Thursday, April 6, 2017

Best Undertaker Mania Matches

This past Sunday, i cried, i witnessed possibly the final match of the Undertaker. a man I have watched, my entire life. I watched wrestling off & on in my early years. It was always on before my uncle would watch football. The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, those were my guys. Then come January of 1993, this 5 year old asked to watch a new show, Raw, and i was hooked. On Raw and on Superstars they would always build Wrestlemania as the biggest event, and growing up, and still to this day, it is the biggest event of the year, not just for wrestling, but for everything. One of the main components was the Undertaker, I remember renting Mania tapes and watching him run through opponents, then I rented my first live PPV in 1998, Wrestlemania 14, and i have seen them all live ever since. As a 10 year old, I wanted to see him destroy his evil brother, it wasn't until Mania 18 where he raised up Ten Fingers and celebrated his victory over Ric Flair, in what was possibly the match of the night. Beating the streak first was mentioned in a big deal form when everyone online assumed Randy Orton would kill the legend of the streak, well before it became a legend. I thought he was going to, and i still think it makes sense, however, had Orton won that match, then the rest of Takers Mania's would not have felt as important, his Mania 25 epic with Michaels would still have been great, but the build up would have been different. 29 with Punk, would have been the same, and then the sadness of 30 would have never happened, the emotional punch against Orton, 9 years before Brock Lesnar would not have been as impactfull. Who is to say if he would have continued wrestling after say 28 or so, if even that long. Taker helped define Mania, and Mania helped define Taker. Here is the ranking of all of his matches from all of his 25 matches, i have watched them all in the past 2 months, from his first, a glorified squash against Jimmy Snuka to this past Sunday, his damn fine match with Roman Reigns, and his emotional goodbye.

1. Shawn Michaels at 25
The build up to this had Shawn wanting to regain himself, he lost a bit of himself after defeating Flair, then was emotionally destroyed by Chris Jericho, forced to be JBL's servant, to him, he needed to beat the Dead Man. The match was foreshadowed two years prior at the Royal Rumble, in a mini match as the final two, and it set up a fantastic remake a year later. The match told a story,  and is easily one of  the best one on one matches in Mania history, These two men not only define Mania, but the WWE in general, both combatants started in the later portion of the Golden Era, were top stars in the New Generation, kickstarted the Attitude Era, were legends during the Ruthless Aggression era and by time this match happened, the PG era was in full swing. The was a hard hitting match with two larger than life stars, the type we do not see anymore. Could the streak have ended here? No, it wouldn't have done anything for Michaels career.

2. HHH at 17
17 is my all time favorite PPV, the build up for the entire card was great, each match was solid, yes even the battle royal(it served its purpose). this match what physical,a spectacle at a spectacle. Both men had come into there own with edgier characters in 99 & 00, and this match was badass vs badass, both with metal theme songs. Could  the streak have ended here? Yes, sure there was a streak, but it was not THE STREAK. But this was a time when Faces won, so Taker winning did more.

3. Shawn Michaels at 26
This is the rematch of rematches, there is no way to top their previous match, A lot hate the match because of that, but it is unfair to judge a match based on one from a year earlier, some prefer this one, most don't, but atleast do not hate it for it not being 25. The match still hit all the emotional notes, it may not be as emotional as Michaels saying I Love You to Flair, or Takers send off, but it is still a sad moment for an HBK mark. Could the streak have ended here? No, same as the last Michael's entree, it would not have done anything for his future career, however, there was the lingering thought of, maybe this wont be Michaels' last match.Oh yeah, their entrances were glorious!

4. HHH at 28
The end of an era match, this should have been Taker's last match, HHH's last match, the end of the Attitude era. I am glad it wasn't as it lead to HHH having great matches after this, and Taker having great matches aswell. I hear a lot of blood thirsty fans bitching that the match was a watered down Hell in a Cell, maybe there was no blood but the match was hard hitting as fuck, and it told a glorious story, i cried after the match, seeing 3 of my all time favorites holding each other up, it was a poetic moment! Could the streak have ended here? Well HHH was in charge so anything is possible but no, no it could not. HHH knew Taker needed the win!

5. HHH at 27
Taker is great in Face vs Face matches, his two HBK bouts, two of his HHH's matches, Batista, Roman, even non Mania matches, he knows how to do it. Usually both men play it dirty a  bit, but with respect always shown. This is one of them, HHH wanted revenge for HBK, Taker wanted to face Wade Barrett(well in real life). Once the match happened, it did not let down, it was pretty much their first Mania match but not as hardcore, and their third match minus Michaels and the Cell. Could the streak have ended here? No

6. Kane at 14
This is a nostalgia ride for me. Kane cost Taker his match with Michaels at Bad Blood in the Hell in a Cell and then set the man on fire in the casket match vs Michaels  at the Royal Rumble(damn Michaels pops up alot on this list). When Taker showed up to confront his brother i marked out, and the match did not disappoint. It was in my opinion the second best match of the night(the first featured *gasps* Shawn Michaels). Could the streak have ended here? Yes, but the face was victorious!

7. Edge at 24
This was still when Smackdown was the best pure wrestling show of the two brands.....oh wait, it still is! This match felt like a legit huge title match, Taker was slowing down but not too much, Edge was showing signs of slowing down, but if you watch the match, you get an amazing contest. Could the streak have ended here? Yes, yes it could have. Edge had some injuries but no one expected him to retire three years later. It could have made those final three years even edgier(haha) for the sleezy heel.

8. Batista at 23
To me this was one of Batista's best matches, right under Payback 2014 with Evolution vs the Shield and right above his Hell in a Cell match with Taker. It showed Batista was hard hitting and truly deserving of the previous 2 years. Could the streak have ended here? Yes, it could have been Taker passing the torch on as Batista was undefeated at the time and was the young star and the face on SD!

9. Kane at 20
OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! Goosebumps solid goosebumps when this was said! I marked out hard! The Dead Man rose after being gone for months, but he was not the American Badass, he was his old self and he was battling a new Kane, it felt fresh for these two. A great match at a great Mania! Could the streak have ended here? Yes, it could have pushed Kane further into the evil monster heel that he had been the past 9 months.Luckily that did not happen and the streak became a goal for many after this!

10. Ric Flair at 18
The birth of Taker counting his victories, and one of Flairs best WWE matches. The man still had it and this was a brand new Taker, sure he had the American Badass gimmick the year prior but here, was his first heel work with this character, and only his third heel match on Mania all together. Could the streak have ended here? Yes, the face could have one, but it is better for the authority figure to lose and for the Badass to go on to become champion!

11. CM Punk at 29
Punk lost to the Rock, what is bigger than the WWE title? The Undertaker! This match was huge not only for the contest, but for Paul Bearer, whom passed earlier that year. I will get right to it, should the streak have here? It could have, hell maybe Punk would not have bitched so much, and i think he could have, had he not needed to rest up, and had Bearer not have departed. Even if Uncle Paul had still been alive, even if Punk was not going to take a couple months off, i still think Taker would have won, it was needed for Punk to go face, and it helped as the last victory in his Mania undefeated streak.

12. Bray Wyatt at 31
This is the match that the streak should have ended at, Bray should have defeated Cena the year prior, Taker should have defeated Lesnar. Had he lost here, it would have been huge for Bray, hell he never would have needed a single championship. Plus a new streak could have began, not as long obviously but a streak none the less. Regardless it was refreshing being able to watch a Taker Mania match without the anxiety of the streak being on the line, cause from Mania 21 to 30, i was on the edge of my seat hoping tonight isn't the night. Here, i was able to sit back and watch these two horror characters put on a solid contest, and one that fits the spectacle of Mania!

13. Shane McMahon 32
A lot hate this match, they call it garbage, sure the angle leading up to it made no sense, the stipulation was ignored the next night but to me it was a great one off match(though it wasn't a one off) for Shane, and a refreshing Mania opponent for Taker. It had memorable spots and all in all shows why Mania is the granddaddy of them all!

14. Sid at 13
To me this one one of three good matches on 13, the 6 man being a fun brawl, Austin-Hart being amazing, and this here being a solid battle of the giants. Could the streak have ended here? Well the tweener could have won, but better for the face to win, and him holding onto the title meant more, and wound up meaing more as it lead to his loss to Hart, his feud with Michaels and the arrival of Kane.

15. Randy Orton at 21
Orton was the legend killer, all of us on forums assumed Taker would finally lose here, i was a junior in high school and a huge fan of both men, it is an underrated match but one that Orton needed in his return as a heel. Could the streak have ended here? Yes, but as a said, if it had, Takers legacy may not have been as strong had he lost, sure he would still be a legend, but he truly needed this streak, Mania needed this streak, WWE needed this streak.

16. Diesel at 12
This match, along with the main event saved the PPV, jeez, so many Mania's were full of crappy filler until 14. This one is underrated as well, mainly cause folks like to shit on Kevin Nash, sure he isn't Shinsuke Nakamura, sure he isn't even Dean Ambrose, but he is still a showman and knows how to tell a story, and this was a perfect finale for Nash's Mania career. Should that streak have ended here? No, Nash was on his way out.

17. Jake Roberts at 8
Sure it is a squash, but damn, having these two characters in the ring together, brilliance, if it never happened it would have been a dream match, but luckily it did, Roberts was the evil heel, Take had turned face, it worked. Should the streak have ended here? No, Taker needed the win on a huge stage after losing the WWF title.

18 Brock Lesnar at 30
Ugh, this is a good match, it is hard hitting, Lesnar proved he was a beast, and Taker proved how much he cared for the business. Should the streak have ended here? No, i think Lesnar was the wrong guy, but Taker wasn't sure if it was his last match, Vince wanted his last match for him to put someone over, it was up to Taker, Taker agreed. Or so it is told....with that said, holy hell, i was in shock, i still don't believe it to this day. A part of me wishes it was a botch, that you were not supposed to lose, this was one of the hardest moments in wrestling to watch, luckily Daniel Bryan won, but damn, just imagine how the fans would have been even more excited for that win, if they did not have to go through this emotional loss.

19. Roman Reigns at 33.
This is not low on the list, I actually thought it was a damn good match, the others just do more for nostaglia for me, plus this match made me tear up, this was a legit sad match, before it i heard it may be his final match, during it reality sunk in, this will be it, i am viewing it, holy shit, after the match, tears poured out, i stood there in shock, i wasn't mad that he lost, i mean sure i wish his final match had been against Steve Austin, but that is just me, but just knowing that a man i had watched almost every week for 15 years then anticipated whenever he returned the following 9 years, was taking his final bow, i was heart broken. Mark Calaway, i love you sir. You put the business in front of you all the time. You had a outlandish gimmick but it worked, it worked cause it was new & dark, being new helped in the mid 90s, being dark helped in the late 90s, you knew how to reinvent yourself, becoming human, becoming evil, becoming a biker, becoming a living legend, becoming greatness, becoming the icon, becoming Wrestlemania, becoming the WWE, becoming professional wrestling. Besides a few deaths, nothing hits me this hard in the business, only one that comes close, your loss to Lesnar.

20. Mark Henry at 22
This is only one of two matches from the past 15 years of Mania to feel like a midcard Taker match. No one expected Henry to do it, he could have, he was built as a undestructible force but that is how all of his heel runs 2003 on have been. Here however, the streak was known about, but being a casket match against a big man, it felt too much like a mid 90s Taker feud. Should the streak have ended here? No

21. Big Show/A Train at 19
This is a rather sloppy match, but it is Taker's only Mania handicap match(originally a tag match) Not much to say, it is the other midcard feeling match, and considering it had two former wwe champions, that is saying something. Should the streak have edned here? The face losing to two other giants? Hell no!

22. Big Bossman at 15
A rather uncomfortable match to watch, the public hanging of Bossman was a hard pill to swallow, no way to really suspend disbelief, you just had to accept it. Sure Lucha Underground does it, but i prefer more reality focused angles, not saying i don't enjoy horror, after all i am a cinephile, but the ending here never set well with me.Should the streak have ended here? No. Taker and his evil character needed a win, even if his evil character was only worshiping Vince McMahon.

23. Jimmy Snuka at 7
Ah, his first Mania victory, and a glorified squash match. Should the streak have began here? Damn right! This match was historic!

24. King Kong Bundy at 11
Like a isaid earlier about Mark Henry feeling like a mid 90s feud, this is what i meant, Million DOllar Corporation stealing the urn, melting it odwn, having a stable of men for Taker to defeat, Henry would have been perfect in this feud. The match, rather meh, should the streak have ended here? No, Taker needed to wipe out this faction.

25. Giant Gonzalez
Ugh, fuck this match, as a kid i loved this Mania, excpet for this match, though i did love Taker coming back out to get revenge on Gonzalez. Should the streak have ended here? FUCK NO

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