The dynamic of good vs evil is largely gone in the world of professional wrestling. Bad guys are cheered more often then good guys, good guys fall flat, and wins and loses don’t seem to matter all that much. Wins and loses don’t seem to matter at all. For those that don’t understand pro wrestling, they don’t understand that a match is either, a climax of a story, or a chapter of a story. A great story doesn’t always make a great match. A great match doesn’t always make a great story. When you talk about the greatest matches of all time, a great story is always a part of the equation.
There was a time, prior to 2014 that The Undertaker winning at Wrestlemania was a forgone conclusion. The only questions were, 1) who would the opponent be, 2) and how good would the match wind up?
In 2009, the story to get Wrestlemania 25 was a bit convoluted. Shawn Michaels had been forced to be JBL’s employee, he won his freedom, blah blah blah insert wrestling nonsense here, he challenges Undertaker, someone else challenges Undertaker, Michaels wins match and right to face Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
Ok. All that pretty much sucked.
But then something happened.
The WWE allowed the two most tenured employees of the company to tell a story leading to a match that was so good you lose all concept of what you’re watching. You forget The Undertaker wins at Wrestlemania. Always. You forget you actually love both guys and you start to doubt what you think you already know.
“Sometimes it’s hell, trying to get to heaven.” – The Undertaker
That line took this build from something somewhat ordinary to something astonishing. The biblical tons over their weekly promos created a feeling of something other worldly. It was Heaven or Hell, Good or Evil, The Shining Light or The Darkside.
Shawn Michaels descended from the heavens, dressed in all white. The Undertaker ascended from the depths of hell, dress in all black. The entrances were part of the story. The moment the two men entered the ring, the 72,000 fans at the Reliant Stadium began buzzing. They knew they were in for something special. Though none of us knew how special.
This match played out like an Academy Award-winning movie. One man, so desperate to do what so many have deemed impossible. One man, so mythical the option of defeat no longer exists. There are moments in a match you know the end is near. Those moments went on for the final 10 minutes of this match.
You forgot the Undertaker was supposed to win. When Shawn Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music you forget the Undertaker was supposed to kick out. You jump at every choke slam, every tombstone, every kip up, and every reversal. You were so excited to see the ending you never wanted it to come.
Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 is the single greatest match I’ve ever seen. Better than Flair and Steamboat, better than Hitman and Austin. Better than anything I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years as a wrestling fan.
Do yourself a favor, if you’re not a wrestling fan, go watch this one match. Watch it with no preconceived notions as to what wrestling is. Watch this and allow yourself to get swept up in the moment. It’s worth it.
(This is one of the best produced videos the WWE ever but together. It was used as a lead in for their Wrestlemania 26 rematch)