Shawn Michaels' career is filled with iconic matches, but in the eyes of Jim Ross, one stands above the rest.
Speaking on the latest episode of his Grilling JR podcast (via AdFreeShows), the legendary commentator covered Mankind's (Mick Foley) first year in the WWF. After struggling to get hired, Foley rose through the ranks quickly, headlining multiple PPVs throughout the Summer and Fall of 1996. One such event was In Your House: Mind Games, where Mankind faced Shawn Michaels for the World Title. According to JR, this match did as much, if not more, for the Champion than it did the newcomer, Foley. He said the following:
"This is the match that proved to the fans that Shawn Michaels was tough and he could fight. I thought that was really important because Shawn had always been known as a finesse guy, you know; slick, smooth, arm-drag, drop toe-hold, superkick, things of that nature, very sophisticated style. But can he fight? You'd seen him throwing some punches on a comeback or something, but he was not known as a brawler. Working with Mankind, Shawn had to brawl. Successfully brawl or get eaten alive. This was that match I was thinking about where it did more for Shawn's career than, to date, any match he ever did. The only other match that I can think of that's as significant as that might be the WrestleMania 25 match with Taker, ironically. Not that Shawn hasn't had other great matches, but you know what I mean. I thought it was just a fabulous presentation by both guys and again as I said earlier, I just think it probably did as much for Shawn Michaels's career as any match that I remember him having."
JR would continue on to say that the only thing he would change about the match was the disqualification finish with Vader and Sycho Sid getting involved. The Undertaker appearing at ringside in a coffin should have been the only added flair to an otherwise excellent bout.
During an interview conducted for the 2010 "Shawn Michaels: My Journey" DVD release, Michaels recalled the match against Mankind being necessary for his character development because he felt that after years of being a cool character, his 1996 babyface run had become too much of the polar opposite of what had made him a popular character in the first place. Shawn was quoted as saying he had become a little too much like "Beaver Cleaver" because of the "boyhood dream" angle that anchored his championship run.
According to Shawn, working with Mick allowed him to spread his wings creatively, develop the needed edge for his character, and also give him a night off from calling the action (something he says he was burnt out with at the time) because Mick Foley came to Pennsylvania that evening with so many ideas to help the match tell the proper story.
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