On Tuesday, WWE released the latest edition in their “WrestleMania Rewind” series on the WWE Network. It got me thinking — what really constitutes a great pro wrestling match?
Tuesday’s WrestleMania Rewind focused on the story behind the Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania XIX. Coincidentally, I had just weeks prior watched the new “Mr. WrestleMania” DVD on the career of Shawn Michaels that WWE had just produced.
Again, it really got me thinking.
When watching the Mr. WrestleMania DVD — for the most part — I skipped through the matches and watched HBK’s interview excerpts in between them. I did, however, stop for one match: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania XXV.
Some say the first Michaels vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania is not only the greatest match in WrestleMania history, but quite possibly the best match of all-time.
That’s a tough call.
After watching the WrestleMania Rewind show on Tuesday, where unlike usual, I sat through the match-portion of the episode instead of just watching the documentary-style build-up to the match being featured, I realized something that admittedly I had already known, although never quite realized in such clear fashion before.
A great pro wrestling match really depends on your preference.
What is a great pro wrestling match? Is it incredible athletes performing awe-inspiring maneuvers in the proper sequence? Is it two (or more) performers controlling the emotions of an audience of 20,000 or more?
More the latter than the former, in my opinion.
At the end of the day, evoking emotions out of an audience makes a match what it ultimately ends up being. Without that emotional reaction from a large arena of people, as good as a match may appear to be from a technical point-of-view, it falls flat. At the end of the day, your ultimate goal should be to stand people up out of their seats, only to sit them back down so you can stand them back up again. To get them to scream and holler with as much passion as possible, only to silence them long enough to get them to verbally explode yet again.
At the end of the day, that’s what this business is. Plain and simple.
However, if you take the lead-in story aspect out of Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels. If you take the emotions tied into “the streak” out of the equation. If you take the unpredictability of who’s going to win out of the scenario (which includes the many false finishes — which is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine, in terms of overuse). If you take out the history behind the two performers involved.
By the way, if you take all of that stuff out, you’re taking out the pro wrestling aspect of the entire situation.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say you’re showing what you consider to be the absolute best match in wrestling history to a non-wrestling friend of yours. If you’re going to show them one match to convince them that professional wrestling is an unbelievable art — one that should be respected and appreciated — would you pick Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels I?
Go re-watch it with that mindset. You’ll see.
Would you show them Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho from WrestleMania XIX?
Am I saying that Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XIX is a better match than Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania XXV? Absolutely not. Never. But, if we’re going by the criteria that I just listed, it’s absolutely a better in-ring performance. Without question.
If you aren’t emotionally invested in the Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker match. If you don’t know anything about anything and some friend of yours sits you down and makes you watch it. Then, that same friend has you watch Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho, which match do you think they would appreciate more? Go re-watch both matches. I’m telling you right now, it’s the latter. No doubt in my mind.
At the end of the day, however, that’s not what professional wrestling is. That’s not what “sports entertainment” is. What pro wrestling — and/or sports entertainment is — is a show that relies heavily on crowd participation. It relies heavily on fans being emotionally invested in what they are seeing. It relies heavily on you.
So, as we head into the “don’t forget to leave a comment” phase of this editorial, my question to you is this: what do you consider a great match?