By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
Last year, John Napolitano and I took on the arduous task of ranking every main event in WrestleMania history (which you can read here), and we came to the conclusion that the Streak vs. Career match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 26 earned the honor of being listed as No. 1. Feel free to disagree, but no other contest comes close in my opinion, and even one year later, it remains in the upper echelon of my favorite 'Maina matches ever.
I discussed Chris Jericho vs. Edge as well as Batista vs. John Cena from the same show earlier on in the series, and with the addition of this marquee match, it should become evident that WrestleMania 26 is among my favorite installments. As previously mentioned, I watched the event (the first WrestleMania I watched live as a fan) over John's house, and after an entertaining undercard, we were ready for the highly anticipated main event that was one year in the making between two of the biggest legends this business has ever seen.
The seeds were initially planted for the matchup at the 2009 Slammy Awards when Michaels vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania 25 won the award for Match of the Year, which was accepted by The Heartbreak Kid. As elated as he was to be honored for his phenomenal performance in Houston, it was a cold reminder of his shortcoming against Undertaker, and on that night, he made a bold claim: he knew for a fact he could defeat The Phenom. Or was he just trying to convince himself he could?
Michaels entered the 2010 Royal Rumble match with a purpose: to emerge victorious and punch his ticket to WrestleMania for a title match with the then-World Heavyweight Champion The Undertaker. He battled up until the end where he was eliminated by Batista. He refused to come to terms with the reality that he lost, and upon reentering the ring, he was confronted by referee Charles Robinson, who he promptly laid out with a scintillating Sweet Chin Music.
The next month or so was a turbulent one for Michaels, as he was unable to qualify for the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match and lost the Unified Tag Team Championship to ShoMiz. In order to get his desired match with Undertaker at WrestleMania, he had no other choice but to cost The Deadman his most prized possession by interfering in the Elimination Chamber. The next night on Raw, 'Taker finally accepted HBK's invitation, but under one condition: if he lost again, he would be forced to retire.
"If I can't beat you at WrestleMania, I have no career." Those words from Michaels still echo in my head to this day, the same sentence that closed out the amazing video package that was used to hype their match. To him, nothing else mattered. Sure, he had beaten Undertaker before (see: Badd Blood 1997 and Royal Rumble 1998), but never on such a stage as WrestleMaina. As we learned from their initial encounter, a desperate Shawn Michaels is a dangerous Shawn Michaels.
After getting slighted the main event slot the year prior, they ended the evening in Phoenix on March 28. You could say this match was better than the original or vice versa and you wouldn't be wrong. The storytelling was nothing short of sensational, and with no disqualifications and no count-outs, both men took each other to their absolute limits. Michaels busted out a killer moonsault on the commentary table as well as several Sweet Chin Musics, but ultimately, it was a jumping Tombstone Piledriver (preceded by a vicious slap to the face of Undertaker) that put Michaels down for the three count. Thank you, HBK.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #5: Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins, WrestleMania 31"