Wrestlemania X was a game changer. It opened with one of the best matches Bret Hart ever had against his brother and should be Hall of Famer Owen. As great as that match was, a lot of people define the show by the Ladder Match between Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon. Even though the Ladder Match was a thing before as Bret Hart will continue to tell anyone who wants to turn the spotlight onto anyone else, Razor vs. Michaels was the trend setter. You will see, or rewatch the match that defines the Ladder match in professional wrestling. Shawn Michaels became The Showstopper because of his work in this match with The Bad Guy. This is the match we’ve been waiting for isn’t it? We knew it was coming and I say we just dive into one of the most important and entertaining matches in Wrestlemania history.
This Ladder match came to be because Shawn Michaels was stripped off the Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney. Reports have justified the strip because of real life issues of Michaels failing a drug test, or reports of him refusing to drop the title. No matter the reason, Razor Ramon would win the title in a battle royal and HBK refused to acknowledge the title change. It was the impression that there was no true IC Champion since the original holder had never actually lost the title to a worthy contender. The two men would settle that predicament in Madison Square Garden under the watchful eyes of 18,000 people. History was then made.
The Heartbreak Kid enters Madison Square Garden with Big Daddy Cool following behind him. Michaels walks with his trademark swagger, but he stops before the ladder and walks around instead of tempting the fates. The Bad Guy is out next who isn’t afraid of going under the ladder. He slides under with his own trademark cockiness. The two men are showmen and thus far, the anticipation is high when you know you are seeing history. The atmosphere is set and the two men lock up to start the match. They work really well together right at the beginning. The two are loose with reversals and Michaels pulls off a good looking spin that Razor turned into a chokeslam. The match kept the tempo as Michaels would duck numerous haymakers and clotheslines to hit a quick swinging neckbreaker. Hall would regain the momentum in the corner for a moment before a fury by Michaels sent Razor to the outside.
Diesel hit Razor with a huge clothesline on the outside. This got Big Daddy Cool eliminated from ringside as he was thrown out to make the match man on man. Razor would use the absence of Diesel to take the advantage. He turned Michaels inside out in the corner and sent him flying over the top rope. Razor exposed some concrete, but HBK took the advantage to bring Razor back into the ring. Razor would try a Razor’s Edge until Shawn back dropped him onto the exposed concrete. Michaels thought it was a good time to get the ladder into the match. From here, everything would escalate.
Razor traded the ladder for Michaels and he brought it to the ring apron, but Michaels and a baseball slide into Razor’s ribs was the first use of the ladder. He brought it in shortly after and now the ladder was in the ring. Michaels knew how to use it. He rammed the top into the abdomen of Ramon twice before dropping it onto his back. Razor tried to find solace on the ropes, but Michaels threw the ladder onto his back again from across the ring. It was enough damage for Michaels to set up the ladder for the first attempt at the Intercontinental Championship. He wouldn’t end up with the titles. Instead, he ended up with his pants down and hitting a elbow from the top of the ladder. Michaels set up the ladder in the corner and The Bad Guy in the middle for one of my favorite moments in the career of Shawn Michaels.
The way Chris Jericho describes it is that in 1994 a moonsault was a big move. Michaels broke the mold with his body splash from the top of the ladder. All the while, the Intercontinental Championships looked down on the two men fighting for it’s ownership. HBK climbed for that ownership, but Razor would push him off the ladder onto the ropes to slingshot Michaels back down to Earth. The two men would hit each other simultaneously with forearm shots for a temporary stalemate. HBK got to his feet, set up the flat ladder in the corner and Razor reversed an Irish whip to try to put Shawn through the ladder. Michaels would crumb to the outside. Razor would pursue him with ladder in arms to slam HBK between the ladder and the ring post twice for good measure. He then catapulted Michaels into the ladder to put an exclamation mark on it. Razor followed HBK into the ring, and jousted him to the other end of the ring and to the outside. The Bad Guy went for the titles, but Michaels wouldn’t stay down without him and lawn darted himself into Razor to put both men down on the mat.
The crowd is ecstatic with every move. Razor and Michaels set up the ladder together and climbed their side for the titles. Razor bodyslamed Shawn off before falling off himself for yet another stalemate. Ramon tried again, but Michaels killed that idea with a dropkick. After a moment or two, the two tried to pick up the pace again, but Michaels dropped Razor with Sweet Chin Music and then a piledriver. HBK set up the ladder, got on the back of it and let gravity do its work as he crashed into Razor’s chest. Michaels set up the ladder under Razor’s lifeless body to climb for the win. However, Razor Ramon still had a breath of life. He pushed Michaels off the ladder and The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels landed at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Then his leg was trapped in the ropes long enough for Razor to climb the ladder and retrieve both Intercontinental Championships to make him the true Intercontinental champion.
Who the hell does Shawn Michaels think he is? He has three okay tag matches, two solid singles matches at Wrestlemania and he just decides he is going to change wrestling forever at Wrestlemania X with that insane performance? Razor Ramon may have won the match, but it is Michaels who would benefit the most from it. This is a perfect example of how wrestling transcends wins and losses. The important thing few remember isn’t that Razor won the match, or that HBK lost it. They remember the moments that go on to define the match in wrestling history. This match made Shawn Michaels.
You know what is really interesting in movies? When a groundbreaking movie is recognized during it’s time, the next decade or more continues to take those ideas and alter, or change them to be new. Something fresh is used over and over again until it becomes a norm. The interesting part is that kids and others ground up with these norms, so when they go back and watch the original, there is a disappointment because the hype is too strong for someone who wasn’t there. But then, there is the one movie that lasts through the ages and continues to inspire and entertain no matter how many years go by. Those are the rare films that define the industry. Since Wrestlemania X, we have seen a million ladder matches that are trying to live up to the hype and creativity of this match. a few have succeeded, but Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon is that one match that lives through the ages of wrestling history and it has defined an era of matches.
I don’t care what anyone else says, Scott Hall had an ocean of talent inside of him. His problem was he polluted it with his vices. I don’t like to think about Hall like that. Instead I say, he is one of the best to never win a major World Heavyweight Championship. This should have been as much his moment as it was for Michaels. Razor Ramon became the Intercontinental Champion in grad style, but Shawn Michaels became The Showstopper. This was one of the most important matches in wrestling history because it changed what was possible inside a wrestling ring. It made wrestling better and just barely over twenty years later, there is still in my mind the great flight of The Heartbreak Kid.