Thursday, 8 September 2016

Undertaker 15-0

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 183 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: March 17 2008

The undefeated WrestleMania Streak of The Undertaker was truly legendary. Before Brock Lesnar ended it after Mania XXX, the record had turned into one of the true highlights of each WrestleMania, mainly due to the outstanding performances by Undertaker and his opponent. In 2012, WWE released a DVD covering the first twenty matches of the Streak, and the final six matches of that release are almost all classics, illustrating just how vital a part of WM that the Streak was. (You can read my review for the 20-0 DVD by clicking here.)

It's easy to forget, though, that The Streak wasn't always a priority for WWE and, in fact, it wasn't until Taker's 13th Mania match with Randy Orton that the undefeated record was first used as a selling point. Therefore, this DVD, the first on Taker's then-perfect WM record, charts his first fifteen battles on the grand stage, and the combination of the reduced importance on his winning run for so many years and the limitations of the original Undertaker character's ring style, not to mention his generally large and cumbersome opponents, make this less of a guilty pleasure than 20-0.

Beginning with a near-squash win over Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VII, the second bout against Jake Roberts from WM VIII is alright, though by no means a classic. (There's a story behind that match: Jake really wanted to leave the WWF and Vince McMahon said no, so Jake said he would no-show Mania VIII unless he was guaranteed a contract release afterwards, which is what happens - and Jake regrets that stance today. Also of note is how he was asked to allow Taker to kick out of his usually-devastating DDT, so Roberts ensured that he took a long pause before covering him after DDT #1, and he went after Paul Bearer after hitting DDT #2, before Taker recovered and beat him. Well, you know what they say: never trust a snake!)

Match three is Taker's worst WrestleMania match ever, although that's down to the extremely limited Giant Gonzales being his opponent. It's a cool spectacle, but as a match it is pretty poor (some say it was the worst match of what they consider the worst WM ever, which is an unwanted honour to have), and the finish sucks too; it's the only WM match that Taker won on a technicality. Taker vs. King Kong Bundy from WM XI is slightly better, and it's worth pointing out how Vince McMahon, on commentary, is the first to acknowledge Taker's unbeaten record at that stage.

Taker vs. Diesel from WM XII is very good by the standards of the time, and shows that despite criticisms of Kevin Nash and his work, his performances were strong as he was preparing to leave the WWF (Diesel would have arguably the Match Of The Year with Shawn Michaels at the subsequent In Your House). Taker vs. Psycho Sid for the WWF Title at WM 13 has its moments but is a substandard main event overall; not helping its cause was having to follow the classic Bret Hart-Steve Austin Submission match, and the craziness involving Shawn Michaels "losing his smile" which partially led to this happening (Shawn on commentary buries Bret Hart more than he focuses on the match itself). Side notes: Jim Ross on commentary also acknowledges Taker's perfect record thus far, and this is the last occasion where Undertaker wore his original black-and-grey attire.

Moving into the Attitude Era, Taker vs. Kane at WM XIV culminated the superb storyline between the two brothers, and their match is a strong big-man affair. Taker vs. Big Boss Man at WM XV, on the other hand, is the worst Hell In A Cell match ever; a plodding affair which didn't even come close to matching previous HIAC classics (Big Boss Man being hung afterwards is thankfully removed). Much better is Taker vs. Triple H from WM X-Seven: it's a great brawl, and part of the reason why WM X7 is considered the best WWF/WWE supershow of all-time. Afterwards, JR emphasises that Taker is now 9-0 at Mania.

Taker himself acknowledges his winning run after he vanquishes Ric Flair at WM X8 in a fun No Holds Barred match. That being said, it still felt like Taker had passed his prime, which explains his low-card position for a Handicap match against Big Show and A-Train, which is okay but nothing more. Taker was meant to team with Nathan Jones (who?), but WWE took him out of the match due to his lack of talent, although he pops up just before the finish here. Taker vs. Kane at WM XX marked the return of his Phenom persona (I should have pointed out that Taker's character morphed into the American Bad Ass, a biker, from 2000 to 2003) and has a great entrance, but the match itself is an anticlimax, lasting less than ten minutes.

The Streak finally becomes official at WM 21, due to Randy Orton (the Legend Killer) vowing to beat Taker at the 2005 WrestleMania so that he would have killed the winning record. The match is really good, but had it been given a few more minutes, it may have ended up being a contender for Match Of The Year. Which is more than can be said for Taker vs. Mark Henry at WM 22 under Casket rules; Taker's performance is typically strong and he pulls off some jaw-dropping moves, but the generally-dull Henry is too much of an obstacle to overcome, and this ultimately ends up being unmemorable. The DVD ends with Taker's first classic WrestleMania encounter against Batista from WM 23, which surpassed expectations by a wide margin.

Despite Taker going 15-0 at this point, the great match with Batista and his superb 2007 in general meant that the Streak, really, was just getting started. Unfortunately for owners of this DVD, this release was brought out before WM XXIV, meaning that his phenomenal main event there with Edge, and his future Match Of The Year contenders/winners with Shawn Michaels, Triple H and CM Punk are obviously absent. Consider this DVD to be the beginning of The Streak's rise to importance, even though nearly three-quarters of Taker's winning record are covered here.

If you're an Undertaker fan, you'll enjoy reliving his evolution on the biggest stage of them all, but those seeking high-quality wrestling action probably won't be satisfied. That the 20-0 DVD includes all of the action here plus five classic matches obviously makes that a more enticing prospect to own (and WWE also released a 21-1 version in 2015 which included Taker vs. Punk and the Streak0breaking bout with Lesnar), but it's still a nice little compilation to own if you're a collector, or if you're a longtime fan of the Dead Man.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

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