On March 28th, 2010 the WWE presented the 26th annual WrestleMania. In our continued recognition of past WrestleMania’s in our REIMAGINED series, one match from this event stood out above all others. It was the second consecutive year when they faced each other however the stakes couldn’t be any higher. For fans of The Undertaker, they were aware of his streak. A win here would put the Undertaker’s streak to 18-0. On the other side, was the Heartbreak Kid and someone often referred to as Mr. WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels. It would be the second consecutive year where the two would face one another. This time around their WrestleMania match would be dubbed career vs streak.
This match came about from the result of the previous year. At WrestleMania XXV, The Undertaker defeated Michaels in a bout that was universally loved by all. It was considered a match of the year candidate to some at the time. To others, it was considered a match of the year winner only a third of the year in for 2009. At the 2009 Slammy Awards, Michaels accepted the award for the match earning the Match of the Year distinction. During his speech, he said he could beat The Undertaker at the next WrestleMania. He was already planting seeds for a rematch between the two.
In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania XXVI, Michaels found that he needed purpose and meaning. That purpose and meaning came in the direction of who he would face. Michaels would approach the Undertaker and issue a challenge to face him at the upcoming event. The Undertaker would respond as follows; A rematch at this year’s WrestleMania will only result in more bitter disappointment for yourself. Shawn, I’ve got nothing to prove to you. My answer is No. Michaels wouldn’t take no as an answer. He responded by saying, I’ll see you at WrestleMania. Your streak, your title, your soul will be mine.
The Undertaker’s refusal led to an enraged Shawn Michaels to attacking referees and the then Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long. At the Elimination Chamber event prior to WrestleMania XXVI, Michaels made his way into the World Heavyweight Champion match. He hit The Undertaker with his Sweet Chin Music causing the Deadman to be defeated by then-champion Chris Jericho. The Undertaker had enough of Shawn Michaels. On the following night on Monday Night Raw, the Undertaker came out and then said he had changed his mind and accepted Michaels challenge.
However, the Undertaker had put forth a stipulation that if Michaels lost he would have to retire. Michaels accepted with the response ‘if I don’t beat you, I don’t have a career’. A couple of weeks after that the two agreed to raise the stakes and make the match no disqualification and no count-out.
The night had finally come. WrestleMania XVI was here and the streak vs career match would be the final match of the night. It initially began with both men hitting signature moves with both. The Undertaker’s leg was injured early on in the match attempting his old-school walk along the top rope. As the match progressed, The Undertaker hit the tombstone on Michaels on the floor outside. Eventually, Michaels hits his sweet chin music on The Undertaker. Michaels then suffered a chokeslam and the last ride powerbomb. The Undertaker made a pinning attempt on Michaels. Micheals kicks out once again.
As the match progressed, Michaels applies an array of submission attempts on The Undertaker. Each submission move was working on The Undertaker’s leg. Whether it was a figure four leglock or an ankle lock, Michaels was trying to wear down the deadman. However, despite Michaels best efforts, The Undertaker was able to break out of each of these attempts. The Undertaker eventually applied Hell’s Gate to Michaels. Michaels reverses it into a pin attempt.
As the match goes to the outside of the ring, Michaels counters a Last Ride attempt hitting another sweet chin music. The kick knocked the Undertaker onto the announce table. With a prone Undertaker on the announce table, Michaels hit a moonsault onto his ankle. Michaels rolled The Undertaker back into the ring and then hit another Sweet Chin Music. Once again Michaels attempted a pinning attempt but The Undertaker kicked out again.
When Michaels attempted sweet chin music for the fourth time, The Undertaker countered it and hit another chokeslam. The Undertaker quickly followed it up with another Tombstone piledriver. A momentary shock by the Undertaker ultimately led to him signaling for a third Tombstone Piledriver. At this point, The Undertaker begins to show his throat-cutting gesture but stops. He looks down at the fallen Michaels who attempts to make his way to his feet. The Heartbreak Kid refuses and even provokes The Deadman to make him stay down. This prompted the Undertaker to scoop up Michaels again hitting a third Tombstone Piledriver. The Undertaker then covers Shawn Michaels for a count of 1..2…3. The streak continues at 18-0 and the career of Shawn Michaels is now over.
Once the match was over, Shawn Michaels made his way to his feet and he and The Undertaker embraced out of mutual respect for one another. One streak continues and one career is officially over.
That’s exactly what it was. Certainly, as my career progressed, and especially as the WWE evolved and allowed me to evolve getting a little more subliminally artistic, it was those types of things I very much enjoyed bringing to my character. A little depth and, dare I say, sophistication in the world of storytelling in the WWE. And it’s small things like that I wanted to convey that about this character, and how [The Heartbreak Kid character] characterized and symbolically was… the Heartbreak Kid saw that the end was near, but he wanted to fall on his sword and go out with bravado. And that’s what that moment was supposed to replicate. – Shawn Michaels on the final moments of his match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania XVI. To listen to the interview in its entirety click here.