Posted by James Tee
Welcome all to the final part of my look at the life and career of The Undertaker. This final part will look at the matches that, arguably, have been his four best since his return to the Deadman gimmick.
PART 9 – THE STREAK LIVES ON
The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 25 At Wrestlemania 25, two Texas natives faced off in one of the greatest matches ever seen at Wrestlemania; a match that won the PWI Match of the Year award as well as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year 2009. HBK entered the arena first, descending from the ceiling in a heavenly motion. Accordingly, The Undertaker proceeded to rise up from a fiery hell, and just under 31 minutes of unparalleled wrestling action. For two men over the age of forty, the match started at a pace that many younger superstars would struggle to maintain for any length of time.
Numerous submission and signature holds were followed by one of the standout Wrestlemania moments of the past decade. With Shawn Michaels on the outside, The Undertaker prepared himself for a Suicide Dive over the top rope. With his 300 pound plus frame flying through the air, Michaels pulled over a cameraman (later revealed to be Sim Snuka), sending all three men crashing to the floor. The Houston crowd and the millions watching on PPV went crazy, and at that time, people were doubting if Taker’s long undefeated streak would continue past 16-0. Taker then hit both a Last Ride and a Chokeslam whilst Michaels hit two Sweet Chin Music’s; all four moves gaining near falls. After a first Tombstone Piledriver wasn’t enough for Taker to get the fall, Michaels went to the top rope to try his luck. Michaels took flight, attempting to hit The Deadman with a Moonsault. However, Taker caught HBK and turned the move into one final Tombstone, gaining the three count and moving to 17 and 0.
After a final match against The Big Show a few weeks later on Smackdown, The Undertaker went on his now annual post-Wrestlemania hiatus, this time for four months. At Summerslam 2009, Taker made his return to the WWE, attacking the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk, who had just been through a TLC with Jeff Hardy. The two men went head to head for the first time at the Breaking Point PPV, in a Submission match. Originally, The Deadman had won, forcing Punk to submit to the Hell’s Gate Gogoplata when then Smackdown GM Theodore Long stated that the move was still banned from back when Vickie Guerrero banned the move the year before. Punk went on to win the match with the Anaconda Vice. However, Undertaker didn’t tap, with referee Scott Armstrong calling for the bell in Montreal, the same city as the infamous Montreal Screwjob back in 1997.
After Long admitted that the match had been a conspiracy, he lifted the ban on the Hell’s Gate, and the GM was released from a casket Taker had kept him in. At Hell in A Cell in October, The Undertaker won the World Heavyweight Championship for a third time after defeating Punk. Taker retained the title through to the Elimination Chamber PPV, but things started badly that night.
In the lead up to the PPV, Shawn Michaels had been challenging Taker to a rematch, with Taker choosing to decline. However, at the PPV, with Taker on the cusp of defeating Chris Jericho to survive the Chamber as champion.
With that Sweet Chin Music, the rematch was made for Wrestlemania 26 in Glendale, Arizona; No DQ, No Holds Barred… STREAK VS CAREER If Shawn Michaels were to lose at Wrestlemania, his in-ring career would be over.
Once again, the match was a classic that should be shown to all up and coming superstars when they are learning the basics of the business. The match was the last on the card, and it was arguably the best main event in WWE history. Once again, it was high octane, high impact wrestling with both men hitting moves we have all grown up with; Michaels’ Atomic Drop and Chops, Taker’s Old School. You can all watch the match for yourselves, but I will talk about the finish in particular. Taker was dominant towards the end, with Michaels using The Deadman for support. Calaway was screaming for Michaels to stay down, and was slapped in the face for his troubles, leading The Undertaker to deliver a devastating Tombstone to the HeartBreak Kid to end his in-ring career.
The match was once again named PWI and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year, deservedly so. The two men embraced and Taker continued his WWE career, as an 18 and 0 superstar at Wrestlemania. Taker’s hiatus this time only lasted a month, returning at the end of May to defeat Rey Mysterio, and in turn, claim a place in the Fatal Four Way match at the FFW PPV for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, during the match against Mysterio, Taker suffered a concussion, a broken orbital bone and a broken nose. To cover for his injury, it was claimed that Kane had found his brother in a vegetative state backstage.
It was during this hiatus that Calaway was married for the third time to former WWE Diva, Michelle McCool, on June 26th, 2010, in Houston, Texas.
Returning at Summerslam, he confronted Mysterio and Kane (Mysterio had won his second World Title when he replaced Taker) in order to reveal who attacked him. However, Taker was easily overpowered by the Big Red Machine and was Tombstoned. The feud continued to Bragging Rights, where The Nexus helped Kane defeat his brother in a Buried Alive match. The Undertaker would no longer be a full time member of the WWE roster. At the Royal Rumble, vignettes were shown advertising Taker’s return on the February 21st edition of Raw. When he did return, people expected to hear from the Deadman, but before he had a chance to speak, he was joined by an unexpected guest.
The promo was amazing, considering that not a single word was spoken between the two legends. Hunter himself had been absent from the WWE for eleven months, and the two men set a match for Wrestlemania 27 in Atlanta, Georgia. The match, a No Holds Barred match had a lot to live up to after Taker’s last two Wrestlemania battles.
The Game took The Deadman to the edge of his limits, with chair shots, DDT’s on a chair, three pedigrees and even a Tombstone not enough to keep Taker down. Hunter was clearly agitated, and went for his trusty sledgehammer. As The Game went to attack The Undertaker, The Phenom managed to catch Hunter in Hell’s Gate, forcing The Cerebral Assassin to tap. Taker was carried from the ring on a stretcher, and immediately went on a ten month sabbatical. It was on January 30th 2012 that The Undertaker made his anticipated return. If Taker won at Wrestlemania 28, he would move to an unbeatable 20 and 0 at The Super Bowl of Professional Wrestling.
He immediately confronted The Game, with the aim of securing a third match at Wrestlemania with Hunter. It was on February 13th that Triple H answered his challenge, refusing. However, Taker appeared on the Titantron declaring that vengeance would be his after he couldn’t walk out of the previous Wrestlemania on his own two feet. The week after, Hunter and Taker met face to face.
For only the second time in history, there would be a Hell in A Cell match at Wrestlemania. It was soon after this that Shawn Michaels, who had been telling Hunter to accept the challenge, announced that he would be the Special Guest Referee for the end of an era match.
There is very little I can say about this match. I can say it is a fair bet that most of us were on the edges of our seats, wondering if The Streak would come to an end. I think one thing that made the match even better (if that was possible) was the fact that Good Ol’ JR was on commentary. It took the tension in the ring to the next level, and I have to say, it is probably my favourite Undertaker match of all time. It had near falls that you genuinely couldn’t think men could kick out of. The one memory to pick out of the match had to be the end though. Triple H had been taken to the limit, and the end almost mimicked the end of the HBK and Taker match two years earlier. Hunter struggled to stand, but stood up, looked Taker in the eye, and gave him a DX crotch chop. The Undertaker delivered one final Tombstone, and the streak had been extended to 20 and 0.
We have only seen The Undertaker once since this match, when he cleared the ring with his brother Kane at Raw 1000 back in the summer. We are now a few weeks away from the Royal Rumble, and potentially, the start of Taker’s last Wrestlemania programme. Whether it is his last or not, only Mark Calaway knows. But regardless of that, Mark Calaway has had arguably the best Wrestling career of all time. A near thirty year veteran of the game, he has won almost everything there is to win.
A three time World Heavyweight Champion
A four time WWF/WWE Champion
A six time WWF/WWE Tag Team Champion
A one time WCW Tag Team Champion
A one time WWF Hardcore Champion
The Winner of the 2007 Royal Rumble
A three time PWI Match of the Year winner
20 and 0 at Wrestlemania
There is no doubt that Mark Calaway is a future Hall of Fame inductee, and there is doubt, that Mark Calaway has been the owner of the best gimmick ever seen in professional wrestling. Above all that though, there is no doubt, that there is no one in the world of professional wrestling, from the fans to fellow professionals, that Mark Calaway garners the respect of everybody. Many thanks for reading, and I’ll be back with my next wrestling biogrpahy next week. Until then, Rest in Peace.
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