#WS929 – Undertaker – The Face Of Fear

Lee Maughan: Hosted by Paul Bearer, from what looks to be the same shoot as his hosting duties for Most Unbelievable Matches.

 

The Undertaker vs. Adam Bomb
Self-indulgent trivia note: This match took place on my 10th birthday. What a gift from Uncle Vince, eh? Stan Lane on play-by-play is upset at the idea Johnny Polo would take anything from his own personal style. Fortunately, he meant his fashion sense rather than his announcing style, and it’s really too bad that Polo’s colour commentary doesn’t feature more on these tapes, because the guy was a corny joke-telling, dated reference-dropping riot alongside Gorilla Monsoon. It’s actually kind of a shame he didn’t do any commentary with Lord Alfred Hayes, given how befuddled old Albo already was. THAT would have been solid gold. Unlike this match, which, whilst not as jaw-droppingly awful as that career-killing Brothers of Destruction vs. Kronik match from 2001 was (which pit the Undertaker & Kane against Bryan ‘Adam Bomb’ Clark and Brian ‘Crush’ Adams), it is a whole lot of nothing. Bomb basically dismantles Undertaker on the outside for a while before Undertaker lands a chokeslam for the match-winning pin in what can’t have been any more than three minutes. I guess that’s what they mean about being grateful for small mercies, because that sure had all the makings of a total stinker, and instead it was just a breezy little squash. Polo attacks Undertaker after the match and gets belted for his troubles, which really sets my mind racing about the missed opportunity that would have been bringing Polo back in 1996 under his Raven persona as the malevolent mastermind behind the insanity of Mankind, and setting up an Undertaker-Raven feud. Hell, they even had back-story built in for the hardcore fans, with Raven having been Cactus “Mankind” Jack’s very own Charles Manson over in ECW throughout 1995.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The Undertaker vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Like the last match, this is another recycle job, coming as it does from The Undertaker: His Gravest Matches. Even more annoying than that though is the fact they’ve left in the Undertaker’s personal introduction to that tape! Yes, on a tape entitled The Face of Fear, Undertaker himself welcomes you to an entirely different collection. Not only that, but he’s doing it before the SECOND match! Could Coliseum Video have gotten any lazier over the years? What an utterly piss-poor inclusion that was. As far as the match goes though, it’s not a bad choice for a rehash. Bigelow was a terrific worker for someone his size, putting pretty much every other WWF behemoth to shame with his big bumping and hard working athletic style. With that kind of opposition, you get a match that’s about as good as anything from this period of the Undertaker’s career was ever likely to be, gimmick limitation and all. Undertaker even busts out a drop toehold, just so Bam Bam can take a thunderous face-first bump off it! Sadly though, it’s a real lame duck finish as Bigelow walks out on the match, only for his number one nemesis of the day, Tatanka, to knife-edge chop him all the way back into the ring. And why wasn’t that a disqualification? Jim Ross would like to know. I guess it’s just another case of one rule for the Indians and the undead, another for the rest of us. Back inside and Undertaker finishes with a chokeslam for the second match in a row. Gorilla demands there be an asterisk in the win column marked “Native American.” Maybe if he one day became WWF President, he could set up a system for just such an occasion… Overall, this was much better than the usual Undertaker fare of the day, but it was still entirely as predictable.
Final Rating: **

 

The Undertaker vs. Yokozuna
This would be one of the first in a series of many matches between these two (the very first was at a television taping in San Antonio on January 5th, 1993), although it’s not as outlandish as some of the matches they’d go on to have together, particularly the infamous casket match from the 1994 Royal Rumble. It is however exactly the same as a match they had in Milan. Seriously, go pop in Global Warfare and watch that match and this one side by side, it’s almost eerie seeing them do exactly the same spots in exactly the same corners with exactly the same pacing and match length. Well, not 100% exact, but pretty damn close for matches taking place seven weeks and an entire continent apart. Not that I begrudge two guys wrestling identical matches around the horn where the only eyes that see them are the ones in the building that night, but when the cameras are on I just wish guys would have a little more pride in their work to mix things up a little. I mean, in a sense, it’s fascinating to see, but it really kills any suspension of disbelief when you’ve already seen the same match done spot-for-spot by the same two wrestlers in a previous encounter. It’s like seeing the multiple takes of those Hulk Hogan-Big Boss Man cage matches. Still, at least Coliseum Video didn’t lost their wits enough to bung those onto the same tape like they’d done previously with two Hulk Hogan-Harley Race Texas Death Matches from 1987, that both featured on the WWF’s Even More Unusual Matches tape. And not only were the Coliseum folks lax enough to include essentially the same bout twice on the same tape, they even featured them back-to-back!

At least those Hogan-Race matches were pretty good though, whereas this match is terrible. Undertaker’s DDT at the start is pretty nice at least, probably the best thing about the entire match actually. He seemed to have adopted that move after perceptually having sent Jake Roberts packing at WrestleMania VIII. Then very little happens until Yokozuna hits a sloppy belly-to-belly suplex on Undertaker who sits right back up, so Yoko clonks him with his wooden salt bucket for the awfully cheap disqualification after about four minutes of non-action. Now, that’s a rotten finish, but I do get it with matches like these in a sense. My general feeling on such matters is that if you can’t book a clean finish then it’s not worth running the match, but I do think there are exceptions to that rule. Any match that’s an on-paper dream match I’d categorise as something that should happen at least once, finish or not, just so there’s a visual record of it. Bret & Owen Hart vs. the Steiner Brothers comes to mind as something that fits the bill for that, as there was a seriously small window of opportunity to run that match, and man alive isn’t the world sure glad they did. With Undertaker vs. Yokozuna, hey, in 1993 that was a pretty marquee match to run that people were interested in seeing, so regardless of not being able to deliver a positive outcome it was still worth running in the sense that it might be the only chance they get. Of course, things didn’t turn out that way, and unlike the Harts-Steiners battle which provided 30-minutes of tag team perfection prior to its conclusion, this was four minutes of mostly drek. Four minutes of stalking, lumbering and slow meandering, all for a cop-out ending. If you had paid to see this match back in 1993, I can’t help but feel like you’d have felt ripped off by it, unlike the aforementioned tag match. But hey, let’s put some further context into the mix: they could have booked this match to go longer. They could have booked it to go seven minutes and had them drag out the extra time by sitting in a nerve pinch, so let’s be grateful for small mercies on this one. “It’s just getting started!” Chilling words indeed.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

And now for some footage lifted directly from the 1992 Survivor Series, as clips of the ending to Undertaker’s SummerSlam bout with Kamala air. You can tell it’s from the Survivor Series because of the weird editing choice that forgoes a contextual explanation and picks things up with Undertaker sitting up and chasing Kamala away. They didn’t even include the disqualification finish or Kamala’s post-match top rope splash that Undertaker was sitting up from! That’s followed by an angle in which Undertaker wheels a coffin out to ringside after a Kamala match and Kamala flees into the crowd. And just to ram home the point that Kamala’s a coward and poses no actual threat to the “Dead Man”, they run the same angle a second time. From there, Undertaker prepares for his big date with the “Ugandan Giant” by rubbing his wood and clonking on his red hot poking stick.

 

Coffin Match
The Undertaker vs. Kamala
Not only was Kamala depicted as a coward in the build up to this match, but the WWF had seen fit to turn him into yet another overblown caricature. If he’d maintained the menace he’d been presented with in Memphis, World Class and the WWF in the 80s, he’d perhaps appear as something of a credible threat. But no. He was another Saturday morning villain, and nothing more. “Look at the size of that!” screams Vince McMahon, as Undertaker trundles down to ringside with his big bit of wood. “Wait till Kamala gets a load of it!” Sadly, the unintentional innuendo is more interesting than the match itself, yet another round of WWF monster-mash sluggery. “Adrenaline isn’t the only thing pumping!” “Kamala’s scared stiff, Undertaker just keeps coming!” And so on as Undertaker completely nails Kamala… with the urn, pins him, and rolls him into the coffin. Better than the SummerSlam match, largely owing to the fact there’s actually a finish, but that’s extremely low praise. Undertaker asks for a hammer, so Greg Valentine runs out and headbutts all the nails into Kamala’s coffin. Actually, that isn’t in the slightest bit true, but wouldn’t it have been great if it was? Instead, he and Paul Bearer just get their giant rods out and go to work on the coffin. Well, we’ve all got our fetishes.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The Undertaker vs. Crush
And we end with a hit ratio of five for five in terms of bouts regurgitated from other releases, despite it being yet another awful match. The positive? An appearance on colour commentary from the hilarious Johnny Polo, complete with terrible wisecrack after terrible wisecrack. “I would say Bill Alfonso is the worst referee in the WWF… except for that Joey Marella guy!” he tells play-by-play man Gorilla Monsoon, the real-life father of Marella. “I’m omnipotent, Gorilla!” “You’re impotent?!” “That’s why I wore a tuxedo last week, because if you’re going to be important, you better look important!” Well, it sounds funnier than it reads. “Talk about guys with agility!” “Paul Bearer?!” “No, the Undertaker!” “For a moment there I thought you’d flipped your ever loving marbles!” This commentary is absolutely gleeful, and really serves to help you forget that you’re watching Crush vs. the Undertaker, like the anaesthetic to your dental procedure. Polo does make a good point about being the toughest manager in the WWF though, given that he went on to have all those barbed wire matches in ECW and all. The mental image he conjures up when talking about what a useless manager Bearer is raises further chuckles, just the idea of that ghoulish, over-stuffed Gomez Adams-alike taking an itinerary. Fabulous. The match? Undertaker wins it with the Tombstone, the only match on this entire tape to actually end with his finisher.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

To conclude, Bearer suggests that to cover all of Undertaker’s classic matches would require at least a hundred tapes. A HUNDRED TAPES. OF UNDERTAKER MATCHES. I think I’d rather book a date with the actual Grim Reaper than be forced to sit through such a collection.

 

Summary: It’s another tape full of matches lifted from other releases and none of them are any good, aside from the Bigelow match which scales all the way up to giddy heights of average. Any other positives? Well, at least IRS was nowhere to be found. I can’t recommend this in all good conscience, unless you’re a major Undertaker fan with no intention of collecting any of the individual tapes these matches come from.
Verdict: 17

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