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[1996-09-22-WWF-Mind Games] Shawn Michaels vs Mankind

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Wow. This match is still awesome. I don't feel like talking about it in depth at the moment, but I do think there's a case for it as the best WWE match of all time. Shawn needed more matches like this as champ to get him over as a tough guy. Everything was really well done, and Foley gave the performance of his life. The finish sucked, but the body of the match is good enough that it doesn't really matter.

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It's a great match for what those guys were going to do and what they could bring from their bag of tricks. It holds up very well and I think it was really a "perfect place/perfect time" type of match. Having said that the one weird spot in the beginning and the awful finish slides it down my "all time WWE" match list. Compared to another highspot heavy, heavily gimmicked match, with a good finish like Edge v. Matt Hardy from Unforgiven 2005 I don't think it quite stacks up.

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This was the antithesis of the ironman match with Bret in that something interesting seemed to happen almost every moment. I guess that's a tribute to Foley's creativity among other things. But this was also the best Shawn looked as champion. You really could've come away from this thinking, "That's a tough motherfucker who fights back with great focus when his title is in jeopardy." I never thought much of Shawn as an offensive wrestler, but you would never guess that failing from this match. I will be interested to see if this or the the Bret/Austin match from November ends up as my WWF MOTY.

 

I'd be more OK with the finish if it had led to another big match with Vader. But yeah, at this point, I just shrug and pretend it ended with the superkick off the chair.

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I thought the finish was fine with the story lines in the company. Watching the TV it is clear Undertaker was going to get involved. Vader was set to win the title til Shawn fucked it up.

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This was the antithesis of the ironman match with Bret in that something interesting seemed to happen almost every moment.

This is so true. I realized after this was over that one of the best parts is that there are no 2.9 falls at all. It's a credit to these guys that they could do a match this long without doing any of that.

 

Shawn's leg and hand work here is spectacular.

 

I don't remember who said it, but the most ridiculous argument I've ever read against this match is that it's not good because if it was a New Japan match joined in progress on TV, you wouldn't know Shawn had ever worked the leg.

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I don't remember who said it, but the most ridiculous argument I've ever read against this match is that it's not good because if it was a New Japan match joined in progress on TV, you wouldn't know Shawn had ever worked the leg.

I am the king of Caring About Leg Selling and that is garbage for someone to say. Thankfully it's a the exception; this match is pretty much universally loved and deservedly so.

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I always get a laugh out of HBK seeming to lose his temper at least once in big matches. It happened here when I guess Mankind didn't run at him so Shawn power walks to the corner with the biggest "What the fuck" look on his face. As for the match, It was great for all the reasons already mentioned.

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I always get a laugh out of HBK seeming to lose his temper at least once in big matches. It happened here when I guess Mankind didn't run at him so Shawn power walks to the corner with the biggest "What the fuck" look on his face. As for the match, It was great for all the reasons already mentioned.

That was a planned spot by Foley because he wanted fans to think it was a shoot.

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Yeah the thing I always remembered about the match was how creatively they moved between the early "segments". They use that planned "Shawn loses cool spot" to flare things up a bit, etc... and it all works. It's one of the best WWF matches of the year, and I'm probably alone in this, but I'm almost glad there's at least one Shawn match from 1996 that people still really like.

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Is Paul Bearer the worst manager ever or what? Distracting the referee so your own guy can get pulverized by a chair? C'mon, son.

 

Still, excellent match. It's kind of remarkable if you think about it, but arguably the three greatest matches in WWF history (HBK/Mankind and the two Hart/Austin matches) all took place within a six-month window. Even more remarkably, it was during the company's commercial nadir.

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I was at this show live, shitty seats, but live. Holy shit was it fun. And when I got to see it on tape I was like, "Fuck, this is almost as good as Magnum/ Tully."

 

(When I rate matches.."Magnum/ Tully" is my "perfect score" against which all else is judged. It's written in stone...in my head.)

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One of my all time faves as well. I remember watching this match with a group of friends who were wrestling fans, but far from being hardcore like me. Needless to say, this match sucked them in completely and had them marking out for all the big spots, more so than just about any other match I watched with them during a period (roughly between 96-98) when I hosted numerous WWF and WCW ppvs in my parents basement (and yes, I have moved out B) ) Great times...

 

Anyway, yeah, excellent match, holds up well, and one I usually watch again every few years.

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Guest aceman

match tends to get overrated because michaels attacks claw hand. that work looks crap. would've prefered more of foley's signature bumps instead.

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Foley working as a bump freak against Michaels would have made zero sense. It's fine if you weren't into the hand work, but why would you want Foley to wrestle a stupid match for his character? He was the attacker, not the attacked.

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I was at this show live, shitty seats, but live. Holy shit was it fun. And when I got to see it on tape I was like, "Fuck, this is almost as good as Magnum/ Tully."

 

(When I rate matches.."Magnum/ Tully" is my "perfect score" against which all else is judged. It's written in stone...in my head.)

Measuring all matches by Magnum-Tully is perfectly acceptable and that match is my current #1 for the Crockett set against Flair-Windham matches, Flair-Stemaboat matches and War Games.

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Guest Andrews

A very good match, BUT, the rubbish ending matters to me to the extent it wouldn't make a list of my top 100 matches. If it ended nice and square after being built to a climax, would have been far better.

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I'm pretty sure this is the best WWF match of the year, and definitely a strong contender for best of the decade. One magical night in Philly, the stars were alligned just right for them to pull this off. Their work flows perfectly, so that it never feels like they're just aping ECW's garbage brawls as a nod to being in Philly, or that they're actively trying to put on a "self concious epic." Shawn's segments working the hand and knee come off great because it feels spontaneous, rather than having Mick sets up some convuluted spot that backfires. The pendulum swings with both men able to take control at a moment's notice, and there are tons of smart touches like Shawn taking a corner bump and getting tied up rather than taking his usual pinball bump, and Mick is right there with the running elbow drop.

 

Yes, the finish is stupid, there is no reason why Shawn couldn't have pinned Mick after the superkick into the chair. But, the body of the match is so great that the finish doesn't detract from it in the least. This is also the only time they could have put on a match like this. Shawn lost his smile and wound up hanging things up a year and a half later, while Foley gradually left his ability to work like this behind, in favor of taking increasingly big (and unnecessary) bumps.

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Shawn actually looked like an impressive champion and an offensive wrestler for once. I mean in regards to his moveset, he always was offensive. :P

 

This was smartly laid out and very well executed. There were swings of momentum and the different phases fitted together nicely. Both Mankind's knee and hand were worked over. It made me laugh how Foley was the one taking all the dangerous bumps. There was plenty of outside action that wasn't crowd brawling. It was innovative and unpredictable. Mankind posed a credible threat and this was one of the highlights in both men's careers.

 

Now there were downsides. Shawn's weak punches, the lame DQ finish and Earl Fucking Hebner. But the postives far outweighed any of them. A WWF classic and a really good effort worldwide.

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You know what...this time around, to my own amazement, the DQ finish didn't really bother me. Actually the biggest problem is Vader was late hitting the ring (though not to a Papa Shango degree, thankfully). The false finish, of Shawn doing an Air Sabu and kicking the chair into Mankind's face, is a great one on its own. But the lack of official pinfall keeps Mankind strong, as they were going to have to sell the next IYH PPV with Mankind-UT instead of a WWF title match. So I get it. It's not 100% ideal, but I get it. And the post-match chaos is fun, with a bunch of twists and turns in its own right. I'm almost sorry to admit that I marked out for Undertaker appearing in the casket--that totally caught me off-guard even though I knew UT had to show up at some point.

 

Well, we have one more big one to go, but this is definitely the WWF Match of the Year and the "best WWF match ever", at least through '96, is definitely a plausible label. I think if pressed I'd still go with the WM7 career-ending match, but this is in a fight for the top 3-5. It's amazing how on the same page these guys were, and how well they feed each other for each spot. I guess that shouldn't be too big of a surprise with two pros, but with HBK's selfish reputation and the fact that this is the first time I think they ever worked each other, it's still noticeable how smoothly they run through each transition. This is basically the HBK-Diesel GFBH template ramped up to 11, with even more intensity, better psychology, and more twists and surprises. Even the shoot undertones from that earlier match remain, with the neat "worked botch" that manages to work on both a smart-fan and casual-fan level. Also, I always love it when Foley busts out the mat skillz, like his body scissors and that weird amateur-style pin attempt. Just a spectacular combination of '90s hardcore action with some WWF-style character work. This is a legit top-ten MOTYC on a worldwide level, something the WWF hasn't seen in some time.

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I've probably watched this match more times than any other, and, yeah, I'd absolutely have it as the WWF's match of the year and one of the best in company history. "Twists and surprises" is a great way to describe how they work this. The match has great spot after great spot, and it never feels like they're changing course or trying to cram stuff in; it all feels totally logical and in the flow of things. Michaels trying to break Mankind's fingers is as nasty as he ever got, nastier than anything he ever did as a heel, and they smoothly go straight from that into putting sympathy on him and making it look like his title is in danger. I think you could argue that this was a career night for both guys.

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What was the point of the fake botch spot? Just a worked shoot thing for the sake of it? It's very confusing. Anyway, this is probably my favorite wwf match of all time, and I LOVE Foley going to the mat.

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I was very intrigued to watch this again as some of Foley's most heralded matches have slipped over time in my eyes (Backlash 2004 and Rumble 2000) but this was just as majestic as I always remember it being. I think my favorite thing about this match is that it did have limb work and other semblances of it being a worked title match in the traditional sense but also had some insane spots on the floor, with the chair and the table spot with papers and announcers flying that also make it feel like a chaotic hate filled brawl. Even though Tully vs. Magnum was for the belt and a match I like better than this, it doesn't have that sort of traditional sense aspects of this match do. Vader seemed pretty late in his cue as Shawn has to get up and desert the pin. That and a few other ever so minor quibbles have this one at ****3/4 for me but it is possible a top 10 match in the promotion history.

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I was very intrigued to watch this again as some of Foley's most heralded matches have slipped over time in my eyes (Backlash 2004 and Rumble 2000) but this was just as majestic as I always remember it being. I think my favorite thing about this match is that it did have limb work and other semblances of it being a worked title match in the traditional sense but also had some insane spots on the floor, with the chair and the table spot with papers and announcers flying that also make it feel like a chaotic hate filled brawl. Even though Tully vs. Magnum was for the belt and a match I like better than this, it doesn't have that sort of traditional sense aspects of this match do. Vader seemed pretty late in his cue as Shawn has to get up and desert the pin. That and a few other ever so minor quibbles have this one at ****3/4 for me but it is possible a top 10 match in the promotion history.

 

That is a great point, this match does have a little bit of everything. This is combined with fantastic storytelling of the two evolving and adapting as the match went on with Shawn wrestling more aggressively and violently while Foley became more cerebral and calculating. This is my pick for best US match of all time. *****

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I would understand if you want to ding it for the nature and execution of the finish, and I can only imagine the fit Shawn threw at Vader in the back, but the rest of the match is so damn good I would also understand if you didn't. The finish actually turns into a pretty fun moment with the sudden tension of the Claw and the Taker pop-up, and in the context of an IYH it just kind of works.

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