Shawn Michaels had just recently won his freedom from JBL (in one of the stupider storylines during HBK’s comeback), and he was feeling a little cocky, so he decided to challenge the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. That was basically the whole storyline. They cut some promos on each other. The build was good overall, but it seemed great because almost everything else on the road to Wrestlemania 2009 was shit.
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
There is a buzz in the arena for this match. They had battled a couple of times in the 2007 and 2008 Royal Rumbles, but other than that, they had not gone 1v1 since 1998. HBK is cautious early, and just trying to use his quickness to stay ahead of Taker. Taker tossed HBK over a turnbuckle early, but HBK came back in the ring. HBK faked a knee injury to lure Taker in, and HBK took him down. Taker quickly recovered and overpowered HBK. Taker worked over HBK for a little, including hitting Old School. Taker went for a corner boot, but HBK moved and Taker injured his leg. HBK went after Taker’s leg after that. HBK locked in his inverted figure four on the injured leg. Taker escaped and slammed HBK into the corner. Taker was in control after that. Taker went for a chokeslam, but HBK reversed into a crippler crossface! Taker stands up in the hold and hits a sidewalk slam. HBK came back with some chops and his running forearm. HBK went to the top rope; he dove off but he was met with a GOOZLE! HBK escaped and fake a superkick, which Taker went to the ground for. HBK tried for another figure floor, but Taker locked in HELLS GATE! HBK managed to get to the ropes. The crowd went wild for that segment. They go to the outside and Taker was in complete control. HBK avoided Taker’s ring apron legdrop and hit a baseball slide. HBK goes to the top rope, and goes for a moonsault to the floor…BUT TAKER JUST SWATS HIM AWAY! Shawn went splat on the floor. Sickening bump. The referee was checking on Michaels as Taker went for his NO-HANDS RUNNING PLANCHA, but HBK pulled the camera man (Sim Snuka) in the way…kind of. Basically, Snuka was in the wrong position or Taker undershot the dive. Either way, Taker looked like he went forehead first onto the floor, but it was clear that he was all right on screen (apparently live, the crowd thought he must have died). On a replay, it was clear that Taker managed to rotate just enough at the end to save his life.
HBK and the referee crawl back in the ring, and HBK gets the referee to start to count out Taker. HBK was begging for the count out win. Taker got in just before the 10 count. HBK’s heart seemed to truly break after Taker made it back in. HBK sets up for Sweet Chin Music, but Taker hits a chokeslam: 1…2…NO! Crowd bought that. Taker was going for a tombstone, but HBK escaped: SWEET CHIN MUSIC! HBK crawled slowly onto Taker: 1…2…NO! HBK kips up and looks pissed that it didn’t . GOOZLE! LAST RIDE-Sunset Flip-GOOZLE- LAST RIDE: 1…2…NO! Taker sold that nearfall with such anger that I popped (yes, 3 years later). Unbelievable nearfall. Taker goes to the top rope and tries for a diving elbow, but HBK rolled out of the way. HBK runs at Taker, but Taker sends him over the top rope. HBK tries to skin the cat, but TAKER CATCHES HIM! TOMBSTONE: 1…2…NO!!!!!!!!! Jim Ross, “I just had an out of body experience.” Exactly. The straps come down for Taker. Throat Slashed. Taker sets up for another tombstone, but HBK countered it into a DDT…kind of. He kind of DDTed Taker on his own hip bone, which would certainly hurt. HBK crawls to the top rope and hits a diving elbow. HBK crawls up the ring ropes to get to his feet and sets up for a Sweet Chin Music. He tunes up the band and nails Taker: 1…2…NO! The crowd was so fucking happy because they did not want the match to end. They both crawl to their feet and start striking each other; HBK is using chops and Taker is using punches. Taker gets tired of that and just takes him down with a kick to the face. Taker tries for another tombstone, but HBK escapes. HBK goes to the top rope and goes for a moonsault: TAKER CATCHES HIM! TOMBSTONE: 1…2…3!
Remember how I just wrote that the match with Edge was unfairly overshadowed by Taker’s matches with Shawn Michaels? Fuck what I wrote. This was clearly a couple of notches above Taker’s Wrestlemania matches in 2007 and 2008 (Yea, I’m not afraid to contradict myself one match later. This review is about reliving the journey of his matches after all). HBK was spot on here. The match was all about his ego. He was confidant and defiant enough to believe that he could defeat Undertaker, but the moment where he reveals that he will take a countout win showed how desperate he was to feed his own ego. He wanted the win. He wanted to be the one to defeat the Undertaker, no matter how he did it. That would be important for the rematch. Overall, I’m struggling to think of a better match in WWE history than this one. The drama in this match is almost impossible to top, which was all the more impressive considering that everyone “knew” Taker was winning. This is as close to wrestling perfection as it gets.
Match Rating: *****