For those of you who’ve been following my Best & Worst posts, you’ll know I’m spanks deep in matches from HBK’s “prime” in 1996. Well, here’s a shocker: I really think his matches after his first retirement hold up better more consistently than matches from his younger days. Sure, nothing will touch his ladder match or “Mind Games,” but his body of work after he came back was just all high quality. He was a much better ring technician and master of facial expressions and psychology put him in another league.
With that said, let’s celebrate HBShizzle’s (still hasn’t caught on? Damn) 49th birthday with his 10 best post-first-retirement matches.
Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin – WWE RAW… by prowrestlingru
10. vs. Shelton Benjamin – Raw
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. The ending of this match puts it on the list. The first 80 percent of Benjamin vs. HBK is a great RAW match but the climax is a masterpiece. It’s rare to hear wrestling crowds make real life sports pops. This crowd sounded more like they saw Ray Lewis take someone’s head off than a guy do a fake thing to another guy. And it’s absolutely incredible. Benjamin was supposed to be a star after this. Then his mom happened. *pours out liquor*
9. vs. Chris Jericho Ladder Match – No Mercy 2008
Ever wish ladder matches had actual selling and a point beyond getting to the next high spot? Then this match is for you. Sure, Jericho and Michaels could have torn it up if this match happened in 1997 but this was different. This was about two guys who hated each other because a guy punched another guy’s wife and the world title just happened to be part of it. You probably won’t be yelling “holy sh*t” a bunch during this match – partly because you’re not a goober – but you’ll get pulled into what’s going on.
WWE Backlash 2007 John Cena vs Randy Orton vs… by EmilMoeller
8. vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge – Backlash 2007
By 2007 we all pretty much knew Shawn Michaels was never winning a WWE title again. But dammit if this match didn’t make us believe. This match was part of the era when Backlashes were way better than the WrestleManias that came the month before. I know I mentioned the Shelton Benjamin match as ending flawlessly but this ending may have been better. We get finishing move theater that actually works out. Coming on the heels of the bleh four corners match we saw this Sunday, this match is a great watch to see how that type of match is executed perfectly.
John Cena VS Shawn Michaels WWE Monday Night… by Wrestling-Nation
7. vs. John Cena – RAW
Think about this: two of the matches on this list happened in the same week. I don’t know what possessed Michaels and Cena to have a Broadway on RAW, but they did it and it’s probably one of Cena’s best matches in his career. The pacing was perfect, Jim Ross called his ass off and bonus points for the old school “we have a match scheduled but we’ll postpone if we have to” attention to detail. This is the match that showed that John Cena can go. This match made the “you can’t wrestle” chants moot and turned Cena “go away” boos to Cena “we sort of hate you but respect what you do in the ring” boos. This is important, people.
The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels WWE… by Wrestling-Nation
6. vs. Undertaker – WrestleMania 26
I’m going to cheat and take Brandon’s paragraph from his WrestleMania main events ranking:
I think the cool thing these days is to say that The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels wasn’t as good as everyone thinks, but forget that. Their match at WrestleMania XXV and the career-threatening rematch at XXVI are as good as epic, one-on-one main-event style matches in WWE get.
To the credit of the detractors, the rematch isn’t as good as the original, but it’s great, and builds and builds that weird mutual respect angle more and more until Michaels pulls himself up by Taker’s pants, slaps a 7ish-foot dead man in the face and gets GURL BYE’d with a jumping Tombstone. A JUMPING Tombstone. That shit is an exclamation point. Shawn wrestled in four decades and never learned how to throw a believable chop, but the man was an ace at selling the emotion of a story in the ring, especially when they end with him getting scooped up and tossed through the air and dropped on his head with authority.