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[2011-04-03-WWE-Wrestlemania XXVII] The Undertaker vs HHH

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NB: I reviewed the Hunter/Takers live, and frankly nothing I come up with now is going to do them more justice so I'll just leave these here.


(Funny how I wrote this five years ago and still came up with the exact same lines to describe the big kickouts in Taker/Shawn last week. I was already using the "Taker never gets enough credit" line as well.)


"“FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS!” I don’t care who you are, coming out to Metallica is totally badass. I enjoyed that. As ordinary as most of the build was, the moment these two guys make their entrances you know that this sh*t is ON.


Now, this match, I can see it dividing a lot of opinions already, but I’m erring on the side of IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE. Utterly, utterly incredible. I LOVED THIS MATCH, just warning you.


Right from the bell they tear it up, within minutes they take their first big bump through the Cole Mine, HHH rolls away but then Taker SITS UP and stares DEATH at Hunter; this sh*t is ON. The brawling outside was great, HHH taking the SUPER BACKDROP was insane, and then Undertaker DIVES ONTO HIS HEAD AGAIN which was insanely insane. This crazy bastard. Then they cap it off with the SPINEBUSTER THROUGH THE TABLE, another great spot. Taker turning this straight around into a BAMChokeslam was great too. As an aside, somewhere around here there was a “19 – 0” chant, which is pretty funny. Enjoyed the Snake Eyes into the AA Spinebuster, as well as the Last Ride tease and eventual completion.


But what made this match was the second half. Hunter trying Pedigree after Pedigree, and when that didn’t work just up and going batsh*t INSANE with chairshots a la heel Austin, finishing off with a momentous headshot (and the blanket ban we’ve had for over a year means that this sure as hell meant something – it was protected but I was still like “Argh!”), all this was incredibly frightening, and I mean that it was frightening as a Streak fan. The Hunter Tombstone was inspired, after all that it was one of the best built nearfalls you ever saw because I was SH*TTING MYSELF. What an incredible moment that was. And even more to the point, Hunter’s reaction, scrambling away like he’d seen a ghost was, with no exaggeration, one of the best sell jobs of anything I’ve ever seen in wrestling. As an entire match spent building to that one single moment it was perfect work, because that KILLED me.


So after throwing every single bomb he could think of, Hunter goes back to the Sledgehammer but gets caught in the HELLS GATE, and he survives it with all his HHHness and almost, almost gets the Sledgehammer shot in, but he fades and he eventually dies and has to tap.


Watching it live, it was one of those matches where halfway through you think “This isn’t anything much” but by the end you’re going nuts screaming at the TV in shock. I felt the same way about the Shawn matches watching them live too. And don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t either of the Shawn matches, but as I said last week nothing else is either. This was an entirely different match, and I tell you it was some of the best storytelling I’ve ever seen. Literally that I’ve ever seen.


And I can see the argument against it, sure; there were too many kickouts and it was all finishers and no transitions, and you knew it would be going in, I think. But I don’t think throwing bombs in itself can discount a story so brilliantly told; in this case, the bomb-throwing is what told the story. HHH went out there as the only guy in the world who didn’t know that he was losing, and he spent 30 minutes throwing everything he could possibly think of at this guy. He put him through a glass box, he put him through a table, he hit three Pedigrees. And when that didn’t work, he went evil and showed the remorselessness that Shawn said was the missing link Hunter needed to show in order to win. He MURDERED this guy with chairs, just killed him dead. So much so that there in the corner he almost looks disgusted with himself, but still determined to finish him off, and then as Taker staggers up and does this pathetically weak goozle, Hunter just pities him and says “stay down”, the exact same way that Taker himself pitied Shawn the year before. At this moment, just like he said on Raw, Hunter believes 100% that he is the Taker to Taker’s Shawn and he’s going to put him down right here and now. So he Tombstones him just for the poetry and KICK. OUT. MOTHER. F*CKER.


F*ck you, Undertaker is a badass zombie cowboy, he will NOT be put down by anyone. So he’s on his back about to die and goes for his last shot – he Hells Gates him and squeezes the life out of him. Hunter wrestles perfectly and has this guy dead to rights with a Sledgehammer in tow, but he gets caught in a sub and thats the ball game. I absolutely loved that they went for such a different finish this time around.


The post-match was chilling. Literally chilling. Hunter passed out and lost but he’d beaten Taker so badly during this match that he was up first. I just about refused to believe that Taker wasn’t legit hurt because, even now writing about it, the idea of Undertaker getting stretchered off is just unbelievable. I cannot believe it. So Undertaker won, yes, but at what price? He had to fight so hard to survive that he literally exhausted himself beyond repair. He was done. These two old legends threw an unbelievable amount of bombs at each other, completely tore each other apart, and now neither of them will ever be the same again.


I say again, this was incredible stuff. All credit to Hunter, he was awesome here, and for the third year in a row Undertaker pulled off an astonishing sell job that he will never, ever get enough credit for. Phenomenally perfect storytelling. There aren’t enough adjectives in my literary arsenal."

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This was a truly boring, boring match. Everything bad with a HHH epic and a Taker streak match. A nothing match with long, drawn out “brawling” with no heat behind them with the match devolving into them kicking out of each others moves. Sure HHH doing the tombstone and Taker pin was cool but that’s one of the few things that I’d consider that was good. HHH was bad. Taker was bad. It went way too long and wasn’t interesting nearly as enough to justify the near 30 minute time limit. *

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The Undertaker vs Triple H - WrestleMania XVII

The beginning of the match was truly something interesting and dare I say innovative. I'd call it highspot brawling. I'd never seen it really done up until this point. They were doing brawling highspots but with minimal brawling in between. It was war of attrition style brawling centered around big time highspots. I really liked how everything was set up as a counter. I think in current wrestling there are too many hits. Each of the wrestlers have BIG TIME Irish Whips that set then up for wanting to do announce table spots. Each time, they thwarted in dramatic fashion. First HHH tackling Undertaker into a Cole Mine explosion and then HHH taking a hellacious back drop off the announce table. The first person to hit a big time offensive move is Undertaker hits his suicidal tope which I am such a mark for. Then it is right back to the counters as HHH hits a Spinebuster to a running Undertaker through an announce table. This ends Act I. I thought this was really lean, mean highspot-oriented wrestling. 

I think Act II was where they dragged but it was necessary to get to Act III. Act II is the worst excesses of Pro Wrestling NOAH with none of its connective tissue. I can at least dig the escalation. Chokeslam vs Spinebuster. Chair is introduced by HHH but used against him. Pedigree vs Last Ride. I will say HHH's moves were better set up because they were true counters and had desperation to them. Tombstone ->1-2-NO! HHH DDTs on the Chair and that sets Pedigree #2. I think the selling especially from the Undertaker was really good in this stretch. He sold how incredulous he was that HHH would not stay down and then sold being concussed really well. This ends Act II and now we go to Act III. 

What separates Pedigree #3 from Pedigree #2 is we all believed Pedigree #3 actually had a chance of winning the match. Now we have entered the part of the match where we actually believe a finish can happen. This is also perhaps the greatest use of WWE Masterpiece Theatre. I think Savage vs Warrior is better, but this is pretty damn great. Undertaker's selling is fucking off the charts. Some of the best selling of all time. He totally has the Old Gunslinger going to out in a Blaze of Glory at the OK Corral down pat. HHH was great at being the remorseless asshole that was basically willing to kill this man dead to win the match. Chairshots were brutal, a protected chair shot to the head. That moment when Undertaker reaches up to choke HHH and HHH does NOT sell. Damn how good was that. How many times have we seen Undertaker use his other worldy powers to vanquish his opponent at the last second. Not today says HHH. Great example of how no selling can be such an effective tool. From there Undertaker has to pull himself up by the ropes. He is staggered on jelly legs with his fists balled up. My God, we are seeing the Undertaker...vulnerable. Fucking brilliant. HHH slashes the throat and hoists him up for the Tombstone nails it! Man Alive that place went fucking nuts! HHH sold it so well. This prompts HHH to get the sledgehammer which is great escalation. Undertaker, The Undertaker, is on his back squirming for the bottom rope trying to pull himself to safety. He is like a giant version of Ricky Morton. Holy shit, selling to another level. Taker gets him in Hell's Gate. Great sell job by Triple H, loved the last ditch pick up of Sledgehammer only to drop it again and then go unconscious. What a finish!

Bonus points for Undertaker's after the match. It is very telling Triple H gets to his feet first and walks away first, while Undertaker lays motionless for quite sometime before collapsing off the apron to the floor in a powerful moment. Then they have to cart the Deadman away up the ramp. Wow! Talk about vulnerability and putting the story over!

Some of the best character acting in pro wrestling history! They take you on a journey through selling that is sublime. The middle drags this down and does not make sense as the brawling spots were higher end than the middle. That's nitpicking that ending is the cinematic journey that Shawn Michaels always wanted to take you on. ****1/2

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