Shawn Michaels v Mankind (WWF In Your House 9: Mind Games)
This still fucking ruled, obviously. Been my favourite match for about twelve years at this point. I've talked before about how I still tend to get a lot out of Michaels' pre-first retirement run -- the matches are laid out really simply for the most part, but I'm okay with that, and the nip up has never bothered me. This stands out, though, because it's clearly different in layout and...well just about everything else compared to Michaels' other matches of the era (or ever?). There's been a thing or two made of Shawn throwing a bitchfit in this because of a Foley miscue or whatever. I don't know if the line about Foley doing that on purpose to make it seem more like a real fight is true or not, but that was certainly the outcome. Michaels gets pissed and starts throwing potato shots and stomps right on Foley's face, and it really does feel like a scrap. Whole first stretch is like that. Mankind rips up the mats but winds up trapped under them, and Michaels just starts jumping on top of him. Foley's concrete flat back bump isn't one of his absolute craziest, but it was still nasty looking. First big transition comes when Michaels suplexes Foley on the floor and Foley's leg smashes off the steps, which is a great spot and looked totally organic. Shawn's leg work is all really good; some of the best offensive stuff I've ever seen from him. That's actually not just limited to when he's working the leg -- he busts out a bunch of stuff throughout the match that looks great. Foley takes over with a hotshot and works on top for a spell, and all of that is really good as well. They do a cool variation of Shawn's upside down snap turnbuckle bump where he gets his leg caught and stuck in a tree of woe, so Foley does a great looking running forearm/elbow drop while Shawn's hung up in the corner. They fill the time really well here. There's almost no downtime at any point in the match, plus every so often they end up spilling outside and start chucking each other into stuff. When Shawn takes over again it's because Foley cracks a steel chair with a punch, and Shawn's work on the Mandible Claw hand rules. I'm a huge mark for obscure body part work so naturally I loved this. What's even better is how he still goes back to the knee at a few points as well, like when he bends Foley's hand and fingers then kicks him in the knee to get him off his feet (he also hit Foley in the knee with the chair before using it on the hand when he took over again). Bunch of great stuff happens down the stretch, like Shawn getting caught in the Mandible Claw while Foley is hanging by his head on the ropes, and of course the big table spot, which is fucking awesome. Finish is mistimed and pretty shitty, but the leaping Sweet Chain Music onto the chair is still a great spot, so just pretend it finished there or something. Both guys were really excellent in this. I don't think I'd go as far as calling it the best match in company history, but I would have it top 5 for sure and probably top 3. Might be the career performance of both as well. I don't know if there's been another Michaels performance like this, actually. Not even talking about quality, but in terms of how little shit he was taking and the firepower he brought to the match. There was absolutely no fucking around from him here; no dancing, no posing -- it was all business, and you can buy that it needed to be or the psycho across from him would eat him alive. The Cactus Jack/HHH match from the '00 Rumble was basically Foley dragging Helmsley to something awesome, so it was a hell of a performance, but I think I liked him even more in this. His whole deal in the HHH match was that he was a maniac and would do absolutely anything, but in some ways he comes across even more unhinged here. He also goes out to the floor at one point and chucks chairs in the ring, and that means Shawn gets a little time to recover before doing the nip up. I said that spot doesn't bother me in general, but I still like how Foley wastes a little time to make it more plausible (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that was his intention). Actually feels like he's right on the level with guys like Austin, Shawn and Owen as one of the best guys in the company that year. Either way, this was incredible. Top 5 worldwide for the year? Might be.