And the WWE’s DVD releases continue, this time with a 3-disc retrospective on the career of The Undertaker. The format of the DVD lends to the belief that this DVD is probably more being marketed to the mark crowd then the smarts, especially since The Undertaker rarely gets any respect or appreciation from the smark crowd. I, however, share no such distinction, and look back fondly on the good old days of the Phenom. Thus, I review.
But that format … oh, that wacky format. It bears mentioning, because of how damned odd it is. Unlike … well, ANY of the other DVD’s the WWE has released since they started their historical box-set kick, this one holds onto kayfabe like a life preserver in a very deep ocean; you’ll get no interviews with Mark Callaway, no “life at home” segments, and certainly no bonus footage from his brief WCW run in the late 80’s. This is about The Undertaker, and great lengths are taken to ensure that the mystique is maintained all throughout the DVD. To that end, every match is preceded by a lengthy intro that serves as a career chronicle of sorts, recapping The Undertaker’s run in the WWE, where he was storyline-wise at the time, etc. For instance, if you pop on the first match (vs. Hulk Hogan at Survivor series 1991), you get footage, complete with ominous voice-over work, showing Undertaker’s debut in the WWF, and how he arrived in the main event a year after his federation debut; turn on the match against Michaels from Ground Zero, and you get a brief recap of Michaels’ chairshot at SummerSlam 1997 that started their feud, footage from Raw (the infamous chair shot that made UT bleed like a stuck pig and bent a chair quite badly) and some promos from both HBK and UT. It’s kind of odd, considering how kayfabe-breaking the other DVD sets have been, to see the career of UT treated as some kind holy belief that cannot be challenged with reality … yet, I found my inner-UT mark rising up, helping to disarm the smark and let me appreciate the damned match. But let there be no confusion: the title is quite accurate when it says “The History Of The Undertaker”.
So, anyway, with that, let’s get into the discs.
Match #1: vs. Hulk Hogan, WWE Title (Survivor Series 1991)
Why it’s on here: At the one-year anniversary of his debut, The Undertaker found himself in the main event, headlining the first World Title match ever at Survivor Series, challenging WWE Champion Hulk Hogan.
What to expect from it: Punch, kick, chokehold. Undertaker is greener then your lawn, and Hogan was never Mr. Technicality anyway, so if you have high expectations, stop nipping off the NyQuil.
The watchability: Somewhere, there is a history buff or a true Undertaker mark who will find some kind of perverse pleasure in this. Or, perhaps you just like seeing Hogan lose. But your average wrestling fan will sooner find entertainment by slamming their head in the refrigerator door. Painful in the extreme; a strong recommendation to avoid.
Match #2: vs. Yokozuna, WWE Title match (Royal Rumble 1994)
Why it’s on here:: And we skip three awful years of Giant Gonzales and Kamala matches to arrive at this, quite possibly one of the most reviled matches in WWE history. This was the catalyst for the first rebirth for The Undertaker, although he would come back almost exactly as he was 7 months later.
What to expect from it: Let’s see … one of the fattest sons of bitches in WWE history vs. a big, lanky, tall dude whose gimmick is to no-sell everything. Flair/Steamboat this ain’t, folks. Skip/Horowitz this ain’t. Hell, you’ll find more technical prowess in the 8-second Diesel/Backlund title match. But, oh, the campy drama! Having 15 random people, including Jim Crockett, President James Madison, Joey Buttafuoco, Pontius Pilate and Daisy Fuentes, plus the US Coast Guard and the French Foreign Legion, all ganging up on Undertaker and locking him in the casket! Or Marty Jannetty on guywires, ascending to the heavens! How about the inside-the-casket camera! Or the electrical storm inside the casket! It’s like someone let Dusty book after slipping him acid!
The watchability: The camp value is so off the charts, it almost comes around to being kitsch, and thusly, watchable … but not quite. People who remember it might watch it once just to remind themselves of the horror and the bad booking. Noobs might check it out to see what all us old-timers bitch about. But under no circumstances will anyone be watching this for the wrestling content, or the well-written plotline. It’d be like watching porn for the storyline and character development. Watch it once, laugh your ass off at the bad booking, then train yourself to hit the arrow key to cruise past it so you can avoid even lingering on this match’s menu option.
Match #3: vs. Diesel (WrestleMania XII)
Why it’s on here: The Diesel/UT war a dream match at the time, and was a rare feud for Undertaker at the time; it wasn’t a monster-of-the-month, like he’d been facing for seemingly time out of mind. Plus, this was just a cool feud of psychological warfare, with Diesel using an axe to destroy UT’s casket, and Paul Bearer & ‘Taker scaring the life out of Diesel with a Diesel-lookalike in a coffin, all of which is shown in clips.
What to expect from it: Not counters and mat wrestling, duh. But believe it or not, both guys come with their work boots on, and put on what was probably the sleeper match of the night. Maybe I’m biased, cause I loved both the feud and the payoff, but hey, this is my column … you want unbiased opinions, piss off.
The watchability: Even Scott Keith gave it better-then-expected marks (**3/4, although my bias puts it at about ***1/2). For two guys about 7 feet tall each, neither of whom are named Benoit, Angle, Hart or Michaels, this is about as good as you can get. And it’s pretty good.
Match #4: vs. Mankind, Buried Alive match (In Your House: Buried Alive, October 1996)
Why it’s on here: Six months of the Mankind/UT feud is glossed over in one fell swoop, including the unusual but historical Boiler Room Brawl from SummerSlam 1996 (where Paul Bearer turned on Undertaker), in favor of this, the second new match stipulation created for this war. One can only assume this was included because of the novelty of the gimmick (it’s only been done three times), but the Boiler Room Brawl was novel, too, and … oh, f*ck it, why argue. Not like the DVD will answer me.
What to expect from it: Vince McMahon, during the commentary for the match, says, and I quote: “This is worse then the Boiler Room Brawl.” Another quote, this of Scott Keith: “I love shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments.” In other words, a very meh match, with a torturously long post-match angle which sees them recycle the ’94 Royal Rumble angle, with a bunch of random midcard heels joining Paul Bearer, Mankind and an unidentified third guy in an executioner’s mask (his character would be named, and oh isn’t this clever, The Executioner, played by a very out of shape Terry Gordy) in burying Undertaker. This would lead to, oh, what, the third or fourth Undertaker rebirth? I’ve lost count.
The watchability: I seriously question why the WWE chose to put on two matches with the same post-match angle (The Undertaker “killed” by half the f*cking locker room) but not the match containing the follow-up (the rebirth), on the DVD. C’est la vie, it’s probably for the best, since the Yokozuna rematch, and the match with Mankind at Survivor Series both sucked so bad, Vivid Video offered them contracts. And, truth be told, this, the precursor to said sucky SurSer match ain’t any better. Punch, kick, a couple clotheslines, some garbage spots and the long burial scene. Keep in mind, if you dare watch this, that at the time, WCW was in the middle of the ultra-hot nWo angle, with Roddy Piper coming out of retirement to try and knock Hogan off his pedestal; this should paint you a nice picture of why WCW was kicking their ass week after week.
Match #5: vs. Mankind, WWE Title match (In Your House: Revenge Of The ‘Taker, April 1997)
Why it’s on here: With UT fresh off winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania 13, he needed a challenger, and it was all too easy to have his long-time nemesis Mankind challenge for it. Besides, all the other good challengers were busy. Hilarious side note; the pre-match segue footage (which skips Undertaker’s “leather vampire” makeover at Survivor Series ’96, and everything in between, for that matter) shows ‘Taker pinning Sid at WrestleMania for the WWE Title … but the graphic identifies this occurring at WrestleMania VIII, April 5th, 1992. How they let this error slip by is beyond me, but it makes me giggle.
What to expect from it: They had better matches, usually with some kind of stipulation to it. But for a straight match, it’s a fairly serviceable brawl. There’s a notable bump in it that time and the Hell In A Cell have mostly erased from memory; still, despite it seemingly being low-key, it was a fairly dangerous bump.
The watchability: Not their best, not their worst. The bump is interesting, and there’s a few decent spots. No one’s buying it for this match, but some may be pleasantly surprised to find it here. And if you’re jonesing for some good Mankind/UT action, it’s probably the best match on this DVD.
Match #6: vs. Bret Hart, WWE Title match, with several wacky stipulations and Shawn Michaels as guest referee (SummerSlam 1997)
Why it’s on here: Because it is the launch-pad for the war that would lead to the best match in Undertaker’s career, even though he loses.
What to expect from it: Well, firstly, you had the wacky stipulations: if Bret couldn’t win the title, he would never wrestle in the United States again, while if Shawn failed to call the match down the middle, he would be banned from wrestling in the US. Enough to overshadow the whole fact of the match being a WWE Title match, but hey, who needs titles, right? Both of them give it their all, but the crowd is almost dead silent throughout the match, which really kinda spoils the match. And it’s not like neither of the guys didn’t try, because both come with their working boots on (although not as good as their match at One Night Only, but that lacked the drama provided by the stipulations) … but something just goes amiss, and until the match’s closing minutes, the crowd mostly sits on their hands. It’s enough to bother a body … if you’re that type of person. But for the noobs, you get to see Bret working as a heel, the end of Undertaker’s longest title reign, and the flashpoint for the ultra-awesome Undertaker/Shawn Michaels feud.
The watchability: If crowd noise is necessary for you to enjoy a match, you’re going to be sorely disappointed; the silence cuts at the momentum and drama of the match like a chainsaw through butter. But if you can get past it, and just immerse yourself in the story being told (and, thanks to the stipulations, however wacky they may be, there’s a real psychological story going on in this match), you’ll find a decent little match. No gold standard, but adequate.
Match #7: vs. Bret Hart, WWE Title match (One Night Only, September 1997)
Why it’s on here: Apparently, it’s a collectors item, seeing as how it was on a UK-only PPV. Rumor has it, back in the day, it was deleted from the US videotape release because it was such a damned good match, and Vince wanted the last memory of Bret before he debuted in WCW to not be a great match, but of the Montreal Screwjob. Who knows if this is true. It should be noted, this match isn’t in the “continuum” listed on the DVD menu, but contained in the Extras, probably since it happened in Britain. I guess, like Vegas, what happens in Britain stays in Britain.
What to expect from it: Some say it’s the best UT/Bret match ever. I don’t know if that’s true (I haven’t seen their Royal Rumble ’96 match in a long time), but this one was pretty damned good, with some intense psychology, some sick spots (Bret being wrapped backwards around a ring post … you’ll have to see it to understand) and some decent wrestling.
The watchability: It’s lack of historical content (it was a filler title defense, really), BS ending and no cool narrative to give it some context may turn people off. On the other hand, it’s a damned fine match, and being that it was previously unavailable through legit means … a nice bonus for the collection.
Disc #1 extras
First up, you get an episode of the Funeral Parlor from 11.27.91 (Paul Bearer’s interview segment on Superstars, for all you noobs … think the Cabana, but dressed like a funeral home) where Undertaker ambushes Hogan with the help of Ric Flair, and is chased off by Randy Savage and Roddy Piper. The surrealness of seeing Hogan, Savage and Flair all on the same side is off the page.
Then, a cheesy segment in Undertaker’s “workshop” from an episode of Superstars on 12.18.93, where ‘Taker is building the “double-wide” casket for Yokozuna. Short and lame.
Equally lame is a promo with Undertaker and Paul Bearer against Diesel from the 3.23.96 episode of Superstars; you only see their shadows projected onto the floor, and nothing of consequence is said (much like most Undertaker promos before 1998).
A graveyard promo, shot in grainy black and white, follows, against Mankind in preparation for their Buried Alive match, this from Raw on 9.23.96. It tries too hard to be cheesy or scary, but the camera work is kinda cool.
And finally (not counting the Bret/’Taker UK match), a creepy but all-too-stereotypical Undertaker promo where he “speaks” from somewhere else (namely, the PA) at someone who’s in the ring; namely, Mankind, from the 4.6.97 edition of Raw. Typical eternal-damnation-I’ll-have-your-soul shite you’ve heard in a thousand ‘Taker promos.
Match #8: vs. Shawn Michaels (In Your House: Ground Zero, September 1997)
Why it’s on here: Because it’s a lost classic. Because it explains the need for the Hell In A Cell the following month. Because it belongs here, bitch!
What to expect from it: An Undertaker you’ve never seen before: pissed, and out for blood. A Shawn Michaels you’ve never seen before: scared for his life. It’s pure carnage, with five referees and two road agents laid out, plus D-X and another 10 people or so. It takes the basic Big Man vs. Little Man psychology and flips it on its head: instead of the evil giant pummeling the little guy, it’s the good guy giant, pissed as all hell, crushing the obnoxious little dude, and the little dude using everything but the 82nd Airborne to try and save his skin.
The watchability: Off the friggin’ charts. 62 on a 10-point scale. Even the screwjob no-decision ending fits in the context of the storyline, and neatly dovetails into Badd Blodd. If there’s a flaw in the match, I’m having difficulty finding it.
Match #9: vs. Shawn Michaels, Hell In A Cell and #1 contendership match
(In Your House: Badd Blood, October 1997)
Why it’s on here: I’m about to say something that may cause you to hit the hotlink for my email and write me nasty emails with lots of “O MY GAWD, LIEK U SUCK, HELL IN THE SELL WITH MIKK FOLEE WUZ WAAAAAAY KEWLER!!!1!1!”. I’m telling you to save your time. It’s not worth it. You’ll be arguing an opinion, which can’t be argued; it’s what I believe, and if it pisses you off (that goes double for my fellow IWC people), I advise you to exercise your right to hit the back button. So, with that caveat thrown out there … this is the greatest match of all time. For straight wrestling, sure, Flair/Steamboat rocks the house, as does Bret/Owen from WrestleMania X, but for the total package … psychology, storyline, drama, in-ring action, workrate … there’s nothing better. Period. End of story.
What to expect from it: Did you not read the above paragraph? EXPECT THE BEST. The psychology is flawless: having had an inconclusive match the month before, the WWE designed the Hell In A cell to keep EVERYONE out, and keep the combatants in. Undertaker had spent the better part of their prior meeting beating the tar out of Shawn Michaels, and now, he had an enclosed field with no rules and no interference … in other words, a license to kill the stringy-haired little bastard. The outright panic and fear in Shawn’s body language and eyes is priceless, and he weaves that paranoia and outright terror into his offensive maneuvers. As great as the Ground Zero match was, this is that much better, and is, as far as I’m concerned, still the benchmark for Hell In A Cell matches. No other cage/cell match has come close to the drama and artistry of this one.
The watchability: You have to ask? The best match on this DVD, the best Undertaker match ever, simply the best. *****, easy … hell, this is my review; ******. Hell, why stop at six? **************************************** Are you getting me yet?
Match #10: vs. Kane (WrestleMania XIV)
Why it’s on here: The historic first meeting of the dysfunctional half-brothers. They would meet 100 more times on PPV and run the feud into the ground, through the earth’s core and out the other side before it was all said and done, but this was the first time.
What to expect from it: Not the best double-big-man match in history, but there some decent spots in it (including Lucha ‘Taker doing a no-hands tope into the Spanish announce table). Not a thrilling match, and the crowd is oddly silent through a lot of it. They perk up for the big spots, but on the whole, it’s kinda disconcerting.
The watchability: Meh. Not horrible, not great. It is what it is. Marks will get a kick out of it, but workrate freaks will skip right on by. Undertaker is only as good as his opponent, and his opponent here was Issac Yankem DDS. That tells the story, yo.
Match #11: vs. Kane, Inferno match (In Your House: Unforgiven, April 1998)
Why it’s on here: Because how often do you see matches where the winning condition is setting someone on fire? Never … and since fire was so important to the storyline, under what better conditions could one think of to have a rematch?
What to expect from it: The WrestleMania match, now with fire around the ring. Seriously. The opening sequence is the exact same sequence of moves as the WrestleMania match (Undertaker punches Kane a lot, backs him in a corner, Kane reverses by choke-throwing Undertaker into the corner).
The watchability: It’s the same damn match, only with a different ending. So, same damn rating.
Match #12: vs. Mankind, Hell In A Cell (King Of The Ring 1998)
Why it’s on here: Beats me. Not like anything happens here.
What to expect from it: If you don’t know, I ain’t telling you. Seriously, this is one of those things that EVERYONE who watches wrestling knows about. If you don’t, stop watching, stop reading, and find a new hobby. I hear needlepoint is quite fascinating, ya nancy-boy.
The watchability: Really, it’s hard to watch repeatedly. Oh, sure, if you’re some sick malcontent who confuses big bumps with good wrestling, sure, it’s great. But, really, it’s not a good match; Foley is half-conscious at best for everything after the fall into the cell, Undertaker is nursing a broken foot, and really, it’s kinda hard to watch Mick Foley sacrifice himself so badly for entertainment value. All the love in the world to him, but he didn’t need to go that far. I can’t bring myself to watch it more then once a year, at best, and that’s just to remind myself of the horror of it … if you’re any kind of human being, you won’t be able to either.
Match #13: vs. The Rock, WWE Title match (King Of The Ring 1999)
Why it’s on here: Because, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first one-on-one match between the two, and a DVD set with late-90’s material on it wouldn’t be complete without The Rock. Plus, the whole Ministry era was not the best time for in-ring product for ‘Taker … but they needed to represent it SOMEHOW, and it’s better to see this then, say, his Hell In A Cell with Big Bossman.
What to expect from it: Let me consult my checklist … lots of punchy-kicky action? Check. Lots of cheap brawling with lax rules? Check. Ref bump(s)? Check. Cheap run-in(s)? What’s that mean, doctor? Why, it’s a textbook case of WWE Main Event Style!
The watchability: Rock brings the energy, but can’t save this match from being a cure for insomnia. Just dull, dull, dull.
Disc #2 extras
Pretty much all of the extras on this disc are centered around the Kane rivalry. First up, Undertaker cuts a promo against Shawn Michaels from September ’97, where he says the time for talk is through (so why does he keep talking?!?). Paul Bearer interrupts on the TitanTron and insists that yes, oh yes, Kane is coming, he’s coming, oh yes he’s coming. And if you weren’t watching back then, keep this in mind … we had to sit through almost FOUR MONTHS of teasing by Paul Bearer about the nasty little family secret. Count yourself lucky.
Then we get a heartfelt little scene right before WrestleMania XIV, with Undertaker at his parents’ gravesite, asking for forgiveness for his upcoming sins against Kane.
We get a segment from two weeks later, where Undertaker is in the ring with Kevin Kelly (oh, the pain … I’d forgotten all about Kevin Kelly … damn WWE) when Kane and Paul Bearer interrupt via the TitanTron “live” at the gravesites … where Kane proceeds to smash the Styrofoam tombstones with a sledgehammer, and sets the ground on fire with gasoline.
And finally, we get the home invasion sketch right before King Of The Ring ’98, where Undertaker bursts in on Paul Bearer’s house, throws furniture around and weakly punches him, all the while dressed in a reverse echo of his American Badass get-up.
Match #14: vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE Title match, First Blood/End Of An Era (Fully Loaded 1999)
Why it’s on here: This was the big blow-off to the Undertaker/Austin feud that had been raging for god knows how long, plus the blow-off for the Austin/Vince feud which had been going on since Theodore Roosevelt assumed the Presidency after William McKinley went down.
What to expect from it: Let’s look at the components … Undertaker was a couple months from taking off a huge block of time (8 months or so) off to nurse some nagging injuries. Austin’s neck injury was getting worse by the day, and his moveset was getting more limited with it. Russo was booking, which explains the wacky stipulations (if Austin wins, Vince will never be seen on WWE television again; if ‘Taker wins, Austin can never challenge for the WWE Title again). So, add all that up, and survey says? …
The watchability: You’d think this match would suck. With all those components, you’d be justified in thinking so. Maybe I’m weird, but I love this match. Of the 428,320 matches they wrestled, this has to be my favorite. Maybe it’s the drama behind it … maybe it’s the savagery that seems to run through the match with the First Blood rules in effect … maybe I’m just a mark for Evil Satanic Undertaker. But it’s a nicely paced, well-scripted (if a tad overbooked) brawl. Not one of Undertaker’s best … certainly not one of Austin’s best … but a good guilty-pleasure match.
Match #15: vs. Triple H (WrestleMania XVII)
Why it’s on here: And we skip a whole year of his career, including his rebirth as the American Badass. It’s like this DVD set was compiled by someone with ADD. Anyway, this is the first PPV encounter for UT and the H’s (their first singles match, so far as I know, since a memorable encounter on one of the first Shotgun Saturday Nights, where Undertaker Tombstoned Hunter on an escalator). That’s about it.
What to expect from it: This was when Triple H was pulling out *** in his sleep, and while UT was no longer a young corpse, he was still capable of putting on a WrestleMania performance.
The watchability: No one’s favorite match (and the build-up left some people cold, but I thought it was pretty neat, for being a short-notice feud), and some people have been pretty harsh on it, but I enjoyed it for some reason. Another guilty pleasure match, let’s say. It won’t please everyone, but it’ll have an audience.
Match #16: vs. Hulk Hogan, WWE Undisputed Title (Judgment Day 2002)
Why it’s on here: And we skip another whole year, including the ridiculous and unexplained heel turn to arrive at this, a Survivor Series/This Tuesday In Texas rematch 11 years later. This is also the last time Undertaker won the WWE World Title, and in doing so, became one of only six men to hold the Undisputed WWE World Championship (the others being Chris Jericho, Triple H, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Brock Lesnar).
What to expect from it: You can expect three things:
1) A headache that could only, under normal circumstances, be achieved by driving a railroad spike into your head.
2) To slip into a long coma and awaken with total amnesia.
3) An intense desire to render yourself blind with a melon baller.
What you have no reason to expect is a good match. This was hard to watch in 1991; 11 years and countless surgeries later, the match is so bad, Vince McMahon should be brought before the War Crimes Tribunal for unleashing such a booking catastrophe on the viewing populace.
The watchability: Save yourself the torment. You’ll not find a single reason to watch; there’s no perverse satisfaction in watching Hogan lose. There’s no thrill in watching Undertaker win. There’s no camp value (like the Yokozuna match), no historical novelty (like the first Hogan match, or the Rock match), and no clever overbooking to save it (like the First Blood match with Austin). Nothing but pain and suffering on the part of you, the viewer, if you select it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Match #17: vs. Brock Lesnar, WWE Title, Hell In A Cell (No Mercy 2002)
Why it’s on here: It’s gotten quite the reputation, due to ‘Taker’s super-gory blade job. The argument could also be made that this was the final step for Brock into main event acceptance, but not everyone agrees. It also stands as ‘Taker’s only actual loss in a Hell In A Cell (he wasn’t involved in the decision for the 6-man Armageddon Hell In A Cell in 2000).
What to expect from it: No big spots. No chain wrestling. Really, a criminal misuse of Lesnar’s NCAA skills, and a typical Undertaker match for this era: lots of punching, kicking and little else. But blood … blood, it doth come in a flood, my fine friends. Lesnar bleeds (although it’s kind of a wussy blade-job), Heyman bleeds more then you’d expect for a manager, and Undertaker almost bleeds out. Seriously, this is one of the most gory blade-jobs in wrestling history. Keith was right to say it resets the Muta scale.
The watchability: Well, for the bloodthirsty, you’ll get your money’s worth. But for those looking for a good Hell In A Cell … that’s on Disc #2. This is slow, plodding, and really kind of dull. Lots of punching, kicking and beating, but nothing special in the slightest. This could’ve been a regular cage match.
Match #18: vs. John Cena (Vengeance 2003)
Why it’s on here: Pandering to the current audience, I guess, hoping a few Cena marks will forget how badly UT monkey-stomped Cena here and pick it up by mistake. It’s not like this represents a milestone in either man’s career. Plus, the stellar Cena promo in the graveyard isn’t included (maybe on the eventual Cena set in 10 years), so what you’re left with is a meaningless match included for no good reason. Yeah, the Boiler Room Brawl so deserved to be bumped for this.
What to expect from it: As you get later on the disc, you’ll notice Undertaker’s offensive arsenal become more and more limited. Here, it’s the worst yet, as he not only uses his massive arsenal of strikes, but he laughingly tries to interject his lame-ass MMA “submission holds” that would look better executed by seven-year old children. So, once you get past all that shit, you got 15 minutes of Undertaker beating the bejeezus out of Cena, while Cena gets in the Token Jobber Offense of a few moves that Undertaker totally no-sells (including kicking out of the F-U) before making Cena go splat.
The watchability: I can’t imagine anyone finding anything positive to say about it. At least when Undertaker was the Phenom or during his first heel run, his no-selling had a purpose and a defense; here, it was inexcusable, and it’s a f*cking miracle Cena survived as a character, let alone became WWE Champion. Watch Cena’s pre-match rap, and then skip the match. You can find better things to do for 15 minutes, trust me.
Match #19: vs. Vince McMahon, Buried Alive (Survivor Series 2003)
Why it’s on here: Why it occurred is a better question. This was towards the end of a weird, uncomfortable phase where the WWE thought that Anybody vs. Vince (including his own daughter) was some kind of dream match, not realizing that McMahon Burnout was in the veins of the crowd like terminal leukemia. Nevertheless, this was the catalyst for the latest rebirth of The Undertaker, from American Badass to ‘Taker, Texas Ranger.
What to expect from it: If you have any expectations of even a reasonable brawl, you’re overestimating the participants (we are talking about a way-past-his-prime Undertaker and Vince McMahon here). Vince bleeds like he soul-kissed a wood-chipper, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that this is a 10-minute squash match; Undertaker punches a lot, hits Vince with a few impliments of destruction, and that’s about it. Vince’s total offensive output: TWO MOVES (a Greco-Roman ballshot, and an equally technical shovel to the chest, which Michael Cole & Tazz laughingly play off as a shot to the head).
The watchability: A curiosity watch is necessary to see how badly Vince bleeds. Really, it’s quite excessive. But beyond that, no one in their right mind is going to find enjoyment in this match. It’s short, but feels much longer, and is as visually exciting as watching cement harden.
Match #20: vs. Kane (WrestleMania XX)
Why it’s on here: Because you just can’t get enough of Undertaker beating the shit out of Kane, in virtually every match they’ve ever had (seriously, I think Kane has won once, maybe twice … and both times by DQ, I bet). Really, this is on here just for the rebirth of Undertaker into his current incarnation, but still … THREE KANE MATCHES ON ONE DVD?!? Again, I think of the superior matches that got iced to include this recent anti-classic, especially since you can find this turdburger on another popular DVD.
What to expect from it: Cool entrance. Mark-out moment for old school fans. But the match? Punch, kick, clothesline, choke slam, Tombstone. What do you expect from these guys at this stage in their career? UT ain’t no spring chicken anymore, and Kane’s had more then a few knee/elbow injuries to slow down his game.
The watchability: There’s a certain mark-out factor in seeing the entrance, complete with druids, huge torches and the surprise return of Paul Bearer. But the match itself is just not interesting. Nothing you haven’t seen done in any of their 1,274,098 matches prior to this … only this time, it’s all done in arthritic, injury-plagued slow motion! What a selling point!
Match #21: vs. Kurt Angle, WWE Title (Smackdown 2003)
Why it’s on here: Um … um … I got no idea. Kurt has a sit-down, out-of-character interview before it, where he verbally fellates Undertaker like no other, saying everyone in the locker room views Undertaker as (and this is no joke … direct quote here) “the greatest wrestler ever”, and puts over Undertaker’s mastery of “psychology”. That statement might take the place of Monty Python’s Funniest Joke In The World. Side note: this is found in the Extras section, for reasons which are never spelled out.
i>What to expect from it: Kurt Angle, working his ass off, doing whatever he can and then some to make Undertaker look good. Undertaker no-selling a lot of offense, and doing his usual spotty psychology work (ooh, the leg hurts … now it doesn’t!). Angle claims this to be one of his best matches, and thinks Undertaker can give him the absolute best match of his career (he says so in a post-match interview). I say he needs to lay off the crackpipe … or else, share with us fans whatever magic happy dust he’s on so we can see what he does.
The watchability: It’s not bad by any means, but that’s mostly (well, really, all) because of Kurt. Plus, there’s really no historical value or special context for the match; it’s just this random match they picked, for seemingly no reason whatsoever. It’s a curiosity, but if anyone likes it enough to make it repeat viewing, they’re a better person then I.
Disc #3 extras
Yet more promos! First up, a pre-WM 17 promo with Undertaker from the 3.26.01 Raw where he runs down Triple H for taking the night off and shows off his sixteen-staples scar in his forehead. Ugly wound. Dumb promo.
Then, from the 4.29.02 Raw, a loooooooooooooooooooong promo against Undertaker, about how he’s gonna kill Hulkamania again, just like he did in 1991. Um, if you killed it in 1991, how is it alive again? Is Hulk the undead? Is he a Highlander? Or is Undertaker just inept at his job?
A dumb, sit-down interview with Undertaker from the Sunday Night Heat the day of his Hell In A Cell match with Brock Lesnar, where he talks about how he’s the “master” of the match. Yup … he’s the master … even though he’s lost, off the top of my head, 2 (and was neither won nor lost the Armageddon 6-man edition), to Triple H’s 1. I clearly see Undertaker’s superiority.
And, finally, another graveyard promo, this one against Vince McMahon, from the 11.13.03 Smackdown. Talk about mixed signals … he’s the American Badass, talking above graves and being buried alive. PICK A GIMMICK, YA BASTARD!!!
Plus, there’s a couple easter eggs on the discs … one is a piece with Lawler and Paul Bearer, where Paul talks about playing “hide the salami” with Undertaker’s mom. Creepy. Plus, one where Undertaker admits to the fire, but that it was an accident. Those are the only two I could find, and I enjoyed them so much, I forgot where they are. Whoops.