels”, but now he wants to be called “the first Chris Jericho”.

Simple storyline and a simple reason to fight and it was elevated by becoming personal with cheap shots and set ups from Chris Jericho so he could attack his former idol (something WWE should try to do nowadays…)

They had a great back and forth match that made Chris Jericho look like a million bucks in defeat, hitting the lionsault (his finisher at the time), Shawn Michaels’s finisher (sweet chin music), lock him in the walls of Jericho (his submission move) twice, along with kicking out of sweet chin music from HBK. Michaels would eventually win with a roll up and extend his hand to Jericho who we though would take it in sportsmanship, but he kicked him right below the belt after doing so (classic bad guy 101 right there).

Shawn Michael actually had to be convinced to compete at Wrestlemania this year. When he returned at Summer Slam eight months prior to this match, it was supposed to a one time thing, before that one match turned into one last title run before it turned into him returning full time. If not for that convincing to return to the ring for another Wrestlemania, this whole list may not have ever happened.

#6: Shawn Michaels vs John Cena – Wrestlemania 23

No one wanted John Cena to win this match. However, out of all the Wrestlemania matches John Cena competed in, Shawn Michaels got his best one.

Triple H (Shawn’s tag team partner beforehand) went down with an injury, which would lead to Wrestlemania opponents becoming tag team champions. Shawn Michaels would eventually become the number one contender, which would lead to him super kicking Cena’s head off six nights before the big match.

We saw Cena’s leg get worked on during the match, including a lot of entertaining spots, like Shawn Michaels getting busted open after going into the ring post head first, a piledriver into the steel ring steps, finishers, submissions, a moonsault from Shawn Michaels into John Cena on an announce table that did not break. In the end, Cena may have won, but we still got a match that was more than worthy of a main event at a Wrestlemania.

#5: Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair – Wrestlemania 24

Ric Flair may have gone on to wrestle in TNA after this match, but his sendoff match in the WWE was as close to perfect as you can possibly get.

Ric Flair’s career had been on the line in every singles match for awhile and this is what it was building to.

His Hall of Fame induction into the WWE was the night before, making him the first active wrestler to ever get inducted.

We all knew it was coming, but it was emotional nonetheless.

We saw Ric Flair hit a low blow, capitalize off of Shawn Michaels being unable to hit sweet chin music because he did not want to end the career of one of his idols and lock in the figure four leg lock (Flair’s submission move). We saw Ric Flair as “the dirtiest player in the game”. Even his sendoff added to the match because we saw the man who was “the jet flyin, limousine ridin, kiss stealin, wheelin dealin son of a gun”. We saw Shawn Michaels not cover Ric Flair after hitting a second sweet chin music, maybe because he did not want to cover him and saw Ric Flair tell him to bring it before he was finally hit with one more super kick and that was the end of the match.

There have been many emotional goodbyes, but there will never be another Ric Flair. The wrestlers were great and the emotion in the match made it what it is today.

#4: Shawn Michaels vs Triple H vs Chris Benoit – Wrestlemania 20

I hate that I have to put this match on here because of Chris Benoit (if you don’t know what he did, look it up), but it is part of this Wrestlemania run.

To be honest, I have to admit how great it is.

Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble lasting longer than anyone in history to do so and came over from Smackdown to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Shawn Michaels and Triple H still had their score to settle, so this match was made.

It told a beautiful story with all three men fighting for control in the match before Shawn Michaels and Triple H put Chris Benoit through an announce table so they can settle their score, which they almost do before Chris Benoit fights back and even kicks out of a sweet chin music later on in the match before tapping out Triple H with a crippler crossface (his submission hold).

Benoit and Eddie Guerrero would celebrate as the WWE and World Heavyweight Champion in the ring afterwards and in the moment it was a great ending to a fantastic Wrestlemania, even if it is hard to look at the match and that moment fondly today.

#3: Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle – Wrestlemania 21

If you are wrestling fan, you probably knew what these last two matches would be of this final run, but without those two matches, this is Shawn’s best match.

In my opinion, maybe his best of all time other than the top two on this list (and he had a 60 minute classic with Bret Hart nine years before this).

Kurt Angle is the only gold medalist in pro-wrestling history, but when he won that gold medal, all he heard about was Shawn Michaels (in storyline obviously) and he could not stand it, so this was to prove he was better than Shawn.

He angle slammed him on the steel ring post, worked on Shawn’s previously injured back throughout the match, but Shawn fought back and even hit a crossbody onto an announce table that did not break (plus the landing on it looked nasty). Even after multiple angle slams from Kurt Angle (which was his finisher) along with multiple ankle locks (his submission hold), he just could not put Shawn Michaels away at Wrestlemania.

He yelled at him at one point to stay down and then got hit with sweet chin music. 1, 2, kickout. As soon as Shawn Michaels got up, he was put into the ankle lock again. This time, he would not get out. Kurt Angle laid down and trapped Shawn’s leg so he could not crawl to the bottom rope and even Shawn continued to struggle for a time, he had no choice but to tap out.

This was a classic that would be hard for even Shawn Michaels to beat, but his last two Wrestlemania matches were up to the task.

#2: Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker; Streak vs Career – Wrestlemania 26

This was a rematch from the Wrestlemania prior and the Undertaker’s 17-0 streak was on the line. At first he did not agree to the match because he had already beaten Shawn Michaels. However, he would cost the Undertaker the World Heavyweight Championship at the pay-per-view before WWE’s “show of shows”. He accepted under the condition that Michaels would put his career on the line.

Shawn Michaels would get several near falls on the Undertaker and in turn would take chokeslams, last rides, and not one, but two tombstone piledrivers (every finishing move in the Undertaker’s arsenal), but he just could not put Shawn away. Shawn tried to use the Undertaker’s body to get to his feet and the deadman yelled at HBK to “stay down”. Shawn would respond with a slap and the Undertaker would hit a third tombstone to finally put Shawn Michaels away.

A handshake was exchanged at the end and the sendoff was not as emotional as Ric Flair’s, but in my opinion, it was close.

In terms of the story, this may be Shawn Michaels’s greatest ever Wrestlemania match. However, when we look at the wrestling matches, there is one better.

#1: Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker – Wrestlemania 25

In terms of wrestling, this is not just the greatest Wrestling match of Shawn Michaels’s final run between 2002 and 2010. This is the single greatest match of any Wrestlemania he has ever been a part of. Fight me.

Hype, storytelling, fallout, drama, all of that adds to a match. However, what a match comes down to in the end is what the two performers do in the ring.

All the previous elements I mentioned added to what they did perfectly, but two of the greatest wrestlers we have ever seen overdelivered in a situation that was nearly impossible to do so.

It was a 30 minute back and forth classic that started off great, picked up with entertaining spot after entertaining spot as the match rolled on. Michaels missed a moonsault and landed on the ring floor (the sound of the splat of Shawn’s body on the ring floor was horrible to listen to). The Undertaker missed a flying clothesline to the outside and landed on his neck and a cameraman (that was even worse). The Undertaker was almost counted out by the referee, but made it in the ring right before the 10 count. 

There was in “Good Ol’ J.R.” Jim Ross’s words. “Chokeslam, Last Rides, Tombstones, and a kickout, and a kickout and a kickout!” There were two sweet chin musics, both men trading punches barely able to stand. Michaels tried to hit a moonsault from the top rope, but was caught and tombstoned a second time for the pinfall and the victory. The Wrestlemania match that followed may have had a better story behind it, but this was the better match and is #1 on this list.


All of these matches are classics and you should check them all out. Just like the NXT matches I covered in my previous list, there is no weak link among them and they are all more than worth the watch. Trust me on that. Shawn Michaels is dubbed “Mr. Wrestlemania” for a reason.

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