(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31355189?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania&contentId=67740536&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )
I’ve said this plenty of times before, and I’ll say it again: the original is more often than not the best. On the Best 100…List, we’ve had the original Elimination Chamber match, the original Hell in a Cell, the original Money in the Bank Ladder match. And now we come to the inaugural Ladder match. Well, okay, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels did have an non-PPV Ladder match before this one, but that doesn’t really count. Can a Ladder match that’s over twenty years old be the best one? According to the 100 Best Matches…List, yes, it is the best (of course, there are TLC matches further up the List, but they are a different kettle of fish!). And I agree.
Nowadays, a Ladder match isn’t that special. Not only do we have the annual Money in the Bank PPV, but there’s also the TLC gimmick along with the simple Ladder gimmick. We’ve seen wrestlers thrown off ladders, thrown into ladders, thrown through ladder, and battered with ladders plenty of times. But back in WrestleMania X, no one knew what to expect. What part will the ladder play in the match? Will it be used as a weapon? Will the wrestlers fall off the top of the ladder? All of these questions were answered most satisfactorily. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had novelty behind them. But they didn’t rely merely on novelty.
They constructed a match that flowed from one big spot to another. That’s something lacking from modern Ladder matches. Every spot has to be bigger and better (or badder, if you’re the wrestler on the receiving end), but nothing seems to link the spots together. Here, Ramon and HBK effortlessly weaved an intricate story in between the ladder spots. It’s wasn’t the typical David/Goliath story, as HBK was the bad guy…and David was the bad guy! Instead, HBK uses his cunning and a few heelish moves to control the match. Ramon’s babyface comebacks are riveting, showing his hatred of HBK.
Of course, we see the ladder involved heavily throughout the match. The spots could easily be taken out of a modern day ladder match. HBK’s splash of (not quite) the top of the ladder onto Ramon is the most repeated highlight from this match. It’s still astonishing to this day. However, there’s so much more. The ladder’s often used as a weapon. HBK is hurled off the top of the ladder by Roman. HBK jumps onto the ladder onto a prone Ramon. Those are just a few choice spots from a plethora of them. Ramon and HBK innovated many of the staples of the ladder match. The spot where the wrestlers punch each other on the top of the ladder? They started it!
Ramon and HBK created a ladder match for the ages. They created a flow and rhythm that was copied in ladder matches for a long time (see the ladder match involving HHH and The Rock, who copied the structure of the ‘Mania X ladder match) until high spots became the most important part of the match. For HBK, it’s just another great match. For Ramon, it’s possibly his only great match. Even now, the best ladder matches closely follow the layout of their bout. Sometimes you can’t better the original (oh, check out their rematch at Summerslam 1995).
VERDICT: 9/10. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put together the ladder match that every subsequent ladder match has emulated and tried to better. But they’ve failed. This is undoubtedly the greatest ladder match in WWE history.
Click here for my review of #20 Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (I Quit Match, NWA Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout)
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s Best 100 Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!