WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering JBL vs. Undertaker at No Mercy

Alfred Konuwa@@ThisIsNastyFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

From WWE.com
From WWE.com

The year was 2004. The place was East Rutherford, New Jersey. The event was WWE's SmackDown-branded No Mercy pay-per-view. 

Tag team specialist turned top heel John "Bradshaw" Layfield had entered his fourth month of an improbable run (lasting nearly one full year) as WWE SmackDown's Champion. 

Creativity stayed out of the way due to the simple TV booking used that often leads to bloody gimmick matches. The gimmick matches worked because they emphasized JBL's brawling, which was the only above-average aspect of his work rate. 

No Mercy was not an exception to this effective formula. JBL and Undertaker were to face off in the first-ever Last Ride match. The match stipulates that the winner load the loser into a hearse. The results are not official until the vehicle drives away. 

The violent main event was basically a 20-minute seminar of how not to adhere to wrestler safety. 

Unprotected shots to the head were abundant and blood flowed like wine. A well-paced match stuck with the script as fan apathy turned to intensity. 

After 10 minutes of pomp and circumstance, JBL started things off with aggressive striking at the 10:13 mark.  During the prolonged entrances, Michael Cole was at his hyperbolic best, saying "we've never had a match like this in the history of the WWE." 

Sure we have. This was a Casket match with wheels.

It wasn't long before Undertaker began to dominate, hitting a chokeslam just over three minutes into the match. By 14:29, Michael Cole had already said "vintage Undertaker." Twice.  

The then named Continental Airlines Arena was not buying Undertaker's offense as he continued to pummel JBL. Either they were burnt out at the end of an average pay-per-view, or they were sitting on their hands waiting for the gimmick finish. 

Cole and then-color commentator Taz tried to cover for the awkward hush, describing the crowd as "shocked" by early match developments. 

The crowd came alive at the 16:09 mark, as Undertaker began taking the table apart. JBL finally seized an advantage following a stiff shot to the head with the steel stairs. Heat began building for JBL as the crowd showed signs of life for the first time. 

JBL's assault continued back in the ring through the 19:03 mark when JBL connected with an awkward flying shoulder bump. Undertaker suddenly caught JBL in a Hell's Gate, which the announcers scrambled to describe as an "armbar on the head."

The submission might as well have been applied to the 10,000 in attendance, who emotionally checked out almost immediately. 

The two veterans forced fans back into the match at 23:12 when their brawling spilled into the crowd.  Due to a mixture of proximity and action, fans could be heard cheering loudly when the cameras followed the savvy workers into a sea of chaos.  "Over here!"  chants began to develop amongst the jealous observers from opposing sections. 

The manufactured lightning in a bottle didn't escape for the rest of the match. 

Undertaker hit a tombstone on the steel stairs at 25:12, drawing feint "holy s---" chants. JBL, third only to Ric Flair and a Freddy Krueger victim in the bleeder department, was busted wide open.  

JBL got back into the match with another stiff shot to the head, this time with a steel chair. Undertaker quickly rebounded with a chokeslam from the English announce table to the vaunted Spanish announce table. 

While Undertaker looked to put JBL away by loading him into the hearse, Jon Heidenreich made a surprise appearance from the back hearse. Heidenreich used ether to incapacitate Undertaker before forcing him into the automobile. A camera inside the hearse showed the Deadman sitting up, with the crowd fully behind him.

Undertaker mounted one final comeback attempt before being overwhelmed by a Clothesline from Hell from JBL. The duo tossed Undertaker into the hearse yet again. Heidenreich pounded the roof three times for good measure as Layfield picked up the win at 31:20. 

A screaming Paul Heyman was revealed to be the driver of the hearse as he urged his latest hoss to drive a Ford Bronco right through it. Heidenreich did just that, with Paul Heyman gleefully hissing "you did it!" as No Mercy signed off. 

The match itself was well-received by many critics. Wade Keller of the PWTorch referred to the match as a "really good brawl" although he described the finishing sequence as "lame." 

The event contributed to a $6 million increase in live gate revenue that quarter as JBL's productive heel run soldiered on.   

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