WrestleMania 10 in 10: Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, WrestleMania XX

We’re two days away from WrestleMania XXX, and NZPWI is counting down the 10 best matches from the last 10 years of the showcase of the immortals.

We’re covering 10 different matches featuring 13 different superstars held at seven different WrestleManias over the past decade. Will your favourite make the list?

This triple threat and its post-match celebration has since been marred by controversy, but there’s no denying that, at the time, it was a match for the ages.

Our second best WrestleMania match of the past decade is Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania XX.

NZPWI’s 10 BEST WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES OF THE LAST 10 YEARS
#2: CHRIS BENOIT VS. SHAWN MICHAELS VS. TRIPLE H (WRESTLEMANIA XX)

140405_maniaxxIt was to be the dawning of a new era. Where it all began again.

Benoit wins the Royal Rumble, with the longest in-ring time of any competitor in the Rumble match, besting Ric Flair’s record from the 1991 Rumble. (Benoit’s 62 minute time would be eclipsed by Rey Mysterio in a later year.) It was Benoit’s year – Benoit’s time.

Shawn Michaels has unfinished business with the world’s champion Triple H though, after their title match at the Royal Rumble event ended in a draw. HBK claimed he didn’t want rain on Benoit’s parade but he signed his name to the WrestleMania title match contract after superkicking the Rumble winner in the face.

Wrestling contracts are tricky business, it would seem. Eric Bischoff, the general manager of the time, made the call. The world title would be up for grabs for the first time in a triple threat match.

Tempers flared between all three men as headed towards Madison Square Garden and the 20th WrestleMania main event.

This was Shawn Michaels’ 11th WrestleMania, but Chris Benoit was a different story. This was his first WrestleMania main event and his first real shot at immortality.

Triple H walked into this, his 9th consecutive WrestleMania appearance, with his last two having him leave as a champion. The title meant everything to him and he began this match without the champion’s advantage.

The early stages of the match played out like many a triple threat before it, with one person finding themselves outside the ring, separated from the action, as the other two grapplers fought it out for supremacy. But it wasn’t long before the action amped up with HBK delivering a moonsault to outside the ring, wiping out both competitors.

The match was a hard-hitting affair, worthy of this special anniversary. Blood was spilled and signature moves executed on all. Michaels found himself in the Crossface at one stage and was only saved from tapping when Triple H physically held HBK’s hand off the mat.

The announce tables got some love, as all three men climbed on the American table – and then HBK and Triple H grabbed hold of Benoit and suplexed him through the Spanish announce table. Benoit seemed to have lost his chance at the title, as Michaels – extremely bloody face and all – squared off against his long term rival. A Pedigree demolished Michaels but Benoit made it back just in time to save the match.

A Sharpshooter from Benoit sent the crowd into a frenzy, as Triple H looked ready to submit – all until HBK hit Sweet Chin Music on Benoit. All three men were leaving it all in the ring.

In the end, another superkick attempt allowed Benoit to lift Michaels out of the ring. Triple H then attempted the Pedigree on Benoit, only to find himself in the Crossface. Within the next minute, Chris Benoit was the World Heavyweight Champion, culminating his 18-year journey.

Chris Benoit, a man who many said was too small to be champion, was now that very thing. He’d ascended to the top of the business, along with his best friend Eddie Guerrero, who had retained his championship earlier that night. The enduring image, which now fills many fans with sadness, is WrestleMania ending with confetti falling and Chris Benoit with Eddie Guerrero embracing, tears in their eyes. Best friends now on top of the world.

What a shame it didn’t last for either man. What a shame that, as for many people, once you’re on the top, the only way is down.

Two men whose careers mimicked each others. They fought through adversity and climbed the mountain at the same time, reaching the zenith that everybody said they couldn’t. And now, one man is forever beloved, the other eternally vilified. Their parallels only exceeded by the opposition in how they will be remembered.

#10: MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH (WRESTLEMANIA 21)
#9: EDGE VS. UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)
#8: TRIPLE H VS. UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII)
#7: RIC FLAIR VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)
#6: CHRIS JERICHO VS. CM PUNK (WRESTLEMANIA XXVI)
#5: KURT ANGLE VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA 21)
#4: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXVI)
#3: EDGE VS. MICK FOLEY (WRESTLEMANIA 22)