Case study: SummerSlam 2002, Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (Unsanctioned Street Fight)
Shawn Michaels strikes Triple H and the match officially starts. Triple H throws Michaels out of the ring to regroup. Michaels quickly reenters the ring and tackles Triple H. Triple H counters an Irish whip attack from Michaels with a shoulder tackle. Michaels gets back on his feet and tosses Triple H over the top rope. Michaels performs a plancha on Triple H outside the ring. Triple H tries to ram Michaels’ head into the steel steps. Michaels, however, shoves Triple H into the steel ring post instead. Michaels clotheslines Triple H. Michaels searches for weapons underneath the ring and finds a trash can. Michaels places the trash can inside the ring, but holds onto the trash can lid as he walks towards Triple H. Triple H lifts Michaels and drops him on the barricade. Triple H returns to the ring to take a breather. As Michaels sits on the apron, Triple H comes over and tugs on Michaels’ hair. Michaels uses the trash can lid to smack Triple H over the head. Michaels pulls himself back into the ring and clotheslines Triple H. Michaels picks up the trash can and hits Triple H over the head once more. Michaels lands a flying forearm shot on Triple H. Michaels sets up for Sweet Chin Music. Triple H ducks the superkick and plants Michaels with a backbreaker.
Analysis: Michaels controlled the bulk of the offense early on which led to Triple H desperately finding a way to halt Michaels. As any true heel would do, Triple H attacked Michaels’ vulnerable back to swing the match in his favor. It’s also a nice example of storytelling since this marked Michaels’ first match in four years after being out of action with a back injury. Targeting Michaels’ back in the match would garner boos from the crowd which is the crowd reaction the heel desires. The timing of targeting Michaels’ back is important in order to drive the point home which is why it occurred minutes into the match.
Triple H hits a second consecutive backbreaker on Michaels. Michaels crashes into the corner back first after two forceful Irish whips from Triple H. Triple H taunts Michaels with a DX crotch chop and kicks Michaels in the chest. Triple H lands multiple elbow drops on Michaels’ back. Triple H covers Michaels, but Michaels powers out for a two count. Triple H leaves the ring to grab a chair. He reenters the ring and swings the chair into Michaels’ back. Triple H goes for a vertical suplex, but Michaels slips out and rolls up Triple H. Michaels earns a two count. Michaels Irish whips Triple H into the ropes, but Triple H plants Michaels with a facebreaker knee smash. Triple H DDT’s Michaels onto the steel chair. Michaels begins to bleed from his forehead. Triple H removes Michaels’ belt off Michaels’ jeans and whips Michaels’ back. Triple H wraps the belt around his fist and punches Michaels. Triple H momentarily leaves the ring to find a sledgehammer. Michaels connects with a series of punches and kicks causing Triple H to lose grasp of the sledgehammer. Triple H applies an abdominal stretch on Michaels. Referee Earl Hebner argues with Triple H for holding onto the ropes while applying the hold although it’s legal in this match since there’s no disqualification. Triple H carries Michaels and places him on the top turnbuckle. Triple H climbs to the second rope, but Michaels knocks him off. As Michaels prepares to nail Triple H with a diving elbow drop, Triple H shoves Hebner into the ropes forcing Michaels to lose his balance. Triple H delivers a chair shot on Michaels’ back. Triple H sets a chair in the center of the ring and sideslams Michaels into the chair. Triple H covers Michaels. Michaels powers out at the count of two. Triple H covers Michaels two more times, but Michaels stays in it. Triple H sideslams Michaels into the chair once more. Three straight covers are attempted by Triple H, but Michaels kicks out each time. Triple H tries to pedigree Michaels onto the steel chair, but Michaels low blows Triple H.
Analysis: The crowd begins to rally behind the sympathetic babyface after the beating Michaels’ back is taking at the hands of Triple H. The referee obviously knew this was a no disqualification match, but yelled at Triple H anyway to show his concern for Michaels. This further establishes Triple H as a merciless heel when the referee brings Triple H’s underhanded behavior to the audience’s attention. Triple H is expressing frustration at not being able to put Michaels away, which causes the audience to feel optimistic about Michaels’ chances to fight back and win the match.
Both men slowly get back on their feet. Triple H grabs the chair, but it backfires. Michaels connects with Sweet Chin Music and the steel chair slams into Triple H’s face. As a result, Triple H’s forehead gets busted open. Michaels hits Triple H with a flying forearm and back body drops Triple H. Michaels smacks Triple H in the face with the chair. Michaels Irish whips Triple H over the top rope. Michaels whips Triple H’s back with the leather belt. Michaels slams the trash can into Triple H’s face. Michaels swings the trash can lid into Triple H’s face which sends Triple H flying across the announce table. Michaels removes one of Spanish announcer Hugo Savinovich’s boots and uses it to hit Triple H over the head with the heel of the boot. Michaels bulldogs Triple H into the steel steps. Michaels introduces a ladder in the match and nails Triple H with it. Michaels monkey flips Triple H into the ladder. Michaels brings Triple H back into the ring and goes for a cover. Michaels earns a two count. Michaels rolls out of the ring to grab the ladder. Triple H performs a baseball slide on the ladder causing the ladder to knock Michaels down.
Analysis: Michaels makes a comeback and gets payback on Triple H. Michaels forces Triple H to bleed and uses the belt on Triple H the same way Triple H did. It was also very clever to see Michaels use the broadcaster’s boot as a weapon. Such random things as that make the babyface more likeable to the audience. That is smart psychology by Michaels.
Triple H throws Michaels back into the ring. As Triple H climbs the turnbuckle, Michaels recovers and superplexes Triple H. Michaels covers Triple H, but Triple H raises his right shoulder at the count of two. Michaels rolls up Triple H and earns a two count. Michaels bounces off the ropes and collides with a high knee from Triple H. Triple H only gets a two count after covering Michaels. Triple H crawls out of the ring. Triple H slides steel steps into the ring. Michaels drop toeholds Triple H causing Triple H to fall face first into the steel steps. Michaels clotheslines Triple H over the top rope. Michaels sets a table outside the ring. Triple H is laid out on the table after Michaels hits him with a fire extinguisher. Michaels climbs the turnbuckle and performs a top rope splash onto Triple H. Both men reenter the ring with Michaels bringing the ladder with him. Michaels dives off the ladder and into an elbow drop on Triple H. Triple H blocks Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music attempt and places Michaels in pedigree position, but Michaels rolls up Triple H for the pinfall victory.
Analysis: Good selling on Michaels’ part after performing the superplex. Michaels consciously landed on his side instead of his back to sell the beating his back had taken in this match. It communicates realism to the audience. The finishing moments of the match teased a Triple H win. The crowd was briefly aghast when Triple H had Michaels in pedigree position. That tease made the rollup finish much more exciting which is why it evoked an emotional response.
Additional comments: The rollup finish and the post match assault on Michaels by Triple H indicated this feud was far from over. They would square off again a few months later at Survivor Series inside the Elimination Chamber and at Armageddon in a Three Stages of Hell match. They used every weapon imaginable which was appropriate considering the built up animosity heading into their match.
Verdict: A classic street fight-like match.
Final rating: **** (out of five)
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Kevin Pinto- firstname.lastname@example.org
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