The Undertaker is a superstar who has remained a dominant force in the WWE over the last two decades and still going strong. Throughout these years The Undertaker has achieved feats and accolades that strongly speak about his dominance but if there is anything that he has accomplished to an extent of being probably never paralleled, then it is his undefeated streak at the grandest stage of them all, the super bowl of wrestling and Vince McMahon’s greatest creation to date, Wrestlemania !
The Undertaker holds an impeccable record of 20-0 (20 victories and no loss) at Wrestlemania and in achieving this extraordinary feat, he has gone past through several veterans and legends of the business. The streak officially started at Wrestlemania VII, when the Undertaker clinched his debut Wrestlemania victory against the WWE Hall of Famer, Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka. Since then the Undertaker has gone on to defeat superstars like Kane, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels and Triple H to name a few, in his 20 Wrestlemania events, missing just two of them namely Wrestlemania X and XVI (or 2000 as it was known as). Over the years Undertaker has been a part of some of the greatest rivalries in the business and even some of the greatest Wrestlemania rivalries of his career. But without a shadow of doubt, if you are asked to choose the greatest of them, there would probably be two names ringing in your mind. Yes, those two names are Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
Both have had classic encounters with the Deadman at Wrestlemania and by looking at their last 4 matches at Wrestlemania, this makes for a compelling case. So, let’s get down with the case.
Shawn Michaels is arguably the greatest in ring performer to ever grace the WWE ring. He has all right to be claimed as the showstopper, the main event and most of them all, as Mr. Wrestlemania. Shawn and Taker had wrestled in the past as well, but Undertaker had never defeated Shawn Michaels. On the other hand you had the undertaker who had never lost at Wrestlemania. The first Wrestlemania bout took place at Wrestlemania 25 with Shawn claiming it to be his right to end the streak on the 25th anniversary of the greatest event. ‘Sometimes it is hell trying to get to heaven’, is what the Undertaker told Shawn, which Shawn religiously followed and after qualifying to face the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, he began playing mind games, claiming to represent lightness from heaven while Undertaker represented the darkness from hell. This hell vs. heaven match got the world heavily invested and little did they know that they were going to witness perhaps the greatest Wrestlemania match in both men’s career.
The two biggest stars and legends battled in a fast paced action match and tried to one up each other at every possible instance. The match featured highlights to no end. From the Undertaker missing a suicide dive falling on his head, to his streak almost ending via count out with less than second left, to the classic Jim Ross commentary, the match ended up being as nail biting, as emotion filled as it could. Taker kicked out of the Sweet Chin Music, Shawn kicked out of the choke slam and last ride but what became the biggest highlight of the match was when Shawn kicked out of the first Tombstone pile driver and the classic JR followed it up with ‘Choke slams, last rides, tombstones and a kick out and a kick out and a kick out’ at the top of his voice. The match finally ended with a second tombstone pile driver which Taker delivered catching Shawn off guard while performing the moonsault and pinned him for his 17th Wrestlemania victory. The match as J.R. put was an out of body experience, and went on to become the match of the year while it still stands today as the greatest match of all time in many of the WWE Universe’ favourites list.
But it wasn’t the end. After a few months Undertaker went on to become the World Heavyweight champion and successfully defending the title, while Shawn joined forces with Triple H to reform DX and take out those in their path. But Shawn Michaels had been consumed with the thought of ending the undefeated Wrestlemania streak throughout the year, and made his intentions clear throwing out a challenge to Undertaker for a rematch at Wrestlemania 26. Taker refused despite accepting that Shawn did come close to ending the streak. Thus, Shawn made it a point to win the Royal rumble match and face the champion, Undertaker at Wrestlemania and while he looked all poised to win his third royal rumble, he came up short and frustrated. The obsession got to an extent where he even asked the general manager of Smackdown, Teddy long to draft him to the blue brand just for the sake of challenging the Undertaker but to no success. Then came the Elimination Chamber where Taker defended his title against five other competitors but just As he was about to finish the match with a Tombstone, Shawn Michaels came out of nowhere, super kicked him in the jaw and cost him the match along with the title.
The very next night, Taker accepted Shawn’s challenge but so angry was the deadman that he proposed a condition. A condition that if Shawn loses, he loses his career. And soon the obsessed Shawn Michaels’ replied ‘If I can’t beat you at Wrestlemania, I have no career. You’re on’. The match was made. The stakes were upped and an end was guaranteed, be it that of an illustrious career or an incredible undefeated streak. Came March 28th and so came Wrestlemania.
The match began with Shawn taunting Taker with his famous throat cut style and pretty much ended with it as well. This was a no disqualification, no count out match and while this wasn’t used too much in the match, it definitely gave us two highlights of the match, one of them which saw Taker tombstone Shawn on the concrete outside the ring while the other was an amazing moon sault that saw Shawn crashing on the Undertaker and the announce table. We saw a replica of their previous bout as both kicked out each other’s finishers on more than a couple of occasions. But what made an emotional end and a perfect highlight was when Taker signalled for the third tombstone in the match but stopped midway as Shawn literally grabbed his boots to get up to him. But he was not asking for mercy, he wanted the Undertaker that is known as a destructive force to be what he is and end him for good. A throat cut and a slap by Shawn later, Taker obliged with a tombstone pile driver and finished off the storybook career of an iconic legend. Moments later Taker grabbed him up to his feet and both hugged each other in a show of class and respect. Taker left the ring as Shawn embraced the thanks, appreciation and love from the crowd. Wrestlemania 26 closed with a tearjerker. And so did the feud between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
But Shawn’s best friend Triple H is a step ahead. He has faced the Undertaker H a record three times at Wrestlemania. The first encounter took place at Wrestlemania X-7, which turned into a brawl fest as the referee was knocked for most of the time and after a great battle back and forth, Taker picked up the victory. But this match is not what made it for a Wrestlemania rivalry. Fast forward to ten Wrestlemanias hence, and you have them facing each other once again at Wrestlemania XXVII in a No Holds Barred Match. And this is where the seeds for their rivalry were sown.
The match initially went back and forth with both the veterans gaining the upper hand on the other at numerous occasions. But soon the Undertaker’s weakness after several chair shots by Triple H caught up with him and it all turned to be about a man trying to end the streak and the other trying to save it even at the cost of his life. The match featured a lot of drama and emotions as the Undertaker kept kicking out of pedigrees after pedigrees sending the Game into a shocker. But what came as a real shocker and the true OH MY GOD moment was when Triple H decided to finish off the Phenom with his patented Tombstone Pile driver and it seemed like the most glorious achievement in sports entertainment has finally come to an end. But it was not to be as Taker kicked out. Left with no choice, Triple H decided to bring in his favourite weapon, the sledgehammer to end the streak but Taker caught him up with Hell’s Gate and got him to tap out after a minute of struggling. Even though the deadman won the battle, it was Triple H who walked out on his feet while for the first time in his career, the Undertaker could not leave the ring under his own power, as he was carried out on a stretcher.
For almost one year after that, the Undertaker was nowhere to be seen, while Triple H moved on to his official duties. But it wasn’t over. Undertaker returned on a RAW edition and made his intentions clear of facing Triple H for one more time at Wrestlemania for his victory the previous year meant nothing to him, and he had been occupied with the thoughts of the beating he took at the event. He asked for a shot at redemption, but surprisingly Triple H refused stating he knows he has to end the deadman to end the streak and he doesn’t want to do it for the sake of business. While Triple H stayed in denial for a few weeks, the Undertaker finally got him to accept the challenge when he comparatively put Shawn as a better wrestler than Triple H. Triple H upped the ante. He made it a Hell in a Cell match. A match that has been contested just 24 times in its 15 year span and a match Taker and triple H combined have been in a total of 19 of them.
And if that wasn’t enough, Shawn who had unsuccessfully convinced Triple H to accept the challenge, took it to his ego and announced himself the special guest referee of the match with doubts hanging over the match as to whether he would help anyone in the match or just call it down the middle. The match was billed as an ‘End of An Era’ for Taker and Triple H were the last two of their kind (and their era) left in the business. With so much at stake, emotions to no end and doubt concerning Shawn Michael’s intentions, the match finally happened at Wrestlemania 28. The match literally saw all kind of emotions in the match. Destruction, friendship and respect, so much into one single match as the crowd was left awe struck. Shawn Michaels literally broke down in the ring finding self in a conflicting position where on one side stood a man who was his best friend and on the other a man he had utmost respect for. The match ended pretty much in the same fashion as the second match of Shawn Michaels – Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26, with Triple H begging the Undertaker to finish him, which he obediently did with a Tombstone Pile driver. But what followed was a sight to see and hold onto forever. Undertaker and Shawn Michaels helped Triple to his feet, walked together to the ramp and hugged each other, embracing the love and appreciation from the crowd.
Now that there is detailed study on both the feuds with all the history and emotions in place, which feud according to you was better? Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels? Or Undertaker vs. Triple H? In my personal opinion it has to be Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels for the reason that their Wrestlemania 25 match personally outshined every other match for me along with the build up it had, while the Wrestlemania 26 bout, backed up with a high on emotion build up delivered as well. While both of Triple H matches delivered too, the one with Shawn Michaels told a better story, a better build up and a better series of encounters. What about you? Which, according to you is the greatest of the two Wrestlemania Rivalries involving the Undertaker?