Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Undertaker's Deadliest Matches

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 499 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: September 13 2010

On paper, a DVD based on the most violent matches of The Undertaker's career sounds intriguing, especially when it was released in 2010 with WWE at the height of its transition into a PG wrestling product. But while the compilation definitely has its moments, it is more notable for the key matches that aren't included; granted, many of those bouts had been released on Taker's previous DVD Tombstone (which you can read a review of by clicking here), but not having them here greatly reduces the appeal of the set under review.

Introduced by and featuring links from a very in-character Phenom, this stipulation-themed set begins with a fun if dangerous Bodybag match against The Ultimate Warrior from 1991, during which heel manager Paul Bearer's facial expressions and mannerisms are unintentionally hilarious. We then get the first Coffin match (actually the only one, at least where the stipulation uses that name) against Kamala at Survivor Series 1992, and further Casket bouts with Kama and Mabel from SummerSlam 1995 and In Your House V respectively. I'd have preferred the Survivor Series 1994 "box" match with Yokozuna since it was more memorable and entertaining than these two examples, or even either of Taker's Royal Rumble container clashes with Yoko or Shawn Michaels.

In a strange twist of fate, we next get the two 1996 Mankind matches which we should have had on Taker's 2005 DVD, from that year's King Of The Ring (a gripping war that was ahead of its time) and SummerSlam (their famous Boiler Room Brawl which has a shocking conclusion). The first of these didn't actually have a special rule but it definitely fits the violent theme, and the second is a more than worthy inclusion.

One would think that the incoming Attitude Era would bring about a wealth of matches to be featured here, but the next included bout isn't until Rock Bottom 1998, a Buried Alive match against Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is enjoyable (as most Austin scraps during the era were), but where is the first BA clash with Mankind or, more glaringly, Taker's Hell In A Cell showdowns with HBK and Mankind? I know they were released on Tombstone, but they should have been here on a DVD based around extreme bouts, and the HIAC fight with Mankind is arguably the most violent and dangerous match in company history. Nobody could have complained too loudly about repetition had these milestone matches been included.

Another omission is the first Inferno match with Kane, but at least we get the rematch from a February 1999 Raw, which has Vince McMahon on commentary during that odd phase when he appeared to be a villain and a face/heel (since it was unsure who was in which role during his Taker feud) at the same time. We then get two Raw matches from 1999 against Big Show which don't have stipulations and are therefore unreleased filler, although the finish of the May '99 match is violent and the end of the June '99 was very memorable at the time.

Inexplicably, the next match on the DVD isn't for a whopping five years, completely leaving out anything from his biker phase, including his phenomenally bloody and brutal HIAC match with Brock Lesnar from No Mercy 2002 (incidentally, it'll be interesting to see whether Taker and Brock can live up to this standard in a PG environment when they meet in the Cell again at HIAC 2015). Worse still, the next bout is one of the most baffling main events ever, the simply ridiculous Concrete Crypt showdown with The Dudleyz from The Great American Bash 2004; sure, it lives up to the theme of the DVD, but the story behind it is odd and the finish of the match presentation is nonsensical.

We don't get the first Last Ride (hearse) match between Undertaker and JBL from No Mercy 2004 (during which JBL claims to have suffered the back injury that would eventually end his career), so next up is a surprisingly entertaining Casket match with Heidenreich from the 2005 Royal Rumble, featuring cameos from Snitsky and Kane (incidentally, there were plans at one point for the Brothers Of Destruction to team at a WrestleMania for the first time against Heidenreich and Snitsky at WM 21; this didn't happen, but as we instead got Taker vs. Randy Orton at that year's Mania, which properly began the importance of Undertaker remaining undefeated at WrestleMania, I think it's safe to say that we got the better option in that deal).

Speaking of the Legend Killer, he pops up next to face Taker alongside his father Cowboy Bob Orton in a handicap Casket match from No Mercy 2005, and again in singles action in what I consider to be a highly underrated Hell In A Cell match from Armageddon 2005, and one of the highlights of this DVD. Following this, we jump ahead to the summer of 2006 and a Last Man Standing match against The Great Khali, which was originally meant to happen at that year's SummerSlam but was instead moved to the pre-SS SmackDown for unknown reasons.

We then get two matches against Mr. Kennedy from Survivor Series and Armageddon of 2006, under First Blood and Last Ride rules (the first of these, by the way, features an incredibly brutal steel chairshot by Taker to Kennedy; you definitely won't see anything like that in WWE nowadays). Taker's celebrated 2007 rivalry with Batista is showcased by a great Last Man Standing bout from Backlash 2007, although if we're talking major stipulation matches, I'd have preferred to revisit their superior HIAC match from that year's Survivor Series.

Oddly, we then get a random SmackDown match from 2008 against Big Daddy V, which has no stipulations whatsoever (although it does officially debut the Hell's Gate submission hold that Taker uses to this day). The DVD ends with a really good Cell match with Edge from SummerSlam 2008 and a better-than-expected Cage match with Big Show from a December 2008 episode of SmackDown. There are no bonus features, although there are two Easter Eggs in the form of the pre-match hype videos for the two 1995 bouts by left-clicking twice on the corresponding matches in the DVD menu.

This is a hard DVD to grade. On the one hand, I did enjoy it a lot, and it was fun to get variety in the match stipulations and situations. It was also refreshing to see an Undertaker DVD with no connection to Taker's WrestleMania Streak; as important as it was, it was only in 2005 that it became an annual storyline, as noted earlier, and Taker had not only enjoyed a great career before then, but he also had many memorable moments beyond this date outside of WM, some of which are featured or referenced here.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of glaring omissions, made worse by the number of bouts here which are filler, ridiculous (in the case of the Concrete Crypt match) or inferior to those of a similar stipulation which aren't included. Besides those I've already mentioned, there's also the 2002 Ladder match with Jeff Hardy, a 2003 Buried Alive scrap against Vince and a 2008 TLC bout with Edge, as well as plenty of others (the DVD timeline ends in 2010, so the likes of Taker's HIAC meeting with Triple H from WM XXVIII obviously aren't here either).

This is one DVD where I feel the repetition of matches was necessary, because it feels very incomplete otherwise. I can certainly see why WWE did not overlap content between this and Tombstone, but this is one of the few DVDs where I feel it should have been the case; we could have at least had the KOTR 1998 Cell showdown with Mankind. Therefore, I will state that this was a very enjoyable DVD, but the unquestionable gaps bring the overall rating down a level.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

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