There are few times that retirements can be perfect in professional wrestling. Whether that is because they almost immediately return in a year’s time or because of injury, they aren’t the retirement that you wanted. But then there are the few that prove to be among the best. That brings us to a decade ago today, as “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels officially retired after losing his Career vs. Streak match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
Here we will look at how “Mr. WrestleMania” himself saw himself in one of his greatest rivalries – against the Undertaker – for a two-year span that included some of the best matches and moments in WWE and WrestleMania history. While Michaels did return eight years later for a one-off match, many fans try to forget about it and remember the greatness that was the true retirement of “The Heartbreak Kid.”
One Of The Greatest WrestleMania Matches Of All-Time Serves As Only The Beginning
Before 2009, Shawn Michaels never faced the Undertaker at WrestleMania – a true crime. Their history was enriched by the fact Undertaker was the man to cost Michaels four years of his career. They faced off in the first-ever Hell in a Cell. The list goes on as these two legends were linked but never did it on the biggest stage professional wrestling could offer. But then, Shawn Michaels earned his shot at Undertaker at WrestleMania 25. It was designed as the god-like character of Michaels would face off with the darkness that is Undertaker and his long career. The entrance by both men could send chills down your spine in different ways, but what would follow would become one of, if not the greatest WrestleMania match of all-time.
Telling a story inside the squared circle is what dictates the difference between good wrestlers and great wrestlers. Any performer under the sun can do a special dive and amazing splash off the top rope. But not everyone can tell the story inside the ring. That is what makes this Michaels/Undertaker match so special. The face Undertaker makes when Michaels kicks out of the Tombstone is picture-perfect. He was stunned, and for the first time, it looked like he may have been doubting himself. Michaels was pulling out all the stops and proving yet again why he was “Mr. WrestleMania.” He was doing everything perfectly, until the ultimate mistake that was to end his career.
A moonsault off the top rope would see Undertaker catch Michaels in the air, planting him with another Tombstone and putting away Michaels in one of wrestling’s true masterpieces. What came from this was an almost broken version of Shawn Michaels.
Obsessed With The Streak
Shawn Michaels’ last year saw him take off a few months to recover from what he considered to be the biggest loss of his storied career. Triple H had to try and get him back to reform D-Generation X at SummerSlam. And while that did work out, Michaels was never quite right. They won the tag team championships for the first and only time together, but that was never what Shawn cared about. When they lost the championships, it was because of Michaels. He was obsessed and only thought about one thing: breaking the streak. He knew his loss came down to one mistake and – if not for that mistake – he may have ended it. Michaels got in the face of Undertaker, but Undertaker denied his request as the World Heavyweight Champion. Michaels’ only chance was to win the 2010 Royal Rumble.
What a performance it was. Michaels was in the final four before Batista would eliminate Michaels – as he hung on to the rope. When he finally fell, he lost it. Sweet Chin Music was hit on the referee and Shawn did not know what was next. Of course, just a month later, Michaels had a plan. Enter the Elimination Chamber match where Undertaker would defend his championship. As he and Chris Jericho remained the final two, Michaels opened up the panel and hit Sweet Chin Music on Undertaker, making him lose his World Heavyweight Championship and giving Michaels exactly what he wanted.
Shawn Michaels’ Career vs. The Undertaker’s Streak
“If I can’t beat you at WrestleMania, I have no career.” This was the response from Michaels to Undertaker when the only way for Michaels to earn his rematch was to put his career on the line. And so he did. He laid it all out there to get this one match with one of his oldest and greatest of foes. Michaels had accomplished everything in his career, but beating the streak was the one he wanted most. So for the final time, “The Heartbreak Kid” made his way down to the ring in the main event of WrestleMania 26 to steal the show one last time against the Undertaker. He was more than ready for this. One last chance to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Much like the year before, this match was another incredible spectacle between the two. Tombstones, Sweet Chin Musics, and most importantly, kick-outs. The ending sequences was something written out of an award-winning film. Undertaker showed resilience in hurting Michaels as his career was on the line. But Shawn would not accept that. He did the iconic Undertaker throat gesture before slapping him across the face. This would tick off Undertaker, leading to him hitting a leaping Tombstone to put an end to the match and an end to Shawn Michaels incredible career. Just like that, Shawn Michaels was gone from in-ring competition. The end of an era.
“The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels Has Left The Building”
The only time in recent memory where someone was deemed worthy of a retirement ceremony was two years before. In 2008, Ric Flair received his – following his loss to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24. Who would have thought two years later “The Showstopper” would finally stop himself. His farewell to the WWE was not only emotional but perfect for one of the best to ever do it. He said goodbye to the fans who he had spent more time with than his own family and they let him know that they loved him right back. It was the first time that Shawn Michaels could tell his family once and for all that he was coming home. And his final line? “The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels has left the building.”
10 Years Later
It is hard to believe that Shawn Michaels has been gone for 10 years, with brief appearances and a disappointing one-off match not really giving the true feeling of “The Showstopper.” 10 years later, Michaels left everything in the squared circle and had one of the best retirement moments and ceremonies you can see in the world of professional wrestling.
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