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.
So, it all comes down to this. I've had an absolute blast re-watching all 31 of these remarkable WrestleMania matches over the month of March, and hopefully you've had just as much fun reading about them in "WrestleMania Recall." But now, exactly 31 years removed from the inaugural event (I swear I didn't plan that, it was simply an amazing coincidence), we arrive at No. 1 on my illustrious list. I'm sorry this selection won't come as much of a surprise, but I'd be remiss if it was anything else.
Almost one year removed from when I started watching wrestling on the regular, I was ready for my first WrestleMania as a fan: WrestleMania 25. The hype was solid by and large in the weeks preceding the pay-per-view and I was excited for the event. A buddy of mine invited me over to his place to watch with me, but due to being grounded at that time (blame my mother), I was unable to attend, and I was pretty bummed. Thankfully, my mom was out of the house at the time the show aired, so I snuck on the computer and read along with the live chat on WWE.com.
The undercard was uninspiring to me. I didn't care to see CM Punk win Money in the Bank for the second straight year (though it worked out in the long-term), Rey Mysterio vs. JBL for the Intercontinental Championship ending in 21 seconds was disappointing, and the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal was a total waste. I stayed up late enough for Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, which was the most anticipated matchup on the show for me. No bout had better build than that one on the road to WrestleMania.
While my younger brother was in full favor of Michaels breaking Undertaker's 16-0 undefeated streak at WrestleMania, I didn't have much of a preference. I was just ready for what was bound to be an absolute classic, and as we soon learned, it was. Keep in mind that I didn't technically watch the match as it aired but rather the play-by-play commentary on WWE's website (I believe the chat was hosted by WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel). All I remember about the evening was that I was drinking some awful tasting hot chocolate at the time and I almost spilled it all over my computer after every major kickout. I was that engaged.
"Sometimes it's heaven just trying to get to hell." The entrances were incredible, especially The Heartbreak Kid's, when I watched it back for the first time months later on DVD, a gift given to me by my parents for my 14th birthday. And the best part was that there never seemed to be a dull moment. Even when both men were down and out, I was antsy with anticipation waiting for them to return to their feet and get back to beating the living daylights out of each other.
Michaels went for Sweet Chin Music early on yet faked it, so once Undertaker fell to the ground in an attempt to dodge it, Michaels locked in the Figure Four, but before he could secure the maneuver, The Phenom turned it around into a Hell's Gate. Brilliant! The desperate Michaels scrambled to the bottom rope and broke the hold. He went for the moonsault many times throughout the bout, and in his first attempt, 'Taker swotted him to the floor. Out of retaliation, Michaels leaped out of the way when Undertaker went airborne through the ropes and moved the poor cameraman (played by Sim Snuka) in his place as 'Taker crashed to the mat. It's a scary spot to watch back even years later.
Once Undertaker got back inside the ring, Michaels was waiting with a Sweet Chin Music, but because 'Taker saw it coming, he turned it into a devastating chokeslam. It wasn't long after that Michaels hit his first SCM of the match, but only for a two count. It was apparent in the latter half of the contest that 'Taker, too, was getting desperate when he ascended to the top rope and delivered a failed flying elbow straight out of HBK's playbook. The next two Tombstones were things of beauty, the first coming after Michaels skinned the cat on the ropes and Undertaker reversed that into a Tombstone and the second occurring after a backward moonsault from the top rope from HBK. Following an epic clash for the ages, Undertaker emerged victorious, keeping his storied streak alive for another year. Not only is this my favorite 'Mania match of all-time, I'd argue it's the greatest matchup in the history of the event as well. It's matches such as this one that you watch back and remember why WrestleMania season is always exhilarating and why wrestling can be so damn fun.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #2: The Undertaker vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 28"
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