If you attempt to choose one match as the greatest of all-time, there needs to be something special about it. Let's start with two great sports entertainers in the primes of their respective careers. Let's also put it at a big-time event in a big-time venue.
Let's also throw in some unique stipulation, which helped to break down barriers in the professional wrestling business. Combine all of those ideas together and you have Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X in Madison Square Garden in a ladder match.
The Intercontinental Championship was on the line on March 20, 1994. At WrestleMania X, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels had a lot of hype to live up to.
The rest of the card was pretty stacked as Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, the opening contest of the night, tore the roof off of MSG. Hart vs. Hart is still believed to be the greatest opening contest in WrestleMania history, if not all of wrestling pay-per-view history.
Ramon and Michaels were sandwiched in between the two WWF Championship matches that night, the second of which would have Hart defeat Yokozuna for his second world championship win. Michaels was still two years away from his first world championship, but this match would be a highlight-reel match for both men involved.
The story starts back in late 1992, when Shawn Michaels was Intercontinental Champion for the very first time. Michaels showed how great of a young star he would be in this business.
On a RAW episode in May 1993, Michaels would be upset by his former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, and lose his championship. At a live event in Albany 20 days later, Michaels would reclaim his Intercontinental Championship.
It was in this second reign where Razor Ramon comes into play. Michaels was stripped of the championship on Sept. 27, 1993. In storyline, Michaels had not defended his championship in 30 days and was no longer champion for failing to do so. In reality, Michaels was actually in hot water with the World Wrestling Federation.
Regardless of the reason, the Intercontinental Championship was vacated. There was a battle royal to fill the spots for an upcoming championship match. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the two survivors in the battle royal and faced each other to be the new champion. On a Sept. 27, 1993, taping of RAW, Razor Ramon was crowned Intercontinental Champion.
Michaels would return to the WWF at Survivor Series 1993 and would claim that he was still Intercontinental Champion. Michaels believed that he was still champion due to never being defeated for the title, while Ramon was still officially recognized as the champion by the WWF.
It even got to the point where both men each carried around championship belts and claimed that the other man was a phony champion.
The culmination of months with this rivalry finally ended at WrestleMania X as the two titles would be unified. However, at such a big event in Madison Square Garden, with Michaels still in his late 20s and Ramon at the peak of his popularity, a unique match stipulation was thrown into the storyline. The match would become a ladder match.
It sounds like something pretty pedestrian nowadays, but a ladder match was all but unheard of back in the early 1990s. Ladder matches are believed to have been derived back in the 1970s, but weren't made mainstream until Bret Hart proposed the idea to Vince McMahon upon joining the WWF.
It was just the second ladder match in WWF history; the first one took place 20 months earlier on an episode of Wrestling Challenge. In that bout, Bret Hart defended the Intercontinental Championship against Shawn Michaels.
This was the second (and much better) ladder match that Michaels would compete in with WWE. Michaels would be involved in six ladder matches in his career, including the first four in WWE history.
Despite that, Michaels is considered to be a visionary in the history of ladder matches and his match against Razor Ramon is his greatest work with a ladder.
Among iconic moments of The Heartbreak Kid, one of the top pictures is his incredible splash from the ladder onto Ramon. That spot took place about halfway through the match and was just one of the countless innovative spots involving the ladder that were seen for the very first time in a WWE ring.
The spot of two opponents punching each other atop the ladder, a staple of ladder matches today, was first done in WWE in this match.
There were also some unique aspects to this match. For one, Diesel accompanied Michaels to the ring at the start of the match, but would attack Ramon a few minutes in on the outside. The referee then ordered Diesel to leave the match. Despite there being no rules, there was also no outside interference tolerated.
In watching the match back, I found it to be interesting that the majority of the spots in the match would be more than possible in today's WWE. Despite the safety precautions due to concussions, there was only one legitimate shot with the ladder directly to a competitor's head.
There was also a spot where Michaels' trunks were purposely pulled down to avoid him grabbing the titles, showing his bare bottom. That also wouldn't fly too well in today's TV-PG format.
All in all, it was a great match at a very good WrestleMania. It was a WrestleMania with two WWF Championship matches, but neither were the two matches talked about the most from that night. While Hart vs. Hart always is a nice bout to watch, the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon broke barriers.
In today's WWE, two of the most extreme and entertaining match concepts are the TLC match and the Money in the Bank match. Both involve ladders and both owe this match for the ability to still wow audiences. Both concepts even became their own pay-per-view formats, further strengthening the legend of ladder matches in WWE.
Ramon would never become a world champion in WWE, so this match became a defining moment of his career and cemented him as one of the great Intercontinental Champions of the 1990's, as well as the entire history of the title.
It also acted as the unofficial coming-out party for Shawn Michaels. Michaels would win his first world championship two years later at WrestleMania XII.
This match also has the rare honor of being certified as a five-star match, as well as Match of the Year in 1994 according to Wrestling Observer Newsletter. It also was the first-ever five-star match in WWE history.
For launching two great careers, as well as two great match concepts, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania X is the greatest wrestling match of all time.