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.
Up until last year, WrestleMania 28 was my favorite WrestleMania of all-time. Its card was simply stacked from top to bottom, but especially the top three main events. I'm not arguing it's the greatest ever, but rather my personal favorite because of my emotional attachment to it and the fantastic build it had in the weeks preceding the event. What's funny about this specific selection is that I had zero desire to see The Undertaker vs. Triple H again at WrestleMania, and as a result, I was vehemently against the idea of yet another rematch between the two.
Not only did they face off the year prior at WrestleMania 27, but they wrestled against each other a decade earlier at WrestleMania 17 as well. That would be three times in total! And I wasn't down for that whatsoever. Prior to that point, I had never seen their WM17 match, and the hype for their WM27 match was decent at best. I was in the minority that was bored by their 2011 match, although watching it back in recent years has made me appreciate it more. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be sold on the idea of HHH vs. 'Taker happening at WrestleMania 28 until the program officially kicked off.
The "End of an Era" tagline was one thing, but I didn't think for a second that it would mark the end of the career of either guy. That said, everything else about the build leading up to the event was masterfully constructed. Per usual, Triple H needed Shawn Michaels to get involved in order for fans to be interested, but it made sense for the story they were telling. Triple H hinted at wanting to do what his best friend couldn't in ending The Streak. Besides, HHH did have more backstage power at that time, so nothing ruled him out from putting the 1 in 21-1.
Michaels played a much bigger role in this match than he did their WM27 encounter. He appeared on Raw a handful of times and was even named the special guest referee. Not too long after, the match was confirmed to being taking place inside Hell in a Cell, a stipulation all three men knew all too well. Although it was Undertaker's baby, HHH had competed inside Satan's Structure almost as many times and came out on top more than than he lost. Not to mention Michaels and 'Taker took part in the very first Hell in a Cell match 15 years earlier.
I'm well-aware Bret Hart didn't have kind things to say about this bout, going so far as to rate it a four out of ten, but it was the story of the match that made it magical, not the exhilarating in-ring action (or lack thereof). The wrestling was far from awful, but you could expect only so much from two guys in their mid-40s. Plus, The Heartbreak Kid was there to pick up the pieces and put them in place. Fans didn't know what to expect from him and what his motives were. Did he want to help his friend conquer The Streak, or would he be envious and prevent him from doing so?
Everyone involved played their parts to perfection, but Michaels was extra convincing in selling his emotion and looking indecisive. Once 'Taker put his hands on him, it was then he felt it was necessary to physically insert himself. Out of nowhere, he hit a Sweet Chin Music on Undertaker and Triple H followed that up with a Pedigree of his own. The crowd nearly lost their minds thinking they had witnessed the end of The Streak before their very eyes, but by some chance, Undertaker was able to kick out and stay alive.
The cell structure didn't come into play all too often in the match, but it did serve as a nice backdrop for what went down in the ring, and also establishing that the only way to win was to pin or submit your opponent. Ultimately, Undertaker laid Triple H to rest with a Tombstone Piledriver, effectively extending his impressive streak to a whopping 20-0. As The Deadman celebrated his monumental victory, he, HBK and HHH all helped each other up the ramp, and in a picture worth a thousand words, they looked back at the crowd one last time to embrace the history they just made. Sensational, to say the least.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #3: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania 21"
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