#WWF216 – Undertaker – The Phenom


Arnold Furious: I pretty much loathe Undertaker tapes but this one is from an era where he wrestled Mick Foley a lot and it’s only an hour long so let’s give it the old school try.

Video Control starts us out with an awesome Fred Blassie voiceover job on some Undertaker footage, which positively revels in his new music and look. “For a decade the Undertaker was the lord of his domain” claims Blassie, getting Taker’s debut year wrong by five years, as we go straight into the Mankind feud.


Boiler Room Brawl
The Undertaker vs. Mankind
This is from SummerSlam ’96. The approach of Attitude turns this into a music video rather than highlights of a match. It’s like watching YouTube. They only throw in the high spots but at least they’re in order. It does make the match look a lot cooler than it was and the use of slo-mo is so excessive that even Zack Snyder would be yelling “Hey, that’s just too much slo-mo guys, let’s tone it down a bit”. The match highlights end with Bearer’s betrayal and the urn shot heard around the world. Because it’s just the match in clips it’s really hard to rate this. To be fair to WWF Home Video, it was never boring this way, but then no match would be!


Buried Alive
The Undertaker vs. Mankind
This is from the PPV of the same name. Again the match is reduced to clips, which is a pity because it was better than the Boiler Room Brawl for substance, so it looks less great in clipped form. They still work in some killer high spots and Mick takes a few sick bumps alongside Taker throwing himself over the ropes and the rail. The match looks smartly worked even cut down, as the structure still makes sense and they work teases for the finish better. After the Executioner interferes, the Undertaker is “literally buried alive”. The lightning strike and hand coming out of the grave are still cool and one of the best weird Undertaker visuals of his career.


Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
This is from Badd Blood ’97 and once again is butchered up. Shawn pinballing around in clip form is amazing. How many bumps did he take in this match? I take objection to Taker sitting up after the superkick as it’s instantaneous. That shouldn’t happen. Shawn brings an awesome mid-air bladejob that rivals Bret’s sneaky gig on Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. These guys were so good at bleeding. How did they learn? There was no blading in the WWF for years. Shawn takes some more murderous bumps before Kane runs down to Tombstone his brother.


Casket Match
WWF Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. The Undertaker
Man, Taker wrestles in a lot of gimmick matches. The WWF handily throw in bits of Raw footage from between the shows to shill the Taker-Kane storyline. Again the match is shown strictly in clips with Shawn taking his usual thousand enormous back bumps per match and Taker taking his fair share of abuse to match that intensity. They work in some lovely visuals like the crotch chop over the casket, the Savage elbow into it and Shawn crawling out of the darkness before being pulled back in. Although, nothing matches the awesome jumping Tombstone into the casket. What a fantastic spot that is. Kane strolls down to give Shawn the win before locking, destroying and torching the casket as the crowd get totally freaked out.


Video Control shows us Kane’s magical powers, which involve setting fires with his mind, just like Drew Barrymore. Undertaker gets his jollies in response by misquoting Pulp Fiction’s “great vengeance and furious anger” line.


The Undertaker vs. Kane
For once this isn’t a gimmick match. Nor is it clipped. Damn it. I guess they decided to focus on the Kane feud for this tape, which is a bugger because the Mankind and Shawn matches were superb. The WWF remove Pete Rose but retain Undertaker’s ridiculously long entrance. If there’s one thing you can guarantee with the Undertaker it’s an excessively long entrance, which is why I quite liked the Underbiker, because at least he didn’t take ten minutes to walk to the ring. Things get weird after the entrance because we slide back into a clip show. They showed his entrance in full and clipped the match? Sometimes I wonder about the WWF and what they actually think they’re selling. Taker’s crazy zombie tope into the Spanish announce table gets played out in slo-mo three times for your viewing pleasure. The botched Tombstone is only shown once however and not from the normal angle that makes it look like Kane broke his neck. The full match is **¼ and by far the worst match on the tape… to this point. It’s also the best between the two.


Fred Blassie continues his voiceover by quoting Dante’s Inferno. Unfortunately the standard WWF voiceover guy drops in to explain the reference to Dante’s “eight circles of hell”. Urgh, nice try fellas. I guess we’re doing away with the 9th circle? Judas will be pleased!


Inferno Match
The Undertaker vs. Kane
This match was sure different but there’s a reason it’s not become a fixture on WWF cards unlike other gimmick matches. It looked dangerous, hot, dangerous again and stupid. Of course, people think fire is cool. I’m not sure why the flames rise on the high spots though. That has never made sense to me. Vader joins in the fun so Taker has two guys to catch him on the crazy zombie tope THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE. Taker gets revenge on Bearer by busting him open and Kane runs backstage with his gimmicked arm on fire. Never again!


Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker vs. Mankind
Back to the Cell for Taker’s second bout inside the steel prison, this time from the very famous match at King of the Ring ’98. The first PPV I ever reviewed on the internet, fact fans. Mick starts the match on the top in an attempt to out-do Shawn Michaels. I love the visual of Mick taunting Taker to start up top, as the blue light bathes Mankind while he stands there with a chair. Then it happens: Mick gets thrown off the top and the crowd LOSE THEIR SHIT. It is, without a doubt, the craziest bump in wrestling history. I love Taker’s reaction to Mick coming back. For once in his life he’s got this “you’ve got to be kidding me” reaction. If the bump outside is insane, the chokeslam through the cell roof is beyond insanity. At least the table broke Mick’s fall a bit. Why would you take TWO bumps off the top of the cell? Mick Foley is legitimately batshit crazy. After the two big bumps Mick brings a few thumbtacks in, just in case it wasn’t sick enough. Mick’s craziness comes across again as he rolls around in the tacks. Taker’s reaction to that is all; oh you want to take a bump in the tacks eh? CHOKESLAM IN THE TACKS! Tombstone finishes. I remember once rating this at *****, which it isn’t, but if there’s ever been a ***** spectacle, then it’s this match.


Video Control goes to clips from the First Blood match where Taker costs Austin his title with an errant chair shot.


WWF Championship
Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker
Taker makes himself babyface by refusing help from Kane, which naturally means he loses, as Austin was the very definition of pro-wrestling in 1998. The match is a decent battle with both men willing to work hard. I always thought they didn’t have the same chemistry as they did with other top guys and I don’t think they ever had a truly great match. Unlike Shawn and Austin or Taker and Foley, or vice versa. Or either guy with Bret Hart. Austin wins with a low blow and the Stunner.


Video Control takes us to Raw where Vince calls Taker and Kane “pussies” and ends up having to take a powder. Vince ends up booking Austin against Taker and Kane for the title.


WWF Championship
Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker vs. Kane
The match is basically just the brothers beating up Austin. It’s a real snoozer. Luckily the clips are short and both brothers pin after a double chokeslam.


Video Control gives us more Vince vs. Brothers of Destruction business as Vince books the next PPV with Austin as the guest referee and the belt on the line. Taker lays out the owner for flipping him off, which rather dilutes Austin’s battle with Vinny Mac.


WWF Championship
The Undertaker vs. Kane
Now, one of the worst PPV main events the WWF ever vomited forth. Blassie has given up by this point and doesn’t segue into it. I don’t blame him. The clipshow allows us to skip over the incredibly boring and awful match. Most of the clips are from the opening few minutes where the pace is still fast and Austin is having fun. Everything about this match was a bad idea, including Paul Bearer’s idiotic turn on Kane. I also have no idea why Bearer looks so shocked when Kane no-sells a chair shot. Has he not been watching his own son’s matches? They don’t bother showing the finish, as it sucks.


Video Control takes us to the Ministry of Darkness, which was Undertaker’s weird cult-like heel group. I actually rate the idea of the Ministry but less so what it eventually became; the Corporate Ministry. Anyway, this is how the tape ends.


Summary: I love that they abandoned the normal studio links in favour of an incredible Fred Blassie voice over. It gives the tape a distinctive and different feel. Likewise the concept of ditching full length matches in favour of clips, which allows the WWF to cover off nearly three years of storylines in 60-minutes and still, sort of, do it justice. It helps the tape immensely that the matches were good in the first place… well, the first half anyway. Undertaker matches are actually much better in clip form as his high spots are usually tonnes of fun, while his wrestling is so-so. Of the early, as in pre-career retrospective Taker tapes, this is probably the best.
Verdict: 79

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