Wrestlemania 34 is well in the rear-view, but there is one milestone that may have gone unnoticed amidst the smoke-and-sports entertainment of the event. According to WWE.com – which means “take with enough grains of salt to commit mass snail genocide” – The Undertaker’s WM 34 squash of John Cena marked his 100th PPV victory in the history of the company.
This feat is, much like the Deadman himself, otherworldly. The well-noted wear and tear on the bodies and minds of pro wrestlers is just one thing to make note of with this. On the presentation side, the WWE of course has more PPVs a year now than they perhaps ever have, but given the WWE’s, ahem, “inconsistent” booking of the last few years, getting enough wins on those numerous PPVs can be a bit more difficult than one would think.
None of this takes away from and only adds to the impressive feat the Phenom has been able to accomplish. Of course, he’s been here so long and has done so much, some of those big money matches have been lost in the shuffle. What better way to celebrate the occasion than looking at some of those big PPV matches? Here’s a memory jog of a couple of contests that deserve to be unearthed from ‘Taker’s vast match graveyard and a couple others that you may be interested in knowing even existed.
1. Vs. Kurt Angle, Fully Loaded 2000
Not every match on this list is ‘good,’ I will say. While this won’t be only time Angle appears on this list, this was the first time these two legends ever locked horns. Angle wasn’t quite a legend yet, though, and this match actually didn’t help. A month or so earlier, Angle was involved in a Wrestlemania triple threat match also involving Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Those other two men would face The Rock and Triple H in main-event billed matches at Fully Loaded 2000, with Angle billed as being in a third big match facing ‘Taker.
The match itself doesn’t even sniff eight minutes, with Angle getting tossed around and beaten up the entire time. This was terrible for the emerging star and it made literally no sense for ‘Taker to have gone over as dominant as he did. Anytime a guy breaks up a pin on his own in a match, you know the guy beneath him isn’t in his league. This happened during this contest and had Kurt Angle not been Kurt Freakin’ Angle, we might be looking a back at this match today and calling it a burial.
2. Vs. Rob Van Dam, Vengeance 2001
Vengeance ’01 is most remembered for, rightfully, Chris Jericho becoming Undisputed Champion by defeating Stone Cold and The Rock within the same hour and don’t you forget it. Undertaker and Chris Jericho have only ever faced off once in their entire illustrious careers. There is at least one other man who can lay claim to this, despite being seen as a perpetual upper-card talent: Rob Van Dam. This match is the only time the Deadman and the Dam Man would lock up, mano-a-mano.
For the match itself, Van Dam did every big Van Dam spot that we have become accustomed to, but those will never go out of style, will they? The Chair Surf, the Rolling Thunder, all of them under hardcore rules. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? This match was for the Hardcore Championship. That title is modeled after literal trash was the binding factor that got these two locking horns. Ain’t wrestling great?
The match actually has some of that traditional crazy hardcore match pacing and doesn’t really let up, ending when ‘Taker chokeslams RVD right off the stage through a pile of tables. It’s not the greatest match and is probably forgotten about because of the Hardcore Championship’s involvement despite two star-powered names, but it very may well be the greatest WWE Hardcore Championship match of all time. Go figure.
3. Vs. Kurt Angle and The Rock, Vengeance 2002
Huh. Lookit that. A match that only took place six months after the last on this list, yet still called the same event. And there’s Angle again. Will the strangeness around the Undertaker ever cease?
Factiousness aside, if you enjoyed the fast-paced and hardcore influenced Attitude Era style matches, you will love this contest. Weapons don’t feature as prominently, but the rate of action could make a heart explode. The fact that it was for the WWE Undisputed Championship was just a bonus. It was sandwiched between Rock/Hogan at that year’s Wrestlemania and the coronation of Brock Lesnar that SummerSlam probably contributed to its place amongst the forgotten annals.
The match was the apex of the previously mentioned ‘Big Evil’ gimmick, with ‘Taker winning the Undisputed Championship from the same man he won his first title from in Hulk Hogan. Rock and Angle staked their claim for the gold and the #1 contendership (including Angle making ‘Taker tap the fuck out), leading to the three way brawl. At one point, every man starts hitting the other with the other’s finisher. Ever thought you’d see Undertaker hit an Angle Slam? The furious pace doesn’t let up after that, reaching a climax that saw Undertaker lose his coveted title to The Rock.
4. Vs. Edge in a TLC match, One Night Stand 2008
Tucked in the middle of Act II of Undertaker and Edge’s 2008 series that also consisted of a criminally underrated Wrestlemania 24 main event and perhaps the last true Hell in a Cell match at SummerSlam a few months later, it is not hard to see why this one is forgotten. This doesn’t mean it should be all overlooked, though.
A match not typically associated with the Deadman, the contest was where Edge’s Ultimate Opportunist gimmick reached unparalleled heights, as the entire match and stipulation that if Undertaker lost he was banished from the WWE, which all came about because of Edge’s relationship with Vickie Guerrero. To help support him and sneak in wins, Edge was also flanked by Chavo Guerrero, Curt Hawkins, Zack Ryder, and the most pointless wrestling character of all time in Bam Neely. All of them would make run-ins in the match proper, giving ‘Taker every excuse to put everyone and their mother through tables.
Unfortunately, putting everyone though tables gives Edge enough recovery time even after being given a bloody Last Ride through a pair of stacked tables. This allows him to dump ‘Taker off one of those huge ladders through four tables on the outside and claim the vacant title. It is not as story driven as their later encounter, but is still an incredibly important part in the arc and it really is impressive just how much these guys’ bodies can take.
5. Literally any of his matches against Big Show
Not counting Survivor Series Elimination matches, Elimination Chambers, or Royal Rumbles, The Undertaker has locked horns with The Big Show seven different times on PPVs across nearly twenty years sharing the same roster. The most prominent of these contests was their, er, interesting (yeah, that’s it, interesting) Wrestlemania 19 encounter. The big guy shares this number of matches with both Batista and Edge, putting them all behind Steve Austin’s ten and Kane’s staggering-yet-still-reasonable-considering-their-connection thirteen.
However, all those other opponents at least gave us some kind of memorable match or series. His aforementioned Hell in a Cell with Edge is well-remembered, as is his entire 2007 run against Batista. Undertaker was at his Ministry apex against Austin and later the dynamic would shift with the Two-Man Power Trip, and damn near every ‘Taker/Kane match is remembered for some reason or another.
But none of his Big Show matches are. That’s partly a shame, because these are two big guys who know how to work. It is only partly a shame because as good as we know both these guys are, none of their matches have truly been any kind of decent, which is strange. These are two big guys who are usually paired up against other big guys to make them look good, yet they haven’t seemed to be able to do it for each other. A cruel irony, but it doesn’t really tarnish how either man is remembered.
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