Even if the WWE won’t acknowledge their first true WrestleMania match, Triple H and The Undertaker have had two encounters at “The Grandest Stage of Them All”. Both were well above-average matches and told two completely different stories. Last year's match, the second of the two, was the best because of its storyline and the utilization of in-ring psychology, in comparison to the straight-ahead brawl that went down in the first match. Let’s take a look at both matches in better detail.
The back story to this match was that Triple H had defeated everyone in his path. During a fit of bravado on Smackdown, he said there was no one left for him to beat.
Undertaker (in his BikerTaker mode) took exception to this, and told Triple H that he “would make him famous”.
After weeks of one-upping each other, culminating with Triple H filing a restraining order on The Undertaker on behalf of his wife, Stephanie McMahon, the Undertaker went to his brother Kane to take Stephanie hostage and force WWF figurehead William Regal to make a match at Wrestlemania.
The match became a co-main event on arguably the best WrestleMania card in history. Triple H entered as Motorhead played his theme, “The Game”.
Through the passage of time, I forgot just how bad Motorhead's lead singer, Lemmy, was, as he either mumbled, repeated the same verse, or just made up words to his own song.
Undertaker made his “American Bad Ass” entrance, complete with the motorcycle. I admit, I kind of miss that version of the 'Taker.
The match starts on the outside, with referee Mike Choida in charge, and within seconds a table is already broken. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman are on commentary, and Ross makes it a point that Undertaker is 8-0 in his WrestleMania matches.
This could also be the first time that WWE made reference to the streak.
Early on, Taker no-sells Triple H’s high knee to take control. After going back and forth for bit, Taker takes control and teases “Old School”, but is denied when Trips pulls him off the ropes.
They brawl for a bit and Taker gains the upper hand, but is quickly stopped with a facebuster.
HHH goes to the floor to retrieve his trusty sledgehammer. He telegraphs a shot, but Choida grabs the hammer from his hands.
Trips isn’t too pleased with these turn of events.
Triple H grabs Taker and goes for a Pedigree, but Taker reverses it, and slingshots HHH into the corner where Choida happened to be.
Taker then hits a chokeslam, but Choida only makes a two-count.
Apparently, the count was too slow for Taker, so he attacks Choida and lays him out for the next 10 minutes or so, making for the longest recorded ref-bump in wrestling history.
The fight then spills to the floor.
It somehow reaches the sound guys and their platform, and Trips nails several nasty chair shots in the cramped confines.
He goes for one more, but Taker reverses it into a chokeslam off the platform onto perhaps the softest padding I’ve ever seen for what was supposed to be a heavy-hitting spot.
It doesn’t help matters when Taker lands an elbowdrop within full sight of the camera.
They brawl back to the ring, where Taker spots the hammer and stalks Triple H with it in hand, but HHH nails a low-blow to turn the tide.
HHH grabs the hammer, but Taker counters the assault with a big boot to the face. As both men reel, HHH goes for a Tombstone, but Taker counters into one of his own.
He gets it off, but Choida is still down from the earlier attack (he was literally on the ground for about 10 minutes).
Choida finally wakes up, but again gets off only a two-count.
Taker sets up the “Last Ride”, but Triple H counters with the hammer he grabbed while being hoisted up, and gets a two-count of his own.
After kicking-out, Taker retreats to the corner, followed by Trips, who ascends to the second rope and starts landing some blows.
Undertaker picks him up, gets him in the “Last Ride” position, nails the move, and finally gets the three-count.
Taker gets the win and is 9-0 at WrestleMania.
Analysis: It was a very good match, but they seemed more interested in selling a brawl than telling a story; however, it stands out as one of the best straight-up brawls and grudge matches in WrestleMania history. At the time, the fact that The Undertaker won by hitting only one finisher felt right, but now, after his battles with Shawn Michaels and HHH, it seems anti-climatic, and a bit of a let down.
Bottom Line: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Excellent brawl.
The Setting: WrestleMania XXVII from The GeorgiaDome from Atlanta, GA (April 3, 2011)
Similar to their last meeting, the back-story here was that Triple H again destroyed everyone in his path, and his only interest was ending the Undertaker's streak.
Way to put over the rest of the roster, Trips.
This is one of my main issues with Triple H whenever he returns: He always put himself on a lofty pedestal and looks down at everyone else.
Sure, he’s paid his dues, and was easily the top performer in WWE in 2000, but he has a way of burying the rest of the roster that annoys me.
Triple H had a pre-introduction where dressed in his “King of Kings” garb, surrounded by warriors holding shields. The lights go out, come back on, and he did his usual entrance.
Undertaker came out very slowly to his music, excellently building the tension.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler announced the match, and the incomparable Scott Armstrong was the referee.
After a brief stare-down, the bell rings, and the match begins.
The men battle briefly before winding-up outside.
They brawl, and Taker dis-assembles the Spanish announcers' table. HHH used the distraction to drive Taker through the Cole Mine that Michael Cole used during this period.
Triple H retreats to the ring and Taker sits up old school, finally getting back in the ring.
They exchange back and forth until Taker hits his vintage jumping clothesline to gain the upper hand, and just like X-7, Taker teases “Old School”, but is pulled off the ropes by HHH.
The brawl continues on the outside, where Trips throws Take hard into the barrier.
Trips then dis-assembles the regular announcer's table while Jim Ross freaks out because of his proximity to the action.
Trips drags Taker to the table and sets up a pedigree on top.
Taker powers out of the hold, and goes for a chokeslam, but HHH powers out of that and attempts another Pedigree; however, Taker reverses this into a backdrop and Trips goes crashing onto the floor.
While Trips is selling the effects of the backdrop, Taker enters the ring and does his Dive over the ropes onto Triple H.
It is my opinion that he should really stop doing this move at this point because it’s just too dangerous, and it really isn’t needed anymore. Each year it looks like he’s going to break his neck when he tries it.
While Trips is selling the dive, Taker sets up the ringside steps and slams HHH onto them. Taker then goes for a Tombstone on the steps, but Trips slips out.
They exchange fists, and then Taker drops down off the steps and charges Triple H, who is still standing on the steps.
HHH uses Takers momentum to pull off a sweet Spinebuster through the Spanish announcers' table.
After an extended period of time, both guys get back into the ring where Taker hits a surprise Chokeslam for the first pin attempt. HHH kicks out at a two-count.
Undertaker is trying to set up the Last Ride, but Trips drives him into the corner.
Trips works over Taker in the corner, and Taker lifts him up for the Last Ride again, but HHH slips out.
HHH goes for a pedigree that Taker slips out of, and then Taker lifts Trips up for a Snake Eyes in the corner, attempting to follow that up with a running attack, but Trips reverses it into a Spinebuster for another pin attempt (Taker 1, Trips 1).
After the kickout, Triple H goes outside to grab a chair, but takes too long to set up a hit, and Taker counters the attack with a boot to the face.
He hits Trips with the chair and waits.
He goes for another shot, but Triple H dodges the attack and manages to hit the Pedigree for another pin attempt (Trips 2 Taker 1).
After the kickout, Taker slumped into the corner and Trips presses the attack. Taker again goes for the Last Ride, hits it successfully (which won him WrestleMania X-7), and goes for the pin (Taker 2 Trips 2).
Taker sells frustration, playing the crowd, and signals his throat slicing gesture.
He hits a Tombstone for pin attempt (Taker 3 Trips 2), again sells frustration, sets up the chair and goes for another tombstone, but Trips fights his way out of it and nails a DDT on the chair instead.
Both sell the effects of the match and slowly make their way to their feet; it’s great psychology.
Once back to their feet, Triple H hits a jumping Pedigree (it’s the best way to describe it) and goes for a pin attempt (Trips 3 Taker 3).
It should be noted here that Scott Armstrong’s cadence during the counts is perfect for this match; it only adds to the tension.
After the kick out, Triple H hits another Pedigree (his 3rd) for another pin attempt (Trips 4 Taker 3).
Trips sells frustration and grabs the chair, hitting nine chair shots to Taker’s back and yelling for him to stay down.
Armstrong joins in and asks if Undertaker can continue.
Taker slowly gets to his feet, fully selling how hard it was.
Trips charges with the chair and hits a headshot to drop Taker again.
Trips again tells Taker to stay down.
While he’s yelling, Taker grabs him by the throat. Trips slaps him hand away, and waits for Taker to get back to his feet.
Once he finally gets back up, he challenges Trips to come at him.
Instead, Taker charges Trips, HHH ducks the attack, and hits a Tombstone for another two-count (Trips 5 Taker 3).
As an aside, the way that spot went and how Armstrong counted it, I really thought that the streak was over. It was well done by all involved.
Trips sells disbelief when Taker kicked out.
Both of these guys are so good in the psychology department.
While Undertaker is still suffering from the Tombstone, Trips goes to the outside to get his trusty sledgehammer. He comes back to hit Taker with the hammer, but Taker springs up and locks the “Hell’s Gate” gogoplata. Trips drops the hammer, momentarily finds it again, and drops it as he starts to fade from the choke.
He finally tapped out and brought an end to an excellent match.
Post-match, both guys sold injuries.I thought it was funny that Triple H was selling his arm when a gogoplata is actually a choke. Taker actually collapsed and had to be carted off.
Analysis: An absolutely great match from two master storytellers.
Even the third man in the ring, Scott Armstrong, performed well in this match.
It was an interesting match in that, after the initial flurry, they would hit a big move, and then react. They continued this until the climax when Triple H hit the Tombstone. From that point forward, they slowly concluded the match with the tension-filled submission.
The match easily saved the show as nearly every match underperformed; the drama these two created was something special. After review, I’m totally looking forward to their matchup this year.
Bottom Line: 5 out of 5 stars. It told a great story and goes down as one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history.
Looking back at these two matches was a lot of fun.
The first one was a great brawl from the best WrestleMania in history.
The second match was the best match on the card in a disappointing WrestleMania.
Before watching their match from last year, I was struggling with the idea of a third Mania match between them, and while I disagree with the setup (Taker not wanting to be remembered by being carted away), I believe these two will deliver another quality match.
It’s only the second trilogy in WrestleMania history, and deservedly so. The Hell in a Cell match will easily be one of the better matches on the card.