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[2007-04-23-WWE-Raw] John Cena vs Shawn Michaels


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  • GSR changed the title to [2007-04-23-WWE-Raw] John Cena vs Shawn Michaels
  • 7 months later...

Clocking in at 55 minutes, this is a long watch that rewards your focus. They start slow with Cena overpowering Michaels. Cena keeps going for the STFU early and Michaels starts to show his frustration. Cena keeps taking back control by laying out HBK with his beefy lariats. They do a neat callback to Wrestlemania 23, where Michaels attempts to piledrive Cena onto the steel steps, only this time it doesn't work out and Michaels is sent back dropped onto the mats, an insane bump for a 41 year old with a history of back injuries to take. One thing I absoutely adore this match for is that no one hits their finishing move more than once, and it makes the action feels that much easier to get excited about. Michaels is sublime at selling fatigue. He finally nails some Sweet Chin Music, and crumbles onto Cena to secure the pin and wrapping up this epic encounter.

This is The John Cena Big Match without all the cliche finishing move spammage watering down the formula. Arguably one of the best matches to take place on WWE Raw ever.


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  • 1 year later...

WWE Champion John Cena vs Shawn Michaels - RAW 4/23/07

Shawn Michaels wrestles his ode to the NWA World Championship match without being the World Champion. At first, this kinda miffed me. Why is Cena acting like an upstart challenger. Telling Michaels, he is the close to beating him with the STFU on three occasions or the FU. Then I remember Cena is still being established. Winning the Championship in 2005 is one thing, staying there is another. Cena needs to prove everyone especially the veterans, he is no fluke. I think thats what this match is about. Michaels is not wrestling as Flair or Race. This is not a big bumping performance. This is a subtle heel Jack Brisco or Lou Thesz performance that even his archrival and king of the subtle heel, Bret Hart would be proud of. 

Michaels begins as an aggressive challenger working wristlocks and fireman carrys to try to gain an advantage and each time it is summarily countered almost into STFU, three times to be exact and each time Cena lets HBK know he is this close to beating him. Shawn, frustrated, slaps Cena and Cena responds with a big right hamhock. Thats the end of Act 1. Establishes Cena is not a big, dumb oaf. That he will not be intimidated by the moment or by wrestling. He can counter and is sure of himself. Shawn's opening strategy of taking the fight to Cena almost backfired three times and he needs to switch gears. 

Act II really establishes the Cena power game. This is a much better version of the Butch Reed vs Ric Flair side headlock matches. Cena and Reed have a lot in common in terms of build, presence and offensive ability. One thing that I often am disappointed about in First Wave John Cena (2005-2010) is that he wrestles a Lawler or Savage babyface style meaning he rushes into taking heat and then just makes a triumphant comeback. The shine is so critical in getting the audience invested and fired up. Going right to the heat segment is like going right into the breakdown of a song. This match we really get to see Cena shine and establish that power game. You get the sense of Cena's strength advantage and that HBK is in for a long night. Cena works the headlock, clothesline and shouldertackles well and more importantly Michaels sells it well especially when outside of the hold. I like HBK using roughhouse counters like a reverse elbow sound well by Cena and Michaels sells the damage of the headlock well even at this point. This is not a strong enough transition and Cena hits a big, meaty clothesline. Michaels out of desperation tries for Sweet Chin Music but he is no position to surprise the dominant Champion who evades and hoists Michaels up and almost hits an FU if it was not for the ropes. Thats the end of Act II which is Cena's shine through the power game climaxing with Cena almost hitting the FU. 

Act III as one would expect is when we transition to a heat segment. One issue I have with First Wave Cena (2005-2010) is that he tends to oversell at the beginning of the heat segment. He does not have levels or a gradual way of selling. You would have thought Cena had endured 10 minutes of brutal torture after just a couple Michaels chops. This is unfortunate. A strong transition is what is needed. It turns out that they were not going into heat, but rather Cena was overacting. It is called a register, brutha. Cena uses that power game to catch Michaels and turn into a powerslam, then a Fisherman Suplex and then a Throwback. All gaining minor nearfalls to build the drama. Shawn Michaels hits a swinging neckbreaker which is a lame transition and they lose me going into some Boo/Yay, FIghting Spirit stuff for no reason. Flying Burrito. I guess they are just going for it. Double Count for drama which is good, kip up. Top rope elbow of course, it is too early for Sweet Chin Music so he settles for a backslide, which is odd. Cena misses a shoulder tackle. Now thats a strong transition. Cena takes a hard bump on the mat and skids to the floor.  Michaels shoves Cena into the steel steps to cement his advantage and create a weakness in his arms. I like that Michaels did some of his normal comeback stuff early to make the fans believe this could end at any time and then organically create the hook for the heat segment proper with the shove into the steps. There were some efficiency issues (boo/yay) and Cena overselling issues, but some strong moments. Michaels hitting the big elbow signals to fans this could be over any minute. The Cena missed shouldertackle is a great transition and the steel steps sets up the effective heat segment. 

Act IV does not go as long as I would liked. Shawn did a great job torturing the arm. We werent quite at Dick Murdoch but that is in part due to the fact that it was cut short in my opinion. Shawn varied his attack and Cena did a great job selling. Before you know it we went into the typical Cena comeback sequence. I did like Cena yelling at his arm to fucking shape up before the Fist Drop. He even hit the FU and only two. 

Act V is Cena working the back with big power offense. Running the back into the post, bearhug. As is typical in big Cena matches when the FU fails he hits the Top Rope Leg Drop to the back of the head for two. Michaels gets a sunset flip powerbomb as the playing field is levelled and we enter the last phase of the match. 

Act VI is right after the double count by the ref...Cena goes for the STFU which Lawler lets us know is how Shawn lost at Mania. Good commentary King I had forgotten that. Michaels evades and shoves Cena off the apron onto the announce table. HBK wants to go to for that iconic spot from the Mania match where he piledrives Cena on the steel steps but Cena backdrops him on his bad back. Back in the ring, Cena finally locks in the STFU. Rope break. Good STFU, looked like a choke rather than two forearms across the face. Michaels goes for Sweet Chin Music but Cena has it scouted. Cena wants FU but Michaels creates separation for Sweet Chin Music! He does not cover immediately. Cena needs the ropes to avoid the 3 count. I liked the symmetry between the STFU and Sweet Chin music there. JR telegraphs the finish when he reminds us that this is non-title. I didnt know. As soon as I think I wonder if Michaels wins, he lands on his feet on a FU and BANG! Sweet Chin Music and collapses on top of Cena. 

This is a good representation that wins and losses to a certain extent dont matter. Shawn gets his win back from Mania. Cena never had the rubber match to go up 2-1 but Cena still is a way bigger star than Shawn ever was. Cena is a big star because he won when it mattered most and had a very high winning percentage. My point is that it is not that wins and losses matter or don't matter, it is context and the story being told that matters. The result of the match has long since been forgotten but what is left is a match everyone remembers as a classic. Now it is not like Dolph Ziggler going out proclaiming he is going to steal the show. This is a match where each man is trying to win and the by-product is entertainment as opposed to Ziggler whose goal is to entertain the fans. 

It is weird to call a 55 minute match rushed but it kind of was. I think theres a lot of things they could have flesh out. I think they did a really great job at the beginning. Michaels proved himself to be great at working on top in the 21st Century and I think he could have done more with the arm. I did like the story of Cena pummeling Michaels but Shawn always had a puncher's chance because of Sweet Chin Music. I watched this 2-3 times before and I knew I liked it but didnt think I loved it so I left it off my top 100 WWF/E matches of all time. This match totally belongs up there and I know exactly which match it will replace (Backlund/Valentine October 1981 that finish is dreadful). Awesome NWA Championship style match. ****1/2

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  • 3 weeks later...

FULL REVIEW: https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/john-cena-vs-shawn-michaels-wwe-raw-4-23-07/

I watched this match again today for the first time in years, wondering just how it might hold up to my ever changing standards and aesthetics of pro wrestling. It features Shawn Michaels, someone who’s become increasingly hit or miss for me, against arguably the greatest WWE wrestler of all time in John Cena.

These two wrestled in the WrestleMania 23 main event a few weeks prior in front of a crowd that definitely skewed towards Shawn Michaels. At the time, the Big Four pay-per-views screened in local cinemas in the Philippines instead of on free TV as they had before. One of my earliest vivid memories of wrestling is watching that main event in a cold theater and for the first time in my life being disappointed that John Cena won.

At the time, John Cena was in the middle of a year long plus reign as the WWE Champion. Although he first won the championship in 2005, this run with the belt did the most to cement his status as the top man in the WWE for the next decade. At the same time, however, Cena also found himself in the middle of a fan rebellion against him. His feud with Triple H in 2006 plus his run against the smark haven of the ECW One Night Stand fans meant that Cena developed a reputation of being a bad wrestler. It’s around this time in his career that chants of “You can’t wrestle” got lobbed in his direction, a frankly insulting assertion given that Cena wrestled the greatest Last Man Standing match of all time just three months prior to this.

The first act of the match feels like a direct response to that section of the fandom. Michaels works as a heel aggressor, trying to use Cena’s arm to control him on the mat only for Cena to constantly counter his way out of each hold. With each attempt Shawn makes to ground Cena, the champion has an easy answer to frustrate Shawn. Multiple times in the first few minutes, Cena also goes for the STFU which tapped out Shawn at WrestleMania. Shawn does a good job conveying a fear of the hold as he scrambles to the ropes each time.

From there, the match paces itself wonderfully well. This match famously goes close to an hour long–a rarity for non-stipulation singles matches in the WWE–and it honestly doesn’t feel its length. It segments itself pretty clearly from babyface shine to heat segment into a comeback and finishing stretch.

Instead of wild, crowd-popping offense to mark his shine however, Cena instead relies mostly on a headlock in the early goings. It serves to depict his progression as an all around performer as he gets to dominate Shawn on the mat. Props to Michaels here in this segment as well, he does a lot to put over just how much of a mountain Cena is to him at this point. There’s a part of Michaels that definitely underestimated Cena both at Mania and here tonight and he’s discovering just how much of a mistake that is. It’s honestly delightful to see how cool Cena remains in control–never really rubbing it in the faces of the fans that disdain him. It’s the kind of calm certainty on top that would mark other great performances of his such as the Money in the Bank 2011 classic.

Shawn tries to find a way out of Cena’s grasp but the champion’s technical soundness and inhuman strength allow Cena to maintain control. He works over Michaels’ back with a series of big powerslams and suplexes spaced out between sections on the mat.

Michaels finally catches a lucky break when he’s able to dodge a Cena shoulder tackle. The fall damages Cena’s left shoulder which opens an opportunity for Shawn to attack. He rams that same shoulder into the steel steps outside to set up a neat control segment here. He doesn’t do too much in the way of brutal or creative arm work but the big hits to the steps and Shawn’s follow up justify Cena’s selling of the arm.

And oh boy can that man sell.

Cena’s five moves of doom comeback arrives but it’s elevated by delightful arm selling from Cena. It’s nothing too blatant but it’s there for the people watching. The arm bothers him and the champion strikes that perfect balance between expressive and subtle selling that’s the mark of the truly all time greats.

Shawn for his part gets the time to sell as well. Cena really works over his back and Shawn bumps hard for him even an over the turnbuckle to the floor bump off a hard Irish whip. Michaels always leaned towards the more expressive and theatrical side of physicality in wrestling, very much just a few steps behind Kenny Omega in that regard. There’s nothing here about it that’s too annoying and he even throws in some moments of subtlety as well such as struggling with the follow through to his famous kip up comeback.

Things even escalate into floor spots quite nicely as Shawn knocks Cena off the apron ribs-first into the announce table. He goes for a piledriver to the steps like he did at Mania only for Cena to reverse it this time, dropping him back first onto the floor. A commercial break later and things have escalated into a punch out on the announce table as Cena goes nuts trying to beat Shawn into the dirt.

What follows is a pretty standard WWE finishing stretch from that time–teasing finishers until one guy finally nails it flush. This time, Shawn gets the Sweet Chin Music after escaping an FU attempt to get the three count on the champion.

This is a great match, one of the best of 2007. It’s matches like this that do validate a lot of Shawn’s influence from Flair in the 80s. The pacing and execution of this match very much reminded me of a Flair championship defense with Shawn, of course in that role. Perhaps if Shawn had actually worked as a full heel instead of the tweener role he winds up with here, it could tip this into the realm of all time classics but as it stands now, it’s still one of the better matches from either man’s career. This stands up just as well now as it did years ago and I’m glad to have come to that conclusion.

As much as there’s good reason to hate Shawn Michaels and his work, there’s a childish comfort in knowing that I can still pick and choose to find gems like this in his repertoire. At the same time, it makes the thought of tackling his more divisive matches all the more daunting. After all, Shawn gets to work this match against the greatest wrestler in his company’s history. What might the result be when left to less capable hands? Questions best left for another day.

At least we’ll always have London.


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