Top 5 HBK Matches (2002-2010)
In honour of Shawn Michaels being announced as the first inductee into the Hall of Fame Class of 2011, I’ve decided to list what I believe to be his top five matches since returning from his career threatening back injury in 2002. This generation of fans will likely only remember Michael’s from his second stint, begging the question just how did the Heartbreak Kid reinforce his name as The Showstopper? What a sentence.
Number 5: vs. Hulk Hogan (Summerslam 2005, 21/08/05)
I’m sure you’re thinking that this choice is insane, considering the match is generally remembered for HBK ridiculing Hogan by overselling. However it gave us something special in it’s build, heel Shawn Michaels. July 4th 2005 saw Michaels turn his back on the WWE fans laying out Hogan with Sweet Chin Music, this lead to a month and a half of some of the most entertaining segments of the decade. It was nothing to write home about in the ring (even though it’s probably Hogans best match since 2003 vs. Vince McMahon) but the build and change in pace for Michaels proved to be nothing short of enthralling.
Number 4: vs. John Cena (Monday Night Raw, 23/04/07)
After their Wrestlemania match, which was good but nothing outstanding; these two delivered the modern classic we had all be waiting for. Broadcasting from the United Kingdom, Cena and Michaels went nearly an hour back and forth for bragging rights (Cena’s WWE Championship was not on the line) The end saw Michaels flipping out of an FU attempt and levelling The Champ with Sweet Chin Music, proving that The Heartbreak Kid still had what it takes to go head to head with the best.
Number 3: vs. Chris Jericho (Wrestlemania XIX, 30/03/03)
Jericho had always idolised Shawn Michaels, though things took a sour turn when Y2J’s ego took over. Feuding for the first few months of 2003, Michaels and Jericho finally met on the grandest stage of them all, with nothing on the line but pride. After over twenty minutes of back and forth action that saw Michaels competing at Wrestlemania for the first time since 1998, the pinfall was counted and HBK reigned triumphant. Jericho may have had the last laugh, but the show was stolen.
Number 2: vs. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania 24, 30/03/08)
This match was more about Ric Flair than it was Shawn Michaels, but when everything was said and done these two men had delivered a spectacular encounter. Flair in the twilight of his career went back and forth with The Heartbreak Kid for twenty minutes of gruelling action as fans live in Orlando could feel the growing emotion. Michaels came out on top in this match that proved two things, one; that even in his growing age he was still one of the best competitors in the world and two he was able to steal the show and respectfully retire the greatest wrestler ever in one swift motion.
Number 1: vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 25, 05/04/09)
I had a hard time choosing between this or their second encounter at Wrestlemania 26, but decided to go with this. Though the Wrestlemania 26 match may have had more emotion and a better build, this match was what we had all be waiting for since the two first had an encounter at the 2007 Royal Rumble. Superkicks, Chokeslams, Tombstones and more; everything came out of the bag to deliver one of the best Wrestlemania matches in recent years. The Undertaker reigned supreme, but Michaels had nothing to be ashamed of as he undoubtedly became the closest man to ever break the legendary streak.
vs. Triple H (Summerslam 2002, 25/08/02) – The match that brought Michaels back to The Game, a fantastic street fight which saw him come out on top.
vs. The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 26, 28/03/10 ) – The match that took Michaels away from the game, a fantastic encounter that closed out a less than spectacular show on a high.
vs. Chris Jericho (Judgment Day 2008, 18/05/08) (The Great American Bash 2008, 20/07/08) (Unforgiven, 07/09/08 (No Mercy 2008, 05/10/08) These two had a string of fantastic matches throughout the year and even incorporated the World Championship into the last one, a fantastic feud.
There are so many more that I could list, but decided to keep with these for now. When he came back in 2002, Michaels could have easily phoned in his performances and lived off his past achievements but instead he gave it all he had and brought a whole new generation of viewers onto the bandwagon. Love him or hate him, The Showstopper could never be stopped.