Case study: WrestleMania 25, Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Undertaker’s 16-0 streak on the line)
The bell rings and the match is underway. Undertaker starts off aggressively looking to make contact with Michaels. Michaels, however, ducks Undertaker’s various attacks. Each time Michaels escapes, he connects with chops to Undertaker’s chest. Michaels corners Undertaker and hits a series of forearm shots to Undertaker’s face. Undertaker receives another chop from Michaels. Undertaker reverses an Irish whip from Michaels, but misses on a clothesline. Michaels attempts to land a right punch on Undertaker, but Undertaker bends Michaels’ right arm instead. Undertaker grabs Michaels by the throat and launches him into the corner. The force of Undertaker’s throw sends Michaels slamming into the top turnbuckle and landing on the apron. Michaels strikes with a right hand on Undertaker. Michaels climbs to the second rope and taunts Undertaker with a DX crotch chop. Undertaker charges at him, but Michaels leaps over him. Michaels fakes a right leg injury as he lands. The referee buys into it and tells Undertaker to back off. Michaels takes advantage and takes down Undertaker with a Lou Thesz press. Michaels grounds and pounds Undertaker. Undertaker shoves him away. Undertaker again grips Michaels by the throat and throws Michaels into the corner. Undertaker punches Michaels causing Michaels to fall to the canvas. Undertaker grabs Michaels and sends him back into the corner. Undertaker connects with a punch, headbutt, and kick on Michaels. Michaels counters and corners Undertaker. Undertaker reverses an Irish whip attempt from Michaels and sends Michaels into the opposite corner. Michaels does his signature flip before Undertaker back body drops Michaels. Undertaker press slams Michaels and follows it up with an elbow drop. Undertaker goes for the first cover of the match and receives a two count.
Analysis: They are working at a steady pace to begin the match. The crowd is alive for this match from the get-go. Michaels uses his speed and quickness to elude Undertaker’s power and strength.
Undertaker bends Michaels’ left arm and hits Old School. Michaels sidesteps Undertaker’s big boot and targets Undertaker’s left leg to ground Undertaker. Michaels locks Undertaker in a figure-four leglock. Undertaker fights out of it by punching Michaels in the face. As both men return to a standing position, Michaels dropkicks Undertaker’s left leg to bring Undertaker to his knees. Michaels attempts a running attack on Undertaker, but Undertaker catches Michaels and shoves him into the corner. Undertaker kicks and punches Michaels. Undertaker Irish whips Michaels and follows it up with a pair of clotheslines. Undertaker lifts Michaels for Snake Eyes before dropping Michaels with a big boot. Undertaker goes for a cover on Michaels after performing a leg drop. Michaels kicks out at two.
Analysis: WWE superstars tend to utilize maneuvers at WrestleMania that they would otherwise not execute or apply any other time of the year. However, since it’s the biggest event in sports entertainment, Michaels decides to use a figure-four leglock which was uncharacteristic of him to do on a regular basis. Later in the match, Undertaker also demonstrates his WrestleMania-exclusive move.
Michaels avoids a chokeslam from Undertaker by dropping Undertaker to the canvas and applying a crossface. Undertaker rolls up Michaels for a two count. Michaels keeps the hold applied until Undertaker powers out and flattens Michaels with a side slam. Undertaker drapes his left arm over Michaels and earns a two count. Both men get to a standing position and exchange blows. Undertaker Irish whips Michaels into the ropes. Michaels punts Undertaker in the chest, but Undertaker no-sells. Undertaker misses a pair of clothesline attempts and Michaels capitalizes with chops to the Undertaker’s chest. Undertaker throws Michaels into the ropes, but Michaels connects with a flying forearm on Undertaker. Michaels drops to the canvas as well. Michaels kips up and performs two inverted atomic drops on Undertaker. Michaels hits a clothesline to plant Undertaker. As Michaels climbs to the top turnbuckle, Undertaker sits up. Michaels launches himself, but into an awaiting Undertaker who catches Michaels in chokeslam position. Michaels escapes the chokeslam and looks to nail Undertaker with Sweet Chin Music. Undertaker drops to the canvas to avoid Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music. Michaels reaches for Undertaker’s legs to apply another figure-four leglock, but Undertaker counters into Hell’s Gate. Michaels places his legs on the ropes to force the rope break.
Analysis: The action is intensifying as both men seek to connect with their finishing moves. I like how Undertaker and Michaels are building up to their finishing moves by countering each other’s attempts early on. Of course, an Undertaker chokeslam is more of a signature move for Undertaker than it is a finishing move, but it is still one of his more explosive moves in a match.
Undertaker dumps Michaels out of the ring. Undertaker exits the ring and rams Michaels’ face into the steel steps. Undertaker rests Michaels on the apron and kicks Michaels on the head. As Undertaker elevates for a leg drop on Michaels on the apron, Michaels rolls inside the ring. Michaels prevents Undertaker from reentering the ring by dropping Undertaker with a baseball slide. Michaels misses on a moonsault attempt off the top turnbuckle when Undertaker swats Michaels’ legs. Undertaker rolls back into to the ring, sits up in Undertaker fashion, and runs the ropes before diving over the top rope. Michaels pulls a cameraman in front of the Undertaker.
Analysis: Undertaker’s dive over the top rope was known for being exclusive to WrestleMania. Undertaker did not land correctly on this night however. Initially, it looked as if Undertaker had dropped directly on his neck. Upon further review, he may have landed on his upper back. Either way, he dodged a career threatening injury which is why this would mark the last time we’d see Undertaker perform that move.
Michaels urges the referee to count to 10 to cause Undertaker to lose via countout. Undertaker returns to the ring at the count of nine. Undertaker sidesteps Michaels to avoid Sweet Chin Music and grabs Michaels by the throat for a chokeslam. Undertaker hooks Michaels’ left leg for a cover, but Michaels raises his left shoulder for a two count. Undertaker attempts a Tombstone Piledriver, but Michaels slips out. Michaels lands on his feet and lifts his right leg for Sweet Chin Music. Undertaker blocks Michaels and attempts to go for a second chokeslam, but Michaels swats Undertaker’s right arm and connects with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels covers Undertaker and earns a two count. Both men are down. Michaels is back to his feet first. As Michaels stands over Undertaker, Undertaker reaches for Michaels’ throat. Undertaker kicks Michaels in the abdomen and places Michaels between his legs for a Last Ride. Michaels sunset flips, but is unable to roll up Undertaker. Undertaker leans over and lifts Michaels by the throat. Undertaker again kicks Michaels in the abdomen and this time successfully slams Michaels with a Last Ride. Undertaker goes for a cover, but Michaels kicks out at two.
Analysis: The countout spot was perfect considering Undertaker’s hard fall outside the ring. Once the action continued inside the ring, the pace accelerated. Undertaker’s chokeslam on Michaels was thunderous. Michaels got great elevation on it. Afterwards, there were two sensational sequences featuring several reversals in the process.
Undertaker misses a diving elbow drop off the top turnbuckle when Michaels moves out of the way. Both men struggle to get back to their feet. Michaels runs towards Undertaker, but Undertaker throws Michaels over the top rope. Michaels holds on to the top rope with both hands. Undertaker notices and grabs Michaels in a Tombstone Piledriver position. Michaels tries to hang on to the top rope, but Undertaker pulls him away and nails Michaels with a Tombstone Piledriver. Undertaker goes for a cover and Michaels kicks out at two.
Analysis: A believable finish. The Tombstone Piledriver normally indicates the match has reached its finale. Undertaker’s facial expression told the story. His eyes were wide open in astonishment of Michaels’s ability to avoid a three count on Undertaker’s match ending maneuver. Michaels also sold the severity of the Tombstone Piledriver by briefly refusing to let go of the ropes and shaking his head in panic when trapped in the Tombstone Piledriver position.
Undertaker returns to a vertical base first. Undertaker does his cut throat gesture as he prepares to execute a second Tombstone Piledriver on Michaels. Undertaker lifts Michaels for a Tombstone Piledriver, but Michaels spins out of it and plants Undertaker with a DDT.
Analysis: Clever counter by Michaels. It’s a rare to see a Tombstone Piledriver countered with a Tilt-A-Whirl DDT.
Michaels crawls to the apron and climbs to the top turnbuckle. Michaels lands his signature diving elbow drop on the Undertaker. Michaels sets up for Sweet Chin Music as Undertaker uses the ropes to get back to his feet. Michaels successfully knocks Undertaker out with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels hooks Undertaker’s far leg for a cover. Undertaker raises his right shoulder before the count of three. Michaels places his right hand on his forehead in disbelief.
Analysis: I never thought Undertaker’s streak would end. This marked one of the few moments where I actually bought into an Undertaker’s opponent nearfall in a Streak match. That is honestly the most believable nearfall Michaels and Undertaker could have created to sell the audience on the idea of Michaels snapping Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Credit Michaels’ kick out of the Tombstone Piledriver moments earlier to convince the crowd of Undertaker’s streak being in serious jeopardy. The timing of spots is imperative in order to maximize the emotional effect a nearfall has on an audience.
Michaels connects with a chop on Undertaker. Undertaker bounces off the ropes and strikes Michaels with a right hand. Michaels responds with another chop on Undertaker. Undertaker again retaliates with a right hand on Michaels. Michaels and Undertaker continue to exchange blows until Undertaker drops Michaels with a big boot. Undertaker hoists Michaels, but Michaels counters with back elbow shots to Undertaker’s face to avoid being on the receiving end of a Tombstone Piledriver. Michaels lands four consecutive chops on Undertaker and attempts to Irish whip Undertaker into the corner. Undertaker, however, Irish whips Michaels into the corner. As Undertaker charges at Michaels, Michaels lifts his right leg for a big boot to Undertaker’s face. Michaels performs a moonsault off the top turnbuckle, but Undertaker catches Michaels in midair and hits the second Tombstone Piledriver of the match for the win. Undertaker improves to 17-0 at WrestleMania.
Analysis: This portion of the match had an overtime feel to it. After Michaels superkicked Undertaker for a second time and Undertaker managed to kick out, from this point forward, the conclusion of the match could not be foreshadowed. Michaels falling into the hands of the Undertaker after a failed moonsault attempt was a seamless transition to the match finish. I also must point out that Undertaker’s chest was visibly red after taking countless chops from Michaels. Both men delivered a phenomenal performance and, as a result, their match is considered by many to be the best match in the history of WWE.
Additional comments: This match makes me a proud professional wrestling fan. I continue to be an avid WWE viewer to witness moments such as this one. I can replay this match over and over again and never get tired of watching it. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 and Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25 are two of my favorite matches ever. The high stakes involved in the match between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25, which of course refers to Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak at stake, earns a slight edge over Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21, which was contested only for bragging rights.
Verdict: Arguably the greatest match of all-time.
Final rating: *****
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Kevin Pinto- firstname.lastname@example.org
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