Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Undertaker: The Streak

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 534 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: August 27 2012

Most WWE fans will have heard of something called The Streak. The Undertaker's undefeated record at WrestleMania spanned more than two decades and was truly a phenomenon, leading most to believe that it would never end. That it was snapped by Brock Lesnar at WM XXX was one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history and, whilst most who were disappointed with that outcome reassured themselves that future events would make it that ending the Streak was the correct decision, in hindsight, regrettably it seems like the Streak was killed for naught, making it one of the worst booking decisions ever in wrestling.

This DVD was produced in 2012, at a time when Taker had just gone 20-0. I watched it when the record was still intact, so reviewing it now undoubtedly changes the viewing experience, knowing that the Streak is no more. That being said, it doesn't change the fact that entertainment-wise, this is a very good wrestling DVD.

It opens with possibly the shortest documentary ever produced by WWE: a 37-minute look at the Streak up to that point, with comments from various wrestlers and wrestling people which range from being realistic to being in character. It is watchable, but not something you would want to view twice. From there, we get the first twenty WrestleMania matches involving The Undertaker.

Most know who he beat and when, so let's just focus on match quality. His first win over Jimmy Snuka at WM 7 is short but okay, as is his WM 8 victory over Jake Roberts. The WM 9 DQ win over Giant Gonzales is by far his weakest Mania match, and the WM 11 win over King Kong Bundy is only slightly better. The WM 12 and WM 14 meetings with Diesel and Kane respectively are the highlights of Taker's early bouts, and in between the WWF Title victory over Psycho Sid at WM 13 could be worse, although the subsequent Hell In A Cell match against Big Boss Man at WM 15 was and remains a big disappointment. The post-match hanging of Boss Man is omitted, which I am not disappointed about.

His win over Triple H at WM X7 marks his first great match at the event and, hard as it is to believe now, the result was a surprise at the time (his record wasn't actively promoted at this point). His win over Ric Flair at WM X8 is acceptable, and the WM XIX handicap win over Big Show and A-Train isn't that bad, but the WM XX bout with Kane is lacklustre considering the hype for Taker's return to the original Phenom persona (and his entrance, including the return of Paul Bearer, is spectacular). Speaking of entrances, Taker's theme song Rollin' by Limp Bizkit is dubbed over for Manias X7-XIX, and the latter bout excludes Taker's whole entrance as it includes a live Limp Bizkit performance.

The Streak begins proper with the WM 21 win over Randy Orton as the Legend Killer is the first star to officially challenge Taker's WM undefeated record, which was rarely acknowledged at this point. The match is really good, and whilst the WM 22 Casket match victory over Mark Henry is a step down in quality, it feature an insane dive by Taker and a huge Last Ride and Tombstone. At this point, though, it seemed that the Dead Man was nearing retirement; however, that is disproven by two classic World Title triumphs over Batista and Edge at Manias 23 and 24 respectively.

The Streak really gets energised by Undertaker's two phenomenal matches with Shawn Michaels at WrestleManias 25 and 26. Both are amongst the greatest WWE matches of all-time. Many say the first bout was the better of the two, although as someone who attended WM 26, where Shawn's career was at stake, to me the Career vs. Streak bout is more special. The DVD ends with two truly great matches with Triple H at WM 27 and WM 28. The No Holds Barred match in Atlanta is superb, but in hindsight it's more notable as a set-up for the awesome Hell In A Cell match in Miami.

At this point, when the DVD was completed, Taker is 20-0. CM Punk would be beaten at WM 29 before Brock Lesnar ended the Streak at WM 30. I mentioned this in my review of the WM 28 DVD, but it's worth reiterating here: the End Of An Era clash with HHH should have marked the end for Undertaker's career. Not being able to see UT-Punk at Mania 29 would have been more tolerable than seeing the Streak end at WM 30. The nature of the DVD means that the release is slightly harmed because you know the result of each bout, but watching it now with the Streak having ended makes it odder because the gravity of the later bouts is lessened by the fact that the unbeaten WM record has since been extinguished.

In terms of quality, though, this is a really good wrestling DVD. The early bouts aren't much, to be fair, but the 1996-2002 period delivers some good action, and from 2005 onwards all matches but one are really good or incredible, and the last six clashes were all Match Of The Year contenders. Plus, the two Taker-Shawn matches may be the best in WM history. So, whilst it's disappointing that the Streak has since ended, you should still derive plenty of enjoyment from Undertaker's defence of his WM undefeated record before it was decided to let it Rest In Peace.

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

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