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The best of The Undertaker


tiger_rick
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Couple of reasons for this. One is he's obviously topical at the moment so I've been thinking about him and the other is I've listened to some old SCG timelines of late and they really don't like the guy as much as I do.

So what do you think of Taker? When were you most a fan? What are his best bits? Have you soured on him and from when?

To answer myself, I look back on him pretty fondly. I was a fan of the character from the first time I saw it. I've got to be honest and say the slow motion matches, the whacky stuff like dying and going to heaven, the matches with shit, fat heels never bothered me at all in the early-mid 90s. I just always enjoyed seeing him. I really liked the Foley feud, was chuffed to see him finally get a run with the belt in 1997, liked the Kane stuff and then was massively into the Austin build for SummerSlam 98. So the ministry angle, which I still hate, was the first time I didn't like him. The next would be during the invasion - by which time I was a smarky twat.

Best bits - His best match with Michaels is his best work by miles and miles. The one at Badd Blood '97 obviously. It's a near-perfect cage match with a wonderful build and an incredible finish. I'll be alone in this but I really love the Royal Rumble '94 stupidity too. It's a pretty unique angle for the WWF at that time even if you ignore that he "died". His return at Judgement Day in 2000 was something I was well into too. I liked that Biker gimmick too until I started to get uppity about his squashing guys like Kurt Angle. The match with Bret Hart at Rumble 95, the Brock Lesnar feud and his later stuff with Michaels, Edge and Batista were all good too. Abiding memory though is probably the entrance at the Albert Hall for the Battle Royal show which just sold him as one creepy bastard.

I've never really soured on him on the whole. Didn't like the ministry, the brothers of destruction run in 2001, him and Austin in 2002 or most of his work since the streak ended but none of it sours my opinion that overall, it's a big thumbs up.

What do you think?

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There's probably no other character quite like The Undertaker for making me feel absolutely ancient. I remember being scared shitless of the guy when he started. I couldn't even watch his entrance or listen to his music or anything like that. I would've been around 7/8 when he first came in and yeah, some of that early stuff with bodybags and all that really got to me.

He's the one that has really evolved over time along with my life. He became one of my favourite wrestlers, I loved his theme once they did the guitars etc, and he always seemed to have the ability to move with the times and adapt and change and never lose respect like some others did. In fact that love from the crowd only got stronger and he developed into a 'big time' Wrestlemania guy where he was expected to have the best match on the card a lot of the time, which is strange considering how limited a worker he was for quite a while, although that was undoubtedly by design.

That Judgement Day return remains one of the coolest things I've ever seen in wrestling and I still go back and watch that over and over. The excitement is just off the charts there. Obviously with a career that long it has had ups and downs and there's significant amounts that I can completely ignore - mostly to do with 'monsters' trying to come in and best him or the bazillion matches he's had with Kane. Some are okay obviously but I don't need to watch THAT many and I'm not a huge fan of hokey stuff.

When people wonder why I still love wrestling and I'm still so into it, I can look to a 'feud' like Taker and HBK and it's such a multi-layered journey of two legends crossing paths numerous times over the years that you can only get from sticking with WWE for so long. You rarely get payoffs like that in other methods of storytelling because they rarely run so long. Even to be in a position where his entrance alone is probably something people would pay to see speaks volumes of the guy.

I've never soured on him as such. He's gone up and down in my favourites for sure but he's always been right there offering something that very few others can. It's such a rare case of a gimmick completely 100% working and a guy being able to have such a lengthy and successful career. It's part clever booking, part hard work and dedication to character, and probably an awful lot of luck along the way too.

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Taker is my all-time favourite. Apart from a short time in the early 90s when I liked Warrior more, he always has been. For sentimental reasons, I think he probably always will be.

It's hard to say when I was most a fan, because he's kind of always been there. My favourite Taker period is probably 96-98, from the Mankind feud through to Highway To Hell - but I wasn't watching at the time. 

I'd probably go with the early 2000s. I was well into the Limp Bizkit biker, and then the Big Evil heel run, and thoroughly bought into the hype of the Dead Man returning in the first few months of 2004. The WMXX match was a massive let-down and he just looked like a Hugh Jackman/Van Helsing cosplay with his big coat and bigger hat, but WWE brought out the Tombstone DVD boxset and I got to catch up on most of the highlights I missed. The retrospective 'decade and a half of destruction' era would be my technical answer.

Best bits? Hell In A Cell with Michaels, HHH at WMXXVII... various iconic moments.

But the correct answer... it's the entrance. God knows they drag it right out these days but at its best (again, thinking 96-98, but also the bike at WM X-Seven, the Johnny Cash entrance) it's the greatest spectacle in wrestling. It just takes one gong and I'm in goosebump city. I'd lose my SHIT if I ever saw it in person.

I have soured on him a little bit, if I'm honest. He's Funked it a fair amount in the last few years. The Streak ending was a perfect time to disappear - maybe for a while, maybe for good. Coming back for a shite Wyatt match narked me off. Then Roman beats him and we get an elaborate, drawn-out leaving of the hat and coat in the ring. Perfect send-off. Then he rocks up again and that whole thing just becomes confusing. Then the Cena squash and the Saudi stuff and I'm honestly not that bothered if he doesn't turn up again. He's still my favourite, but I'd rather not have him back unless it means something.

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I think in '97 and '98 he was the absolute tits. He'd been humanised enough that he didn't feel like a cast-off of the Hogan era, but still had an aura. The Ministry gear, and the forked goatee, was the best he'd ever looked, the best entrance theme he'd ever had, and he was having shit hot matches with Shawn Michaels and Mankind. 

The all too brief heel biker run is a favourite of mine, mostly because it stands out - he wasn't mixing it up with the main event talent all that much, but he also wasn't being used as the go-to guy for a new "monster" the way he was for most of the '90s, and again the mid-'00s. He was having midcard matches with everyone from Jeff Hardy to Tajiri, and seemed to have a new lease on life, particularly after an interminable run as the babyface biker that took in all the Invasion shite, and him turning into a flag-waving All American Boy post-9/11. It carried over into his subsequent babyface run, with the Hell In A Cell match with Lesnar being particularly excellent.

 

Massively soured on him by the time he was a part-timer. Not because he was a part-timer, but because of the amount of melodrama around him. The melodrama and pomp of The Undertaker should come from his gimmick and his presence, not from contrived, self-indulgent "END OF AN ERA" matches with Triple H.

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He's my all-time favourite, no-one else will ever get near him in my eyes (not even Tatanka). I started watching WWF back in 1991, and his whole Gothic schtick properly appealed to me. As a kid who was into darker, more horror stuff than most of my classmates, he was the guy for me.

The only time I've soured on him has been since the Reigns Mania 33 match, he should have called it a day and rode off into the sunset, not dragged himself through nothing matches with Rusev and Cena and then embarrassed himself vs Trips and DX. The fact that he was saying in one of those WWE 24 Network specials that he didn't want to be the old guy going through the motions and not walking away has soured me on him slightly.

Best bits? Where to start... the HIAC match with Shawn in 1997, matches vs Angle (No Way Out 2006 is a blinder, one of my favourites ever). The HBK series at Mania 25 and 26. The ladder match vs Jeff Hardy. The Mania 23 match vs Batista that was so much better than it had any right to be. The whole run with Edge is one of my favourite feuds of the 2000's. His Summerslam 1992, Mania 9 and Mania 29 entrances. Far too many to count.

When the Streak ended, it did genuinely feel like my childhood had finally ended. It took me days to come to terms with that.

 

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Huge Undertaker mark. Him v Hogan got me hooked on wrestling in the first place.
First thing that springs to mind is his stuff with Mankind - Undertaker had been having terrible matches with the likes of Bundy and Giant Gonzalez for seemingly forever so his matches with ol' Mick were great because he was really able to show what he could do and they featured brawling the likes of which WWF had not seen before.

Apart from that, any of is stuff v Hogan and Warrior just because I was a kid newly into wrestling and it was like super heroes colliding in my mind.
 

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Ahhhh Taker.

I don't hate him, or even dislike him. I think my general feeling of coldness to him ties in to when I first got heavily exposed to the WWF as a kid - 1992 and 1993, right after he's turned babyface for the first time. As iconic as he is for so many people, he was a split for me right away, because I loved the character, the entrance, his squashes, but his big matches bored me to tears. Obviously I was too young to think about wrestling critically at any level, I'm just enjoying it, but Undertaker matches and, at times, Yokozuna matches, were the first ones I remember fast forwarding. Oh, and Honky Tonk Man/Greg Valentine Vs. Bushwhackers from Mega Matches 1990.

So as a result, I don't have a deep underlying affinity for him based on initially thinking he's amazing. It's always been a reserved, "Cool, it's Undertaker". I remember enjoying the casket match with Kama at Summerslam a lot. I loved his feud with Mankind as a kid, mostly because I couldn't believe he lost and I was seeing him truly struggle to beat his opponent in the big match, which he typically always did. But these type of things were surrounded by things that, as a youth, I just thought were a bit shite - the Undertaker/Undertaker deal, or the phantom of the opera mask after Mabel popped him in the eye - things I'm being told, in fact yelled at, by Vince McMahon, are incredible, when even I as a young 'un thought were not, and was at least perceptive enough to spot that the audience wasn't always convinced either.

Taker from the Mankind feud through to Summerslam 1998 I thought was a blast. Hot matches, a relevance due to being in the thick of the title picture that it really felt he lacked for too long, and great story stuff with Kane and Austin. After that, the character and quality between the ropes goes in the toilet for a while.

I was all in on the reinvented Taker in 2000. Fresh opponents, a cool look, he's interesting again. I think I believed my feeling about this lasted longer than it really did, because in hindsight, it was only five months later when I was sick of him. The less said about 2001 the better. Even his heel phase in 2002 I didn't really care for, because even though he did some good stuff, it had this vibe, so close to the death of WCW, of an old guy getting a megapush when there was a litany of potential top guys, fresh blood, sitting there waiting.

But let's not ignore how great that run-in was at Judgement Day. My God that still gives me goosebumps like few things I've ever watched.

There are things Taker has done that have been brilliant. But there are so many times, as Pat says, where the WWF/WWE thinks that by screaming that things are epic because its the Undertaker, it will override the fact it isn't. That's wrestling promotion, that's not a bad thing, it just stands out more with him than almost anybody else, though Triple H is close, because they go so far in the direction of trying to mythologise something, oftentimes while it's in progress, that it creates a disconnect. Its something that the hamfisted Vince has struggled to keep a handle on as fans have gotten smarter. Way back when, when something was hot, the announcers would genuinely belt out some line that captured the moment and made it out to be historic. And because it was organic, it worked. But once that stuff became part of the formula to try and made it so, it's not effective any more. I remember when they did a video on Raw after Mania 28 on the Taker/HHH cell match where they have a cast of big stars putting over the match, including JBL saying people will remember it as the greatest Mania match of all time or some such bollocks, that was obscene.

But when Taker is in the right scenario, right guy, in the right angle or match, and you do feel it, he can be as good as anybody. Him Vs. Angle in 06, his match at Badd Blood with Shawn is my favourite cage match of all time, the builds to Highway to Hell and the first Mania match with Kane still blow me away. Both Hell in a Cell matches with Lesnar are really good, his Mania matches with Orton, Shawn, Punk, Edge and Batista are an absolute riot. The first two HHH matches at Mania are a blast as well. He's such an odd one, because there are times I'll be an enormous Taker fan because he's cool, kicking ass and doing something great. Then other times you'll be left colder than a witch's tit with these fucking shills grinning at me saying, "Wasn't that great! Like nothing we've ever seen, unbelieveable!"

Edited by Liam O'Rourke
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I used to hate Taker, but all of that came from that 1994-1996 period where he was plodding around against the likes of Kama, IRS, The Executioner, Bundy and others in some of the worst matches of the period. It was really his feud with Mankind which perked my interest in him a bit but it seemed like by 2001 he'd gone again and I hate the ABA character until he turned heel briefly. I'd say the first time I really loved Taker was his first Mania match with Shawn and from there on he was the highlight of each years Wrestlemania for me.

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For me The Undertaker's legacy has really been tarnished by Lesnar ending the streak. It done nothing for nobody in the grand scheme of things.

There was no need for it to go down the way it did. Perhaps if they didn't ruin Bray Wyatt, his entire crusade could've led up to ending the Undertaker's streak and you'd have a young guy made for life.

But the past few years have been a struggle watching old, knackered Taker limp around. He should've went out on some kind of high by either retiring undefeated or passing the torch.

 

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Ministry Undertaker is 100% everything I need and want from wrestling. I know he was on his arse and his hip or ankle were giving him shit to the point where in most of 98 and 99 he was walking like a scarecrow come to life, but the departure from everything that had come before it, that sort of cartoon (no bad thing) sci fi evil-but-good-but-maybe-not type thing with the purple and grey, the big hat, funeral march and a guy with a pun for a name as his manager to going outright fucking evil cunt fully in jet black Spawn clobber kidnapping people, trying to drain them of their blood, hanging cunts from cages and that theme going from Era I Mortiis to full on funeral doom. Absolutely loved it.

I've always been surprised people didn't think much of him, but given the quality of matches he was having with total bags of bollocks for so long I can understand it. Thing is, for me I remember after first getting into wrestling one of the first things I remember hearing about was Undertaker scaring the shit out of Kamala and him just fucking off into the crowd which my head could not get around. There was this guy so scary people refused to face him. Mesmerised before i'd even seen him, and then once I finally got a tape me and my dad for the first time were enjoying the same thing, even if his reason was largely because Paul Bearer sounded like a guy at his brother in law's job causing him to wander round the house going

"JOHHHHHNNNN THOMPSON"
 

in that voice.
 

Best stuff is, as mentioned, with Michaels. Watchable all through 96 to Fully Loaded 99. After that it's more or less single matches or short storylines rather than long periods. American Badass has aged terribly for me, but still got a lot of time for that Judgement Day comeback. Not sure I could ever sour on him, but I wish he'd packed it in after the streak ended.

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I'm the one guy in the world, apparently, who doesn't like his interminably long entrance.  Much preferred "Rolling, rolling" and coming in on the bike.

I genuinely preferred him when he was Biker Taker, this ageing badass who threw fists and rode a hog.  The match with Angle stands out as my favourite, plus he had some wars with Lesnar.

Once he went back to the supernatural Taker, I really lost interest in him.  He undoubtedly had some belting matches with HHH and HBK but the character was just SO hokey, and the guy liner did his credibility no favours.

Despite the near miracle of a cage match with Lesnar a few years ago, everything since the Streak has been a mistake, just undoing his legacy as he transforms into one of those fat, balding old wrestlers who you just feel kind of sorry for.  I wish he'd retired straight after losing the Streak.  Somebody who's close to him should have told him to hang it up.

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