With Survivor Series 2015 marking 25 years of the Undertaker, what better time is there to look back on some of the greatest and most memorable rivalries in the Dead Man’s WWE career? Join Matthew Roberts as he takes a three part look at the opponents that played their part in making The Undertaker’s career so legendary. (And before anyone moans, this is in alphabetical order!)
Starting with The Undertaker’s 2007 Royal Rumble win (which will become relevant again later on in this list) and choosing to face World Heavyweight Champion Batista at WrestleMania 23, this was a feud that exceeded all expectations.
After Batista made it more personal by turning on Taker during a tag team match against Shawn Michaels and John Cena the two headed to Mania and assembled a cracking match that at that point probably had to be considered Big Dave’s best. It was a match that you could, however fleetingly, have believed would see the end of The Streak.
From there the two clashed the following month in another very good match, this time fought under Last Man Standing rules. When this match raised more questions than answers to the feud the two met again in a Steel Cage match which ended in a draw…but with Edge cashing in his Money In The Bank contract on Taker. Things changed direction but after Taker returned from injury he found that in his absence Batista had once again climbed to the top of the WWE and the Dead Man wanted his title back.
At Cyber Sunday, Stone Cold Steve Austin was chosen by the WWE Universe to be referee. After a gripping battle and TWO Batista Bombs, Dave finally got that big win. With the big match score at 1-1, with 2 draws, there was only one place left to go. Hell In A Cell.
Edge interference led to a Batista win and a month later Edge beat both in a triple threat match. It would be two years before Taker and Batista met again, and then a heel Batista would seemingly win only for Teddy Long to overturn the decision, order a re-start and finally The Undertaker would get the win.
An epic, brutal and very physical feud that delivered hard-hitting action every step of the way.
Many of you may not instantly call to mind The Big Show when you think of the Undertaker’s greatest rivalries but for just the numbers and length of time these two behemoth’s clashed over. The two went at it, on and off for a decade.
In 1999 they clashed over the World Title on Raw as well as meeting as part of a Five Man ‘Mini’ Royal Rumble on Smackdown. In 2001 Taker defeated Show in 90 seconds on Raw, as well as teaming with Kane to take on Show and Kaientai in a handicap match. The next year they clashed over the Hardcore Title, before finally clashing one-on-one on PPV at No Way Out 2003 as well as another handicap match (Taker fighting Show & A-Train) at WrestleMania XIX.
After an ECW Title match you’ve probably forgotten in 2006 the two clashed in a Punjabi Prison Match before their most famous series of matches on PPV in 2008 which spread to four matches, including Last Man Standing, Casket and Steel Cage matches.
The two also met in a three way World Heavyweight Title match at Survivor Series 2009, also including Chris Jericho, after being opponents at that year’s WWE Heavyweight Title Elimination Chamber match.
These two clashed so many times, under so many different circumstances, a list of Undertaker’s greatest rivalries simply isn’t complete without Big Show.
The Undertaker and Bret Hart may not have had a defining rivalry in personal terms. Often their matches were sub-plots for other feuds. Their clash at the Royal Rumble 1996 was in many ways a set up for Taker’s feud with Diesel and SummerSlam 1997 revolved around special guest referee Shawn Michaels.
Yet whenever the two stepped into the ring against each other the results were often spectacular. As well as those two matches, the two were on opposite sides in a classic four corners match at In Your House:Final Four and had a fantastic match at the first ever UK only ppv One Night Only. Their matches were often overshadowed by other storylines, but that’s nothing to do with their quality.
And it’s worth remembering that Bret Hart was on the opposite side of the ring to Taker at Survivor Series 1990 and even as late as 2010 a Taker/Bret match was teased on Raw (until Nexus stuck their noses in).
Of course, everyone will remember perhaps the most shocking match result in WWE history when the Beast Incarnate became the man who ended The Streak. Their 2015 feud will also be fresh in the memory and those moments alone would be enough to warrant a place in Undertaker’s greatest rivalries but we can go back more than a decade to find their first battles.
Lesnar was a young upstart at the time, who had had an almost unprecedented rush to the top of the WWE and many felt that Undertaker would be a step too far for even this talented youngster. But after a chaotic battle at Unforgiven went to a double disqualification, the two entered Hell in a Cell and it was Lesnar whose hand was raised after a bloody and brutal affair.
A year later they met again in a Biker Chain Match, with Lesnar once again emerging victorious. Many years later the two would even take their rivalry to a UFC event as they clashed at ringside there.
For the great matches and the uncompromising way ‘Taker put Lesnar over this remains one of his enduring rivalries.
Hell In a Cell…TLC match…a Money In The Bank cash in…a surprise return at Survivor Series to cost Taker a world title match…a WrestleMania main event…Edge certainly was a high profile thorn in the Dead Man’s side .
The Mania match was one of my favourite “unheralded” matches of that era. For me it was an excellent match that harked back to a classic mid 90’s WWF Title match and such was the excellence of it, you believed that Edge had a chance of walking away the winner. He did walk away the winner in a TLC match that had the stipulation that Taker had to leave the WWE if he did not win. OK, the stipulation was naturally overturned/ignored in the end but not everyone can say they’ve banished Taker from WWE, however temporarily. (And at least for once, there was logic behind the return from a storyline point of view).
If you watched WWE in 2008, you remember this feud.
It only took a year from his Survivor Series debut in 1990 for The Undertaker to become the challenger for the WWF World Title, battling Hulk Hogan at the 1991 event. It’s easy enough these days to be blasé about the world title situation and those who hold it, but as a kid in 1991 who had grown up thinking Hogan was unbeatable by anything evil this was a really big thing. Although you didn’t want it to happen, you feared that it could. You feared this could be the night that Hulkamania died.
Of course it wasn’t, even if The Undertaker won the WWF title that night. The Hogan ego meant Tuesday In Texas and a quick return “win” (even if the title was subsequently held up and vacated) but neither this nor the Ric Flair interference that led to his win mattered in the final analysis. Taker had won and defeated the biggest star there was.
Over ten years later the two would clash again over the world title, with The Undertaker relieving Hulk of the belt, but it was that first run around, no matter how inconclusive it was, that sticks in the memory.
Keep an eye out for part two of The Undertaker’s Greatest Rivalries, as well as other TWM articles as we celebrate of 25 years of The Undertaker.