The ladder match has become not so much a WWE staple, as a crutch. They love nothing more than to shove a bunch of wrestlers into one ring, give them a load of ladders and make them damn near kill each other in an attempt to one-up the last group of people who were placed in the same spot. However, once upon a time, the ladder match was a fresh and exciting idea that still presumably hurt like hell, but hadn’t been sucked dry of every squirt of uniqueness it had. Back then, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon walked into Madison Square Garden at WrestleMania X and started a love affair that would continue in WWE to this day.
I assume this is a match that most of you will have seen, but for the couple who haven’t, it featured two belts hanging above the ring. For in late 1993, Shawn Michaels had been stripped of his Intercontinental Title (in kayfabe for not defending it enough, in reality, for failing a drug test) and a tournament set-up to decide his replacement. Said replacement would be Razor Ramon, but just as he was getting settled in Michaels returned, still wearing his old title and claiming to have never lost the right. With this being wrestling, there was only one way such an issue could be resolved.
That set-up a story of Shawn Michaels as the pest heel going up against the young stud in Razor. To begin with, HBK even had Diesel at his side, and he gets involved early on, wiping Ramon out when he makes the mistake of going to the floor. Thankfully, that gets him sent to the back, and these two are left alone to work their magic.
It’s a magic that, if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting to fall for. We’ve seen so many of these that I didn’t expect to be wowed by HBK leaping from halfway up a ladder. However, I was kind of forgetting how good Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon are. For, as this goes on, it almost becomes irrelevant that it is a ladder match. You get caught up not by the bumps (which, by modern standards, are rather tame), but by two brilliant wrestlers going to war. Shawn is all action, never stopping as he darts around the ring, continually looking for an opening and trying to chop away at Razor. Ramon, meanwhile, is the coolest fucker in the room, effortlessly lifting HBK for a Chokeslam early on and oozing charisma as he tries to swat away this annoying fly. The ladder is an extension of the story, not the whole thing.
In the end, it’s Michaels’ arrogance that screws him. As he looks destined to win, he can’t help himself from setting up the ladder over Razor, gloating before he’s even got his hands on the belts. That means that when The Bad Guy recovers, he’s already in place to send Shawn tumbling down towards the ropes where HBK sprinkles a bit of magic and somehow ends up tied up in them. As he struggles to get out, Ramon makes his way to the top of the ladder and the gold. Sure, it cursed us to a lifetime of ladder matches, but damn, if I’d watched this at the time, I’d have probably asked for that too.