The WrestleMania return of Shawn Michaels was one of the big stories of WrestleMania 19. After a five year absence, Michaels – who later earned the nickname “Mr. WrestleMania” – faced a younger wrestler that idolized him, Chris Jericho.

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Who: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WrestleMania 19

When: March 30, 2003

Where: Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington

The Build

Shawn Michaels was out of action for over four years prior to his return at SummerSlam 2002 when he beat Triple H. Three months later, he won the World Heavyweight Title – his last time winning a major singles title. Heading into the Royal Rumble, it was assumed that he would have a match at WrestleMania, but we didn’t know who that match might be against.

At the Royal Rumble, Jericho and Michaels were the first two guys in the match. After Michaels entered the Rumble, Christian appeared by the entrance instead of Jericho, which allowed Jericho to hit Michaels with a low blow and eliminated him. Michaels got his revenge later, but the feud was on at that point.

In the build up to the match, Jericho talked about how he idolized Michaels while showing proof that he copied his look regularly before he was a WWE superstar. Jericho talked about how he wanted to be like Michaels. There was a vicious chair shot on Raw as Jericho nailed Michaels in the head with it and Michaels was busted open. Michaels answered the challenge with a Superkick.

I thought the build was strong. Jericho grew up wanting to be like Michaels and he had the chance to see if he could beat him. Easy story to tell. Any time a story makes sense like this one did that’s a good thing.

What I Thought Back Then

They are two of my favorite wrestlers ever, so I was really excited about. Michaels tops the list for me and probably always will. I don’t think there’s ever been a better in-ring performer than Michaels. As for Jericho, he was always very good in the ring and at his best as a heel like he was going into this match.

I’m not sure who I predicted to win the match. On the one hand, Michaels winning made sense since because it was his return to WrestleMania. It was a way to show he was back and as good as ever. Jericho was the younger guy (by about five years), so having him get the win would have been big for his career at this point as an upper midcard heel.

There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be an outstanding match. They were too good not to have a classic.

Here’s my full review of the match plus the analysis, which was written in 2003 when the show aired and I added to it in 2012.

Next up was Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho. I loved the build to this match with Jericho talking about how he grew up idolizing Michaels and then he did everything he could to get under his skin to have this match. They aired a video package detailing the feud, which was better than I remembered it. I love these two guys and you can probably tell how much as you get into reading about the match.

Jericho’s wearing baby blue tights with black tracing. On the way to the ring Shawn tries to shoot these hand-held pyrotechnics, but some of them didn’t work. That was funny. Shawn is wearing the red Heartbreak Kid tights of old.

(I should note here that Jericho gave Michaels the middle finger gesture as he entered the ring with JR noting that it was a “classless act by Jericho.” That is edited out of the WWE Network version of the match.)

Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho

Shawn taunts him by posing on the top ropes. Jericho with a wrist lock, HBK gets a hip toss, takedown by Jericho, HBK pushes him off. Side headlock by HBK, Y2J rolls it into two. (I wouldn’t write the sequences out like that today, but want to leave it in to let you know how my style has changed over the years.) Jericho breaks out with elbows, criss-cross, Jericho slaps him and Shawn punches him in the face then tosses him out. HBK goes for a plancha, Jericho ducks so Shawn goes back in the ring and nails him with a baseball slide on the floor. Cross body by HBK, Jericho rolls through for two. Into the ropes, Jericho gets a spinning heel kick followed by some punching. Chop, chop, hard whip into the turnbuckle. Jericho goes for a running bulldog, but Shawn reverses it so that Jericho goes groin first into the middle turnbuckle. HBK gets a figure four leglock, Jericho reverses it. Crowd isn’t into it as much as you’d think. Kneebreaker, figure four again, but Chris sends him shoulder first into the ring post. Jericho tries to throw him out, but HBK skins the cat and takes Jericho out with a headscissors. HBK nails a plancha onto Jericho on the outside. Outside the ring, HBK goes for a dropkick that Jericho reverses into the Walls. He sits in it until the eight count, then breaks up the count. HBK goes back first into the ring post. Big heat for Jericho. I like it a lot. Jericho’s working on the back to set up for the Walls of Jericho.

Jericho hits the springboard dropkick from inside the ring onto Shawn on the apron and throws him back in the ring. Back suplex for Y2J. Standing vertical suplex for two. More people are chanting “TWO” now. Good job by both guys of getting the crowd involved. Hard backbreaker by Jericho. Cocky heel flex pose pin for two. Jericho goes for a back body drop, which is reversed into a DDT as both guys are out on the mat for an eight count. Jericho gets a flying forearm and the nip up followed by an HBK flex pose. Then HBK nips up! Sweet! What an awesome moment. HBK forearm, nip up, atomic drop, clothesline, back body drop. Into the buckle, Jericho eats boot and then the standing moonsault for the long two for Michaels. Good nearfall. Rollup by HBK for two, Jericho for 2, HBK for 2, Jericho for 2, Walls are reversed by HBK. Northern Lights suplex by Jericho for two! Back slide, HBK bridges up, and clothesline. HBK chant starts up. Facecrusher by Jericho. Lionsault. One, two, no. Again for two. Into the ropes, HBK goes for a hurricanrana. Walls of Jericho in the center of the ring! Crowd is going ballistic with HBK chants as Shawn gets the ropes. Jericho goes for the Walls again, HBK reverses into an inside cradle for two! Double underhook into a backbreaker by Jericho. Off the top, Jericho hits a reverse elbow and starts warming up the band! He hits the superkick! 1…2…no! Wow, that was awesome. HBK fights him off to nail a crossbody and then they trade punches. HBK going for the Walls, but changes his mind into a slingshot on the turnbuckle for two. Punch by HBK misses, Jericho goes to the back. Jericho sets him up on the top rope. Back suplex coming up, but HBK counters it into a crossbody! I love this match! One, two, no. Shawn goes up top, Jericho kicks the ref into the ropes as Shawn gets crotched. Superplex reversed, Jericho lands face first. Top rope elbow! Crowd is going apeshit now and so am I. Warming up the band for the superkick. The kick misses, Jericho ducks and puts him in the Walls of Jericho! He’s in the move for thirty seconds or so, but HBK gets to the bottom rope. We’re twenty minutes into it now. Jericho yells at the ref, then runs back into HBK and eats a superkick. Shawn crawls over. One, two, NO! Wow. Everybody thought that was it including me. This match rules! Rules, I say! Jericho whips HBK into the corner where he does an insane back bump. He bounces back, Jericho grabs him and HBK rolls him up using his feet to keep Jericho’s shoulders down for the one, two, and three! What a match! It went 22:34.

Winner by pinfall: Shawn Michaels

Post match, Shawn sticks out his hand for Jericho to shake it. Jericho hugs him to a huge pop. The crowd totally buys into it. Then Jericho kicks him in the groin! Then he shoves him down. Huge heel heat! Awesome moment. Jericho left while Michaels was down in the ring.

Analysis: ****1/2 Outstanding match. There was a lot of hype going into this because it was Michaels’ WrestleMania return and to this point Jericho hadn’t had a classic match at WrestleMania, so it was big for both guys. They delivered the goods as far as I’m concerned. They did an amazing job of making believable nearfalls, timing everything perfectly well and putting on a great display of counter wrestling. My one main gripe is that Jericho worked over Michaels’ back quite a bit early, then it kind of stopped and he didn’t sell it as much as he probably should have. The back injury was the key story going in and it was the big reason why Michaels got so much sympathy babyface heat. I would have liked an even longer Walls of Jericho sequence at the end. The finish with Michaels beating him with a cradle instead of the superkick was cool because it let us know that a big match like this could end at any time. Their best match ever was the No Mercy 2008 ladder match, which was a five star match that was my match of the year too. This one is special too, though.

You can read my full recap of WrestleMania 19 right here.

What They Said

Both men wrote books with a lot of content about this match, so seek those out if you want more info.

Chris Jericho talking to WrestleTalk Radio about the match in detail:

“Yeah, I mean, it was a great match. I mean, there has only been about 28 matches they can say that they stole the show at WrestleMania, which is like winning an Oscar, and Shawn and I did that at (WrestleMania) 19. Coolest thing was that was the first time we’d ever wrestled each other; we might have done a few little thing leading up to it, but we’d never had an official match. So, that was really cool to know that the chemistry was there right off the bat.

“I think we were both motivated; I was motivated on my end because it was the biggest WrestleMania match I’d ever had up to that point, although the year before I was duking it out with Triple H, which was great, but Shawn was kind of my idol, the guy I looked up to the most, the guy that I wanted to be the most, the guy that I almost had the very similar, almost exact same style and attitude and reputation, to be honest with you. And Shawn was motivated because that was his first WrestleMania back, I think he was still a bit tentative as to what he could and could do in the ring and we definitely brought out the best in each other and it wasn’t just that time; I think the feud that we had in 2008 was even better. I think that was one of the greatest angles and feuds of all time, you know, without sounding egotistical once again. So, if anyone ever asked me ‘who is your favorite guy to wrestle of all time’, I’d always say Shawn Michaels, by far. So, yeah, it was a great match, great chemistry that we had, perfect close finishes; I wouldn’t change a thing about it, except maybe Shawn’s hairstyle.”

Shawn Michaels talking about his idea to do the kick to the nuts after the match:

“I always likened it to Godfather 2 when Michael Corleone kisses Fredo and says I knew it was you. We thought about numerous different things and I said how about nothing works better than a swift kick to the nuts.”

What I Think Now

The match is outstanding. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and I’m glad that I have this column to get me to re-watch some of these classics. There were so many cool moments in the match as Jericho worked on the back for a lot of it, Michaels came back like he did so many times and I thought the match could have ended at several different points.

I’ll never get tired of their matches. They are so similar in a lot of ways. I’m sure that when they wrestled eachother they thought it was easy to put together a good match because of the confidence they had in the other guy. Styles make fights as they say in boxing and in wrestling, when two guys have a similar style it leads to greater matches.

The finish of the match was well done. I’m glad that they didn’t have Michaels win with a Superkick because the rollup using the legs was a finish that showed how evenly matched they were. It’s okay to use a creative finish like that once in a while.

After the match was over, Jericho hit that low blow and the crowd absolutely hated him for it. They were ready to start cheering Jericho as a sign of respect for a great match, but his actions prevented that from happening. Perfect heel move.

What Happened Next

They were two of the most important performers in WWE in the 2000s. Michaels worked as a face (aside from a one month feud with Hulk Hogan in 2005) until his retirement in 2010. As I said earlier, he didn’t win a World Title again mainly because he was on a part time schedule and there are stories that he refused it even when it was offered to him by the creative team.

Jericho worked as a heel for the next year, turned face about a year after, went heel again, took a break for a couple of years and was better than ever as a heel in 2008. It’s pretty cool that we’re talking about a match from 14 years ago and Jericho’s still wrestling as one of the best performers in WWE today.

The awesome thing about these guys is this wasn’t even their best feud. They topped themselves in 2008 with a seven-month storyline that featured a personal rivalry, the World Title was involved and an incredible Ladder Match at No Mercy 2008 with Jericho going over in the end.

Final Thoughts

There are so many things to love about the match. I think the sign of any great match is the crowd reactions. In this case, the crowd of 54,000 people was into it from the start, but they got louder as the match went on. When you can do that you know you’ve got something special brewing. It got louder as the match went on and pinfall by Michaels earned a huge ovation. It didn’t stop after the match either because when Jericho hit that low blow the crowd hated him so much for doing that.

I loved WrestleMania 19 because of this match as well as Rock/Austin and Angle/Lesnar. Even McMahon/Hogan had my interest. It was such a strong show that had a lot of hype and it lived up to it. There’s still one more match from that show coming up on the list. Drink it in, man. 

Rankings So Far

  1. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WrestleMania 19
  2. The Undertaker vs. CM Punk @ WrestleMania 29
  3. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista @ WrestleMania 30
  4. Edge vs. Mick Foley @ WrestleMania 22
  5. The Undertaker vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 27
  6. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 8
  7. The Undertaker vs. Edge @ WrestleMania 24
  8. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 23
  9. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 30
  10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @ WrestleMania 17
  11. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WrestleMania 19
  12. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) @ WrestleMania 31
  13. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 20
  14. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 18
  15. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 24
  16. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch @ WrestleMania 32
  17. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WrestleMania 8
  18. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 6

WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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