This match is often the forgotten highlight of a stacked WrestleMania card. Of course, all ‘Mania cards are stacked high. However, ‘Mania XIX took the biscuit (to prove it, there are two more matches from the PPV in the Best 100…list!). Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon. The third ‘Mania match between Stone Cold and The Rock. Brock Lesnar vs Jurt Angle in the main event. While that match was the show stealer, it only stole the show by an inch. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho gave us a brilliant match that followed a gripping feud (a feud topped only by their latter feud of 2008; their No Mercy Ladder match is fittingly placed higher in the Best 100…list). Jericho wanted to end the career of Michaels, a man whom Y2J had wanted to be earlier on in his career.
This was Shawn Michaels’ first WrestleMania match of his comeback. Could ‘Mr. WrestleMania’ keep up with the young ‘uns? He’d shown he still had it in his comeback match with HHH, but that the Street Fight gimmick to hide any limitations HBK may have had. Michaels vs Jericho was a straight wrestling match. HBK proved that he could easily keep up with the young ‘uns. Jericho is renowned for his occasional sloppiness in the ring, but that was nowhere to be seen. He was just as eager to impress as Michaels was, and the two of them constructed a bout that exceeded expectations.
HBK looked like the young Shawn Michaels, performing top rope moonsaults and elbow drops, leaping out of the ring with planchas, and generally doing anything to show us that age and injuries hadn’t slowed him down a bit. It was Jericho keeping up with Michaels, not vice versa! However, Jericho took the fight to Michaels by focussing on HBK’s surgically repaired back. A Walls of Jericho outside the ring started the offensive on Michaels’ back. “I’m better than you,” screamed Jericho before hitting Michaels with a vertical suplex. To really rub Michaels’ face in it, Y2J performed the former’s trademark flying forearm/nip up combination, before Michaels showed us the genuine material. Neither man stopped for breath for most of the match; although not a frenetic pace, the wrestlers kept going and going, only slowing down due to exhaustion towards the end.
And what a closing five minutes they gave us: frantic near-falls, big moves and reversals, an exchange of Sweet Chin Musics, and a surprise ending that caps off an almost flawless match. Jericho has rarely looked better. Shawn Michaels proved that Mr. WrestleMania was back, and (maybe?) better than before. Lost among the big matches and the main event, it’s great to see this match in the Best 100…list. Totally deserving.
VERDICT: 9/10. Among the great WrestleMania matches of all time. Jericho’s at his best, and HBK still had it!
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(Click here for my review of #77 DDP vs Randy Savage, Spring Stampede 1997)