Csonka Reviews Undertaker’s WrestleMania Matches (Part 2: WM 14-20)
Welcome one and all, it’s column time with Larry. Today I am continuing my special countdown to WrestleMania series. This year it’s a four column series, looking at the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows in WrestleMania history. Today I start my look at The Undertaker at WrestleMania; I will give thoughts and ratings for every match he had at the big show, and at the end rank them from worst to best. Taker had some truly horrible Mania matches, but his top five Mania matches are some of the very best. Sit back and enjoy, and as always feel free to share your opinions on the matches…
WrestleMania XIV – The Undertaker vs. Kane [***]: This match may not have been for a title, but it had been built up so much that it felt like a huge event. They had Kane beat Pete Rose’s ass prior to the match to add some heat, and then we had the Grand Taker Entrance, complete with Druids and O Fortuna. As I said, with the build to the match and the intros, this felt big time. The early parts of the match were spent showing that Kane was every bit as strong as Taker was; during the build to the match, the story was that Kane was out for revenge and was more than happy to beat down Taker and hurt him. Taker on the other hand didn’t want to fight his brother, they’re brothers, he just wanted a hug. This played into the match, because while Taker finally decided to fight, he largely pulled a rope a dope here, looking to tire Kane out/hoping that he would punch himself out. Taker started to rock, until he misses an INSANE NO HANDS DIVE and goes through the announcer’s table. That is an awesome fucking spot. The battle is wild, and Taker, after battling through tombstones BARELY defeats Kane. Afterwards Kane tries to destroy Taker and you just knew that it wasn’t over. This match got Kane over as a huge monster heel even in loss as he mostly dominated Taker, more so than anyone else ever had. I like the match, I think it’s good and more importantly did its job of solidifying Kane as a player (which we can safely say worked since he’s still employed in 2017). It’s also worlds better than the sequel at Mania 20.
WrestleMania XV – Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man [DUD]: This was ministry era Undertaker, which was in my opinion the laziest version of the Undertaker. In his defense, he was extremely banged up during this time period, which led to him heavily relying on the gimmick and others. This was also the time where there was a lot of speculation that he may retire. The biggest sin of this match isn’t even that it’s bad (make no mistake, it’s absolutely horrible) it’s the fact that it feels as if it lasts three hours and steals your soul. The match is a lifeless, plodding brawl, put inside the HIAC for no other reason (I get that McMahon put Taker in the match because Taker had gone bat shit, threatened him and so Vince sent him personal security after him in HIAC, but that doesn’t make it good) than to try and make it feel important and because they broke out the biggest smoke and mirrors kit that they had. Taker bled, because they tried to play to the Philly fans, but no one cared. But it just kept going, go home!
And of course, The Brood arrived and “hung” Bossman from the cell to end this beautiful moment of WrestleMania shit. This took about as long as the match to set up, and was just about as good…
WrestleMania X-Seven – The Undertaker vs. Triple H [***¾]: Basically Triple H thought that he was the shit and had beaten everyone; Taker’s response to that was essentially, “bitch please,” so Triple H destroyed Taker’s bike to really piss him off. This is the American bad Ass era Undertaker, which largely feels as if it has been erased from the WWE history. To me, this is a WrestleMania match that never seems to get much fanfare. I think that’s the case due to there being so much great stuff on the same show; you had the drama and hype of Rock and Austin, the technical savvy of Angle vs. [REDACTED] and then TLC. With Taker and Triple H’s rather lame build and lack of overall hype, it is like it even didn’t happen. This match took place when Hunter was still in super work mode and was having great matches with almost everyone, this being no exception. I really like this match, and I loved how Triple H was booked he was a real threat to Taker. I think that this is not only a great match, but also one of the more underrated Mania matches.
WrestleMania X-8 – No Disqualification Match: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair [***½]: I really enjoyed the built to Flair vs. Taker. Flair due to his position wanted to not fight, while Taker was insulted as a man due to Flair’s actions at No Way Out. Taker took to attacking Arn Anderson as well as Flair’s son David. Flair’s job as President was on the line due to his actions and “accidentally” hitting a fan. It was after that when the WWF Board of Directors chastised Flair and he lost his power to Vince, temporarily. With the power Vince made this match a No Disqualification match. The match started with Flair charging the ring and taking it to Taker early. Jim Ross, as he is apt to do put the match into perfect perspective when he said, “This match is not about titles, it’s about pride.” It was as they kicked the shit out of each other. Flair with the good blade job, Taker (who would get some decent blood later as well) dissecting him with jabs and then a tremendous superplex. The absolute best part though is as Taker is really giving it to Flair, and out of nowhere as if he were a Gazelle Arn Anderson hits the ring and delivers the BEST DAMN SPINEBUSTER EVER! To me that was a great mark out moment and added to the match. Hell, Arn even blades when Taker gets his hands on him. I will admit that it’s certainly not great; there was some down time and a fair amount of slow spots, but for these two in what they were trying to do I enjoyed it a lot. I felt that for this point in Flair’s life, when he had zero confidence and was many years past being “Ric Fucking Flair,” they had a very good match thanks to the smoke and mirrors, and the fact that they were two professionals and did the right things at the right time, knowing what to do and when. Flair merely survived, being just enough of Ric Flair to deliver a good match and prove to Taker that he was still a man that would fight back when necessary. I found that I liked this even more than I remembered on the re-watch.
WrestleMania XIX Handicap Match: The Undertaker (and sorta Nathan Jones) vs. Big Show & A-Train [½*]: This was the timeframe when Vince has a raging bone for Nathan Jones, this giant and jacked motherfucker, as his next great monster. The issue was that while Nathan Jones looked the part in every way, he was the drizzling shits in the ring. The hope was that by pairing him as Taker’s buddy and getting him a big Mania win, that it would put Jones over the top. If I am being honest, the theory is sound. They want to push Jones, wanted him on the biggest show of the year so they buddy him up with one of their biggest stars to get the rub and then put him in a tag match to protect/hide him a bit. But the problem then became that WWE got cold feet, ran an injury angle on Heat, where show and Train took out Jones, leaving Taker on his own for the match. Cole tries to sell the audience on Taker’s streak being in jeopardy as he faces these monsters. The issue here is that there is nothing interesting or compelling in terms of action or storytelling here. Taker never really feels in danger, the wrestling is no good and calling this terrible is no stretch; it’s not the very worst, but it’s easily in the bottom six Taker matches at Mania. Nathan Jones miraculously regenerated in time to do a run in, and allow taker to stand tall at 11-0 at Mania. This was another rewatch that cost me more of my soul.
WrestleMania XX The Undertaker vs. Kane [*]: I will never claim that WWE did a great job of building this match, but they did a great job of selling “the Return of the Undertaker.” I remember people were excited, which Taker would come back? What would he be like? Unfortunately the match was met with the enthusiasm of an unsolicited prostate exam. I liked the Mania 14 match, and felt that it had a great atmosphere and that they worked the right match there. Here, they tried to borrow some themes from that match, but it didn’t work well. I felt as if they were playing role reversal, in the first match Taker was hesitant, while here it was Kane because he couldn’t believe that Taker was alive (he interfered in the Taker vs. Vince Survivor Series buried alive match and buried him alive). Their first Mania clash felt like a battle, had some drama and was an overall enjoyable experience that went a long way to make Kane a viable star. The match just did nothing for me, it felt as if these guys had aged 20-years since their last match. This felt as if they were going through the motions, there was no real drama and the only thing that saves this from being a complete DUD was the fact that the live crowd was so into all of Taker’s trademark stuff; their brief instances of joy was the only energy that this match had.
– And this is where we stand at 12-0…
* WrestleMania XIII – No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid [DUD]
* WrestleMania IX – The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez [DUD]
* WrestleMania XV – Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man [DUD]
* WrestleMania XIX Handicap Match: The Undertaker vs. Big Show & A-Train [½*]
* WrestleMania XI – The Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy [½*]
* WrestleMania VII – The Undertaker vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka [*]
* WrestleMania XX The Undertaker vs. Kane [*]
* WrestleMania VIII – The Undertaker vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts [*]
* WrestleMania XIV – The Undertaker vs. Kane [***]
* WrestleMania XII – The Undertaker vs. Diesel [***¼]
* WrestleMania X-8 – No Disqualification Match: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair [***½]
* WrestleMania X-Seven – The Undertaker vs. Triple H [***¾]
– End scene.
– Thanks for reading.