The Undertaker vs. The Big Show
Taker took a little time off to heal after the Hell in a Cell match at No Mercy 2002, and in the storyline Show was credited with injured him. Paul Heyman is still managing Show, despite Show losing the WWE Title to Kurt Angle, who Heyman also represents. 2003 was the beginning of Taker’s obsession with MMA and he changed a lot of his ring style to reflect that. Reinventing yourself when you’re advancing into your final years as a professional wrestler is not easy, and Undertaker easily added at least another decade to his career with this switch. At the time it seemed a bit laughable, but I was sold on it as time passed. Tazz is pretty good at analysis, pointing out Taker’s bad back prevents most of his power moves, especially on the gigantic Big Show. That almost goes without saying, but it makes a refreshing change when the announcers actually discuss psychology rather than endlessly hyping the next segment or the main event. Unfortunately, the match devolves into endless Show heat as he grinds away, grinds away, grinds away, grinds away, grinds away.
Tangent: I’m conflicted with Big Show as he’s far more mobile than some of the slugs of the 80s, as has been mentioned by Lee Maughan several times over the course of these volumes, yet he’s an anachronism in modern wrestling, where match quality is paramount and the aim is purely to entertain. Show’s main story is that is a giant, but once you’ve run that story a couple of times it gets dull. Show has nowhere else to go to keep himself as a fresh special attraction like Andre the Giant did during the territorial days. Instead he’s just plodded away, year after year, with no real differences to his character other than a steadily decreasing rate of movement.
This match feels years long, the only interruption in the boredom an accidental hardway cut from a Show headbutt. Taker just about holds the match together, and prevents it entering Kane-Show levels of awful. His tactics are varied and interesting, going from attempting big power moves to hanging in there to desperation low blows. Finally he resorts to outwrestling Show with his newly discovered MMA move set. Taker saves a suicide dive for when A-Train shows up, generating the biggest pop of the match. Show tries to get a pin but Taker hooks him in a triangle and chokes him out. It’s the sloppiest triangle in the history of triangles, but Show sells it well. This would have benefitted from ditching some of the boring Show offence and making the match a lot shorter. But the show is already running short, so this got nearly fifteen minutes. Yikes. Not a total disaster in the end though. Props to Taker for salvaging something from it.
Final Rating: *¾
Post Match: A-Train flattens Taker with the Mehshugganator! Fifty million stars! This would result in Taker wrestling both Show and Train in a handicap match at WrestleMania, a bout originally booked as a tag contest featuring seven foot Australian ex-con Nathan Jones. They ditched Jones at the last minute because he sucked.
Video Control takes us backstage where Eric Bischoff consults with Chief Morley about his match against Steve Austin tonight. Bischoff warmed up by beating Jim Ross in a no DQ match on RAW last week, which is why Ross isn’t on the PPV broadcast. Vince McMahon arrives to order Bischoff vs. Austin as a one-on-one, claiming Bischoff’s karate skills will be enough to compete against Austin. Vince promises to fire anyone who interferes.