Matches from History: Undertaker V HBK from Wrestlemania XXV

James Giles

the-undertaker-vs-shawn-michaels-wrestlemania-xxvOverall Wrestlemania XXV is probably not the most fondly remembered edition of WWE’s annual super-show; the Triple Threat between Edge, Cena and Big Show was hastily thrown together and ill thought out, the HHH Vs Orton bout received months of build up, but fans never really warmed to their feud, whilst Rey Misterio captured the IC Title from JBL in a 21 second insult. But in spite of all these disappointing elements, WM25 did manage to produce one true classic match to add to WWE’s Wrestlemania highlight reel – the superb battle between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.

Amazingly, when Wrestlemania XXV took place on April 5 2009, it marked the first time Taker and HBK had locked horns since Royal Rumble 1998, a whopping 11 years previously. Michaels won the right to challenge the Streak after defeating JBL and then Vladimir Kozlov in consecutive weeks. During the build up, Undertaker attempted to intimidate HBK by reminding him that while Taker had never beaten him one-on-one, the last time the clashed Taker beat him up so bad that Michaels spent 4 years on the bench recovering. HBK made his own attempts to psyche The Deadman, by cutting a promo from the Undertakers graveyard, and managing sneak attack him with the Sweet Chin Music twice. WWE was fairly subtle when it came to their roles in rivalry; both were portrayed as ultra-determined anti-heroes, with one being guided by light and divinity and the other by darkness, neither being a clear face or heel.

This was further emphasised by their spectacular entrances, with Michaels descending from above in a Heavenly glow while the Undertaker rose from depths in smoke and purple light. When the bell strikes, HBK is initially able to avoid Taker blows with his speed, but The Deadman does gain the advantage and pounds Michaels with a press slam and Old School. Michaels though switches focus to Takers knee and wears it down with the Figure Four and a dropkick. Taker reveres an Irish Whip and hits Snake Eyes followed by a big leg drop. He sets up for a chokeslam but HBK reverses into a Crippler Crossface. By this point the crowd is very loud and supporting both men and the noise doesn’t die down for the rest of the match. After some more back and forth action, Michaels goes for the Figure Four again but Taker turns it into a Hells Gate. The Deadman misses a big leg drop on the apron but when Michaels tries to capitalise with a moonsault, Taker dodges that too. Seeing the opportunity to hit his famous top rope plancha, The Deadman soars but the wily Michaels pulls the cameraman in the way instead, sending Taker careering into him. Well, at least this is what is supposed to happen; unfortunately the cameraman’s position is just off, meaning Taker goes head-first into the floor in a terrifying moment. Thankfully Taker appears ok, if slightly shook-up. The remainder of the match is spent trading finishing moves and near falls; Michaels hit’s Sweet Chin Music three times and delivers a flying elbow to no avail, while the Undertaker has to use a chokeslam, The Last Ride powerbomb and two Tombstone piledrivers to finally put Michaels down and extend the Streak to 17-0.

Almost non-stop action from start to finish and packed with dramatic near-falls and a genuine sense that either man could actually win, The Undertaker Vs HBK is certainly one of the finest, if not the very best, straight singles match ever contested at Wrestlemania. After a string of quality matches in 1997-98 and waiting 11 years to see them clash again, it proved more than worth the wait, rescuing an otherwise mediocre Wrestlemania and demonstrating exactly why Undertaker and HBK are the two most important performers in the shows history.

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