Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind, WWF Mind Games, 9/22/1996

This could very well be my FAVORITE PRO WRESTLING MATCH, EVER.  If it’s not, it’s at least in the top half of my top ten favorite matches.

For some background, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels was in is first reign as WWF Champion after winning the title in a fantastic Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII from Bret Hart (which I will DEFINITELY discuss at a later point and time).  The night after WrestleMania XII, Mankind (Mick Foley) debuted in the WWF, and after feuding with The Undertaker and eventually winning the managerial services of Paul Bearer (Undertaker’s manager), he would win the number one contendership for the WWF Championship at the Mind Games pay-per-view event.

Almost everything about this match was excellent; a great execution of ring/match psychology.  The pacing, the spots, the momentum changes, the fact that the match lasted just under an entire half-hour, or — heck — even when Michaels and Mankind (Mick Foley) were doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, it made sense, the tension could have been cut with a knife, and the anticipation was enthralling.  The contrast of wrestling styles played off very well against one another; Michaels relied on his lucha-libre-inspired, high-flying style, while Mankind delivered his daredevil-like, hardcore style, and it made for a very interesting presentation of diverse sequences and athleticism.  And while in most matches where outside interference can sully the overall or end quality of a match, the involvement of Sysco Sid, Vader, and The Undertaker (all of whom were involved in overlapping secondary and tertiary storylines between Michaels and Mankind) towards the end actually added to the match’s overall experience, rather than taking too much attention away from it.

In his first memoir, “Mankind: Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (1999),” Mick Foley wrote that this was the best match of his entire career. In a later statement, he said “Sure, at 280 pounds I still looked like hell, but after a brutal cardiovascular training regimen, I was able to go full-tilt for twenty-seven minutes with a smaller, quicker, better athlete than me.”  Foley would make similar praises of the match in both his “Mick Foley: Hard Knocks and Cheap Pops (2000)” and “Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses (2004)” DVD Collections, where the match (in its entirety) is included on both. Shawn Michaels was interviewed about the match as well as Foley’s praise of it, and both the interview and the match was included in his 2003 DVD collection, “From The Vault: Shawn Michaels.”  Many consider their match at Mind Games to be the WWF’s best match of 1996, the same year as the memorable Iron Man Match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII (yikes, a second mention; I guess I’m leaving secret that I want to blog about that match in the future as well).

Enjoy the match!

PART 1/3
PART 2/3
PART 3/3

[Thanks to YouTube]

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