August 24, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Razor Ramon (Champion) vs. Shawn Michaels (claimant Champion)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
March 20, 1994
MEET THE NEW BOSS...
By the time September 23, 1993 came around, the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels was a two-time Intercontinental Champion. In less than a year's time, Michaels had compiled an impressive list of victories, which set him on his path toward the icon status he enjoys today. With his seven-foot monster bodyguard Diesel (Kevin Nash) by his side, and an ego almost as big as the man who protected him, it seemed no contender, no matter how big or strong or skilled, would be able to knock HBK off his Intercontinental Championship perch.
Little did anyone realize the man to do it would be then-World Wrestling Federation President the late Jack Tunney.
Citing his "failure to appear for a number of title defenses" and his "refusal to fulfill his contractual obligations", Tunney stripped Michaels of the Intercontinental Title on the aforementioned date of September 23, 1993. President Tunney then announced there would be a 20-man, over-the-top-rope battle royal held on the October 4 RAW (taped September 27), in which the final two remaining competitors would battle in a one-on-one match the following week to crown a new champion. The final two participants remaining, as fate would have it, ended up being "The Bad Guy" Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and "The Model" Rick Martel. With a wicked "Razor's Edge", Ramon would go on to win the subsequent one-on-one confrontation to become the new Intercontinental Champion. It appeared to all that the World Wrestling Federation had finally crowned a definitive Intercontinental Champion. And with the 6'6", 287-pound "Bad Guy" from Miami holding the gold, it certainly looked like people would have a tough time getting the title from around his muscular waist.
...SAME AS THE OLD BOSS???
When Shawn Michaels made his return on December 4, 1993, he did so in the typical Heartbreak Kid fashion. That is, he did so in a controversial manner. HBK was scheduled to be a guest on the "Reo's Roundup" interview segment on Superstars, but what was not expected was the sight of seeing Michaels carrying the Intercontinental Championship belt under his arm. The belt he was carrying was the very one he had been stripped of, but apparently no one had ever demanded he return the belt. In the words of HBK himself, from his "Reo's Roundup" segment, "There is only one undisputed World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion, and it is the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!" This, of course, brought Razor Ramon, the recognized champion, into the proceedings. "So, say hello to the REAL Intercontinental Champ!", said Razor to the former champion. Ramon accented his words by bursting Michaels's bubble gum with his toothpick.
Two days later on RAW, the feud started heating up between the current champion and the claimant champion. Michaels was taking on the 1-2-3 Kid (Sean "X-Pac" Waltman) and was being especially rough on the Kid, even using Ramon's "Razor's Edge" finisher to mock his friend. This brought Ramon out to the ring, to stop the beating from continuing. Michaels attempted to sucker him by slapping his face, but this only caused Ramon to give chase...exactly what HBK wanted. As Ramon reached through the entrance curtain to grab him, he was met by a huge right hand from Diesel, knocking him to the floor. Michaels now went on the assault, further adding insult to injury by giving Ramon two "Razor's Edge" crucifix slams on the hard arena floor in the aisle. Even after this heinous attack, Shawn Michaels continued to antagonize Razor Ramon. At the Royal Rumble on January 22, 1994, Ramon was defending the Intercontinental Title against Irwin R. Schyster (IRS). During the match, while the referee was unconscious, Michaels had hit Ramon with his bogus Intercontinental belt. Originally, IRS had gained a tained three-count, but when another official came to the ring and showed the original arbiter there had been foul play, the match continued, and Ramon went on to successfully defended the title.
It was becoming obvious this war between the current champion and the former champion had to reach some kind of a conclusion. The solution came in the form of the iron rungs; a ladder match. Today, ladder matches are a common part of WWE venecular. But in 1994, such a match was a rarity in WWE rings; in fact, only Bret Hart and, ironically, Shawn Michaels, had fought in one prior to this match. The object of this match: both Intercontinental Championship belts would be suspended high above the ring. The ladder could be used in any manner; as a weapon and used to climb. The first man to reach the top of the ladder and grab both title belts would be declared the winner. The match would be featured at WrestleMania X, on March 20, 1994, in Madison Square Garden, resulting in a true WrestleMania classic which is still talked about by fans today.
As Shawn Michaels made his entrance with Diesel, he walked around the ladder in an attempt to say luck was on his side. In contrast, Razor Ramon wanted to show he was without fear on this night, and he walked directly under the ladder on his way to the ring. After Ramon handed Tony Chimel his gold chains, the bell sounded, and we were under way. Ramon and Michaels started circling one another, and right away, Michaels caught Ramon in a side headlock and turned it into a hammerlock. Ramon then reversed the hammerlock, but Michaels reached down and countered with a single leg trip, taking Ramon to the mat. With his other foot, Ramon pushed Michaels to the ropes. Michaels ran the ropes, jumped over Ramon, and bounced off the opposite ropes. HBK attempted a hiplock, and Razor twice blocked the move. Michaels responded with a poke to his eyes. Ramon blocked an attempted Rocker Dropper, and turned it into a chokeslam. Ramon threw a right hand shot, and whipped Michaels to the ropes. Michaels bounced off, ducked two Ramon clotheslines, and caught "The Bad Guy" with a neckbreaker. The claimant champion went on the attack, stomping away on the current champion. HBK went to ram Ramon into the turnbuckle, but Ramon blocked and countered with one of his own. Ramon then hit Michaels with a shoulderblock and ran the ropes. Michaels ducked, and threw Ramon to the outside of the ring, onto the arena floor. As Ramon walked around the ring, he ran into a stiff clothesline from Michaels's bodyguard Diesel. As a result of his interference, referee Earl Hebner stepped in, and to the approval of the fans at WrestleMania X, he ejected Diesel from the building. Now, the contest was a bit more evenly matched, without Michaels's equalizer watching over the proceedings.
As HBK stood on the ropes and objected to the call, Ramon took advantage and went on the attack. With Michaels in the corner, Ramon Irish whipped him to the opposing corner, and Michaels went upside down in the corner but landed back on his feet, stumbling into the middle of the ring. Ramon then bounced off the ropes, and clotheslined Michaels over the top rope to the floor. Ramon followed hot on his heels, hit Michaels with a right handed shot, and then went to another side of the ring to pull away the padding on the arena floor. Ramon moved in to further his attack, but Michaels stopped him by poking him in the eyes. Michaels threw Ramon back into the ring, and went on the attack, stomping and kicking away at the recogonized champion. Michaels whipped Ramon to the ropes, but found himself reversed. Michaels bounced off the ropes, and Ramon caught him with a right hand to the jaw. Ramon then went for his finisher the "Razor's Edge", but Michaels flipped him over the top rope and onto the exposed arena floor. Michaels slowly walked down the aisle and grabbed the iron ladder, the first time in the match it would come into play. Ramon then rolled through the ring to the other side to meet HBK halfway. Ramon leveled Michaels with a right handed shot, threw him back into the ring, and grabbed the ladder himself. Ramon placed the ladder at the edge of the apron for only a few seconds, but this was enough for Michaels to execute a baseball slide into the ladder, jarring Ramon in the midsection and flooring him on the outside. Michaels then went to the outside, and rammed Ramon into the steel ring steps. Ramon rolled back into the ring, but Michaels followed, ladder in hands. Michaels started to use the ladder as a weapon, twice ramming the ladder hard into the midsection of "The Bad Guy". Michaels then picked the ladder up again and slammed it over the back of Ramon. As Ramon fell into the ropes, Michaels bounced off the opposite ropes, and smashed Ramon's back again with the ladder. Michaels then set up the ladder in the middle of the ring, and made the first attempt of the match to climb up and grab the belts high above the ring. Ramon soon followed him and grabbed for him, but in the process mistakenly pulled his tights down, to the delight of the female fans in attendance. Michaels kicked him off and proceeded to drop an elbow from the iron rungs. Michaels then set the ladder up in the corner. After slamming Ramon to the mat, Michaels climbed the ropes, stepped onto the top rung of the ladder with both feet, and came down with a breathtaking body splash onto Ramon.
Michaels struggled to his feet, pulled the ladder to the center of the ring, and started the climb to glory. Ramon soon rose up himself, and pushed the ladder over, causing Michaels to fall off and land throat first across the top rope. Both men were down momentarily, but soon Michaels was back on his feet, grabbing Ramon. Instinctively, Ramon applied a side headlock, and Michaels responded by pushing Ramon to the ropes. Ramon bounced off, Michaels dropped down, and both men collided head first, sending them down to the mat. Again, both men found themselves down on the canvas, but Michaels slowly made it to his feet. Michaels grabbed the ladder, folded it, and propped it up in a corner of the ring. Ramon quickly regained his footing, but Michaels hit him with a right. Michaels then attempted to throw Ramon to the corner, but Ramon reversed, and HBK ended up hitting the ladder himself, flying upside down to the arena floor. Ramon went outside the ring and brought the ladder with him, hitting Michaels in the chest and the back with it. With Michaels down in the aisle, Ramon propped the ladder against the ring, grabbed Shawn, and slingshotted him face-first into the ladder. Michaels hit the floor, with the ladder on top of him. Ramon got up, grabbed Michaels and threw him back into the ring. Ramon followed with the ladder in his possession, and smacked HBK upside the head with it, sending Michaels back outside the ring yet again. Ramon looked up to the ceiling of MSG where the belts were hanging, rose to his feet, set up the ladder, and started the long hard climb. But from behind, Michaels was climbing the ropes, and he came down with a double axhandle to Ramon's back. Ramon hit the canvas, but the ladder fell on top of Michaels on the way down. Michaels then made it to his feet slowly, and stood the ladder up in the center, as Ramon was doing the same. Both men started to climb both sides of the ladder, and at the top, a slugest ensued. Ramon soon ended the exchange by bodyslamming Michaels off the ladder, but in the process, the recognized champion fell to the mat with the ladder following close behind. Ramon quickly made it back up again, set up the ladder, and started to climb again. As Ramon reached the belts, Michaels dropkicked the ladder, causing "The Bad Guy" to fall off. Somehow, the ladder managed to stay put. Michaels again regains his footing, and pushed the ladder onto the fallen Ramon. Michaels then threw Ramon to the ropes, missed a clothesline, but caught Ramon on the rebound with his celebrated finisher, Sweet Chin Music. Michaels then moved in for the kill, and dropped Ramon on his head with a piledriver. Michaels grabbed the ladder and folded it, climbing the ropes with the ladder in his grip. He then crashed down onto Ramon's chest, with the ladder on top of him. HBK, sensing victory after hitting Ramon with every available weapon in his arsenal, set up the ladder with Ramon directly under it.
As it would turn out, this would be the key to HBK's undoing. Seeing Michaels and the ladder above him, Ramon started to shake the ladder. When that proved to be unsuccessful, Ramon quickly hit the ropes and ran himself into the ladder, causing the ladder--and Michaels--to fall. Michaels landed crotch-first on the top rope, and found himself entangled in the ropes. Ramon slowly asecnded the ladder, as Michaels attempted to free himself. With the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd cheering him on, Ramon grabbed both belts to successfully defend his title at 19:47. The fans responded by cheering both men for their incredible efforts, and for giving them one of the most memorable matches in WrestleMania history. There was also no disputing who the Intercontinental Champion was now: "The Bad Guy", Razor Ramon.
Shawn Michaels would gain a measure of revenge on Razor Ramon, albeit vicariously through his bodyguard Diesel. At an April 13, 1994 taping of Superstars, Diesel defeated Ramon to win the Intercontinental Championship. A few months later, at SummerSlam on August 27, Ramon (with former NFL star Walter Payton in his corner) regained the title from Diesel, and would later go on to become the first-ever four time Intercontinental Champion.
What many fans at the time did not realize, was how tight a unit Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash were behind the scenes. Together, later adding Triple H, they were "The Clique", and they were a promoter's nightmare, using backstage politics to keep themselves at the top of the card, a tactic still employed by Triple H today. When Hall and Nash left the Federation in 1996, they went on to form the most powerful clique in wrestling history with Hulk Hogan, the New World Order (nWo), in WCW. That same year, Michaels would become WWE Champion for the first time in his career.
Many fans still point to the ladder match at WrestleMania X as the pivotal moment in the respective careers of both the "Heartbreak Kid" and the "Bad Guy", the match that set them on the path to superstardom. Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels were good friends backstage, but both realized in front of the cameras, they were even more entertaining as bitter enemies.