Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels had one of the greatest feuds of all time in 2008. Yes, it started five years before that in 2003 (culminating in their WrestleMania XIX match positioned at #76), but the feud erupted like Krakatoa in the summer of 2008. It involved a Jeritron 6000, a damaged eye, HBK’s wife and much more. The latter feud culminated in this ladder match at No Mercy 2008. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. An obvious botch midway through the match dissolved my suspension of disbelief. And, I wondered, why did two veterans have a ladder match? In a ladder match, you expect the frantic, risk-taking actions suited to younger wrestlers. I was disappointed. However, viewing it now, I see it in a better light.
If the typical modern day ladder match is what you’re expecting here, they you’ll be disappointed like I was almost a decade ago. Their feud should have culminated in a cage match, or a similarly blood-soaked battle. Of course, they both were synonymous with the ladder match (HBK being in the first one, Y2J being in the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match). But, with Y2J and HBK both approaching their twilight years in wrestling, another feud-ending gimmick would have been appropriate. And what a feud they had together. It started with Jericho smashing Michaels’ head into the Jeritron 600. This injured HBK’s eye. A match between the two afterwards ended when the referee stopped it when he deemed HBK incapable of continuing to fight. The beating encouraged HBK to announce his retirement, so, with wife in tow, he entered Raw to announce the end of his career. Y2J interrupted, and in the end accidentally hit HBK’s wife. An Unsanctioned Match followed at the next PPV, where HBK beat Y2J so horrifically that the referee stopped the match.
In this feud, they were one victory apiece. Before the No Mercy match, Y2J had captured the World Championship. The rubber match between HBK and Y2J was announced as a ladder match for the World Championship. This is a ladder match that tells a story, rather than a series of high risk stunts. It at once prospers and suffers because of the story telling. Yes, both wrestlers take some high risks, but they feel like attempts to satisfy the stunt-thirsty crowd. Of course, they are still part of the story, but feel like a tacked-on addendum to it. The match works better when the wrestlers use the ladder to inflict punishment on each other, rather than jump off it or fall off it. That’s where the innovation appears. They utilise the ladder to bring some fresh spots to the ladder match, especially when Y2J targets HBK’s head/eye and HBK targets Y2J’s knee.
However, my suspension of disbelief again fizzled out about midway through the match. Y2J has a ladder up against the corner and attempts to suplex HBK (who is crotched on the top rope) off the ladder. Michaels pushes the ladder (and, subsequently, Jericho) away. Jericho falls, but the ladder falls away from him. The next spot is going to be Micheals’ hitting an elbow drop from the top rope onto the ladder, under which lies Y2J. However, Y2J has to pull the ladder over him in time for the spot. It’s sloppy and looks amateurish. Surely they could have covered up the botch? It may not seem like much, but it always reduces my enjoyment of the match.
The hatred between them is palpable. It sells the match more than stunts high-risk moves ever could. Of course, it would have worked better as another gimmick match, like I mentioned before. But the two world class wrestlers make it work, in spite of the aforementioned botch and the constraints of the ladder match (and the modern viewers’ expectations of a ladder match). If I were to alter the list, I’d switch this one with their match at #76. I think that ‘Mania match deserves a much higher placing. That’s not to denigrate this match, of course. Oh, and try to spot the moment where Jericho loses his tooth!
VERDICT: 8/10. This isn’t the classic that some make it out to be. A ladder match isn’t suited to these two veterans, who prefer to tell a story rather than create a high risk spotfest. However, it’s still a very good match, albeit with a match-wrecking botch.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s ‘ 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die’ List? Leave your thoughts/comments below!
Click here for my review of #26 Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (WWF Championship, Streetfight, WWE Royal Rumble 2000)