Shawn Michaels. Razor Ramon. Two of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history. One was a rising star and known the world over for his in-ring skills. The other was one of the best gimmicks WWE had at the time. They were bitter rivals inside the ring, but close friends outside it. The chemistry they had with each other was something special. They proved that in their many confrontations, and especially in this match.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
In late 1993, Michaels was suspended from WWE. The on-screen explanation was that he didn’t defend his Intercontinental Championship enough. While he was gone, Razor Ramon won the title and acted like the rightful champion. When Michaels returned, he also carried the WWF/E Intercontinental Championship because he had never actually been defeated as champion. So WWE had two Intercontinental Champions, both of whom thought they had a legitimate claim to the honor. To settle their differences, Shawn and Razor met at WrestleMania X in a rarely-seen Ladder match for both championship belts.
This match took place on March 20, 1994.
This is for the WWF/E Intercontinental Championship. They lock up and exchange quick holds. Razor whips Michaels but Michaels goes for a hip toss but it’s blocked by razor. Michaels does a standing backflip to try and regain control, but Razor hits a big chokeslam out of nowhere. Another Irish whip by Razor, but Michaels ducks a pair of clotheslines and hits a running neckbreaker. Razor blocks a turnbuckle smash and charges Michaels but he dodges and Razor flies through the ropes. Diesel knocks Razor down ringside as there are no disqualifications. But Earl Hebner calls Diesel’s BS and sends him to the back.
Back in the ring, Razor hits a strong right hand that knocks Michaels down. Razor whips Michaels into the turnbuckle so hard he does the turnbuckle flip, and then gets tossed outside. Razor rips off the ringside padding, but Michaels tosses him back into the ring. He goes for the Razor’s Edge but Michaels back body drops him out of the ring and onto that exposed concrete at ringside. Damn, no matter how tough you are, that has to hurt.
Michaels grabs the ladder and drags it to the ring but Razor cuts him off and tosses him back into the ring. Then, as Razor tried to bring the ladder into the ring, Michaels kicked the ladder into Razor’s ribs. That was a fantastic use of the ladder as a weapon.
Michaels is in control as he smashes the ladder into Razor’s gut and then smashes it into his stomach and back. Razor dangles in the ropes as Michaels tosses the ladder into Razor’s back. Michaels sets the ladder up and starts the first climb of the match as the crowd cheers wildly. But Razor grabs his leg, only to get kicked off. Shawn hits a diving elbow from the ladder and then scoop slams Razor on the canvas. Then, Michaels climbs the top rope and hits his famous move, the move that made him immortal. Michaels dives off from the second rung of the top of the ladder and splashes onto Razor. Wow. That was gorgeous.
Shawn climbs the ladder and is fingertips away from the titles when Razor pushes the ladder from under him. That sends Michaels throat-first into the top rope as the crowd explodes for a moment. They both get up and have a double collision. Michaels set up the ladder in a corner and tries to whip Razor into it, but it’s reversed and Michaels ends up kissing the ladder and falling out of the ring. Razor takes the ladder with him and starts smashing Michaels with it, getting revenge from before. He sets the ladder outside against the ring and slingshots Michaels into the ladder, which then falls on top of Michaels.
Back in the ring, Razor smashes the ladder head into Michaels’ head which sends Michaels outside of the opposite side of the ring. Razor sets up the ladder and starts climbing, but Michaels climbs the turnbuckle closest to him and dives, knocking the ladder down.
They both climb the same ladder from opposite sides and start brawling at the top. Strong right hands by both but Razor tosses Michaels off yet they both fall off. Razor reaches the top and touches the titles, but Michaels kicks the ladder which sends Razor falling back down again. Michaels gets up slowly and pushes the ladder onto Razor. He whips Razor and Razor ducks a clothesline but eats a superkick instead. Michaels signals the end and hits a strong belly-to-back piledriver. Shawn lifts the ladder up and climbs onto the top turnbuckle, and then hits a diving splash that sends the ladder into Razor’s chest. Fantastic move.
Shawn set up the ladder again, this time on top of Razor. He climbs it but Razor slowly gets up. Razor starts shaking the ladder. He runs and kicks it which sends Michaels crotch-first into the ropes. Suddenly Michaels’ foot is tangled in the ropes. He can’t move. The crowd explodes as Shawn tries to untangle himself. Razor climbs the ladder slowly as Shawn squirms about. The crowd is electric. Shawn is so close, he’s desperately trying to free himself. He finally frees himself makes it to his feet but Razor has reached the top of the ladder. Shawn falls to the mat as razor clasps the belts in victory.
Winner and ‘undisputed’ WWE Intercontinental Champion after 18:47: Razor Ramon
Back in March of this year, WWE posted this video of Michaels and Ramon watching the match 25 years later. The video is only about five minutes, but it’s cool to hear their thoughts on it.
There’s a reason why Shawn Michaels is and has been praised by so many people. He has an uncanny ability to sell emotion and make it look like he’s in legitimate pain. Whenever he squirms and writhes in pain, it feels real and you cannot help but feel the anguish he’s going through. That was apparent in this match as well. He made Razor look like a million bucks. And Razor worked better here than he ever had before. He went to another level to keep up with Shawn’s pace.
As for the match’s significance, one cannot deny how important this match was. This was the first time a Ladder match was booked in front of a major WWE PPV audience. And needless to say, Shawn and Razor more than delivered the goods. By 1994 standards, this was one of the most innovative and unique matches of that era. It was something special, as these two did things with a ladder that hadn’t been seen anywhere else in the world.
In many ways, this was the standard-bearer for all future ladder matches. They did so many special spots that made this into a legendary contest. From Razor’s sickening bump onto the concrete, to Razor lifting the ladder as Shawn climbed it, to Shawn’s foot being caught in the ropes, this was a never-ending classic of drama and excitement.
Although many subsequent matches had more wild craziness, this one was more on the simpler side yet still had an excellent story. Shawn and Razor made the most out of the few crazy spots they did, instead of turning this into a demolition derby that has become the template for modern ladder matches.
Final Rating: *****
The Observer was right: This was the perfect ladder match. It set the bar so incredibly high that few matches, if any, really surpassed it. The drama was incredible, the momentum shifted back and forth between Shawn and Razor so many times. Shawn, in particular, stood out as one of the best wrestlers of the year with this single match, while also bringing the best out of Razor Ramon.
Is it the best match of 1994? Personally, I would say no because I felt other matches that year had better execution and told deeper stories. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it would take over twenty years for another ladder match in WWE to get a 5-star rating. That alone should speak volumes of the legendary status of this fantastic contest.
All in all, it’s a must-see match for anyone that loves them some ladders.
If you want more thoughts on this incredible, TJRWrestling’s boss man John Canton covered it in detail in his WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches series where he had it as the #4 match in WrestleMania history.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.