Even with impasses between WWE and its increasingly-defiant fans, there are some comforts that forever beckon. One is The Undertaker’s 21-match streak of WrestleMania victories, which will be defended once more (and likely added to) this year. Listed here, a historical look back at his previous 21 battles, ranked from worst to best.
LEVEL ONE: INSUFFERABLE
21. UNDERTAKER VS. GIANT GONZALEZ (4/4/93)
A symbiotic relationship with Dynamite Kid wouldn’t have aided Gonzalez, inhibited by his awkward 7’7″ stature. Undertaker’s lurching tempo of the time overrode any remaining chance of this being remotely good. Gonzalez was DQed for chloroforming The Dead Man, two months after Keifer Sutherland did the same to Sandra Bullock in ‘The Vanishing.’
Rarely do you get a chance to use the phrase, “it was quite atrocious enough even before Bossman was hanged”, but here you go. Michael Cole was the real Least Valuable Player at hand, touting the Cell’s peril if one were to get his fingers caught in the mesh, and then getting over the grief of Bossman’s lynching in record time.
LEVEL TWO: SUBSTANDARD
19. UNDERTAKER VS. KING KONG BUNDY (4/2/95)
What streak? The conceit of Undertaker’s annual challenge was far from suggested in 1995, but a different streak pushed forth: the one where Undertaker mauled the Million Dollar Corporation, aide by aide. Only notable was Kama absconding with the urn during the match, foreshadowing a later gimmick that required gaudy jewelry.
18. UNDERTAKER VS. “SUPERFLY” JIMMY SNUKA (3/24/91)
For all things, a beginning. Still in lightfooted-prowl mode, Undertaker dispatched of a past-his-prime Superfly in between major WrestleMania happenings. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan reinforced the gimmick for the maximized home audience, while the seat-fillers in Los Angeles oohed and aahed at the unorthodox leviathan. Bigger moments lay ahead.
17. UNDERTAKER VS. JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS (4/5/92)
This one concluded the golden era of Jake the Snake, before he became a monument to redemption, by way of a lifestyle that’d make John Belushi double-take between swigs. Match was effective in simplicity, as Undertaker rose up from a DDT to Tombstone Jake on the floor. Such was Jake’s WWE epitaph.
16. UNDERTAKER VS. PSYCHO SID, WWE CHAMPIONSHIP (3/23/97)
An overdue second World Title reign was Undertaker’s reward for this interminable final act at WWE’s new-wave-of-spectacle WrestleMania, forced to go on after the Hart/Austin epic. Last-minute changes to a no-DQ stipulation did little to add excitement, but Undertaker’s Tombstone for the title win made sure everyone left with their smiles in tact.
LEVEL THREE: SUFFICIENT
15. UNDERTAKER VS. BIG SHOW/A-TRAIN (3/30/03)
Set to be Undertaker’s first tag team match at WrestleMania; sadly, Nathan Jones was rendered unconscious seconds before he could learn his first hold. Final grand stage for “Biker-Taker” as he dismantled two lumbering foes with attempts at MMA. Also possibly the last public appearance ever for Fred Durst, before the Earth devoured him.
14. UNDERTAKER VS. KANE (3/14/04)
After abandoning his biker duds in a makeshift grave, Undertaker re-assumed his mortician’s monotone and paid back brother Kane for the attempted murder at Survivor Series. A short match, but a lively one for the legend-exalting New York crowd. Perhaps the first literal “UN-DER-TA-KER” chant ever sung by any wrestling crowd.
13. UNDERTAKER VS. MARK HENRY, CASKET MATCH (4/2/06)
Henry was still between phases of, “he sired a goopy hand’ and ‘I’m not messing with that big dude’, still on the monster-villain treadmill to nowhere. Match was simple, but fine for the story it told, with Undertaker enduring a beating before finishing with an impressive Tombstone on the 400-pounder. Virtually forgotten in history’s stack of notes.
LEVEL FOUR: ENJOYABLE
12. UNDERTAKER VS. KANE (3/29/98)
High profile king-of-the-monsters jostle rose above absurd pretenses of Kane unearthing his parents’ caskets and trying to immolate his estranged brother. Instead, a good back-and-forth power battle developed, with the drama in someone finally being able to slay wrestling’s own Jason Voorhees. Undertaker did, but man, did it look tough.
11. UNDERTAKER VS. RANDY ORTON (4/3/05)
One of the last few times the Streak felt jeopardized was when the upstart spun from a chokeslam to land his patented RKO. Once Undertaker narrowly kicked out, there seemed little doubt the Phenom was winning this solid bout. Bob Orton’s cameo, cast and all, boosts the status of the match, even with most not realizing he’d dropped an F-bomb at one point.
10. UNDERTAKER VS. DIESEL (3/31/96)
Undertaker’s first quality WrestleMania match often finds itself forgotten in time, yet it was a fairly forward big man vs. big man match for the time. WrestleMania XII was fine in every aspect, save for not particularly feeling like the grand spectacle we know today, in spite of this worthwhile battle.
9. UNDERTAKER VS. TRIPLE H, HELL IN A CELL (4/1/12)
Less magical with ensuing viewings, though perhaps not quite the ‘4/10’ that Bret Hart graded it, the downtime and need for retired Shawn Michaels as a glorified rodeo clown underwhelmed many who didn’t feel it worthy of its hand-picked legendary label. Still, it was a fine enough match, in spite of the chintzy hyperbole.
8. UNDERTAKER VS. RIC FLAIR, STREET FIGHT (3/17/02)
Bully-Taker at his best, mixing watering-hole trash talk with soulless pummeling of a wrestling icon fueled by family pride and honor. Felt a smidge cheap having Flair go down after Arn Anderson delivered his first spinebuster in five years, but dusting off the Tombstone to make ‘Naitch the tenth victim assured satisfaction.
7. UNDERTAKER VS. TRIPLE H (4/1/01)
One of few matches in history spurred by one participant’s emotionally-disturbed brother threatening to throw the other guy’s wife from a stairwell landing, it also featured the longest ref-bump in WWE’s annals. That said, the frenetic energy of the greatest WrestleMania ever rubbed off on this brawl, famously ending up in a production tower.
LEVEL FIVE: IMPECCABLE
6. UNDERTAKER VS. BATISTA, WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (4/1/07)
Even the glumly jaded found pleasant surprise as the granite monsters found the sort of chemistry with each other that others never find in a thousand shared matches. The first time the ‘title vs. streak’ header was employed saw “The Animal” rise to a main-event-level performance in defeat, and the best feud of 2007 was merely beginning.
5. UNDERTAKER VS. EDGE, WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (3/30/08)
Enough lift, drag, and thrust to rise above the insipid main event commentary duo of Cole and Coach (the latter soon bound for ESPN). Many oddities to be had, including the Hell’s Gate finish, a Zack Ryder run-in (yes, really!), and a post-match pyro flourish that malfunctioned, injuring over 40 spectators.
4. UNDERTAKER VS. TRIPLE H (04/03/11)
Much like the previous example, this epic served to bail out an event with more rancid filler than a Times Square hot dog. The hard-sell for the match six days earlier was done masterfully (a good use of retired Michaels), as was the ending, a near-death Taker bleakly snaring Hell’s Gate and winning with appropriate Rooster Cogburn-defiance.
3. UNDERTAKER VS. CM PUNK (04/07/13)
Rivet-gunning of Paul Bearer’s death onto the angle aside, this match was the saving grace of a decidedly-lifeless WrestleMania, easily stealing a show buried under self-congratulation. Punk’s disrespect was missing from the previous slate of Taker Mania battles, paid off with aplomb on a zombie sit-up while clamped in the Anaconda Vise.
LEVEL SIX: NIRVANA
Its weight is still brickhouse sturdy, thanks to Michaels giving up the ring permanently in exchange for his crossbow and Moccasin-boots since. Nobody wanted to see Shawn go, but at least his adherence lends him dignity, with the right match to leave on. Nothing else deserved to close the show but this.
1. UNDERTAKER VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (04/05/09)
Most expected ‘really good’ out of the Titan cornerstones, but not everyone had eyes on one of the greatest matches in WWE history. Undertaker’s glazed bewilderment at Shawn’s Tombstone escape is a highlight reel lifer, once more saving a muddled event by piecing together this half-hour opus, the hallmark of his storied career.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
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