WWE Classic of the Week: Undertaker vs. Vince McMahon at Survivor Series 2003

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2013

Photo Credit: WWE.com
Photo Credit: WWE.com

The Undertaker has a special connection with the Survivor Series pay-per-view.

Yes, he will forever be linked to WrestleMania, thanks in large part to an undefeated streak that will never be matched. But Survivor Series is the event at which it all began for the Phenom.

At the 1990 event, he made his debut in World Wrestling Entertainment, slowly making his way to the squared circle, the funeral march playing him down the aisle.

Thousands of fans looked on in awe as the newcomer entered the ring and proceeded to dominate the competition, which consisted of Superstars such as Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware and Jim Neidhart, before being counted out.

It was not a successful debut for the Dead Man, but it was the start of a career that saw him become the most respected wrestler in the locker room and an iconic figure in the sport.

He continued to be involved in meaningful and high-profile matches and angles at the Survivor Series throughout his career.

The headline match at the 1991 event saw him defeat Hulk Hogan to win his first WWE Championship, shocking the entire wrestling industry in the process. More shocking was the fact that he received a largely positive response from the crowd for his win.

In 1994, he defeated Yokozuna in a Casket Match in the night's main event. A year later, he returned from a severe facial injury to dispose of the entire opposing team in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match.

In 1996, he defeated longtime rival Mankind, and in 2001 he was a key member of Team WWE in a war against the Alliance.

He again found himself involved in a marquee match at the 2003 edition of the show, when he was booked in a Buried Alive match against the owner and chairman of WWE, Vince McMahon.


In 2003, Mr. McMahon wreaked havoc upon the SmackDown brand, targeting everyone from the legendary Hulk Hogan to one-legged competitor Zach Gowen and even his own daughter Stephanie.

At the October No Mercy pay-per-view, he made the mistake of focusing his attention on The Undertaker and preventing him from becoming WWE Champion. He shoved the Phenom off the top rope and assisted Brock Lesnar is retaining the title.

McMahon later stated that as long as he was breathing, the Dead Man would never be champion.

Signs of the boss cracking mentally began to show, as he claimed that he had been chosen, perhaps by some sort of higher power, to bury Undertaker alive. On the October 30 episode of SmackDown, he went as far as to threaten to have Undertaker's house burnt down and his wife gang-raped.

The comment was uncalled for and added little to a story that was already hot enough and had a special gimmick match attached. It did not need the shock value that came along with the threat and did not benefit at all.

Undertaker, on the other hand, cut a promo that did much more to sell the match than any of the weird, over-the-top stuff McMahon did or said leading into it:

On Survivor Series night, I will have worked for this company for 13 years and in those 13 years, Vince McMahon has screwed with me professionally and personally. There comes a time where you have to be held accountable for your actions...even if your name is Vince McMahon.

It was a really strong promo from Undertaker that hammered home what the match between he and McMahon was about.


American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas

Broadcast Team

Michael Cole and Tazz

The Match

The rules of a Buried Alive Match are simple: The first man to bury his opponent alive in the grave set up near the entrance wins.

McMahon made his way to the ring with his hands clenched in prayer, continuing the portion of the story in which he thought a higher power was willing him to end Undertaker by burying him alive.

Undertaker threw the first punch of the match, knocking McMahon down and busting him open. The boss bled profusely early, as the Dead Man unleashed a series of hard right hands about the upper body of the chairman.

Blood literally poured from the laceration on McMahon's head, as the Phenom continued to pound away at his longtime boss.

Undertaker grabbed McMahon by the legs and crotched him around the steel post, then repeatedly punished his left leg by forcefully wrapping it around the same post. McMahon screamed in pain as the crimson mask decorated his face.

McMahon tried to get away from his attacker by crawling across the squared circle, but Undertaker caught him and continued to repay his boss for the last month of torment. He wrapped a camera cord around McMahon's throat in an attempt to choke him out, as the blood flow reached scary levels.

Undertaker blasted McMahon with a monitor from the announcers' table, knocking him over the table and to the floor. "We're just getting started," the Phenom said matter-of-factly before peppering his opponent's blood-soaked face with a few more big right hands.

The Dead Man rolled McMahon into the ring and headed towards the grave site. He grabbed a shovel out of the mound of dirt around it and headed back to the squared circle.

McMahon struggled to his feet, and Undertaker, like a Major League Baseball slugger, wound up and caught him with a hard shot to the face with the weapon, eliciting a huge pop from the audience.

Back outside, Undertaker laid McMahon's leg across the bottom half of the ring steps, took the top half and crushed his ankle in a spot that echoed back five years, when Undertaker and his brother Kane did the same to the boss, resulting in a hospital stay.

The Phenom fireman carried McMahon to the grave site to bury him alive and win the match. He tossed the lifeless body of the WWE owner on the large mound of dirt.

In his first bit of offense, McMahon tossed dirt in Underatker's eyes and earned himself a reprieve. He followed with a low blow and used a second shovel to knock his opponent into the grave. It did little damage, though, as the Dead Man got to his feet and pulled McMahon into the grave.

He attempted to climb into a payloader, but a huge explosion occurred, stunning Undertaker.

Kane appeared and assaulted Undertaker, knocking him into the grave and pulling McMahon out. The bloody owner of WWE climbed into the payloader and dumped tons of dirt on his opponent, picking up the improbable victory.


The match, while not a wrestling classic, was exactly what it needed to be.

There was no way anyone believed that McMahon would be any competition for Undertaker, especially after egging him on by insulting and threatening his family and costing him the WWE Championship.

For the match to truly succeed, Undertaker needed to beat up, brutalize, torture and maim his opponent, which is exactly what he did. McMahon bled buckets and endured a tremendous amount of punishment, and despite the lack of back-and-forth action, the fans ate every second of it up, because it was what they had waited so long to see.

The interference of Kane was surprising, considering the way he had targeted the McMahon family, but given how Vince had treated his daughter since July, it is fair to say he was guilty of the same thing.

While not a classic from a match-quality standpoint, it adhered to the booking leading into it, gave the fans what they wanted to see and set up a major WrestleMania program in the process.

There is not much more that fans can ask from a match.

Historical Significance

The finish of the Buried Alive match at Survivor Series 2003 set in motion the events that led to the return of The Undertaker and the Dead Man gimmick at the following March's WrestleMania 20.

Led to the ring by the returning Paul Bearer, Undertaker defeated his brother at that event and went on to strike fear in the hearts of his opponents.

The return of the Dead Man gimmick came at the perfect time. The American Badass character that Undertaker had been portraying since May of 2000 had run its course, and the Dead Man meant more to the SmackDown brand in terms of attracting an audience and selling tickets than the motorcycle-riding badass did.

Today, Undertaker is considered one of the most respected and beloved performers in WWE history.

McMahon, on the other hand, went on to have matches against the likes of D-Generation X in 2006. Those matches proved to be the last time he saw significant and expanded action as an in-ring competitor.


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