I kept going back and forth on this one. Not on the sequencing of the matches; no, that's all sorted. I wasn't sure whether to post the list here or on the Random Reviews Facebook "fan club." I'm trying to make the fan club (yes, I call it that to amuse myself) a hub of sorts for like-minded individuals. Fuck it. I can do other stuff there. Later. Did you know that Daddy procrastinates? HAHAHA.
You may not be aware (I don't fucking know you), but The Undertaker is my favorite professional wrestler of all time. Bar none. Due to the indwelling limitations of the character, 'Taker didn't start having upper-crust matches until the mid-90's. Make no mistake, Mark Calaway was a great worker all the while. But remember, he was playing a zombie mortician who couldn't feel pain (oh, and he could summon lightning at will). It wouldn't have made sense in the years following his debut to add flourishes such as MMA submissions and amateur-style throws to his repertoire. I can't see McMahon at the commentary booth in 1993 shouting, "What a triangle choke by The Phenom! We understand he learned that move in the nebulous expanse between life and death!"
Of course, I still love those early matches. That shit's dope. I'm holding out hope, however futile, that The Lord of Darkness will bring back the gray tie and gloves for his last bout (don't forget the body bag). Having said that, my top five 'Taker fights are all from 1996 and beyond.
These two power forwards had the advantage of feeling out their Mania encounter at dozens (okay, two dozen...at the most) of house shows leading up to the event. That could never happen today, but it helped streamline the pace of the match. Everything is smooth and deliberate. Believe it or not, there are moments of suspense here and there. The pre-Mania storyline build was great, as it featured the first instance of The Undertaker tearing through the ring mat from below in glorious Nathan Grantham fashion. You should get that reference, Bedelia.
In my opinion, 1997 was 'Taker's best year on record. Physically, he was in peak shape. He also grabbed the world title at Mania and proceeded to put on show-stealers at pretty much every PPV that mattered (not to mention a handful of Raw episodes). Bret Hart is a sentimental fav(orite). I could watch his matches all day long. So it goes without saying that thirty minutes of action between the two WWF stalwarts ossifies my Italian chicory. Shawn Michaels is the special guest referee. That will be a recurring theme, you'll notice. Here again, the pacing is finely tuned. I love the little touches like 'Taker calmly exiting the ring to clamp down on interference. That's what a badass would do.
This is the controversial pick. The majority of die-hards would have one of the HBK Mania matches sitting pretty at #1. And they would probably go with Mania 25, as opposed to Mania 26. If I'm being honest, this is my meek, slithery way of calling it a draw. For me, 26 edges out 25 because of pacing. There's that word again! They're both outstanding, but...actually, I watched 26 last. That's why I'm casting my ballot for 26. Who am I kidding? If you're a bit of a wrestling outsider, watch 25 and 26. God, this has been a bitch to write with any sense of flow or lilting meter. Don't you come to this website for lilting meter?
With Shawn Michaels as special guest referee! These three men have been inexorably tied to one another since the New Generation Era, so this Hell in a Cell engagement was billed as "The End of an Era." It was fairly goddamn epic. I rank it high for its storytelling, which is always the most important aspect of a match. Towards the end, it becomes emotional. That spot where HBK superkicks The Deadman into a pedigree, nearly assisting in the end of the streak. Knowing he came close to fucking over someone he respects more than anyone else on the roster. Conflicted by his duty as a supposedly unbiased ref and his allegiance to his best friend. It's still real to me, damn it!
Bad(d) with two deez! D's. Ds. Dees? No, that's not it. Anyway, I've gushed over this rumpus elsewhere (it might have been in the fan club, as a matter of fact), but I'll try to string a couple of sentences together that convey my adoration for the first - and best - Hell in a Cell melee. Flawless storytelling. I'm going to type that again, this time in all caps. FLAWLESS STORYTELLING. More than one angle is paid off, and yes, the climax sees the debut of Kane. As a teenager, I preferred Kane to his older half-brother. Yep, this match is slopped with "mark out" moments. I fucking love it. They use the entire structure to its fullest potential, stopping just short of rigging it with explosives. And that piledriver on the steel steps! Goodness me.
You're not getting a prologue.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 12:24 PM