In 1994 the World Wresting Federation was in a dark time in the wresting world. Coming off the steroid trial, the company left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of fans.
The fans that once ran to the ticket box office to get WWF tickets were now grown up and having their own kids. The company was attempting to get new fans with new ideas, new characters, and new wrestlers coming into the company. Some of these things were making it difficult to watch at times, but they were introducing new things to the wrestling community, and as time goes by, wrestling promotions have to adjust and change with the times.
Change was just what fans got at WrestleMania X at Madison Square Garden. WWF fans were given the recently stripped Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels versus the new champion Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match. The “Heart Break Kid” and “The Bad Guy” were two of the most promising and popular wrestlers in the company at the time. They were having matches that went down in history as some of the most iconic of all time. The build to this match was unlike many in company history.
Michaels was stripped of the Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney for not defending the title often enough, if you are one that believes the rumored reports that the reason behind the stripping of the title was the fact that Michaels didn’t want to drop the title. This wouldn't be the first time the rumor appeared in the early stages of Shawn Michaels' career. He would later “lose his smile” when he vacated the WWF Heavyweight Championship on the February 13, 1997 episode of RAW. Only later to come back to the company and win it again when he saw fit.
However, Ramon would go on to win the title after competing in a battle royal and defeating Rick Martel who was the other finalist. Michaels gained momentum in the feud when he attacked Ramon in his match against Irwin R Schyster, allowing him to steal Ramon's gold chains. With all of these factors going into it and the so called “heat” backstage, this match was going set to be an iconic one filled with moments that would go down into the WrestleMania history books for years to come.
Even though this was the first broadcasted ladder match in the company, it wasn’t the first in company. The first ladder match was Bret Hart defeating Shawn Michaels to retain the WWF Intercontinental Title, was held in Portland, ME on July 21, 1992. Fast forward a little over a year, and Michaels was in a much better position in the company. Thus, the reasoning behind why these two men were at WrestleMania X competing to become the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.
Coming into the match, the majority of the WWF fan base had never seen a ladder match before.
They certainly didn’t know how to react to the numerous aerial and brutal moves that Ramon and Michaels were applying to each other to gain control of the “workers” championship. These two future hall of famers told a story in the ring that resonated in the minds of the fans. The iconic picture of Michaels splashing Ramon off the top of the ladder will be etched in the minds of every wrestling fan for the rest of their lives.
From the noticeable size difference between these warriors, to the eve set that these two stars shouldn’t have been able to do, this match shaped us then, now, and forever. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon didn’t simply try putting on a classic wresting match; they did.
Without matches like this one, we wouldn’t have a WWE event solely dedicated to the ladder match.
One can argue that since 1994 the ladder match has been overused. That may be accurate, but without thus match there would have never been the TLC match between Edge and Christian, the Hardys, and the Dudleys. The ladder match between Rob Van Dam and Eddie Guerrero on the May 27, 2002 edition of RAW would be just another match. Even the countless Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches we came to see in the 2010s would be obsolete if it wasn’t for Michaels and Ramon. These two men, these two icons, these two Hall of Famers put their bodies on the line for the enjoyment of WWF fans. If this match didn’t shape wrestling fans and aspiring workers across the world, I’m not sure what match would.
RJ Kruszynski is the host of Ringside Rant podcast. He is a lifelong wresting fan and a huge Yankees and Bills fan. Follow him on Twitter @Ringsiderant_RJ