There are certain wrestling matches that you remember where you were when they happened. Matches that were so great in the moment that they become instant classics.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 is one of those matches.
I remember being 14 years old — yes, I’m young — when this match took place. This was the first year the Hough household held a WrestleMania party. We had a bunch of friends over for the event and were holding contests throughout the night. It was mostly for kids to leave with gifts of some sort, whether it be wrestling action figures or a championship belt. We did these parties for WrestleMania’s 25-29 and each one was awesome.
Anyway, back to Michaels and Undertaker. I remember the 30 or so people cramming into my living room and kitchen areas for this match. It was one of the more anticipated matches on the card and featured two guys that casual wrestling fans knew. Better yet, it featured two guys who some of the parents remembered watching when they were young adults. Needless to say, everyone was invested in this match.
The emotional swings in my living room that night mimicked the ones of the sold-out crowd in Houston. We couldn’t believe what we were watching. Michaels kicked out of a Tombstone Piledriver!?!?! Undertaker kicked out of TWO Sweet Chin Musics!?!?! WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?!
When it was all said and done — a second Tombstone being too much for Michaels to overcome — the entire house was exhausted. We had all known we just watched one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.
What’s important to remember is that this match was the first time the streak was truly in jeopardy. Yeah, the likes of Batista and Edge had come close in recent years. But you really didn’t believe either guy was worthy of ending the streak. Michaels, on the other hand, was a future first-ballot Hall of Famer at the time. If anyone had what it would take to end The Undertaker’s then-16-0 winning streak at WrestleMania, it would be Mr. WrestleMania himself.
That’s why when Michaels kicked out of that first Tombstone Piledriver, everyone lost their dang minds. No one — NO ONE — kicks out of the Tombstone Piledriver. For the first time in 17 years, you really thought, “Is the streak going to end tonight?”
Like most wrestling fans, I’ve re-watched this match numerous times since it took place ten years ago today (April 5, 2009). Each time I know what’s coming, and yet I can’t help but find myself entertained.
What I enjoy most about watching the match back now is seeing all of the fans reacting in real time the same way I and 30 of my friends and family reacted while watching this spectacle live. Just seeing their faces and hearing their reactions to every big move of the match gets me all giddy and laughing like a 10-year-old kid.
I also love hearing the commentary on the match, especially from Jim Ross. It’s hard to hear the announcers when you have so many people watching it around you and yelling at the top of their lungs after every big move. But Ross is so fantastic throughout this match, delivering some of his all-time best work.
For me, nothing tops the “I JUST HAD AN OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE!” line he says after Michaels kicks out of the Tombstone. It just feels so organic and so accurate to what most people were thinking at the time. And the way JR says it just adds to the moment. It’s so perfectly executed, making the moment that much better.
Then, after Undertaker kicks out of a second Sweet Chin Music, Ross says, “The world is watching a classic.” I mean, he wasn’t wrong.
And finally, after the near-40-minute epic was over, JR simply asks, “As a wrestling fan, how could you ask for anything more?” I couldn’t have said it any better, Jim.
The first 10-15 minutes of the match made it good. Undertaker diving over the top rope — only for Michaels to pull a cameraman in his way to take the fall — made the match great. The first major kickout — Michaels kicking out of a chokeslam — made the match epic. The Tombstone kickout made the match an all-time classic.
The world watched a classic that night. It’s one of those matches that will hold up for the rest of time. One of those you can turn on any time and know you’ll be entertained.
Simply put, it’s the greatest wrestling match of all time.