To celebrate the amazing twentieth anniversary of The Undertaker’s consecutive continued employment with World Wrestling Entertainment, here is an exhaustive look back at the career of The Dead Man. Check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 first.
When it was first announced that the historic twenty-fifth WrestleMania would emanate from Texas fans predicted that a long awaited bout between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker would happen. After teasing interaction between the two at Royal Rumbles 2007 and 2008 it seemed inevitable. By this point Undertaker’s WrestleMania Streak had become a major fixture of the card and something to challenge for, not unlike a World Championship. Leading up to WrestleMania XXV, Shawn Michaels defeated John “Bradshaw” Layfield and then Vladimir Kozlov in back-to-back weeks to earn the right to challenge The Dead Man at “The Showcase of the Immortals.”
The match itself was buried in the undercard but it was one of the best pro wrestling matches I have ever seen. It was a match between two legendary performers with long-standing built-in back-stories and a rivalry between the two dating back to 1997. It featured two former World Champions and certifiable first ballot, Hall of Famers in a one-on-one match with nothing more than pride and bragging rights on the line. For The Undertaker, it was a chance to keep his undefeated WrestleMania winning streak alive at 17-0. For Michaels, it was his chance once again to become “Mr. WrestleMania” and have the pay per view’s best match of the night; a feat he had done many times throughout the years.
Most wrestling fans knew it would be a good match going into it, but no one could have expected the pure, unadulterated classic these two professionals crafted. From the early feeling out session, to the Undertaker’s sick missed tope, to the wild series of unbelievable near falls from both men, it was evident just watching this match live that it was something special.
As a lifelong wrestling fan my pure unbridled enjoyment and excitement of the match comes through in my live play-by-play of the contest as it happened. I have not been that on edge during a professional wrestling match in years, and it is the testament of these two legends that they hooked a jaded wrestling fan like myself into their story as well as they did. From this point on, this match is the thing I will show non-wrestling fans, casual fans or past fans of pro wrestling in attempt to either woo them back or remind them of what they are missing. It is not often that a pro wrestling masterpiece of this caliber comes along.
After his victory he defeated Matt Hardy on the inaugural episode of WWE Superstars on WGN America in April. He then battled Shelton Benjamin and The Big Show on SmackDown before taking his customary spring/summer hiatus.
It wasn’t until SummerSlam ’09 when he returned again. After CM Punk defeated Jeff Hardy to win the World Heavyweight Championship in a phenomenal TLC Match main event, Undertaker showed up and attacked Punk. The next month at Breaking Point the two men met in the main event with Punk winning due to crooked officiating from referee Scott Armstrong. The next month in a rematch in a Hell in a Cell match at the aptly titled Hell in a Cell pay per view, Undertaker pinned Punk after a Tombstone to win his third World Heavyweight Title.
At Bragging Rights he defeated Punk, Rey Mysterio and Batista in a fatal four way to retain the Title. Then the next month at Survivor Series he beat the then-Unified WWE World Tag Team Champions Chris Jericho & The Big Show to keep hold of the Championship. From there he defeated Mysterio in a one-on-one match at Royal Rumble 2010 in a phenomenal, forgotten match to retain the belt once again.
Meanwhile at the 2009 Slammy Awards, Michaels and Undertaker won Match of the Year for their masterpiece at WrestleMania XXV. Michaels came out to accept the award and used it as a platform to challenge The Undertaker to a rematch at WrestleMania XXVI. Undertaker originally turned down Michaels’ request for a rematch. However during Undertaker’s World Title defense inside the Elimination Chamber at the Elimination Chamber 2010 pay per view, Michaels popped up from under the ring, superkicked Undertaker, which allowed Chris Jericho to get the victory and the World Title. On RAW the next night, Michaels again asked for a rematch. This time Undertaker accepted, on the condition that Michaels put his career on the line, which he readily accepted.
While sequels more times than not do not live up the greatness of the original, the hype behind Undertaker-Michaels II was at an all-time high. In addition the match was made into a No Disqualifications, No Count Outs match, adding another element to the sequel. Thankfully the bout got the main event slot at WrestleMania XXVI, even over both World Title bouts. With the weight on the world of their shoulders, WWE’s two banner athletes delivered in spades, equaling or perhaps even eclipsing their WrestleMania XXV masterpiece. In the end Undertaker ended Michaels’ career after a jumping Tombstone piledriver.
Not surprisingly after WrestleMania he went on his usual spring time hiatus, save for a couple special appearances on RAW to battle Jack Swagger and Edge respectively. He returned to SmackDown in late May and defeated Rey Mysterio to qualify for the Fatal 4 Way pay per view. However during the match he suffered a concussion, a broken nose and broken orbital bone and was taken out of the pay per view, with Mysterio taking his spot.
To explain his absence, little brother Kane came out and said he found Undertaker in a “vegetative state” over Memorial Day weekend and was on the hunt to find the perpetrator. At SummerSlam during the Kane-Mysterio World Title bout, Undertaker returned and not surprisingly revealed that Kane was actually the perpetrator. The two met at Night of Champions for Kane’s World Title, which surprisingly Kane won clean after a Tombstone. After Night of Champions, Undertaker brought back Paul Bearer as his manager once again, in hopes of gaining favor over Kane in this chapter of their years long saga. However during their rematch inside Hell in a Cell at the Hell in a Cell pay per view, Bearer turned on Undertaker and helped Kane gain victory once again. This led to one final match between the two at Bragging Rights in a Buried Alive match. Once again Kane emerged victorious, thanks in part to interference from The Nexus of all people.
Since that point, Undertaker has been on the shelf once again, this time nursing a shoulder injury and healing various nagging injuries. While no clear timetable has been set for his return, ideally he will be back in early 2011 to set up a grand match at WrestleMania XXVII.
to be continued…