Csonka Reviews Undertaker’s WrestleMania Matches (Part 4: WM 27-32)
Welcome one and all, it’s column time with Larry. Today I am concluding my special countdown to WrestleMania series. This year it was a four column series, looking at the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows in WrestleMania history. Today I finish 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. Here are links o the previous columns…
WrestleMania 27 – No Holds Barred Match: The Undertaker vs. Triple H [****]: I know that this is a match that many do not like, and I feel that part of the reason for that is because a lot of people wanted it to be as great as the Shawn matches, but that was going to be a difficult act of follow, because many people consider both Taker vs. HBK matches to be 5 star classics and this was not that. This was a very different match, a slower, more methodical and brutal match. I get that not everyone likes that but the closing stretch is some truly compelling shit, which overall I feel can make up for the slow beginning. It takes a long time for them to warm up, but once they do and hit the home stretch of near falls with both guys digging deep simply to prove that they are the best man, that is great stuff. It also has the great near fall from Triple H, hitting the tombstone and Taker cover; this hooked so many people as a near fall and at the time that was still the trick, you just had to get them once.
WrestleMania 28 Hell in a Cell – The Undertaker vs. Triple H [****½]: While the first hour of this show felt like a disappointment, when hour two began, it finally felt like WrestleMania. It started with Jim Ross’ appearance to commentate on the match, and even just in the set up announcing, it felt way more important. Shawn, Taker and Triple H entered, the cell lowered and you just had the feeling that shit was about to get real, and it did. Now like last year, I am fully aware that people are not going to like this match for one reason or another, but as JR would say, this was a damn fine piece of business. From the opening bell these guys came to put on a show, all three, and they did so maybe better than anyone can. That’s not a shot at other performers; it is a compliment to these three men. From the brutality and attack of Triple H, where he did cross that line to try and end Taker, to the fact that Shawn was so conflicted in whether to stop the match or not, it was clicking. The superkick from Shawn makes sense, due to the fact that Taker put him in Hells Gate, so that he would NOT stop the match. From there, we had scintillating near falls, including the superkick from HBK, which led into the pedigree, and the crowd bought that near fall HUGE. They had more from there, Taker finally was able to fire up and come back, with more hot near falls and they had the audience in the palms of their hands. The brutality was evident on the backs of Triple H and Taker, as the chair shots certainly left their mark, they were not out there to fuck around. Much like the end of the second Taker vs. Shawn match, Triple H had one last try at ending things, but was soundly stopped by Taker, and was backed off to the corner. He told Taker to fuck off, gave him the crotch chop, ate the tombstone and that was it. From the brutality, to the conflict that Shawn Michaels has to battle through, the near falls and the reaction of the crowd, this match delivered and in a perfect storm, made this finally FEEL like WrestleMania. To add onto what they did, the post match where the mutual respect was evident, Shawn helping Taker to his feet, the two of them helping Hunter to his feet and hugging it out as they left the ring was the perfect end to the story that they told, which in many ways played perfectly off of the stories they told with Flair vs. HBK, the two HBK vs. Taker matches, and last year’s Triple H vs. Taker match. This was simply outstanding. Also, poor Triple H, he wanted to bleed the hard way and allowed Taker to Harley Race the fuck out of him, and it just didn’t work the way they had hoped. But yes, Triple H, Taker, Shawn and Jim Ross worked in chorus to create a spectacular match, and that is all I have to say about that…
WrestleMania 29 – The Undertaker vs. CM Punk [****½]: By the way, Taker’s ring entrance from DONG to steps was 3:09, so if you took the under, you won. Vegas had the number set at 3:45. For the first time tonight, a match is feeling really important as the crowd is really into everything, even using the dueling chants. Taker controlled early, and they did some teases with a possible DQ to play into the story they established in the build. Punk was able to escape old school, and then hit the move himself with an extremely smug ass look when he did. Punk would again try old school, but ended up crotched on the ropes. Taker went for the big dive, but Heyman got in the way to stop it, leading to Punk getting a near fall off of the flying clothesline. Speaking of Heyman, the little things he does on the floor, and the times he decides to speak to Punk; it all works and I never felt like too much, instead, just enough and adds nicely to things. At this point, the crowd is still into things more than anything else on the show, making it feel more important. Punk hit a huge elbow drop from the top rope to the Spanish Announce table onto Taker, and the table refused to break, which HAD to suck for both guys. They did a good count out tease spot off of that. They followed that with a cool sequence, where Punk escapes the gogoplata, and got the anaconda vice. Taker sat up and escaped, Punk got go to sleep, but Taker rebounded off the ropes and hit a tombstone immediately for a near fall. They then did the big striking exchange, the ref got bumped, Taker tried for the last ride but Punk got the urn and nailed him to escape and got a SWEET near fall. They reeled in the people in attendance big time on that one. Heyman’s reactions at ringside sold this shit so well on top of the reactions, and made it even better. The end saw Taker counter a GTS into the tombstone to score the victory at about 22-minutes. He also got the urn back and posed with it, all is well for Taker. This is exactly what this card needed, because up and to this point, the card was extremely average. Punk and Taker came in there and worked a big time match with a big time feel, and while many were concerned with Taker’s condition (myself included) they delivered a damn fine match here. It wasn’t quite the wars of years past, and that isn’t an insult, but this was the first thing on the show that made it feel like we were getting a WrestleMania level match. Great work from both men, and it was nice to see this huge crowd finally come alive, and credit to the guys for still being able to make people pop for the streak possibly ending; drama, emotion, a good story in the ring, the right ending and it all worked.
WrestleMania 30 – The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar [**½]: I will freely admit that I felt that the build to this match was lackluster, not really good at all. The magic of the Undertaker matches these past few years has been about a few things. The build, the quality of opponent, Taker’s willingness to almost break himself for the big show and the fact that at least ONE TIME they can manipulate the crowd into buying that the opponent is going to break the streak with a near fall. Taker will do whatever, Brock is great, but the build has been bad and we don’t know if that magical moment will happen until the match begins. So the match was about as good as the build, which is to say not good. It wasn’t awful, but it lacked reaction from the crowd and that emotional feel that the last few years have had, and was slow and FELT long. The crowd was initially stunned that it happened, and then not happy. It’s one thing if they would have done the Lesnar rules the world tour, challenge Taker and then win, but this came off poorly in my opinion. It also didn’t help that Taker got concussed early on and that Brock had to lead him to the end. Due to that, it came off as if the match told the story that Taker was old and slow; this was just “there” as a match and a moment. This didn’t feel right at the time, and still doesn’t feel right to me. Paul Heyman and his reactions were the best part of the match. The man is great.
WrestleMania 31 – The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt [**]: Taker controlled early and hit some trademark stuff to show that “he’s still got it,” before Wyatt took over and worked him over. Wyatt laid Taker by the post and then charged and crashed taker’s head, but he ran into the steps while doing so and came up limping. Likely designed to cover the ankle injury that was reported earlier in the day. Taker later countered Sister Abigail with a chokeslam, hit the tombstone but Wyatt kicked out. Taker called for a second tombstone, but Wyatt hit Sister Abigail for a near fall. Taker countered Sister Abigail, hit another tombstone and won. After the intros and then Taker hitting his trademark stuff early, the crowd seemed completely disinterested. They did stuff, and no one cared again until they kicked out of some finishes. They tried, but it felt rough to get through, and I never got emotionally attached at any point. It wasn’t that I expected an epic, but I was hoping for a bit more; and it should have been more, Wyatt should have been built into an epic force that could have been the man to challenge Taker physically, mentally and even spiritually. But they had messed him up so much, and then he was so damaged that when he had to carry the build to the feud, it felt flat. And then, Taker is falling apart, Wyatt comes into the match injured and it was the recipe for a poor and lifeless match.
WrestleMania 32 – The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon [**]: Shane played hit and move, trying to make Taker move around and to tire him out, which he previously talked about. Taker seemed more annoyed than hurt, and took control of things pretty quickly. Taker hit the last ride at about 5-minutes in, and got a near fall. Taker brought in the steps, but Shane got a desperation triangle choke, which slowed Taker down for a moment. He then chokeslammed Shane on the steps, and that got a near fall. Shane managed a DDT to Taker on the steps, and that got Shane a near fall at about 10-minutes in. Shane then survived hells gate very slowly turned it into the sharp shooter. Shane beat down Taker in the corner, got a trash can and then hit the Van Terminator for a near fall. Shane then got bolt cutters, and cut away at the cage. This of course led to Taker slamming Shane through the cage, and the panel gave way. Taker took apart announce tables and hit Shane with a monitor. There is a continent platform beside the one announce table, Shane countered the tombstone with a sleeper, so Taker broke it by jumping and putting both of them through the table. Shane then got a tool box and nailed Taker with it twice and laid him out on one of the tables. He also hit Taker with the monitor, and then climbed the cage. He jumped and Take moved, sending Shane crashing through the table (I don’t care how padded that was, dude is a 46 year old man that did not have to do that, it may have been stupid but I respect it). Cole actually yelled, “for the love of Mankind,” which was actually a great call. I am shocked that they did not show his kid’s reaction here. Taker got to his feet, and Shane called him on for more. Taker brought him back into the ring, hit the tombstone and that was that. So at the end of the day, Shane came back to take a big bump at Mania. The angle was lazy heading into it, and while I can appreciate a stunt show match, much like Lesnar vs. Ambrose, I wanted more drama out of this other than “OMG Shane may have died.” It also feels poorly done, as Shane tells us, “hey guys, the product is not good and I will save the day,” and then he loses. I don’t know, I can appreciate things, but Shane largely going even with Taker and surviving his finishes with out a ton of help via weapons or other people just did not work for me. The worst part is that the 46-year old son of he owner got to be more of a bad ass hero than Dean Ambrose did. It also felt way too long. As one of the main matches for the show, it was a failure; Shane nearly died for a match with almost no real heat, and the match didn’t have the feel of a big time Taker Mania match.
THE FINAL LIST, 24-1…
24. WrestleMania XIII – No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid [DUD]
23. WrestleMania XV – Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man [DUD]
22. WrestleMania IX – The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez [DUD]
21. WrestleMania XIX Handicap Match: The Undertaker vs. Big Show & A-Train [½*]
20. WrestleMania XI – The Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy [½*]
19. WrestleMania VII – The Undertaker vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka [*]
18. WrestleMania VIII – The Undertaker vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts [*]
17. WrestleMania XX The Undertaker vs. Kane [*]
16. WrestleMania 22 – Casket Match: The Undertaker vs. Mark Henry [*]
15. WrestleMania 31 – The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt [**]
14. WrestleMania 32 – The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon [**]
13. WrestleMania 30 – The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar [**½]
12. WrestleMania XIV – The Undertaker vs. Kane [***]
11. WrestleMania 21 – The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton [***]
10. WrestleMania XII – The Undertaker vs. Diesel [***¼]
9. WrestleMania X-8 – No Disqualification Match: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair [***½]
8. WrestleMania X-Seven – The Undertaker vs. Triple H [***¾]
7. WrestleMania 23 – World Heavyweight Championship Match: The Undertaker vs. Batista [****]
6. WrestleMania 27 – No Holds Barred Match: The Undertaker vs. Triple H [****]
5. WrestleMania 28 – Hell in a Cell – The Undertaker vs. Triple H [****½]
4. WrestleMania 29 – The Undertaker vs. CM Punk [****½]
3. WrestleMania 24 – World Heavyweight Championship Match: The Undertaker vs. Edge [****½]
2. WrestleMania 25 – The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels [*****]
1. WrestleMania 26 – Streak vs. Career: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels [*****]
– End scene.
– Thanks for reading.