Written by Chris Kelly
Examining The Evolution of The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Excellence and Offering the Best Way to End “The Streak”
The Undertaker’s unprecedented streak at Wrestlemania has taken on a life all its own by this point. Let’s take a look back and analyze the history and possible rationale behind the decisions leading us to the present day domination at The Show of Shows by the Dead Man.
Wrestlemania XVII – vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (1991) – 1-0
All streaks must have a starting point. The Undertaker’s starting point was a hugely influential WWF Superstar named Jimmy Snuka. Snuka gained notoriety in the early to mid-80s as a revolutionary pre-cursor to the innovative, high-flying style that would flourish by the end of the decade and throughout the 90s. In 1991, Snuka was in his second stint with the WWF and had been used primarily to put over younger stars on the rise in the company. He did this the year prior at Wrestlemania VI as he put over “Ravishing” Rick Rude in just under four minutes, so it’s no surprise he would be asked to do the same for The Undertaker, still a young, but imposing, figure in the industry. The surprise may be that Snuka lasted longer with ‘Taker (4:20) than he did with Rude.
Wrestlemania XVIII – vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (1992) – 2-0
Coming off his feud with Hulk Hogan, which included a WWF Title win at the 1991 edition of Survivor Series, The Undertaker received his first lesson in the WWF in true ring psychology from Jake “The Snake” Roberts. This feud featured excellent mic work from Roberts and let UT focus on being the unstoppable zombie his early characterization epitomized. While Roberts had been on a role with recent feuds against The Ultimate Warrior & Randy Savage, backstage disagreements with Vince McMahon led to Roberts threatening to no-show Wrestlemania unless he was released from his contract. Obviously, Vince would not let Roberts defeat The Undertaker under these conditions. Roberts did the job and was released.
Wrestlemania IX – vs. Giant Gonzales (1993) – 3-0
The less said about this one, the better. Basically, a horrible wrestler with an even more horrible gimmick (and flesh & fur covered bodysuit) nearly defeated The Undertaker with chloroform. However, in a rare case of competent officiating, the referee disqualified Gonzales and kept the dead man undefeated at the granddaddy of them all.
Wrestlemania XI – vs. King Kong Bundy (1995) – 4-0
After missing Wrestlemania X, dispatching the fake Undertaker and exacting a measure of revenge on Yokozuna, the one true Undertaker became embroiled in feuds with various members of “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s Corporation, including King Kong Bundy. Bundy, much like Jimmy Snuka, was a Superstar who made his impact in the 80’s boom period and wrestled periodically on the independent scene thereafter. He did return to the WWF for just over a year in 1994-95 and that brief run saw him face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XI. Although still an imposing figure in the ring, Bundy’s best days were behind him and, despite the theft of The Undertaker’s urn during the match, the King fell to defeat at the hands of the Phenom.
Wrestlemania XII – vs. Diesel (1996) – 5-0
This match was The Undertaker’s first bout against true main event competition and the first real threat to what would become known as “The Streak.” After costing each other title opportunities in the prior two months’ PPV offerings, these two goliaths stood across the squared circle prepared to do battle. Diesel had successfully defended the WWF title at Wrestlemania XI, so the perception of the 7-footer as a legitimate threat to defeat The Undertaker was not without merit. However, much like the case of Jake Roberts, backstage politics would come in to play in the determination of the winner in this match as well. Diesel’s contract was set to expire in the coming months, and, instead of re-signing with the WWF, Diesel chose to jump to rival company WCW. Vince McMahon again chose to put The Undertaker over against a departing worker.
Wrestlemania 13 – vs. Sycho Sid (1997) – 6-0
The Undertaker had only one title reign in the WWF prior to this match, and that reign had lasted barely 48 hours thanks to Hulk Hogan. Vince may have wanted to reward The Undertaker for his success over the years by allowing him to have another run with the big belt. Sycho Sid was another popular (at least with the fans, if not with the workers backstage) big man and was bringing the title into The Show of Shows after defeating Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in recent months. However, as dependable as ‘Taker had been, Sid was the exact opposite. He had bounced from WCW to WWF to the indy scene and was making the rounds again. Rumors at the time stated he wanted to take time off from wrestling to focus on a semi-pro softball league he played in during the summer months. Regardless, thanks in part to interference from Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Undertaker secured his second WWF Championship.
Wrestlemania XIV – vs. Kane (1998) – 7-0
Following Kane’s debut at Badd Blood in 1997 (where he cost The Undertaker a victory against Shawn Michaels in the first ever Hell in a Cell match), he embarked on an impressive run of domination not seen in the WWF since, well, The Undertaker. The brothers finally faced off one-on-one at Wrestlemania XIV. If ever an opponent was going to have an advantage over The Undertaker, it would be Kane. Physically and mentally, Kane seemed to know The Undertaker’s weaknesses and, with the help of former ‘Taker associate Paul Bearer, looked to exploit them. Perhaps Kane was never intended to last as long as he did in the WWF. Prior stints as Dr. Isaac Yankem (an evil dentist!) and The New Diesel certainly didn’t inspire much confidence, and the intended run for the Kane character may not have been originally planned to go much farther than the Wrestlemania faceoff with his brother. While Kane has been able to stand the test of time as a character, and has been one of the more dominant big men of the past decade and a half, he wasn’t able to turn his Wrestlemania debut into a victory against The Undertaker, as three tombstone piledrivers secured the victory for big brother.
Continued on page two …
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