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.
I discussed this briefly when I spotlighted Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar early on in the series, but it has always boggled my mind that WrestleMaina 19 generated as low of a buyrate as it did. I mean, just look at the star-studded card! You had Angle vs. Lesnar in the main event for the WWE Championship, Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. McMahon, The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (in what we later learned was Stone Cold's last match), and Triple H vs. Booker T for the World Heavyweight Championship. And those were only the main events!
In my opinion, the greatest match on the show came in the undercard between Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho. At any other event, this easily could have been the main event as it was five years later at No Mercy 2008. They had one of the greatest rivalries in the history of WWE that year, but fans tend to forget that they clashed at WrestleMania 19 as well and contested one of the best-wrestled and beautifully-crafted 'Mania matches of all-time, and could you really expect anything less from HBK and Y2J?
Michaels' return to the ring after over four years of inactivity at SummerSlam 2002 was merely meant to be a one-off, but because of his amazing outing that night, it became apparent to not only the fans but Michaels himself that he had plenty left in the tank. He wrestled his second match back that November inside the inaugural Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series where he and Jericho clashed for the first time. Their interaction at the event planted the seeds for their feud many months later on the road to WrestleMania.
I don't think there were plans in place at that point for them to do battle on the grandest stage of them all because as Jericho has said in the past, their Raw segment early on in 2003 wasn't originally supposed to become what it did: a full-blown program. Jericho's conniving elimination of HBK in the Royal Rumble match was only the half of it; he went on to mock his childhood hero by doing his signature poses before Michaels came back and ensured he was tossed over the top rope by Test. The stage was set for a WrestleMania match for the ages.
From his pretty boy looks to his long hair to the tights he wore, Jericho was constantly being compared to his idol HBK, but in facing him at WrestleMania, he wanted to prove his superiority over him. Not to mention that this was Michaels' first 'Mania match in five years, so the pressure was on for him to deliver a performance of a lifetime. And he didn't disappoint. He had a counter for every one of Jericho's offensive maneuvers, though Jericho was about to outsmart his adversary by targeting the injured back throughout the bout.
In fact, Jericho studied Michaels' arsenal so well that he even hit him with a Sweet Chin Music of his own (and an excellently executed one at that), but it wasn't enough to keep Michaels down for the three count. He came close to forcing HBK to tap out to the Walls of Jericho after reversing a SCM, but to no avail. It wasn't long after that Michaels rolled him up and scored the victory, earning him his first triumph at The Show of Shows since capturing his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania 12.
While Michaels celebrated his win, he was confronted by a crying Jericho, who looked to make amends following all the awful things he said and did to his childhood hero. Seeing the two embrace in a hug was a WrestleMania moment in of itself, but what made it even more memorable was Jericho low blowing Michaels. The way Jericho shoved the helpless face of Michaels into the mat was shades of their iconic feud five years later and the many remarkable rematches that followed.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #7: The Rock vs. John Cena, WrestleMania 28"