WWE Panorama: 20 Reasons to Love the Rivalry of the Undertaker & Shawn Michaels
Fifty years from now, this world would be a very different place. I have no idea about other things, but we will have a nice time telling our grand children about our world, about our fond memories of life and of course about the pro-wrestling.
I can picture myself sitting in a patio on an easy chair and blabbering about WWE. One of the very few things that I would certainly share with those kids will be a rivalry, which would be etched vividly in my memory even at that time.
It is a rivalry that gave me some of the best moments of my life as a pro-wrestling fan. This rivalry convinced me that I can see a poetry in motion within that ring. It proved me that Pro-Wrestling is an art.
An art, which is rich in emotion, flare, showmanship as any other form of art on this planet. Of course, you know that I am talking about the rivalry of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
Rivalries are a big part of Pro-Wrestling business, in fact, the most important part. It is the basic instrument of story-telling. There are many things that make a rivalry real and enchanting.
A perfect rivalry has great story, ferocity, clash of dreams, clash of legacies and integrities. A great rivalry makes you think about it even after turning the TV off.
It gives you matches that make you breathe faster and mark out like a child. Above all, a great rivalry has heart of its own and it beats too.
If ever any rivalry has met these criteria, then it is The Undertaker vs. HBK. It is one of the greatest rivalries of all time. There are very few rivalries that match this rivalry. But since, there are thousand ways to judge a rivalry, I won't call it a single greatest rivalry of all time.
Anyway, this article may discuss a topic that has been discussed to death already. It may talk about the two most documented superstars in WWE history. But, it will try to give you at least one new point, I promise that.
Therefore, after such a lengthy ado, let us proceed and talk about the 20 factors that have made this epic battle of two legends so special.
Let us start from the very obvious points.
This picture here stands for Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. These legends epitomize each and every thing that WWE Hall of Fame represents.
These two, without a shadow of doubt, have been the two greatest WWE superstars. Think about it and then shout, I said greatest, not biggest.
If HBK was the greatest performer and entertainer of WWE, then Undertaker has been the greatest gimmick and one of the biggest stars this business has seen. They both were multiple-time champions, but that never mattered because they transcended these belts long time back.
Both of them are also two of the most loved superstars of all time. These are the two names that strike a chord with our hearts instantly. Just utter these two names and you feel home, this is how close they have been to us.
It really never gets greater than this. In future, it will never be possible because of the simple fact that there will not be another HBK and the Undertaker.
This factor has two dimensions.
The Undertaker and HBK are the two longest reigning WWE employees and Taker holds the record for longest active contract.
They both have wrestled for over 20 years and spent similar time in the WWE. It is a tremendous fact, especially if compared to other mega-stars.
Together, they entertained four generations of fans. From Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund to Miz, they have seen the WWE championship transiting through generations.
The second dimension is even more amazing. This rivalry dates back to 1995-1996 and is even older than Kane's career.
It was during their Hell in a Cell match that Kane made his debut. When Taker and HBK finished their immortal saga in 2010, Kane was already a 13 year veteran.
There are very few rivalries that have lived on for so many years and still remained special.
In 13 years that they feuded, they had only 6 big confrontations. Heck, Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler had six consecutive matches on Smackdown this year. See the difference.
People may argue that they had few matches. However, whenever they faced off, it mattered. For the first two times, WWF title was on the line. Then twice, it was Royal Rumble spot. Lastly, we have the epic duel at WrestleMania.
The lack of confrontations kept this rivalry exclusive and fresh. Whenever they came together in the ring, it made us wake up and pay attention. This match-up had $ signs printed on it; lack of matches never let the attraction diminish, and the money poured in.
Lack of Focus on Titles
Agreed, that their rivalry was all about WWF title in its first leg. But, it was used as platform to introduce Kane as well. In fact, it was the main motive of two championship matches to build the story between Kane and Taker.
In the second leg, it was all about legacy and respect. It was about deciding who owns the WrestleMania. They had a majestic streak on the line. They put an illustrious career on the stake. And mind you, these two things far transcend any title reign.
What they established is the fact that titles are not needed to make a rivalry prestigious, and it is no small feat.
Unlike any other rivalry, this rivalry saw none getting the upper hand in the scores. In their 4 one on one matches, HBK won the first two and Taker won the later two.
In their two Rumble confrontations, Taker eliminated HBK once and HBK eliminated Taker next time.
Score remains a tie 3-3. It is a beautiful booking to say the least. They kept both the legacies intact, or rather magnified them in the end. Such a score kept all the fans happy and did injustice to none.
No Stress on Heel or Face
I honestly had no idea as to which photo shall I use here. It won't matter anyway, so please discount this one case.
Anyway, apart from first two matches, it never mattered who is playing face or heel. People would have never booed either of them anyway. As I have said here so many times, it was about respect and legacy.
Just to keep the record, Undertaker always played face in their feud. In the first two matches, HBK was the heel. However, HBK got poetic justice in the end.
Undertaker was booed for exactly two seconds, when he came out to pay HBK his respect before HBK's retirement speech.
Even scores, did not I say that before?
Focus on Pure Wrestling Instead of Blood and Weapons
Again, granted that their first two matches were gimmick matches. First was Hell in a Cell and second was a casket match, but even in those matches, wrestling played played bigger part in the course of match than weapons.
What amazes me is their next encounters. They faced off at two consecutive Royal Rumbles and were the last two and the first two, respectively. They had two very lengthy matches at WrestleMania. But, not once did they use any weapon to change the course of match.
They gave us two of the two greatest matches in WM history without a single drop of blood. Just compare it with the HHH vs. Taker duel, and the difference is apparent.
To put it concisely, their matches were more about beauty than brutality. They were an ode to the art of wrestling.
These guys in the photo are The Klique, the infamous real-life stable of WWE. They made life miserable for new superstars, they held creative team for ransom if needed. They created as many troubles as possible for Vince. They had issues with Bret Hart and other veterans, and they harmed them too.
In all this nastiness, there was one guy who stood taller than them. For all their might, Klique never succeeded in messing up with him. It was the Undertaker.
He remained clean in all the backstage politics and took newcomers under his wings. He became the biggest center of power along with Klique, but he had one more person on his side, Vince McMahon.
After HBK received career ending injury in that match with the Undertaker, some interesting things followed it.
It has become a famous folklore of WWE that it was Undertaker, who 'convinced' Shawn to put Stone Cold over at their WrestleMania match. Rest is, as they say, history.
Given these facts, it is amusing to look at their matches in the first leg of their rivalry. Those matches were fought for reasons, where there indeed was more than met the eyes.
There have not been more contrast gimmicks than the 'Deadman' Undertaker and 'Showstopper', 'Heart-Break Kid' Shawn Michaels. If one avoided use of colours then another could have never been more colourful. This analogy was used very well in their WM 25 showdown. Those entrances are special.
Undertaker portrayed a subdued, ruthless and demented zombie where as HBK was a rock star, cocky superstar. Undertaker hardly ever cheated in his career, where as HBK cheated whenever it was necessary.
They often say that contrast colours look beautiful together, I must say that Taker and HBK proved it.
Contrasting Wrestling-Styles: Dazzle vs. Destruction
Along with their gimmicks, their wrestling styles were contrast as well. However, there were few common things too.
Undertaker is one giant of a man. He is the best big-man wrestler of all time. Taker is more of power wrestler, who depends upon slams, submissions and strikes. He is also one of the best pure strikers in the history. He is a punisher and offence is his key.
HBK on the other hand was smaller for his time, yet he carved his way up to the top with his showman style and high-flying abilities. He depended on speed and risky moves to enamour people. He used to take the punishment and keep coming back to frustrate his opponent.
What they had in common is vast array of moves and mastery over the different styles of wrestling.If Undertaker was really swift for his size, HBK had more strength than it appeared.
It was surely a match made in heaven.
Final Promo's of WrestleMania Matches
Both the WrestleMania matches of Undertaker and HBK had amazing final promos. Especially, WM 26 promo surely counts amongst the all-time best WrestleMania promo. It is hard not to get goosebumps after watching them.
Both the times, production crew of the WWE did one heck of a job to put the essence of two such huge legacies in a three-minute promo, and moreover to weave a story out of it.
Here is a link to WM 26 promo. Enjoy it, people. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ceWfiotkGc
How in the blue hell I can keep it off the list?
Shawn Michaels and Undertaker have become the face of WrestleMania. Undertaker has made 19 WM appearances and is still undefeated.
HBK made 17 WM appearances and a dozen of them were matches of the night. These two always gave every ounce of their soul when it come the night of dreams...WrestleMania.
I will not really discuss the two gems of the matches they had at WM 25 and WM 26. To put in simply, WM 25 match is the greatest WM match ever, and WM 26 is the best rematch ever. It really can't be better than this.
Trust me, we are going to need a lot of time to digest a WrestleMania without these two.
When a great wrestling match is delivered, there are several factors that make it possible. In-ring chemistry is one of those important factors. It is based on the trust that two competitors share.
If this chemistry is lackluster, then we can see that two guys in ring are not comfortable with each other. The lack of trust translates into measured moves and the true freedom of wrestling vanishes. It is in such a times, we can hear wrestlers talking to each other and giving instructions.
Undertaker and HBK had unbelievable chemistry. Not once we saw a disoriented flow or a path-hole in the script. These two blinded us to see smaller things.
We never realized the efforts they used put in, so effortless was the display of their art. It is simply the greatest testimony to what I am talking about here.
When a great wrestling match is delivered, there are several factors that make it possible. In-ring psychology is one of those important factors. It is based on the knowledge that two competitors have of each other.
Ring psychology basically is a knowledge of designing offense and counter attacks. I will go into its intricate details on some other date.
Undertaker and HBK are the masters of this art, probably the two best proponents of it in WWE.
If you have watched WM 25 match closely, then I would draw your attention to one particular spot. In the first half, there is a spot where HBK fakes an injury. Taker just shrugs off the referee and continue his offence.
Now, let me take you a little back in time. After Ric Flair retired. Batista and HBK feuded over it. In one of their matches, HBK had faked an injury. Batista fell prey to the trick and lost the match in return.
Now, compare these two scenarios and just clap at the intricate details HBK and Taker had planned for their matches.
Look at the photo here. Taker is looking at HBK with a hint of disdain and HBK is defiant unlike every other rival of the Deadman. Since, HBK asked for it and made Undertaker give it to him, such is the case.
One staredown and it tells you the story. This is the story-telling, my dear.
Undertaker and HBK were the greatest exponents of non-wrestling elements of pro-wrestling, and they just proved it in each of their matches.
HBK's desperate attempt of getting Taker counted out in WM 25 match, his heartbreak after getting eliminated from Royal Rumble 2010, Taker's disbelief after every unsuccessful tombstone are just some of the best moments of classic story-telling.
Emotion is the soul of a wrestling match. This is the very factor that enables fans to connect with the performer and feel the ongoing match.
HBK, as we all know, was the master of this aspect. The kind of emotion he brought to the table was surreal.
The only reason, as to why there will never be another HBK is the very factor: emotion. No heart will beat the same way for wrestling like HBK's did.
Undertaker is no less than HBK in this art, either. His gimmick never allowed him to show vivid emotions. But his subdued ways were highly effective.
If HBK's emotions were sublime, then Taker's were subliminal. Because of these two, this rivalry had a heart of its own, and it did beat too.
HBK Proved Undertaker Human
The greatest achievement of HBK in this rivalry was that he proved Undertaker being a human, just another mortal.
HBK was never intimidated by Undertaker's mind games. In fact, he is the only person, who played some games of his own on The Phenom and got away with it.
Even during the matches, his unreal resilience planted the seeds of doubt in Undertaker's mind. It is also something that has never happened.
This sole fact elevates this rivalry above all the great rivalries of Taker and makes HBK the greatest foe of the Deadman.
Involvement of Fans
The involvement of fans makes any rivalry and match special. Stone Cold vs. Rock and Rock vs. Hogan are the only two other instances, when a match has garnered similar reaction to the duel of HBK and the Undertaker.
The WrestleMania 25 match is the epitome of buzzing crowd. I have watched the match several times to watch the reactions of a live crowd at ringside. It is simply epic.
Over the years, we have invested ourselves emotionally in these two guys heavily and the matches showed the same thing.
During Royal Rumble 2007, HBK eliminated Rated-RKO and turned back. Next was a moment for a life-time as after the gap of nine years, two cornerstones of the WWE were standing face to face in the ring.
Right from the debut of Kane, injury of HBK, WM 25 match, this rivalry is filled with special memories.
Every promo they delivered together, every time they wrestled each other, they created magic, pure magic. They gave us many memories to cherish for the rest of our lives.
However, one moment deserves a special slide, but you already knew that.
WrestleMania 26: A Fairy Tale Ending
This moment, you know, is THE moment.
The Berlin Wall was still intact, US was yet to wage the war on Gulf countries, China still was an isolated country, when these two had made their debut.
I was not even in my nappies (those are diapers, U.S. readers - ED.) and the audience of Cena was living their earlier incarnation, when these made their debut.
Later on, these two emerged as the greatest WWE/F superstars of all time. They were the only people eligible enough to retire each other. HBK knew this fact, and hence, he gave this honor to his oldest colleague in the company.
My generation grew up watching them and loving them. For all the old fans, they were the reason to watch.
Other heroes came and went along, these two remained there. For me, for all the long time fans, HBK's retirement was a huge loss.
However, seeing these two hug each other just made me realize why I love WWE so much. Years will go, but I know that this moment, this match and this rivalry are going to remain the best WWE memories of my life.
No rivalry has ever ended on a greater note.
I hope you liked this article. The only reason I had joined BR was to write on this rivalry one day. Therefore, today I feel complete.
This is also a time for a cheap plug. For all the hardcore fans of HBK and Undertaker, I am happy to tell you that I have written a tribute piece on both of them.
This is a tribute to HBK - Here
And this is a tribute to Undertaker - Here
Lastly, you sure have your reason to love this epic rivalry, I would be grateful if you share it with us in the comment thread.