WWE Greatest Moments: The Undertaker vs. HBK at WrestleMania 26
Being a WWE fan is a lifetime phenomenon and one aphrodisiac experience.
There are many amazing aspects of being pro wrestling fans. But the most beautiful of them is that every pro wrestling fan has a story to tell.
It may be a match that swayed one’s senses. It might be an account of a little kid, who hid after watching The Undertaker for the first time. It might be anything, but without such tales hardly anybody can become a true pro wrestling fan.
Many things have inspired these stories. However, the most common factor to write so sublime scripts is “moments.” Without moments, there will not be many stories to tell, to share and to celebrate.
WWE has given us countless memorable moments. Some moments have taken our breath away. Some moments have inspired awe. And there have been times, when gratitude has found its way through our eyes.
However, once in a generation, there comes a moment that transcends every norm and paradigm. Such a moment does not merely remain a memorable event. It instead becomes an immortal portrait of this divine art.
Such moment captures our entire journey as a fan within few seconds. In times of gloom, in times of anxiety we want to relive this moment. During sleepless nights and on lazy Sunday mornings, we hit YouTube just to feel it once again.
Akin to millions like me, I too have such a moment, and it is the last few seconds of WrestleMania 26.
This article tries to tell a story of those few minutes, and what they meant to me as a fan.
The Moment: A Brief Account
When “the streak vs. career match” was announced for WrestleMania 26, we were all little shocked. Nobody really expected HBK to retire or Undertaker to lose at ‘Mania.
Naturally, it became the most anticipated match in WrestleMania history, surrounded by a month of frenzied speculation and subtle discontent.
As WrestleMania arrived, it was announced that the match will close the night.
The event that preceded main event was decent but it was entirely overshadowed by the anticipation. A strange detachment marred every match prior to the main event.
Finally, everything came to a new life as HBK and Undertaker made their way to the ring.
We had two men in the ring who knew each other completely. We had two wrestlers who shared incredible chemistry and we had two legends who had mastered the art of pro wrestling.
What followed was an exhibition. A flurry of submissions, a tombstone at ringside and a moonsault on announcer’s table and several close calls, everything seemed to happen.
Both countered each other with an instinct that has separated them from mortals.
After the second tombstone pile-driver, Undertaker covered Shawn for the pin. Everybody thought it was over. But, the Showstopper kicked out.
The Undertaker, aghast and distraught, stood over the motionless HBK. If you have never seen a face painted in disbelief, agony and respect, all at once, then that was it.
The sequence, which followed will remain one of most surreal moments in pro wrestling history.
It was a moment when one of the greatest characters broke itself, and perhaps the greatest performer underlined why he is the “main event.”
The Undertaker shouted “Stay down” to the utter disbelief of million fans, and HBK to the shock of Undertaker, rose with labor only to slap the taste out of Taker’s mouth. Furious, Undertaker delivered a jumping tombstone, and covered Shawn Michaels for the last time.
1…2… and 3… many superlatives came to an end as HBK and Taker both lay on the mat.
One of the greatest rivalries, one of the greatest rematches and one of the greatest careers, all had ended.
Blue lights pervaded the arena, as Taker celebrated his victory. But instead of leaving the arena after posing, Taker helped HBK to stand up, and gave him a hug to pay homage to his greatest foe.
As Taker left the ring, all that was left was HBK in the ring and millions of frozen hearts around the globe.
It was a moment that will have a life of its own. It was after all…
A Moment in the Making for 20 Years
As HBK stood there in the ring, waving goodbye to fans across the world, an era had ended. It was a closure to one glorious journey that lasted for over two decades. It was the greatest moment of the careers of two greatest WWE stars ever, who have graced our lives for over 20 years.
Today, when I look back at those seconds, I realize that it took five eras of WWE to create this moment. Careers that lasted for whopping 20 years had converged towards this moment.
The Undertaker and HBK started their rendezvous with glory at the almost same time. They both were contrasting personas and they both were contrasting persons but they shared a similar destiny.
The Undertaker started his career from a top card match and went on to be a top star within one year. He defeated Hogan for the WWF championship before tasting his first defeat.
Since then, irrespective of the title scene, he remained one of the top three stars for 20 years to come. No matter who was on every poster, Taker remained the backbone and the soul of WWE.
HBK on the other hand started from the tag division. He remained in mid card for few years before winning his first title at WrestleMania 12. He then became the poster boy of company in a period that was marked by a slump.
In 1998 he suffered a major injury that almost cost him his career, at the hands of none other than the Phenom. He came back in 2002, to enamor us even more for next eight years.
Secondly, they both remain two of the most powerful backstage personalities ever, but again for contrasting reasons. If HBK was infamous for every wrong reason during pre-injury period, then no person has ever enjoyed more respect of his peers than the Undertaker.
Not so surprisingly, they had their backstage tussles. It took years to heal old wounds, and the mutual respect to bloom fully.
In the meantime, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Stone Cold, Rock, Triple H, John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton all came and went away, but Taker and HBK remained there to carry the company in new eras and forward.
They created new stars; they gave us countless memories and went on to be the two greatest legends of WWE.
They remained central figures of the company for 20 years. They became synonymous with WrestleMania to such an extent, that it will never be same without these two.
It was fitting in the light of those 20 magical years that HBK chose the Undertaker to end his career instead of Triple H.
Together, they had not only defined the company for two decades but they had also defined three generations of fans.
This is precisely why the moment, which was in the making for 20 years, is also…
A Moment That Defined Three Generations
Hulkamaniacs, Bret Hart fans, Attitude era fans, Brock Lesnar’s supporters and Cenation, all have loved their respective idols.
These five eras and three generations of fans have however only had two people in common:The Undertaker and HBK.
No matter if you started watching in 70’s or in the late 2000’s, HBK and Undertaker did not fail to mesmerize you. Between a Hulkamaniac father and his son who belonged to Cenation, these two were common grounds.
They were not only the cornerstones of this company, but more importantly they were the bridges that took us to through the flow of time. They connected the dots effortlessly.
They held our hands, and took us safely to the new era of WWE for freaking four times. When a fan returned to WWE after sometime, no matter who ruled the roster, we had these two to make us feel home.
As Undertaker and HBK left the arena respectively at WrestleMania, it all came to an end.
Three generations of fans were now different to the generation to come. Everything changed in few minutes and for a common WWE fan, a new life started.
It was a peculiar moment, one that happens very seldom. For once there was…
A Moment When Everybody Lost Except the Loser…
Pro wrestling is scripted. We all know that very well. Wins or losses, they rarely matter. And especially for fans there is hardly anything to lose.
Therefore we are not really accustomed to a match, where not only one performer loses, but also the victor and all the fans lose as well.
WrestleMania 26’s ending was such a moment. Every fan of pro wrestling, The Undertaker and HBK all are little poorer and little richer ever since.
I have already stated what we lost as fans. Without the HBK and Undertaker, WWE can never be same for many of us. I need not harp our story anymore.
As the night settled in, WWE had lost one of its greatest performer ever. It would never again have the person who delivered great matches as routine. They lost a performer, who not only gave his best, but also brought the best out of each opponent.
At WrestleMania 26, the squared circled lost its flare. With HBK, a spark reigned over the otherwise ordinary ring. He brought it to life every time he set his foot on it. That ring will never be so alive again without Shawn Michaels.
Moreover HBK took away a portion of the emotion that separated him and Undertaker from others. There can be a million “wanna-be” Shawn Michaels, but they will never have the equally vibrant heart of the showstopper.
The biggest loser was however The Undertaker. He lost his greatest rival. He lost the compatriot, who along with him, completed every puzzle and simply created magic. It does not matter, who Undertaker faces in future, it will just not be same anymore.
HBK lost the match and his career, but with one hug, he took away the dark aura of the Undertaker and made him human forever.
A Fan's Confession
I said in the beginning that every pro wrestling fan has a story to tell. This is mine.
In 1993, at the age of 5, I started watching this addiction called WWE. Throughout next 17 years, regularly or irregularly I kept my tryst intact.
I supported Bret Hart as a child, and then many others. It changed in accordance with eras of WWE. However, two men captured my imagination then and never let it go. They are indeed the Undertaker and HBK.
Through every period, it was because of those two I remained a fan. They stood for everything I have loved about the business. The grandeur, the storytelling, emotion and art of wrestling, those two epitomized them for me.
At WrestleMania 26, I was going to lose either way. I did not however know how the things would pan out. What happened in the closing moments is the dearest memory of my life as WWE a fan.
Two men who mesmerized me for 17 years stood in the ring for one last time. Every memory they had given me over the decade just flashed before my eyes. It was not only a flashback of WWE, but of the three-fourth part of my life.
I am proud to say that I am a fan of Undertaker and HBK.
Without them, I would not have watched WWE. Without them I would have never written here. I only have words for them, that too in plenty. So it my homage to my icons who gave me pristine joy for years, I need to confess that for me, right from that moment, everything has changed.
They have not been the same. WWE has not been the same, nor has my life.
This was my account. I hope you enjoyed this nostalgic tour.
If any writer around here wants to do similar article on his or her memory, feel absolutely free to do it. Let us all celebrate our journey as a fan, and be richer.
Thus, today I am going to request all of you something. Kindly shed all the masks of analysts and share your favorite moments with all of us in the comment thread. No matter, if you have dozen of them, I would like to hear it.
Thank you very much and cheers.