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  1. Well, if we can be sure of something this year of uncertain times still, is that there won't be another Taker match at Mania. I wanted to do this for a while now, and since I'm living in "almost-lockdown" (I mean, why go out when everything is closed and there's a curfew after 6pm anyway), I figured this was the perfect time to revisit Taker's infamous Mania Streak and beyond. And try to decipher what was so special and fun about it, or maybe what was actually pretty bad about the whole thing too, as it's quite a bumpy ride to say the least despite a narrative that would make you think Taker at Mania was always that awesome event it became in the later years. Also, like I said before I basically became a pro-wrestling fan 30 years ago and the timeline begins a few months before the debut of the Undertaker in 1990. And I stopped being a fan of WWF (then) in 1999, about at the time the Undertaker, who had been from the very start one of my absolute favorite characters, really became kinda unbearable because of the booking aspects of you-know-who. Over the years I have seen all these matches already, I'd say the first third as they happened, the second third after the fact and the last third as they happened again as I slowly went back to at least watch Mania again at the turn of the 2010's. I have tried to watch this with the most open mind possible (and that include not being clouded by whatever my feelings may be about the politics of Mark Calaway), like it was a discovery, or at the very least a re-discovery. I realized I totally undersold some of this stuff. I realized some was even worst than I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised by some and pretty underwhelmed by others I thought were better. And since it's all about Taker at Mania, I'm going to have my own little streak consisting on rating whether it worked (win) or not (loss). So. GONG !!!!!!!!!!!! Chapter 1 : Mean Mark Callous is a zombie WrestleMania VII (1991) : Undertaker vs Jimmy Snuka Hey ! Everybody’s favorite girlfriend murderer Jimmy Snuka is already in the ring. You know what that means : JTTS. Interestingly enough, Gorilla was calling him the Phenom still, which is how Taker was gonna get called in the futur. I don’t see what was so phenomenal about Snuka in 1991, apart from the fact the wasn’t in prison for homicide. And so there it is, Taker’s first Mania appearance, redhead as hell and looking like Mean Mark in a Western movie undertaker gimmick. Walking a bit too fast compared to his mortuary pace later on. Honestly, for all the talk about the Fiend being ridiculous, Taker in 1991 was cartoony as fuck, especially with Paul Bearer making completely ridiculous over the top facials and evil wails and moans. Tons of reaction shots from kids who are supposed to be scared, although some look bored instead. We’re still deeply in the 80’s Hulkamania aesthetics. The gimmick is great though and Calaway does a terrific job with the way he moved and carried himself. There was this interesting contrast between his immobility and the way he delivered his offense, in a very sudden, snappy way, which really was unheard of for a huge guy like him. And this match was all about getting over the gimmick still, although we’re months after his debut on a PPV, so it’s a bit odd they did not have something more interesting for him. I mean, he did beat Dusty Rhodes during Survivor Series already. Snuka gets jackshit, as Taker barely registers anything he does. The flying clothesline comes off as a super impressive spot, again, almost shocking for a guy his size. On the other hand, no rope walk, no chokeslam (he was doing kind of a Big Boss Man version of it then, grabbing people as they ran into him), which is kinda odd as he was already doing all this in regular squash matches, so although Snuka bumps around quite a bit (and pretty well too), it’s a less impressive outing than a usual Superstar squash honestly. They also manage to screw up the spot where Snuka gets catched from a springboard dive (which they were doing on house shows) and Taker actually has to put him down before getting him up for the Tombstone, so there goes the big highspot of the match. So there, basically a less impressive squash than usual on a guy who had been a JTTS for a while now, six months after his much more impressive debut two PPV’s before (and that's in the era of only four a year)... with the big highspot pretty much blown. Can’t really call that a success. 0-1
  2. WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker - No Mercy 2002 Hell In A Cell If you described this finish of this match, most people would think you were describing a murder scene. Undertaker was drenched in his own blood and was spilling blood all over Lesnar. Brock was covered in Taker's blood by the end of it. 2002 was a pretty underwhelming year, but featured some of the all time best bladejobs in pro wrestling history. This match and the Nagata/Murakami match are the standout matches for 2002 to me. I don't yet, which I would place on the top of the heap. Violence is never been the strong suit of the WWF. Character-driven wrestling and Clash of the Titans is where Vince buttered his bread. Occasionally, he dipped into championship wrestling with Bret and out of control brawl with Austin. Austin's out of control barroom brawls are fun and entertaining, but they are not violent in the same way this is. This really feels like two men trying to maim each other very much in the vein of a southern blood feud brawl. It really is something different and something that Brock Lesnar excels at. Brock has proven to be so versatile in his criminally short first run on the the WWE roster. In this match, he plays caged animal to perfection. At first, he is discombobulated and confused by the nature of the Hell In A Cell. He is young and inexperienced. Perhaps he has even bought into The Undertaker's mythos. This is Undertaker's boneyard. He tries to fight, but also tries to escape. There is a real sense of desperation. Taker is confident, but Taker is a veteran and knows how dangerous Brock is. Brock is stronger and quicker than him. He is virtually unbeatable. How many wrestlers could say they have that dual edge on Taker. Taker has his experience, his ability to withstand punishment and brutality on his side. Throughout the match, Taker almost never gained a fair advantage on Lesnar and was always using something to sustain that advantage. I loved the duality of the cast. Undertaker's hand had been broken twice in the lead up to this match. The cast covered up a weakness for the Undertaker. Remove it and he is vulnerable. With it on, he had a weapon. It was this weapon that scored the first big blow in this war. Brock was sent reeling and was busted open. Paul E. was awesome with his shrieks of horror outside the cage. Taker laid down a savage beating on Brock using the cage, steps and cast at will. But Paul E. got to him. He just could not resist kicking Paul E.'s ass. One big boot into the cage sent Paul E. flying and he bladed. Then he got by the tie and pulled him into the cage repeatedly. I loved the spot where Brock went flying in trying to take advantage of the distraction only to eat the cage and send Paul E. flying. It was the perfect punctuation on the Taker shine. I loved that old school efficiency. You get the punctuation mark and you move on. It never lingers. Brock catapults Taker into the cage. He immediately pounces and throws Taker around. Nobody, but Brock could manhandle Taker this way. It is scary strength. My favorite spot of the match is Brock and Paul E. tying the belt around the cast hand and Brock going to town on the cast. It is so violent those swings ultimately snapping the belt. I loved the struggle over trying to rip off the cast. When he does Brock becomes cocky, he is swinging from the cell roof like Tarzan kicking Taker's ass. Without his cast, Taker pulls out another wily trick: the low blow. Again, Undertaker needed an underhanded tactic to bring Lesnar to heel. Lesnar is so great at heel selling and the style that reeks of cowering and desperation. Being more afraid to lose than you want to win. Big bumping Brock came out here with a crazy bump off a big boot from the apron into the cage. Taker hit a suicide dive, but it backfired as it took a lot out of him. Brock BLASTED him with the steps twice. I mean he fucking smoked him. Taker came out bleeding an absolute gusher. Between this and cast, I thought this a perfect example of a caged animal becoming extraordinarily violent. Up until here, the match was perfect. It does lose some points because Undertaker is able to use the bad hand to hit some rights and gain an advantage, which kinda sucks. I did like the finish run of Brock teasing a big move and Undertaker countering with a big move only to have Brock kick out. I hated the ref not counting because Brock grabbed the rope, when it was established pinfalls counted on the floor. That is shoddy. Undertaker having to level up each time to finally the Tombstone, which had the crowd going crazy was great build. I loved the tombstone reversal into Brock hositing Taker into a F5 from a totally awkward spot. One F5 and it was over. Oh how I long for this efficiency! Writing this review, I think there are enough details that marr this match to stop from being my choice for 2002 match of the year and I would have Takayama/Ogawa over it too. However, this is easily, the 2002 match of the year. It is crazy to think that Brock Lesnar in his rookie year as champion had a WWE Match of The Year where he was the dominant force in the match. What is there left to say other than BROCK ROCKS~! ****1/2
  3. I honestly thought this was really good. If it wasn't for those last minute botches, this wouldn't get nearly as much hate. In fact I'm not even sure those spots were actually botches. A drained, bloody Goldberg collapsing while going for a tombstone made sense as did the jackhammer not being perfectly executed (it turned into a Hashimoto style sheerdrop brainbuster which I would actually consider to be a bonus). I'll admit the finish was a little too anticlimactic though. Expecting a fluid, fast paced, flawlessly wrestled match was silly. This was exactly what it should have: a gritty, ugly heavyweight slugfest between two past their prime heavy hitters. The snake eyes to spear transition to get Goldberg back on offense was really good. Both threw some great strikes as well. ***1/2
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