The Undertaker’s streak. Many tried to beat it. Monsters like Mark Henry, King Kong Bundy and Giant Gonzalez have tried to crush the Dead Man. They failed. Some have put up championships against the Undertaker, hoping to be known as the great champion that ended the Undertaker’s streak. Batista, Edge and Psycho Sid all put their titles on the line against Undertaker, only to lose those belts they hold dear and become part of the streak. Men like CM Punk had tried to use head games as a means to break the streak, but could not get the job done. Many tried. One succeeded. However, none of the matches came close to the excitement and story-telling than Undertaker’s streak of matches against Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
It was not like none of matches before his encounters with Shawn and Triple H, that spanned from Wrestlemania 25 to Wrestlemania 28, were any good. There were some beauties that the Undertaker took part in against the likes of Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Ric Flair and even Triple H at Wrestlemania 17. However, none of them stole the show quite like the matches in the saga between Taker, Michaels and Triple H.
These matches were usually a thing of beauty but the story-telling of these matches were even more impressive. At Wrestlemania 25, Shawn Michaels was the first man to step up. With Shawn Michaels being almost an exclusive to the RAW brand and the Undertaker being almost exclusive to SmackDown!, these two legends never seemed to collide during the brand split of WWE. However, when the two of them would battle in the Royal Rumble, it was usually exceptional. Undertaker and Shawn Michaels produced possibly the best finish to a Royal Rumble match in 2007. While Undertaker won that particular encounter, Shawn returned the favour by eliminating Undertaker at the 2008 Royal Rumble. At Wrestlemania 25, we got to see Shawn and Undertaker go at it for the first time since 1998… in a match that put an end to Shawn’s career for four years.
Shawn was confident though, particular bragging pre-match about how the Undertaker had never beaten him. The two clashed and it was quite possibly the best Wrestlemania match we’ll ever see in our life time. These men kicked out of everything they could throw at each other. Shawn even kicked out of the Undertaker’s tombstone piledriver which caused Jim Ross to, and I quote, “have an out-of-body experience.” In the end, Undertaker prevailed in what was the match of the night by a HUGE margin. And they weren’t finished there…
Both Undertaker and Shawn Michaels would take a hiatus from the WWE following Wrestlemania, returning in August 2009. Shawn had re-united DX and battled Legacy and Jeri-Show en route to winning the Unified WWE Tag Team titles while Undertaker dominated the SmackDown! roster en route to winning the World Heavyweight Championship. At the 2009 Slammys, Michaels and Taker won the Slammy for Match of the Year. While accepting the award, Michaels issued a challenge to the Undertaker for a rematch at Wrestlemania 26. Undertaker declined, so Michaels would try to force the issue at the 2010 Royal Rumble. If Michaels won the match, he could challenge for Undertaker’s World title and more importantly… the streak. Sadly, Shawn was not able to win the rumble match. Shawn’s life continued to deteriorate, as he was unable to accept his loss to the Undertaker the year before. Michaels’ obsession would lead to Elimination Chamber, where he cost Undertaker the World title. The next night on RAW, Michaels goaded Taker into a rematch claiming that Taker wanted revenge. Taker accepted with one condition… if Shawn lost, his career would be over. Michaels stated that if he couldn’t be Undertaker, he’d have no career and he accepted the stipulation.
While this match was not at the level of their match at Wrestlemania 25, this was still great. It was the main event of the show and rightfully so. Shawn kicked out of everything the Undertaker had and refused to go down. Michaels slapped Undertaker to get him to fight and Undertaker went into a fury. Taker gave Michaels one final tombstone and that was that…. Shawn Michaels’ career was over.
Having beaten Shawn Michaels in two incredible Wrestlemania matches in a row, the question was this… what could WWE possibly do to follow up two of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history? Their solution was to put Undertaker up against the “Cerebral Assassin” Triple H at Wrestlemania 27…
Undertaker and Triple H had faced each other at Wrestlemania before but this one was very special and necessary for a few reasons…
- Their match at Wrestlemania 27 would be a rematch from their previous Wrestlemania 17 showdown ten years before… which Undertaker won.
- It’d make sense for Triple H to try and avenge his best friend Shawn Michaels, who had his career ended by the Undertaker.
- Triple H and Undertaker, like Shawn and Taker, have both been near-exclusives to the RAW and SmackDown! brands respectively. Therefore, they’ve not really had any big programs together for almost a decade. This was unique.
The first match was made No Holds Barred match. This helped appeal to the intensity of both these characters. These men could go all out and they did. It was hard-hitting and it just helped Taker and HHH thrive. This was not like the wrestling masterpiece that the Michaels/Taker matches were. This was a straight up battle. It suited both men well.
This match was also unique in it’s layout. The story of the match was last outlaw of WWE refusing to give up as Triple H was wanting to put him away. It was not like Undertaker and Triple H just had a great back-and-forth match. It was initially, but then Triple H just simply battered Undertaker. He battered him with chairs, pedigrees and even a TOMBSTONE of his own! However, Undertaker still refused to give. Triple H wanted to end things with his trusty sledgehammer, but Undertaker locked on Hells Gate to make Triple H tap and escape with the streak intact. However, Undertaker ended up being carried out on a stretcher. Undertaker won, but it hardly seemed like a victory. This match was the brightest spark during a pretty lame Wrestlemania 27. The ending was also the perfect set-up for a rematch…
While Undertaker had spent the year on the sidelines, Triple H had been through a fair amount of character development. Following Money In The Bank 2011, Triple H would take the reins in WWE as the COO. He had traded in his wrestling gear for a suit as he started doing more paperwork than pedigrees. On an episode of RAW in January 2012, Triple H was about to fire Interim GM John Laurinaitis. As he was doing it though, we heard that all too familiar gong. Undertaker returned, hinting towards the rematch. However, Triple H seemed to take a pass on one final match.
Despite pressure from Undertaker and even Shawn Michaels, Triple H refused to face Taker as he didn’t want to destroy the “brand” of the streak that helped made Wrestlemania such a success. It was great that the build up to this match was also able to tie-in to Triple H’s role as COO as well. Undertaker was adamant about erasing the memory of Triple H forcing Taker onto a stretcher the year before and offered Triple H one more shot at immortality. Undertaker went as far as to call HHH a coward and claim Shawn was always better than him, which pushed HHH over the edge. Triple H accepted on one condition… Hell in a Cell.
This was an appropriate finish to this four year storyline. As pointed out, Taker and HHH had a lot of history inside the cell. A standard match might have not had as much impact. The Cell made more sense from a storyline standpoint. Shawn Michaels was also added to the match as he had the streak in the palm of his hand. The stage is set. At Wrestlemania 28, Taker beat Triple H in the cell to take the streak to 20-0 and end the era which I believe was simply this four year storyline. While a lot of people might not have gotten the “End of an Era” billing of the match, I think it was just this era of Wrestlemania matches which was centred around Michaels, Taker and HHH. Jim Ross was also brought into to commentate the match and did a great job.
Now, I’m going to say something which will not be a popular opinion… I was left disappointed by this match. This was by no means a terrible match. It was not as great as their match at Wrestlemania 27 but it was still a great match. However, there were a few things about it that really hurt the match in my opinion.
The first issue I had with it was Shawn Michaels as the special referee. The reason Shawn gets a bit of criticism is because it wasn’t really made clear what his motivation was leading into this match. It was kind of hinted on television that he was going to screw Undertaker. However, the storyline in the match became about whether Michaels would allow his friend to do what Michaels himself was unable to do or if he would help his friend end the streak of the man that had ended Michaels’ career. Therefore, everything Shawn was doing as the referee was just dead confusing to me. He teased calling for the bell, then he jumped in when Triple H was beating Undertaker with the chair and then he tried to screw Taker himself with the super kick. By the way, that Super Kick/Pedigree spot was the highlight of the night.
The point is, Michaels’ actions just came off as so confusing that it looked for all the world like he was Darth Vader struggling to decide between saving Luke or siding with the Emperor but it was done in such a complicated matter that it took way from his role as referee. There was also the use of the Hell in a Cell itself. Now let me just make clear that I did not expect HHH and Taker to do something crazy like going to the top of the cell. However, HHH said in a promo leading into the match that he and Taker should “go all the way.” To me, it didn’t look like they “went all the way.” It looked like they just did a repeat of the match from the year before, added Shawn Michaels and a Cell. They rarely ever used the cell. I would have preferred it if they just left it to being a singles match with Shawn as the referee. At least then, the cell wouldn’t have limited Triple H and Undertaker.
With that being said though, this was still a great match. The hug at the end was great and it was a great way for this saga to end.