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  1. World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs Shawn Michaels - RAW 12/29/03 Terrific match! I have a lot I want to say about this, but it is getting pretty late. Probably the greatest American 80s match not to happen in the 80s. HHH does one of the best Flair impersonations ever and I mean that with respect and admiration. He was a consummate heel champion in this match. Michaels was an awesome, awesome fired up underdog hometown babyface. Both of them were constantly fighting back at each other. HHH was was getting outwrestled early in a great shine, but Shawn earned it. Awesome transition to the heat. HHH worked a great heat segment. Great transition to Shawn's figure-4. Not the best strike exchanges ever in terms of execution, but I liked the frequency of them and I liked the sense of the effort and struggle. Loved the lighthearted moments with Shawn abusing HHH's testicles. That's what made the 80s so great is having dramatic struggles but incorporating bits of fun to keep you entertained in a totally comprehensive way. Loved the drama with the ref bumps and Bischoff coming in. All this 80s goodness culminates in a Dusty Finish in the babyface's hometown. HUGE BABYFACE POP FOR MICHAELS! That's just cruel. They aren't coming back to San Antonio the next week so they have to blow it off right them and there. Loved this! I really want to analyze this in full because both guys gave awesome performances. ****1/2, easy.
  2. World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit - Wrestlemania XX I think with triple threat matches you basically have to resign yourself from trying to have a story-based match and just commit to having a balls to the wall, action-packed affair. Instead of fighting against having a third person, you embrace it by just going all out and making sure there is never one dull moment. There really shouldnt be because basically everybody gets a built in breather. I will say HHH was the MVP of this match. After a terrible, terrible 2003 (aside from the last match of the year), he was the total lynchpin of this match. Everything flowed through him and he did an admirable job. As the lone heel in the match, he spent the most time in the match basically having one one on matches with each opponent. I loved the escalation of this match and the feeling of competitive struggle to do all you can to win the match. Benoit and Michaels really brought out the best in each other and even though HHH did a great job I would have liked to seen more of them (definitely check out their RAW 5/3/04 match if you havent). The escalation of the finisher teases from the outset was the perfect way to set the tone that everyone meant business. They had some fun triple threat spots like the HHH ramming Benoit into the apron and then baseball slide into Benoit, HHH whipping HBK bad shoulder into Benoit's tree of woe and the awesome suplex throw of Benoit through the table. Until, I wrote all that I did not notice how much HBK/HHH worked together. I think it was a very subtle nod that this was Benoit's night not Shawn's by making Benoit the ultimate babyface. In New York, which historically never really liked Shawn, Benoit was way more over. Benoit having to earn his diving headbutt was great escalation. Shawn hitting a German was the best heel heat of the match. I think that was one thing the match did lack was stronger heelishness from HHH, who kept up with both guys but could have done more to raise the crowd's ire. I think more hijinx would have been a boon to this match. Shawn is the king of the bladejob. This may be his greatest one ever for speed, secrecy and amount of blood. HHH tapped a nice gusher himself. The pop for the Sharpshooter was awesome and Michaels hit a pitch perfect superkick to break it up. I would have liked to seen Michaels eliminated in more grand fashion than being thrown over the top rope. The Crippler Crossface sequence with HHH was just as fresh in my memory as it was in 2004. I stopped it before the celebration with Eddie. Too damn depressing. Watching this match emotionally cold, there actually was not much emotion in the match to even get you behind Benoit. You had to be invested in the Benoit character beforehand to be invested because the match was so focused on action. They did a great job with the escalation in this match. The suplex of Benoit on the table was a great red herrig to play into the idea he was an afterthought in the HBK/HHH show and that was going to be blown off only for him to return and win. I think this is another early 00s match that is hurt by not having a stronger heel presence even though HHH played ring general well. Would have liked more hijinx. As an action-packed main event spotfest, this is tough to beat. ****1/4
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