Monday, April 13, 2009

The Importance Of The Undertaker VS Shawn Michaels At WrestleMania XXV

It's often difficult to justify reasons for watching pro wrestling to friends and family, particularly to those whose only experience of the sport is the all-too-frequent news reports on the subject of wrestling deaths. Added to which, anyone who has encountered Triple H breaking into Randy Orton's house, Hornswoggle as Vince McMahon's son, or anything involving Kane while channel-surfing is liable to switch off and never want to watch again.

Wrestling is little more than an elaborate pantomime to the casual observer, but when Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker stepped in the ring last Sunday night, even the most jaded cynic would have a hard time denying that something historic was taking place.

Both men are synonymous with the WWE. The Undertaker is perhaps the greatest gimmick that Vince McMahon ever created, but the hard work and dedication of Mark Calloway has ensured that the character has existed way beyond its projected shelf-life. In the last few years, The Undertaker has gained a reputation for producing superb performances on the big stage. The big stage seems made for Shawn Michaels. That he is the best worker in the WWE at his age and with his injuries illustrates the natural ability he has, and his importance to the company over the past 20 years.

Despite the protracted legacies that the two veterans have created for themselves in the WWE, one-one-one matches between the two of them have been a rarity. Nearly every feud in the WWE is played out. Orton and Triple H have faced each other on numerous occasions, The Hardys had their famous aborted feud in 2001, and I would need a calculator to work out how many times Edge and John Cena have been in the same ring together.

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker was different. Their Hell in the Cell match in 1997 remains one of the best matches in company history, but they have not wrestled each other for such a long time that going into WrestleMania this actually felt like a dream match.

Prior to Wrestlemania, Michaels spoke of the pressure he felt to produce in previous years, with the caveat that he felt at ease facing the consummate professional that is The Undertaker. Indeed, the biggest challenge that the two wrestlers faced was constructing a match that did not have an air of predictability, when the majority of those watching would find the idea of The Undertaker losing improbable. They achieved this aim, and much more.

Watching The Heartbreak Kid face off in his epic battle against The Undertaker combined all of the good things in the best matches I had seen previously, and I say without reservation that it is the greatest match I have ever seen. For thirty breathtaking moments, they had every person in Reliant Stadium in the palm of their hands. The build to this match is a culmination of circumstances that is impossible to recreate. It is truly over twenty years in the making. We have the two most tenured legends of the WrestleMania years.

There is a history of classic matches between the two that built the aura of what they could do if they faced off again. You have the fact that Michaels nearly ended his career in their last match. Then we had the tease of things to come in that brilliant ending to the Royal Rumble in 2007. On top of that, there was the string of WrestleMania wins for Undertaker and the unmatched resume of classic Mania matches from Michaels. The notoriously impatient WWE actually kept these two apart for over eleven years. Each legend has become better with time and they were facing off on a landmark anniversary show of the biggest wrestling event of the year. The mere fact that The Streak would be up against Mr. WrestleMania was enough to make wrestling fans salivate with anticipation.

That Undertaker and Michaels not only met expectations but exceeded them showcasing their pride and talents as phenomenal big-match performers. I will not even attempt to explain the action in the ring because if you have not seen this match, you need to do anything you can to watch it as soon as possible.

These were two artists illustrating a beautiful portrait of the wrestling industry at its finest. The drama and the atmosphere of this showdown sent chills down the spine of any of us who were lucky enough to witness it. They did the impossible and actually made us believe that Michaels could end Taker's streak. The winner in this match was the entire wrestling universe because we all have a memory that will last a lifetime.

It was a rare occasion where a wrestling match stops being entertainment, and becomes something far more important. This match was what "The Godfather" was to the film industry, or what "Nevermind" was to the alternative music scene. This match was a work of art.

Wrestling will never be considered culturally important, so to suggest that this match was important may seem laughable. Yet Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker set standards for everyone else in the industry to follow at WrestleMania. Next time someone asks you why you watch pro wrestling, show them a tape of this.


Post a Comment