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WWE: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – Who's The Real Mr. WrestleMania?

Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker are two of WWE‘s greatest ever performers, but only one truly deserves the title of Mr. WrestleMania. Both men had in-ring careers that spanned decades in WWE, and both are now retired from the ring. Whether that will stick remains to be seen, as wrestling retirements are often temporary. Both Michaels and Undertaker are also proud members of the WWE Hall of Fame, Michaels inducted as part of the class of 2011, while Undertaker just went in with the class of 2022.

In their later years, Michaels and Undertaker both became known as special attractions, only lacing up the boots to compete in big events like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. The Mr. WrestleMania moniker became tied to “The Heartbreak Kid” thanks to his stellar in-ring performances at WWE’s show of shows, which isn’t surprising, as even many wrestlers regard Michaels as the greatest wrestler of all time. Meanwhile, Undertaker performed for WWE for over 30 years, and was perhaps the best character they ever produced.

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Before his 2020 WWE retirement, The Undertaker had his own claim to WrestleMania fame, with a winning streak that lasted for 21 straight events (although not 21 consecutive years, due to injuries causing “The Deadman” to miss WrestleManias). That streak was finally snapped in 2014, but remains WrestleMania legend. However, does that mean The Undertaker deserves to be called Mr. WrestleMania more than Shawn Michaels? There are arguments to be made on both sides.

When it comes to the amount of in-ring performances at WrestleMania, The Undertaker wins handily, having wrestled a whopping 26 matches at WWE’s flagship event. Shawn Michaels is no slouch in that department though, with 17 WrestleMania matches under his belt. Michaels’ first three WrestleManias saw him compete alongside Marty Jannetty as The Rockers tag team, but after that, it was on to singles glory. HBK’s WrestleMania opponents as a singles star include Tito Santana, Tatanka, Razor “Scott Hall” Ramon, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Bret Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon, John Cena, Ric Flair, and finally The Undertaker himself in back to back matches.

As for The Undertaker, his 21 streak victims include “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Sycho Sid, his onscreen brother Kane (twice), Big Bossman, Triple H (three times), Ric Flair, The Big Show & A-Train in a handicap match, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Batista, Edge, CM Punk, and Shawn Michaels himself twice. Undertaker’s streak was broken by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 in 2014, and he had later matches with Bray Wyatt, the recently fired Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns, John Cena, and AJ Styles. As one might expect, Michaels’ WrestleMania body of work is indeed definitely better from a technical standpoint, but that’s not necessarily Undertaker’s fault, as he was saddled with several opponents that weren’t exactly skilled in the ring. When placed in there with a good opponent, the best of Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches compare favorably to Michaels’ best. Interestingly enough though, the general consensus is that both Michaels and Undertaker’s very best WrestleMania showings were in their two matches against each other in 2009 and 2010, the latter of which saw Michaels retire after.

While Shawn Michaels’ WrestleMania matches are better than The Undertaker’s from a pure quality standpoint, where the two come much closer is in the realm of importance to WWE’s biggest show of the year. Perhaps fittingly, Michaels and Undertaker have both been in five WrestleMania main events each, including their match against each other at WrestleMania 26, main events in this case strictly referring to the show closer. When it comes to matches for a world championship though, Michaels has the edge, having competed in five at WrestleMania to Undertaker’s three. However, Michaels only won one of those matches, while Undertaker won all three as part of the streak.

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Undertaker also won more of his main event matches, four out of five, while Michaels won only one of his five WrestleMania main events. That means four WrestleManias ended with Undertaker celebrating a major victory, and the end of a WrestleMania event is often the lasting image it leaves with wrestling fans. After all, there’s a reason why WWE legend Hulk Hogan posing to “Real American” at the end of eight of the first nine WrestleManias made him so synonymous with the event. When it comes to the importance of his WrestleMania matches, Undertaker arguably outstrips Michaels, even if they aren’t always better.

As tempting as it may be to consider the battle of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker for the title of WWE’s Mr. WrestleMania a draw, rarely is a draw a satisfying finish. Michaels wins in the match quality arena thanks to classics with Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, and Ric Flair, while Undertaker’s world title wins and show-closing victories make his matches a bit more important to WrestleMania‘s 38-year legacy. What it really all comes down to at the end of the day though is one factor: the streak.

The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak may have started with victories over people like Jimmy Snuka and Giant Gonzalez, but over time, The Undertaker’s yearly defense of the streak became a WrestleMania attraction no matter where it was placed on the card. Trying to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania became just as important as winning any world championship at the event, and for many years, fans never thought it would end. Then, when Brock Lesnar broke it, the moment became instantly etched in WWE history, with an entire stadium full of slack jaws and disbelieving looks. On a night when fan-favorite Daniel Bryan – who’s since jumped ship to AEW – won his first WWE world title, Undertaker’s streak ending arguably overshadowed it, which says a lot about how mythical it had become. Undertaker’s four-year WrestleMania series with Triple H and Shawn Michaels was also a masterful piece of long-term storytelling, and on many occasions had the crowd jumping out of their chairs at times it looked like the former D-Generation X founders might actually end the streak. It’s a close fight, but due to the enduring magic of the streak, it’s really The Undertaker who deserves to be called WWE‘s Mr. WrestleMania.

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