For 20 years the Undertaker has seen Superstars come and go from the WWE. All have tried to stake their claim, but none have been able to outlast the Phenom. The WWE ring is truly his yard.
Throughout his time in the WWE, the Undertaker has amassed heaps of fallen victims. The most recognizable of these heaps are his Wrestlemania opponents. Three WWE Hall of Famers have fallen victim to the Undertaker’s impressive Wrestlemania streak. Several future WWE Hall of Famers have also bowed in defeat to the Streak.
The list of fallen foes is 17 Superstars long. Of these 17 Superstars, who had the greatest upper-hand on the Undertaker during their match? Who was only a second away from pinning the Deadman’s shoulders for the three-count?
Who could have ended the Streak?
Hindsight is always 20-20
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that my opinions are based on my after-the-fact knowledge and thoughts. For some matches, I have a greater knowledge of the entire feud, others not as much. This fact probably isn’t ideal for something like this, but this is my blog and my opinion.
Wrestlemania XX – XXIV
Wrestlemania XX, March 14, 2004
At the 2004 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Kane, who believed his older, half-brother was dead and buried, was now being haunted by The Undertaker. As the 13th entrant to the Rumble was supposed to come out, the lights flickered and that familiar gong echoed throughout the arena, putting the crowd into a frenzy and Kane could not believe what he was witnessing. With the distraction, Booker T was able to eliminate Kane from the Rumble match.
Two months prior to the Royal Rumble, Kane had held a eulogy for The Undertaker. He claimed that The Undertaker was no longer a monster, because he showed compassion to Stephanie McMahon, during Stephanie’s feud with Vince McMahon. He also claimed that The Undertaker showed weakness when he lost to Brock Lesnar. Disowning his brother, Kane said The Undertaker was no monster, but instead, an imposter.
With The Undertaker seemingly on his way back to the WWE, Kane went into a denial. He refused to believe that The Undertaker was alive and would be returning. With every week that Kane refuted the signs of The Deadman, ‘Taker only showcased his supernatural powers even more to prove that he was dead and buried. In his final showing of powers, as Kane stood in the ring, claiming he was not afraid of the Phenom, the lights once again went out, but this time The Undertaker’s “T” symbol burst into flames and the ring in which Kane stood, was rising from the floor, shaking and tilting. The stage was set for the two brothers to once again do battle at Wrestlemania.
At Wrestlemania XX, not only was Kane to be reunited with the brother he thought was long gone, but he was also reunited with his father, The Undertaker’s long time manager, Paul Bearer.
Standing toe-to-toe at Wrestlemania in Madison Square Garden, The Undertaker took the early advantage of Kane’s disbelief. Within minutes, The Undertaker had taken the match to the outside. They brawled throughout the beginning of the match, and when Kane was able to execute the Chokeslam, he was again in disbelief of The Undertaker, as he sat right up, unfazed by the move.
Though he was able to counter Old School, The Undertaker recovered and delivered the Tombstone Piledriver to his younger brother and picked up the win.
Although their second Wrestlemania match was no where near as great as their first, The Undertaker extended his Streak to 12-0 and proved that he was the dominant brother.
The Undertaker also showed that he was no longer the American Bad Ass, but had returned to his roots and was again the original Deadman. With Paul Bearer in his corner again, The Undertaker would be unstoppable and no one, not even his brother could stop him.
Like six years earlier, The Undertaker won because he was the better choice to win. Making his grand return at Wrestlemania XX, he needed to win. Losing may have made Kane look strong, but The Undertaker’s return was the greater attraction.
The Undertaker – 12-0
vs. Randy Orton
Wrestlemania 21, April 3, 2005
Leading up to Wrestlemania, the third generation Superstar, Randy Orton had been climbing the ranks of the WWE. Already with a championship reign under his belt, Randy Orton was to make a real name for himself, at the expense of the WWE legends who’d paved the way for him.
Heeding the advice of ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, who told the young Superstar to ‘go where no wrestler has gone before,’ Orton announced that he was going to end The Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania streak, a feat 11 other men before him had failed to do. Their match would be billed as ‘Legend vs. Legend Killer.’
After The Undertaker accepted the match, Randy Orton listened to the advice of one of The Undertaker’s past Wrestlemania opponents, Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts, and then proceeded to deliver an RKO to the legend.
During the formal contract signing for their match, The Undertaker quickly signed the paper, but Orton cut a promo, saying although he respected the other man, he would be the one Superstar to turn The Undertaker’s 12-0 streak to 12-1. To emphasize his point, Randy Orton slapped The Undertaker across his face, enraging the Phenom.
Orton was so confidant in his abilities and was convinced he’d be the one to break the Streak. Orton’s confidence soared even higher when, after his father ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton went to the ring to plead with The Undertaker to not destroy his son, Randy Orton came out and RKO’d The Undertaker as he turned away from Bob Orton.
Though he was able to evade The Undertaker throughout the build up, The Undertaker finally got his hands on the younger man. Unafraid of The Undertaker, Randy Orton stood toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with the Phenom. The Undertaker, a big man, but still with great speed and agility, was finally out-matched in that category. Randy Orton was willing to stand up to The Undertaker, but was well aware of his stamina advantage. Several times throughout the night, Orton was able to use his energy to stop the onslaught of punishment The Undertaker was dishing out.
When he ducked out of a big boot in the corner, which sent The Undertaker to the outside apron, Orton delivered a huge dropkick, sending the bigger man into the barricade. After a series of shots, Orton again exploded with energy and hit The Undertaker with a clothesline. he went for the pin, but The Undertaker was able to get a shoulder up.
True to his word, Orton showed no fear, and it looked as if it was going to pay off when his father made his way down to the ring and interfered in the match, knocking out The Undertaker with his cast. He pulled his son on top of The Undertaker and dragged the referee to count the three, but too much time was taken and the Phenom kicked out. The Undertaker went for a Chokeslam, but Orton was able to reverse it and hit his RKO. Again, he didn’t get the three, but he stood up and called for The Undertaker’s Tombstone, but this time The Undertaker reversed it. Randy Orton’s stamina and bravado wasn’t enough to keep the Phenom down.
Michael Cole says it best at the end of this match, “Randy Orton has nothing to be ashamed of; a half second here or there and Randy Orton would have slain the dragon.”
Truer words could not have been spoken. Never before had it seemed so likely that The Undertaker could actually lose at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker had never before or since faced off against a competitor so young, so confidant and so talented. You only have to look at Randy Orton’s accomplishments now to see how greatly he’s succeed after losing that match. Now, had he won, you’d have those and so much more added to his list of achievements.
Prior to this match, The Undertaker’s Streak wasn’t nearly the spectacle we know it as today. Though mentioned constantly, Randy Orton was the first man to really make defeating the Streak a selling point of the match, which really made people care that much more about the outcome.
Randy Orton had been booed and he also had the fans in attendance chant ‘Randy Sucks,’ so if he’d won, I could only predict that the place would have erupted in boos and jeers for the Legend Killer. I really believe the heat he would have generated from taking The Undertaker would have been overwhelming.
At this same event, both John Cena and Batista won their first heavyweight titles; during their 2010 feud, it was heavily discussed how they had broken into the WWE at the same time and were the break out stars of this new generation. I don’t think that would have been the case if Orton won. He was just a rookie still, only a few years in the WWE, still trying to find himself as a Superstar. He would have been that top caliber performer and asset John Cena is to the company now. Randy Orton would have been the face of the WWE.
Nonetheless, The Undertaker won and retained his undefeated Streak.
The Undertaker – 13-0
vs. Mark Henry
Wrestlemania 22, April 2, 2006
After stepping away from in-ring competition for a short while, The Undertaker returned on a horse-drawn carriage at the Royal Rumble to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle to a match. At No Way Out though, he was unsuccessful in capturing the title. During a rematch of the bout on Smackdown!, the World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, who had previously faced Angle for the title, interfered in the match, attacking The Undertaker. Normally not the one issuing challenges himself, The Undertaker made the exception for Mark Henry and challenged him to a Casket match at Wrestlemania 22.
When Mark Henry announced he wasn’t afraid of The Undertaker or caskets, he asked to confront the Deadman at Saturday Night’s Main Event. There, The Undertaker showed up with his druids and a larger than normal casket. Wasting little time, The Undertaker started a series punches on the bigger man. Henry was able to recover, but The Undertaker didn’t let up.
For weeks, Mark Henry told the WWE fans that he was not afraid of The Undertaker and at Wrestlemania, he put his statements to the test. In the early going, Mark Henry’s size and power proved to be problematic for the Phenom. After two big clotheslines, the World’s Strongest Man was still on his feet. As ‘Taker went for his third, Mark Henry caught him with his own clothesline.
The two men battled it out before they both ended up inside the casket, but both were able to fight their way back into the ring. At one Using all of his strength, while Henry had him in the corner, The Undertaker hoisted Mark Henry up for the Last Ride. Henry rolled out of the ring, but the casket top was closed. Finding a burst of energy in him, The Undertaker flew to the outside and landed on Mark Henry, taking the big man down. Finally, The Undertaker was able to hit a massive Tombstone and roll him into the casket for the win.
I don’t think Mark Henry would have been the right person to end the Streak. I was happy to see Mark Henry get such a high-caliber feud for the first time in his entire career because aside from a few others, Mark Henry’s been with the company longer than most other Superstars. Like others in that same position, it wouldn’t have made much sense to give such an honor to someone who wouldn’t reap the benefits.
Absolutely no disrespect to Mark Henry, but he’s just one of those life-long mid-carders. Getting this match with The Undertaker was a nice nod of respect to him though, I think. And after his feud with The Undertaker, which lasted past Wrestlemania, he went on to become the ECW Champion.
He was never going to break the Streak, but Mark Henry got a Wrestlemania match against the legendary Undertaker.
The Undertaker – 14-0
Wrestlemania 23, April 1, 2003
Coming off of a great storyline with Mr. Kennedy, The Undertaker set his sights on the World Heavyweight Championship and the man who held the title, Batista.
After failing to beat Smackdown! General Manager’s ‘Smackdown! Sprint’ challenge, where after a series of matches between several Superstars, the man who won in the shortest amount of time, would get to face the champion, because of an interference by Mr. Kenned, allowing himself to win the Sprint. Teddy Long then made a match between the two men for the following week, if The Undertaker won, he’d be added to the match, making it a Triple Threat. To his disadvantage thought, Batista was ringside for the match and attacked Mr. Kennedy, giving him the victory by disqualification. This left The Undertaker out of the title picture at the Royal Rumble.
In a foreshadow their feud few years later, in the Royal Rumble match, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were the final two entrants. As Shawn Michaels went for a Sweet Chin Music, The Undertaker caught his leg as used that as leverage to toss him out of the ring. Nearly two decades into his WWE career, The Undertaker had one his first Royal Rumble.
With the option of facing either the WWE Champion John Cena, the ECW Champion Bobby Lashley or World Heavyweight Champion Batista, Batista and John Cena demanded to know who The Undertaker would face. That same night on Smackdown! Shawn Michaels came out to the ring and questioned who The Undertaker would choose because he too wanted a title shot at Wrestlemania. The decision of who The Undertaker would have to wait because Batista and The Undertaker would have to learn to coexsisa, as they had to tag with each other against John Cena and Shawn Michaels at No Way Out, as ordered by Vince McMahon. Before No Way Out though, The Undertaker delivered a Chokeslam to Batista. Because of this, at the pay-per-view, The Undertaker received a Spinebuster in retaliation by his partner and Cena and Michaels got the win.
The following night on Raw the three world champions gathered in the ring, waiting for The Undertaker to make his decision. Facing off with each man, The Undertaker turned back towards Batista, to make his challenge clear, the Phenom gave the cut-throat gesture, but the Animal was not fazed.
Batista played the face by saying he respected The Undertaker, but after being attacked by The Deadman, he then changed his attitude and said he’d lost his respect for the veteran.
Now focused on Wrestlemania, Batista played the face and said he still respected The Undertaker and that the Spinebuster was only payback for the Chokeslam he received. When The Undertaker responded to Batista the following week, he appeared in a graveyard and told the Animal that he’d lose his World Heavyweight title and would rest in piece. From this point on, The Undertaker and Batista would take any opportunity to gain the advantage heading into Wrestlemania.
At Wrestlemania, the second the opening bell rang, Batista took The Undertaker down with a spear and took shots at The Undertaker in the corner. In the beginning, Batista dominated the match, taking to the top rope multiple times to wear down the Phenom. When The Undertaker was able to get the upper hand against the Animal, he went for a Chokeslam, but using his strength, Batista pried The Undertaker’s hand from his throat.
The moment Batista recovered from a leg drop on the apron, The Undertaker took flight over the top rope in a suicide dive and took out his opponent once again. He regained control of the match however, when he whipped The Undertaker into the ring table. While he could have rolled into the ring and attempted to win by count-out, Batista had guaranteed he’d break the Streak via pinfall. Instead, he dragged The Undertaker to the announce tables and threw him on top of one. Climbing onto of the announce table himself, Batista then hit a running power slam, sending them both crashing through the ECW announce table. Looking to tend the match, the Animal Batista rolled The Undertaker into the ring for the pin, but somehow, he was able to kick out.
Batista nearly tired himself out from delivering rights and lefts to The Undertaker in the corner, but taking advantage, The Undertaker hit him with the Last Ride. With the fans chanting his name, The Undertaker hit the Chokeslam and went for the pin, but Batista kicked out. A few moments later, he hit his Batista Bomb, but ‘Taker saved his Streak and got the shoulder up. Batista looked to be going for a Tombstone of his own, but Phenom countered and threw the other man into the turn buckle and then hit his Tombstone Piledriver, getting the three-count. A decade after he won the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 13, he became the new World Heavyweight Champion.
Thought they were not the final matach at Wrestlemania 23, The Undertaker and Batista, by many people’s opinion, stole the show with their great match. Batista gave The Undertaker a real run for his money, but again the Streak was advanced, now at 15-0.
Not only did they deliver at Wrestlemania though, they went on to have a great Last Man Standing match at Backlash and a Steel Cage match on Smackdown!, both of which ended in a draw, showing that perhaps on any other day, he could have ended the Streak.
Although, I think the quality of their matches and the fact they were possibly the feud of the year for 2007, was a great indication of how much the Animal had grown over the years, I don’t think it was ever really a big option for the WWE to let Batista end the Streak.
If Batista was a younger man, he might have been at the front of the line to end the Streak, but the facts were that Batista entered the business a lot later than most do. Nearly 40 years old at the time, Batista’s entire wrestling career spanned less than a decade.
I don’t think it would have been a smart move to give the Streak to someone whose career in professional wrestling probably wasn’t going to last long enough to carry out much more.
This proved right when only three years later, Batista decided to retire from pro wrestling and pursue other opportunities. Truth be told though, Batista was already at the top of his game at this time. There wasn’t too much else he could do with getting the win over The Undertaker.
The Undertaker – 15-0
Wrestlemania XXIV, March 20, 2008
Following his Wrestlemania 23 match, The Undertaker and Batista continued to feud against each other. The two fought in a Last Man Standing match and a Steel Cage match, both of which ended in a draw, with The Undertaker retaining the World Heavyweight Championship. That soon changed as immediately following their Steel Cage match on Smackdown!, The Deadman’s Wrestlemania 22 opponent, Mark Henry made his way down to the ring and attacked the beaten Phenom. To make matters worse, following Henry’s attack, the ultimate opportunist Edge cashed-in his newly won Money in the Bank contract. After being carried from the ring by his druids, The Undertaker vanished from the WWE until Unforgiven ’07.
In the months following his victory over The Undertaker, Edge was forced to drop the title to The Great Khali, and eventually Batista, was able to regain the title. Upon the Undertaker’s return at Unforgiven, the World Heavyweight Champion Batista rekindled their feud and in a match at Survivor Series, the Undertaker was unsuccessful in recapturing the title due to an interference by Edge. This lead to a Triple Threat against the three competitors, which ended with Edge being victorious.
At No Way Out, The Undertaker won the Elimination Chamber match, giving him the right to face Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship title at Wrestlemania XXIV.
Leading up to their match, The Undertaker and Edge dominated the Smackdown! brand. Aligned with The Familia – Vickie and Chavo Guerrero, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder – Edge was able to get the upper-hand a few times, even laying out The Undertaker with a con-chair-to. Ever-confidant in his abilities, the Rated-R Superstar was sure he would end The Undertaker’s undefeated streak and make the Deadman 15-1; Edge held a burial of the streak, complete with a casket. Unbeknownst to everyone however, The Undertaker laid hidden in the casket and after the distraction of his eerie music playing throughout the arena, The Undertaker was able to ambush the Familia.
With the World Heavyweight Championship on the line, The Undertaker and Edge took to the ring in the main event of the evening. After almost a year of fighting with Edge and to get back the title he unjustly lost, The Undertaker took the early lead. It didn’t take very long for the two men to find their way to the outside, as The Undertaker clotheslined Edge to the floor in the early going. With a streak of his own on the line though, Edge fought back. In hopes of killing The Undertaker’s power and strength advantage, Edge focused his efforts on ‘Taker’s lower back, delivering a back-body drop to him, onto the guard rail.
Edge took The Undertaker to the top rope for a Superplex, reversed a Chokeslam into a huge DDT, but even countering the Last Ride was not enough to put the Demon from Death Valley away. The Undertaker went for a big boot, but Edge ducked and instead The Undertaker hit the referee. This allowed Edge to play to his own strengths and hit The Undertaker with a camera. He recovered though and hit Edge with a Tombstone. Still without a referee though, Charles Robinson raced down to the ring to count the pin, but Edge managed to kick out at two. Hawkins and Ryder came out to interfere, but The Undertaker was able to stop them, the distraction left Edge open to attack and he did. After hitting a spear it looked as though he had the match won, but the versatile Undertaker slipped on his Gogoplata and Edge had no choice but to tap out, allowing The Undertaker his sixth World Heavyweight Championship win.
In a great match, overshadowed only by Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels at this event, The Undertaker captured his sixth World Heavyweight Championship and advanced his Wrestlemania streak to 16-0. Had Ric Flair’s emotional last-WWE match not been on the card, this match would have easily been the match of the night, making it Taker’s second show-stealer in a row. The build to this match was done well, it took the two men nearly a year to settle their differences and their match at Wrestlemania was a great pay-off to all of that build.
I am slightly torn on the outcome of the match however. As great as this match was, Edge had been with the WWE for a decade. Much longer than a lot of the Superstars on the roster. At this point, unlike someone like Orton, who was completely fresh and was showing the qualities of a top-notch performer already, Edge had already achieved so much in his career.
Being still so young and relevant, it’s easy for me to see how Edge could skyrocket to the very top of the mountain with a win over the Phenom and ending the streak, but there honestly just isn’t too much further up he can go. Once again, I think it comes down to the pros and cons. What little is left for Edge to do now, has/will be done as he moves on in his career, so therefore, I think the right man won.
The Undertaker – 16-0