“Do we really need another Shawn Michaels DVD?” – This seemed like the popular sentiment when Shawn Michaels: Mr. WrestleMania was first announced, and it is a fair argument. We’ve already gotten a lot of Shawn Michaels releases, and, of course, all of his Mania matches are available on home video in one way or another. However, you can’t deny the quality of the matches Shawn has participated in at WrestleMania. I was very curious how they would all play in one grouping, as they are presented on this DVD. The real draw, though, was the new interview with Shawn. The last time we had a new feature interview with Shawn on a DVD, it was the great interview on Greatest Rivalries: Bret Vs. Shawn. Naturally, I was looking forward to hearing some new thoughts from Shawn on these matches.
In the end, I think we can say that even if we didn’t need another Shawn Michaels DVD, there’s nothing wrong with getting one. The DVD is rated TV-14. Disc 1 runs 2 hours and 25 minutes, while Discs 2 and 3 each run around 3 hours. There are a few music edits, and Jesse Ventura’s commentary is missing from the Mania V/VI matches (which is a huge distraction).
“Break it Down”: The Interview
As many of you know, I just recently checked out Kayfabe Commentaries’ most recent Timeline release. With this DVD from WWE, it felt like I was continuing in the same series. This interview has a very similar feel, where Shawn is able to give his thoughts on individual matches from his career, and it takes the conversation in a number of different directions. The other clear comparison here is to Bret Hart: The Dungeon Collection from last year, but I found the interview with Shawn to be a lot more substantive. This was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I was watching a shoot interview released by WWE. It felt like there was absolutely no editorial interference from WWE, and Shawn was basically given free reign to give his true feelings on each match. While WWE’s DVD’s have certainly been trending in this direction, this was the first time I really felt like I was watching something without any input from the company.
The interviews are also given a pretty good amount of time. Some of them are quite short (for example, we’ve already heard pretty much everything we ever need to hear about the Iron Man match, so there wasn’t much to say there), but others are given a pretty good deal of time. The WrestleMania XIV interview is the one that immediately stands out to me. A match between Michaels and Austin should have been awesome, but something always held this match back from being a classic. After watching this DVD, I got a pretty clear sense why. These are the types of interviews you get for all the matches; Shawn discusses the pluses, the minuses, and the reasons each match occurred. It’s all very fascinating to hear.
“Showstopper”: The Matches
The Rockers Vs. The Twin Towers (WrestleMania V, 4/2/89) – **
A textbook tag team match featuring a “big team” and a “small team”. Akeem and Big Boss Man serve their roles really well, and The Rockers are great foils for them, but the match isn’t nearly long enough to be elevated to anything special.
The Rockers Vs. The Orient Express (WrestleMania VI, 4/1/90) – ** 1/4
I was enjoying this match, but it really falls apart at the end. The teams have great chemistry, and if given a good amount of time, this could have easily felt like 1990’s equivalent of The Usos and The Real Americans tearing it up on the undercard. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t really into the match, and the ending just doesn’t work at all.
The Rockers Vs. Haku & The Barbarian (WrestleMania VII, 3/24/91) – ***
This was a pleasant surprise. Haku is very underrated in the ring, and The Barbarian works very well in tag teams. They played off The Rockers perfectly. I was also surprised that this match was given a good amount of time, and they took advantage of that well.
Shawn Michaels Vs. Tito Santana (WrestleMania VIII, 4/5/92) – *** 1/4
Very well put together match here. Tito Santana was a perfect opponent for Michaels at the time; he had some credibility as a good guy, and played off Michaels’ upstart tactics really well. The in-ring quality is all here too, and they tell a fun, traditional story.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Tatanka (WrestleMania IX, 4/4/93) – *** 1/4
In the interview before this match, Michaels discusses feeling like he was stuck in the same place by being in the opening Mania match for the second year in a row. This isn’t a big surprise, given that this match is so similar to the Santana match. The dynamics are slightly changed because the young powerhouse Tatanka is taking the place of a veteran like Santana, but Michaels’ role feels similar in each match. That being said, it still is a solid match with some fun sequences near the end (before the lame finish). It just may be the best match from WrestleMania IX!
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Razor Ramon (WrestleMania X, 3/20/94) – **** 1/4
There’s not much to say here that hasn’t already been said. I don’t know that the match has aged as well as I would have hoped, but there’s no doubt that this one is a classic.
WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Diesel (WrestleMania XI, 4/2/95) – ***
Again, we’ve got some good storytelling in this match, but it gets a bit slow at times, and throughout the entire match it feels like Diesel is completely unbeatable. The most bizarre part of this match is the celebrity involvement. McCarthy and Anderson at ringside both seemed to be cheering for both men; I don’t think they really knew what they were doing there.
WWE Championship Iron Man Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (WrestleMania XII, 3/31/96) – **** 1/4
This was my first time watching this match in a long time, and I was happy that it held up for me as well as it did. I know there are often complaints that the first half of the match gets a little boring, but I enjoyed the storytelling going on. It’s not easy to tell a story over 60 minutes without any falls, but they pull it off really well. Angle Vs. Lesnar is still my favorite Iron Man match in WWE history, but this one is a close second.
WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIV, 3/29/98) – *** 1/2
While this match was well put together, and told a good story, there was something missing that prevented the match from being a classic. Michaels was certainly in pain at the time, and after listening to the interview before this match, it’s clear that his head wasn’t totally in the match. I think this may explain the lack of chemistry between the two men. They certainly could have had a better match, even if this match was still pretty good on its own.
Shawn Michaels Vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XIX, 3/30/03) – **** 1/2
Jericho & Michaels have very similar styles, so this match ended up in a “dream match” category with high expectations. Fortunately, they were able to deliver on the expectations. The two characters played off each other very well, and, yet again, we get excellent storytelling between the two competitors.
Shawn Michaels Vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 21, 4/3/05) – *****
I hadn’t seen this match in quite a while, and I forgot just how good it was. The drama is great and the wrestling is nearly perfect. The only potential problem you could have with this match is that there are a lot of finisher kick-outs, but I think they justified that very well at the end of the match. It took Michaels a long time to finally tap out, and that fit with the idea that he was able to escape all of the other finishers earlier in the match.
No Holds Barred Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Mr. McMahon (WrestleMania 22, 4/2/06) – ***
In essence, this match is really just Shawn beating the crap out of Vince McMahon for 20 minutes. It is a little longer than necessary, but no one takes a beating like Vince, and they found a way to keep it entertaining without really having much drama.
WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena (WrestleMania 23, 4/1/07) – ****
It’s weird to think of Cena being part of a match that you could describe as a “wrestling clinic”, but that really is the best way to describe this match. I know I’ve used the word a lot already, but yet again, we have a really great story being told during this match. That is the clear highlight.
Ric Flair’s Career on the Line: Shawn Michaels Vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania XXIV, 3/30/08) – **** 1/2
I don’t think there was really much doubt about who was going to be the winner here, but the suspense was still very high. The drama and emotion scattered throughout this match is wonderful, and it’s impossible to not get sucked into the action. The final moment of this match will without question go down as one of the best in Mania history.
Shawn Michaels Vs. Undertaker (WrestleMania XXV, 4/5/09) – *****
As great as Angle/Michaels is, this is even better. In my opinion, one of the 3 greatest matches in the history of Wrestlemania (along with Savage Vs. Steamboat and Bret Vs. Owen), if not in the history of the WWE. An incredible match. It’s been on a lot of DVD’s recently, but I don’t care. It’s that good. I think the “higher ups” at WWE view this as the greatest match in the company’s history.
No Disqualification Streak Vs. Career Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Undertaker (WrestleMania XXVI, 3/28/10) – **** 1/2
Although this match is a step below the contest from the year before, it is still fantastic. The finish of this match is probably my favorite finish to any match. The emotion from Shawn and Taker is wonderful. I hope this remains the way Shawn’s in-ring career ends. Nothing will be this perfect.
“The Icon”: Closing Thoughts
Without question, Shawn Michaels: Mr. WrestleMania is a very entertaining watch. The interview brought some new insight into a lot of these matches, and didn’t just feel like a reiteration of things we’ve already heard a million times. It was nice to hear Shawn speak so openly about the matches. This wasn’t just him saying “that was a great match” over and over again; we got a true breakdown of what went into each and every match, and this had a great effect on the viewing experience when you were then presented with the complete match. And these are some great matches. There’s not a bad match on the entire set. Some matches are really short, but it’s unfair to actually call them bad. After his return in 2002, the match quality is insanely good. You go from one classic match to the next. With the exception of the Vince McMahon match, each match from 2003 onwards is at least a **** match.
There are a few controversies surrounding this release. First off, I think it was the right choice to leave off the WrestleMania XX match. That match really was the culmination of Benoit’s career up to that point, and was about celebrating his ascension to the top of the industry. It’s a very difficult moment to include on any DVD now, and I think more than any match, this one should have been left off. You will also notice that chose to just review the DVD instead of purchasing the Blu-ray. I found the listing of Blu-ray extras to be very disappointing, and I could not justify spending the extra money for a few segments and 10-15 minutes of extra interviews. I’m sure they were interesting interview pieces, but they weren’t worth the extra money to me.
I know we have a bunch of repeat matches here, but I still found this to be a very rewarding DVD. The new interview was excellent, and the format of transitioning from the interview to each match worked really well. This might very well be the best collection of matches on any DVD that has ever been released by the WWE, which made it a very enjoyable watch. Personally, I don’t find the Blu-ray purchase to be essential, but in one form or another, I think this is a must have for any home video collection.