By Julian Cannon
There has been one question I have started to think about ever since WrestleMania 29. Who is the real Mr. Wrestlemania? Is it The Show Stopper Shawn Michaels or The Phenom The Undertaker. I’m going to take an overall look from their early Wrestlemania matches to the middle and the climax of their matches against each other a few years ago. Here we go.
Shawn Michaels came into the WWE before The Undertaker as a member of the tag team The Rockers with Marty Janetty in 1988. The team would have great tag team matches with teams such as the Killer Bees, the Quebecers, Hart foundation, Demolition and more. The Rockers were arguably the start of the high-flying tag teams we would see now in the 21st century. Shawn would break away from the team and become a singles competitor . At WrestleMania VIII, in his first pay-per-view singles match, Michaels defeated El Matador. Both men had simultaneously eliminated each other from that year’s Royal Rumble and the feud started from there until Wrestlemania VIII. Shortly after that, he would wrestle his only one-on-one match against Randy Savage for the WWE Championship at the UK Rampage PPV in April 1992. Wrestlemania 10 would be the next Wrestlemania for Shawn, as this time it was against Razor Ramon for the undisputed Intercontinental Championship. The match was extremely great and HBK was starting to be the “Show Stopper” that he was becoming in the future.
The Undertaker made his debut in the 1990 Survivor Series as the mystery tag partner for Ted Dibiase. The gimmick was an unseasonable wrestler and this scared the kids around the world. I don’t think that anybody else can pull this character off like The Undertaker did at the time. His first two Wrestlemania opponents were Jimmy Snuka and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Their matches were OK but not that special. Then in Wrestlemania 9, he faced the Giant Gonzales and many fans and observers call this the worst match in Taker’s career. I don’t think that it was his fault, though. Undertaker wins here by disqualification (his only Wrestlemania win by DQ). The next Wrestlemania, which is Wrestlemania 10, Undertaker missed this event due to an injury.
There was the first part. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were on the rise to fame and their paths have not crossed yet. At this time Shawn had the better matches than The Undertaker, but let’s blame Giant Gonzales for that horrible match at Wrestlemania 9. Next I will cover from Wrestlemania 11-17.
RISE OF WRESTLEMANIA STARDOM
What can I explain about Wrestlemania 11? The match card was a little out of place. Shawn Michaels would go against his bodyguard, Kevin Nash, by winning the Royal Rumble earlier that year. He would not win the match, but he put up a hell of a performance. Undertaker would go face-to-face with King Kong Bundy and he would pick up the win here in a short match. I would guess that Wrestlemania 11 got too much attention from Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor, that it overshadowed all the other matches on the card. 1996, we would get The Undertaker vs Kevin Nash which was a very underrated feud in my opinion. The feud started when The Undertaker made his return during the Cage Match for the WWE Championship between Nash and Bret Hart by costing Nash the championship and the match. Their match at Wrestlemania was The Undertaker’s best performance in a Wrestlemania since his Wrestlemania debut. Shawn Michaels would go against Bret Hart in a 60 minute Iron Man match, which would go on as one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time. Shawn picks up the WWE championship for the first time in this one. By the end of 1996 to mid 1997,the WWE was going through a rapid change due to WCW kicking their ass in the ratings every week and ECW being an alternative to both WWE and WCW. From January to March, there was going to be a rematch between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 13 but due to many backstage incidents, it was scrapped. So the main event for this Wrestlemania was The Undertaker going against Sid for the WWE championship in which the undertaker wins the belt for the second time in his career. Shawn did not wrestle in this event so taker takes the lead in this one. Now, in the summer of 1997,their paths finally crossed when Shawn became the referee for the undertaker vs Bret Hart match for the WWE title in which Bret wins due to Shawn costing the undertaker the match. weird huh? Well they would later have their first match against each other for the very first time in the very first hell in a cell match in which The Undertaker’s brother Kane made his debut. Shawn gets the win here and these two would face each other for the final time in a match for quite some time at the royal rumble 1998. During this match, Shawn would get a back injury that would eventually lead to his first retirement. Now to Wrestlemania 14. Undertaker squared off against Kane, a feud that has been going on for 6 months leads to this. The match was far from excellent and it was really the first time that the brawler side of the undertaker came out. Shawn Michaels put his WWE title on the line against the rising star Steve Austin. Everyone knew that Shawn was out the door and Austin was going to be the next face of the company so Shawn did the match despite the back injury. That’s right, while Undertaker would wrestle on the following Wrestlemania in a hell in s cell match, Shawn is at retirement. Taker’s next match would be against triple h. This time The Undertaker was doing the biker gimmick and he was more like himself instead of the unread wrestler. This match was my second favorite of the night and taker picks up the win after a nearly 25 minute brawl that went to outside the crowd.
What can I say about the second part. While Shawn had the better matches at this period, it was The Undertaker at this period that was starting to give us the moments of Wrestlemania that we all talk about. Shawn retired in 1998 and undertaker became one of the 5 faces of the WWE from 1998-2000. We are in the 21st century in this part now and I will cover from Wrestlemania 18-24
THE UNDEFEATED STREAK/RETURN OF THE SHOWSTOPPER
In the beginning of 2002, Undertaker was the hardcore champion for a few months before loosing it to the tough enough winner Maven by the help of Ric Flair. Ric flair then challenged undertaker to a match at Wrestlemania 18 in which the undertaker won. Jim Ross on commentary noted out that The Undertaker is now 10-0 in Wrestlemania. After that comment I thought to myself “damn 10-0 already, he has an undefeated streak going on”. Also in that year, Shawn Michaels made his return to WWE as a member of the NWO. Yes the WWE version. Anyways, Wrestlemania 19 in 2003 was on the way and Shawn Michaels feuded with a wrestler that idolized him and that was Chris Jericho. This match was the match of the year in my opinion and both these guys wrestled like it was a mirror match. Undertaker went against the big show and A Train in a handicap match which was quite OK but not bad. This would mark the final Wrestlemania for the biker gimmick for the undertaker. Wrestlemania 20 marked the return of the undead wrestler gimmick with a new look. That’s right he knows how to change with the times too. He defeated Kane for the second time in a quick match. The main event was a triple threat match for the world title. It was Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit. This was a mix of everything here with Triple H’s brawling style to Shawn’s high-flying to Benoit ‘s technical shoot style. Overall I consider this the best triple threat match in WWE history. 2005 I would say was the peak of the Ruthless Aggression era. John Cena and Batista were the new faces of raw and Smackdown and this PPV had awesome matches. The match between Kurt angle and Shawn Michaels was a match I never thought would happen. Two points to make here. Nobody could out wrestle Kurt and nobody could out perform Shawn. When these two clashed, it was a war to see who was better than the other. Kurt would win here but it also proves that these two can work great matches together and they did. In the same PPV, Randy Orton challenged the streak and this was the first time that the undefeated streak became the focus of Wrestlemania. The part of the match that still gets me to this day was when taker went for a choke slam only for Orton to give taker the RKO out of nowhere. Taker wins by countering the tombstone attempt by Orton for a tombstone of his own injuring Orton in the process as well. Wrestlemania 22 was in 2006 and I believe this was the most underrated Wrestlemania of all time. Mark Henry attempts to break the streak in a casket match but the Dead man wins here. Also, Shawn Michaels went against Vince McMahon in a street fight in my mind or even Vince’s mind was his best match he ever had. After that spot from the ladder to the table I was really afraid that McMahon would get a heart attack.
The time now is 2007. The last two left in the royal rumble that year was The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. This was the first one on one confrontation between these two since the royal rumble 1998. I would also consider this the best ending to a royal rumble match ever. Taker eliminates Shawn Michaels here and he goes to Wrestlemania to face Batista for the world championship while Shawn Michaels go against John Cena for the WWE championship. Oddly both of their matches were given a 5 star rating from many pro wrestling magazines and the question was, which match was better? in my mind I thought The Undertaker vs Batista match should have closed the show since he won the royal rumble a few months prior. And if you notice, the undertaker has now defeated every member of evolution at Wrestlemania (Triple H, Randy Orton, Ric Flair, Batista). Shawn Michaels lost the match against John Cena and about a month later, these two would wrestle again on Monday Night Raw from 9:59 pm all the way to the end of the show at 11:05 pm. That hour long match I would consider the greatest raw match of all time.
WrestleMania 24 came along the way and the next opponent for Shawn Michaels would be Ric Flair. The story of this was back in September 2007, Vince McMahon cut a promo on Ric Flair and since he is the chairman of the WWE, he makes the rules. the major rule that got me hooked on this storyline is that the next time he loose a match, his career will be over. I had no idea who was going to retire Ric Flair and then Shawn would make the challenge. meanwhile at Smackdown. the undertaker wins an elimination chamber match to become the #1 contender for edge’s world championship. the story behind this one was that both edge and the undertaker are undefeated at Wrestlemania. Shawn Michaels defeated and retired Ric Flair and weather if you are a fan of Ric Flair or not, the emotion to see this guy retire was just heartbreaking. Edge vs The Undertaker closed the PPV on this show and many time I actually thought Edge would break the streak. Undertaker proved me wrong after those run in’s by Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. undertaker is now 16-0
There you have it. Both The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels made an impact on Wrestlemania in the 2000’s. both has made their mark in sports entertainment and both are glorified legends at this point. here is the final part in which I will cover from Wrestlemania 25 and 26
FIRST ENCOUNTER AND SECOND AND FINAL ENCOUNTER
By 2009, the streak has become the most important thing in Wrestlemania..even more important than both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship. Shawn has made the challenge to The Undertaker, pointing out that the last time they had a match was at the 1998 royal rumble in which the undertaker gave Michaels the back injury. undertaker accepts and then Shawn Michales cut some promos about how he will defeat the streak. to be honest, there were only three people before Wrestlemania 29 that really got me to believe that the streak will be broken. and that was Randy Orton, Edge and Shawn Michaels. and I would tie Shawn with CM Punk as the only two who actually came close to winning it.
So the match is now set up for Wrestlemania 25 with a lot of high expectations. From the moment this match started, I was glued on to the TV screen. The fans were back and fourth and did not know if they should cheer for the undertaker or Shawn Michaels. There were a few great spots including when the undertaker did a dive to Shawn Michaels outside the ring only for Shawn to move out and let the camera man take the bump instead. The moment when taker did the tombstone piledriver and Shawn kicked out stunned the entire audience and the world. Then Shawn went for the diving moon sault only for the undertaker to catch him and perform the tombstone again to get the victory here. Both these men stole the entire show here and many fans considered this out did the ironman match between Shawn and Bret in Wrestlemania 12 . I have to agree with the fans here and Dave Meltzer from the wrestling observer newsletter gave this match a 5 star rating. The first match in the united states to get this rating since the first hell in a cell match back in 1997. By the rest of the year of 2009, The Undertaker returned at Summerslam to feud with CM Punk and Shawn and Triple H reformed Degeneration X and would capture the tag team championship as well. At the beginning of 2010, Shawn Michaels wanted a rematch with the undertaker. Taker refused his request. Then at the elimination chamber ppv, Shawn Michaels made a run-in and give Undertaker the super kick for Chris Jericho to get the pin and become the new World Heavyweight Champion. On the next raw,undertaker accepted his challenge ..under one stipulation. If Shawn wins, the streak of 17-0 will be broken. If Shawn looses, not only the streak goes to 18-0 ,but Shawn Michaels wrestling career will be over. By this time I knew his career is coming to an end. I have watched him since 1994 and he left a lot of memories. I did not want to see it happen but it did. The match was absolutely great but the match the year before was better in my opinion . Also this was the last match on the card so it was that important to us since it was the end of Shawn Michaels.
After Shawn Michaels, it was Triple H two times and then CM Punk. Also back in 2009, I made a theory that when Undertaker reaches 20-0,he will loose the next Wrestlemania. Undertaker defeated CM Punk and he is now 21-0 .The question is, how long can the dead man go and who will break the streak. That we will leave to the WWE writers but as a fan point of view, its just a question that cannot be answered right now. Who is Mr.Wrestlemania? I would have to say the moment Shawn Michaels lost the second time, he also lost the title of “Mr. Wrestlemania “. The streak became the title that everyone wanted to break since 2005. It even had a number 1 contender match on raw this year when CM Punk defeated Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus. Shawn Michaels set the bar on his matches and he made himself an icon. The Undertaker has made his mark at Wrestlemania and now he is the one who to be hunted. So for now, The Undertaker can be called Mr.Wrestlemania