WWE's Undertaker's WrestleMania Streak: Who Was the Closest Superstar to End It?
Hello, B/R members. Buzz is back.
During the past few days, rumors about Undertaker's future in WWE have been increasing. Even WWE's website posted an article speculating the Dead Man's return which is expected to occur prior to WrestleMania 28. Of course, this means that we'll see another superstar attempt to end the streak.
Whether we like it or not, the streak has become a major part of WWE's biggest event during the past decade and it's now considered as one of the most unbreakable records in sports entertainment history. Every year, people will be on the edges of their seats wondering whether the streak will end or not.
As a big fan of the Phenom, I was always against ending the streak. However, I have reached a point where I can accept watching it end as long as everything is done right.
Anyway, I won't give my analysis and thoughts on the superstar who can end it as this is another article for another day. Instead, I'll do things backwards.
Have you ever thought about 'Taker's past WrestleMania opponents? Have you ever thought who was the closest superstar to end the streak? Well, if your answer is yes, then you're not alone here as I always thought about this too. That's why I decided to do this fun slide show and share it with you.
In the next slides, I'll rank the top 10 superstars based on how close they were to end the streak. My criteria took into consideration the chances during the buildup and during the match. Of course, and as usual, such lists are always debatable as many people won't agree with them entirely. But I tried my best to come up with the best list.
All said and done, let the show begin.
Superstars Who Missed the List
Below are the superstars who missed the list. I tried to give a logical reason for omitting them.
Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (WrestleMania 7): This was the beginning of the streak. Back then, it might have meant nothing and I'm sure that WWE weren't even having any slight plans for Undertaker's WrestleMania record.
But today, we'll always refer to this match as the beginning of a legendary streak. Moving on, Snuka was one of the most popular high fliers in WWE. However, at this point of his career, he was just helping younger stars. Therefore he wasn't expected to win.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts (WrestleMania 8): Roberts is definitely one of the most popular and charismatic superstars, and one of the best to never win a WWE Title. Before this match, he had two interesting feuds against Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage (it included a brief feud with Sid Justice). Undertaker turned face for the first time in his career during this rivalry.
Anyway, this match happened to be Jake's last match in WWE (he returned few years later) as it was said he had some backstage disputes with Vince McMahon. So I guess his loss was somehow inevitable. Anyway, the streak was still irrelevant at that time.
Giant González (WrestleMania 9): This match is considered by many people to be Undertaker's worst WrestleMania match. Gonzales had monstrous looks and he might have been considered a threat for Undertaker. He was about to win after using a rag soaked with chloroform, but he got disqualified and Undertaker won (this was the only match that Undertaker won via DQ).
I know that many people might think he should be added to the list. However, I decided against it after a lot of thinking. The match was short and horrible. Furthermore, the streak was just starting and there was still nothing major about it. On a side note, R.I.P, González.
King Kong Bundy (WrestleMania 11): King Kong Bundy was another superstar who had intimidating looks and could have been considered a threat for Undertaker. But he was past his prime at this point of his career.
This was another match that many consider as terrible. Undertaker won and his streak became 4-0. I remember that Undertaker lost his urn during this match, but again, I didn't expect to see him lose as we became more familiar with his character and how he can escape all harms.
Big Boss Man (WrestleMania 15): Interestingly enough, both men were undefeated at WrestleMania prior to the match. Unfortunately however, WWE never promoted this and Big Boss Man wasn't made a threat for Undertaker. Moreover, this was a Hell in Cell match and the Dead Man was the leader of the Ministry of Darkness adopting a more satanic gimmick.
The match was somehow short. Following his victory, 'Taker hanged Big Boss Man in what is considered as one of the most controversial moments ever in WWE. Again, R.I.P, Ray Traylor AKA Big Boss Man (In case you're lost, I'm not referring to this kayfabe incident. He died for real in September 22, 2004).
Mark Henry (WrestleMania 22): I went back on forth on this one, and in the end, I decided to drop Henry from the list. Sure the streak was becoming a major thing and sure Mark Henry was having a brief path of destruction.
However, I couldn't feel he was that threatening. Maybe the current Henry is credible and threatening but this doesn't mean that the streak was in jeopardy back then. Anyway, it was a casket match which is a specialty match for the Dead Man.
The match didn't even last for 10 minutes. I apologize, Henry.
10. Diesel (Wrestlemania 12)
My list begins with Diesel (Kevin Nash). After facing old superstars or mid-card talents, this was Undertaker's first WrestleMania match to feature a true main-event talent. Diesel was among the top superstars in WWE back then.
The rivalry started when Diesel attacked Undertaker at Royal Rumble (1996) costing him a title match against Bret Hart. In revenge, the Dead Man cost Diesel his title match against Hart too after bursting from under the ring and grabbing him downwards. The rivalry continued until WrestleMania 12.
Based on his achievements in WWE and especially his previous WrestleMania match against Shawn Michaels, Diesel had a fair chance to defeat Undertaker and end his streak. However, and prior to the event, it was reported that he was going to join WCW alongside Scott Hall once his contract expires. So I guess this made his win less possible. Otherwise, I would have ranked Nash higher on the list.
The match was nice and it may be Undertaker's first good WrestleMania match. Nash left WWE less than two months later.
9. "Sycho" Sid (Wrestlemania 13)
Sycho Sid was one of WWE's main-event talents and monster heels in the 90s. I'm sure most people don't even consider him when making lists of top superstars in WWE, but he did have his fair share as a top talent.
Before this rivalry, Sid was able to win the WWE Title against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series (1996). He lost it back to Michaels two months later at Royal Rumble (1997). However, he was able to regain the title in less than one month after beating Bret Hart on RAW. He was the WWE Champion (after successfully defending it against Hart) heading into his match against the Undertaker.
This was Undertaker's first ever WrestleMania match featuring a World Title. The match wasn't that good, but it was fine. Sid may have been a monster heel and he did have a somehow solid career, but it was said that he was taking some time off later. So I guess backstage news played a role in the match again.
I'm not basing my rank on those news only, but I think they had their effects. I've even read some reports stating that Sid crapped in his pants at the end of the match, but I'm not really sure about this.
Anyway, Undertaker's win wasn't easy at all as Bret Hart interfered in the match more than once, and the Dead Man only won after Hart distracted Sid. The Phenom became a two-time WWE Champion.
8. Big Show and A-Train (Wrestlemania 19)
I'm still not sure what to say about this. Originally, this was supposed to be tag-team match, and Undertaker's partner was supposed to be Nathan Jones. However, Jones was attacked backstage and 'Taker had to wrestle on his own (it is said that Jones was pulled off the match due to lack of experience).
So Undertaker found himself in a handicap match against two monsters, A-Train and Big Show. This was definitely a disadvantage on his side as odds were stacked against him. By then, the streak was 10-0 so it was indeed a major record.
Show and Train controlled the match early and I thought for a while that 'Taker might lose. However, an injured Jones interfered and distracted Big Show and allowed the Dead Man to hit the Tombstone on A-Train for the win.
A somehow short and disappointing match. But the streak was threatened I guess.
7. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania 18)
Ric Flair was way past his prime in 2002. But hey, that's the Nature Boy and I was looking forward to this match. This rivalry occurred during Undertaker's Big Evil persona (part of the American Badd Ass biker gimmick).
Flair was involved in a story line where he was the co-owner of WWE with Vince McMahon. He wasn't pleased with Undertaker's actions and in the end he attacked him during a match against Rock at No Way Out (2002). Seeking revenge, the Dead Man challenged Flair to a match at WrestleMania. Flair refused at first, but after 'Taker attacked his friends and son, David Flair, he agreed. The feud became personal and Flair lost his power over the company in the process.
In my opinion, this was one of the better matches in Undertaker's WrestleMania history. An underrated match by many fans for sure. The No Disqualification stipulation turned it into a brutal and bloody fight. Arn Anderson interfered and tried to help Flair by delivering his signature spinebuster to The Undertaker.
However, Flair couldn't benefit from this, and in the end, he lost after receiving a Tombstone.
The dirtiest player in the game could have had higher chances in the 80s or the 90s. But still, it was a great match and some people thought that he could have defeated the Undertaker. The streak increased to 10-0 after this match.
6. Edge (Wrestlemania 24)
Edge is one of my favorite superstars ever in WWE. But even an Edge-head like me didn't really expect him to end the streak. Well, I'm not saying that his chances were zero, but that's what I thought during the buildup at least.
Nearly one year before their match, Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank contract (he won it one week before after beating Mr. Kennedy) against the Undertaker after the latter was attacked by Mark Henry following his match against Batista (it ended in a draw).
The Dead Man was injured and he took some time off. During this time, Edge got injured too and needed hiatus too. After the Phenom returned and took care of Henry, he renewed his feud against Batista. However, Edge interrupted their Hell in a Cell match at Survivor Series (2007) and attacked 'Taker to cost him the match.
Next, Edge won the World Title in a triple threat match against Batista and Undertaker with the help of his new partners, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. Next, Taker won a number one contender match to face Edge at WrestleMania.
In the following weeks, the Ultimate Opportunist started bragging about how he was going to beat the Dead Man and end his streak. He had Vickie Guerrero (then Smackdonw's General Manager), Chavo Guerrero and the Major Brothers on his side. The stable was called La Familia.
As I said, I wasn't expecting the Rated R Superstar to end the streak, and I thought that he would lose in a 10 to 15-minute match. However, during the match I was about to change my mind for a while. This was another great match that is underrated by many fans. It lasted for more than 23 minutes and both supers gave us an awesome contest.
Edge countered most of Undertaker's moves and didn't let him control the match. At a certain point, the referee was knocked out and by the time a new referee came in, Edge was able to kick out of the Tombstone. Here is where I started wondering if the Dead Man will lose.
Ryder and Hawkins tried to interfere but Undertaker quickly attacked them and prevented them from entering the ring. The distraction was enough for Edge though as he hit the spear but he couldn't win. Next, he delivered another spear to the Phenom and I thought that the match was over. This only lasted for few seconds though as the Undertaker caught Edge with the Hell's Gate out of no where for the submission victory.
It is interesting to note that Edge entered the match with a WrestleMania streak of his own. The only time he didn't win was at WrestleMania 23 in the eight-man Money in the Bank Ladder match (it doesn't really count as a loss). Furthermore, he was undefeated against Undertaker.
5. Triple H (Wrestlemania 17, 27)
Things are getting more serious now. Triple H and Undertaker faced each others in two WrestleMania matches. I guess that the Game was considered as a true threat to the streak especially in the first match (at least for me). Many other people thought he might win and most of them attributed this to the fact that he was married to Stephanie McMahon (not me).
Their first match occurred at WrestleMania 17. Prior to the match, HHH claimed that he deserves to be added to the main event match at WrestleMania since he was able to defeat everyone. However, the Undertaker (he was the American Badd Ass back then) confronted him and reminded everybody that he never defeated him.
Both superstars had a great match, and at a certain point, they brawled outside the ring and through the crowd. HHH tried his best to win, but even a sledgehammer couldn't help. In the end, Undertaker won following a Last Ride.
This was their first ever WWE one-on-one match. Back then, the streak was beginning to receive acknowledgment and HHH seemed to be a real threat to it. However, the Phenom kept it and increased it to 9-0.
Their next match took place at WrestleMania 27 several months ago. Undertaker made his return on RAW but was directly interrupted by a returning Triple H. Both superstars stared at each others and their match became official. The Game promised to end the streak or die while trying to do so.
Their match was good. I'm ready to agree that many people might have slightly overrated it, but it wasn't horrible. At this point, Undertaker's WrestleMania matches has become more about making the streak seem to be in danger. Both superstars kicked out of each others finishers, and the Cerebral Assasin even tried the Tombstone. But nothing worked and he couldn't keep the Undertaker down.
In the end, HHH brought the sledgehammer to the ring, but before he could do anything he was caught in the Hell's Gate and couldn't do anything but tap out. The streak remained alive.
Which match was better? It's up to you to choose. Which match made you feel that HHH might win? It's also up to you to decide. For me, the first match was better and I really felt that the Game had a chance to win.
4. Kane (Wrestlemania 14, 20)
Kane, the Big Red Machine, is next on my list.
First, let's just forget about the WrestleMania 20 match. Kane had no chance in this match as a returning Undertaker was back for revenge after the Big Red Monster helped Vince McMahon bury the Phenom at Survivor Series (2003).
The Dead Man took care of Kane in a short match that was nothing compared to their matches before. The only good thing was the return of the Dead Man gimmick with Paul Bearer (check the entrance here).
However, in their first match, the masked Kane was a completely different opponent for the Dead Man. He was dominant and he seemed to have the advantage over the Undertaker. Kane made his unforgettable debut at Badd Blood (1997) where he ripped off the cell door and gave 'Taker the Tombstone costing him the match against Shawn Michaels.
Kane was revealed as Undertaker's younger brother. He survived the fire that was caused by the Dead Man himself and that killed his family. Paul Bearer revealed this story after he was the one to introduce Kane.
Following his debut, Kane kept attacking Undertaker causing him too much trouble. At first, the Phenom refused to wrestle his brother. But after costing him the casket match at Royal Rumble (1998) by locking him in the coffin and setting it on fire, the Dead Man returned on RAW leading to their match at WrestleMania. This match had a great buildup and it was one of my favorite story lines.
This was an entertaining match. Undertaker's entrance was probably his best ever. In the end, he needed three Tombstones in order to keep Kane down.
As I said, Kane showed great dominance and, for once, I felt Undertaker could have lost.
3. Batista (Wrestlemania 23)
We're getting closer and closer here, and next on the list is Batista.
While John Cena was enjoying his time as RAW's top superstar, SmackDown had it's own top superstar, and that was Batista.
The Animal was having a successful World Heavyweight Title reign on SmackDown. Unfortunately for Batista, the Dead Man won the Royal Rumble match and decided to challenge him for his title.
During the buildup towards the match, Batista tried his best to show that he wasn't intimidated by the Phenom. As their confrontations increased, Batista was fed up with Undertaker attacking him. He finally got his revenge when he attacked Dead Man at No Way out during their interpromotional WrestleMania tag team main event against Shawn Michaels and John Cena.
This was another great match. The action started quickly as Batista delivered a spear as soon as the match began. The Animal seemed motivated and the streak seemed to be in jeopardy. After hitting his second Batista Bomb in the match, I thought that Batista had the match won. However, the Undertaker was able to win following a Tombstone.
The Animal showed that he was a real threat to the streak.
2. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 25, 26)
For many fans, Shawn Michaels was the closest one to end the streak. However, I think that the number one guy on my list was. But this doesn't mean that the Heart Break Kid wasn't close. In fact, I was lost during both matches.
Anyway, where do you want me to start? Which match do you want me to discuss? It doesn't matter I guess as both matches were great. I prefer their first match because it was the original one. But it was still great to see them follow their first bout with another great one. There's a reason why Shawn is called Mr. WrestleMania after all as he never disappointed in any event.
The Heart Break Kid earned his match against Undertaker after defeating Vladimir Kozlov on RAW. Next, and after the match became official, HBK started mentioning how he was undefeated against the Dead Man. Undertaker said that he might not have defeated him, but he reminded him that the last time they faced (Casket match at Royal Rumble 1998), Michaels’ body was so broken that he spent the next four years recovering.
HBK was able to challenge Undertaker's mind games with ones of his own. The buildup was interesting and fun to watch.
In what is considered to be as one of WWE's best matches, Undertaker won after a very hard fought battle in which both superstars kicked out of numerous finishers. At a certain point, I was lost and I couldn't know when the match was going to end. HBK was a true competitor and the streak was in real danger.
Their second match occurred after HBK kept begging for it. But the Undertaker refused and Michaels' only hope to face the Dead Man was via winning the Royal Rumble. After failing to do so, he interfered in the Elimination Chamber match and attacked the Undertaker costing him the match. This made Undertaker accept the challenge under one condition, if HBK loses, he should retire.
Personally, I wasn't excited about the match at first because I thought that we saw it all in their first match. However, I have to say that this bout was more emotional as it was expected to be Michael's last match. And it really was.
Those were the best two WrestleMania matches for the Dead Man.
1. Randy Orton (Wrestlemania 21)
Yes, Randy Orton is No. 1 on my list and I have many reasons for this. Before I start, let me just clarify that this ranking has nothing to do with all backstage news which reported Undertaker's suggestion to have Orton end the streak. Instead, I have my very own explanation and analysis for this.
Back then, Orton was the "Legend Killer." We all watched him rise with Evolution under Triple H's lead. We all saw him shock us by defeating several legends and top superstars. We all saw him become the youngest World Champion ever. We also saw how he eliminated both HHH and Edge at Survivor Series all by himself.
Orton was able to beat many superstars like Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Mick Foley, Edge and even Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Sure the latter two were able to defeat him later, but we're talking about one match here. The same could have happened to the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Just look at the cocky smile in this photo. That is what Orton was all about, and he was playing his role perfectly. After his feud against HHH ended, Randy Orton wanted to do something big. He expressed his feelings to one of WWE's legends, "Superstar" Billy Graham. Superstar encouraged him and told him "Go where no wrestler has gone before." At the end of the segment, Orton was shown holding a copy of SmackDown magazine featuring the photo Undertaker on its cover.
I'm not exaggerating here, but as soon as I saw Undertaker's photo, my first reaction was "Oh! No! Please don't tell me he'll challenge the Undertaker and beat him!"
Orton announced that he'll challenge Undertaker at WrestleMania in a Legend vs Legend Killer match. He claimed that he would set himself apart from all other wrestlers by ending The Undertaker's undefeated streak. Yes, he mentioned the streak.
He was the first superstar to mention the streak. He was the first superstar to aim at it and put all his focus on ending it. I know it was mentioned and acknowledged in previous matches, but this was the first time in which the undefeated streak would become a major selling point for the Undertaker's matches at WrestleMania. To make things worse, he turned heel again by attacking his girlfriend, Stacy Keibler.
Some people might feel that I'm making a big deal out of this, but let me go on and explain why I thought it would end. I expected this feud to last for a while until after WrestleMania. I wasn't expecting Orton to win the whole feud and that's why I expected him to win the first match. Just like he defeated Shawn Micahaels at Unforgiven before losing to him the next night, I thought he might do this to the Undertaker.
I thought he was going to win and keep bragging how he ended the streak before Undertaker gets his revenge back. He also had his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton on his side. As we came closer to the match, Orton became more confident about winning. He attacked Jake Roberts (a previous victim to the streak) after the latter advised him not to underestimate the Dead Man. This overconfidence was killing me and for the first time, and maybe the only time, I was too worried about the streak (I repeated this before, but it was different here).
During the match Orton showed too much confidence and his father tried to help him. As I watched, I kept wondering what would happen next until the moment I didn't want to see came. As Undertaker went for the chokeslam, Orton reversed it into an RKO out of nowhere and that is the point where I thought that the streak will finally rest in peace.
But No! Undertaker kicked out at two, and after that, I had a sigh of relief as I finally saw 'Taker winning. Orton's cockiness cost him the match later. As he tried to hit the Tombstone, Undertaker reversed it and hit the Tombstone himself.
So let's sum things up. Orton was a rising superstar who called himself the Legend Killer. He defeated some superstars who I never expected he would beat. He became the youngest World Champion. He was the first superstar to directly mention the streak and focus his intention on ending it. He was so confident that he almost made most people believe he would defeat the Phenom like he defeated others before him.
I hope I was able to convince you here. In my mind, Orton was the closest superstar to end the streak.
Twenty-one years ago, Undertaker made his on-screen debut at Survivor Series (1990). Guess what? Survivor Series (2011) is two days away.
Anyway, That was my list. I hope I was able to explain it well. I'll be glad to read your comments and thoughts.
P.S. In case you're wondering why WrestleMania 10 and WrestleMania 2000 (16) weren't mentioned, Undertaker was injured during those events.