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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: The Undertaker Is For Life, Not Just For Wrestlemania (11: A Decade of Destruction)
By Maverick
Nov 11, 2015 - 3:37:36 PM

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The Undertaker Is For Life, Not Just For Wrestlemania
(11: A Decade of Destruction)

When we left off last time, we could see that The Undertaker was feeling a little directionless in his early booking as The American badass, and that would not necessarily change right away after he returned from a brief injury lay off. However, by the end of the year 2000, that had changed conclusively, and it was all down to a genius bit of marketing, because November 2000 marked the ten year anniversary of The Undertaker’s debut as a mystery member of Ted DiBiase’s team (just as we’re about to see the twenty fifth anniversary in a week and a half or so), and the creative team labelled it “A Decade of Destruction”. It really was the perfect idea; playing on the dominance and rich history of the character allowed The American Badass to shine in promos for the first time since his return, and the video packages were fantastic.

After a brief injury lay off, The Deadman set his sights on “paper champion” Kurt Angle’s title (they’d been presenting him as a lucky champ all month in multiple defences against multiple contenders). The build between the two got very little television time, unlike their midcard feud from the summer, and about the only real happening of any “significance” was ‘Taker teaming with Hardcore Holly and Crash Holly to take on Team ECK, whereupon The American Badass destroyed all the heels with ease after his partners were taken out. In a match filled with endless shenanigans, including interference from Edge and Christian, Angle finally managed to escape after pulling a twin magic trick with his brother Eric, ending the match in controversial fashion after Hebner refused to count a pin on a man who obviously wasn’t Kurt. The Phenom would parlay his frustration at being denied into the blockbuster six man Hell in a Cell main event at Armageddon. Again, the build was fairly tepid and not that inspiring, but the epic cage match itself on the pay-per-view was, for me, what really turned around this period of ‘Taker’s career. The highlight reel nature of his career was enhanced no end by a moment few of us will forget, when he chokeslammed (chokepushed really) Rikishi off the top of the cell into a flat bed truck, where he lay unmoving. The exertion of this caused The Deadman to sink to his knees atop the cage, and with carnage everywhere, Angle retained on a lifeless Rock. Following this, ‘Taker began to talk of “making people famous” by beating the heck out of them, which enhanced the aura of the Badass yet further.

This is the point where the Decade of Destruction promos really kicked in, and also the point where the Brothers of Destruction began to gravitate towards each other once again, after the typical stream of tag matches, qualifying matches and “number 30” matches that build to a Rumble led to Kane turning on Rocky to allow ‘Taker to win a tag match on the go home show to the 2001 reverse battle royal. In the most stacked Rumble match in history, The Undertaker was one of the main favourites, along with Kane, Rock, and Stone Cold, with all the contenders fearing Kane and The Deadman were working together, although The Brahma Bull’s famous promo on the night made it sound like he didn’t care. This Rumble would, of course, be chiefly remembered as The Big Red Machine’s Rumble, but the brother we are discussing here had a decent outing himself, getting a huge pop for his Harley entrance at number 25, and eliminating Bradshaw, Val Venis and working with Kane to dispatch Scotty Too Hotty before being blindsided by a Rikishi superkick. With the Brothers of Destruction indeed working together, they went after the tag titles, and after many shenanigans with fellow contenders Edge and Christian, both teams were ultimately thrown together into a triple threat match against the tag team champions, the Dudley Boyz. Bizarrely, ‘Taker and Kane spent as much time battling the new Samoan partnership of Haku and Rikishi as they did elbowing their way into the tag title scene; we’ll explore the reasons for that in a moment.

By the time we got to No Way Out 2001, the traditional Dudley Boyz stipulation had been applied to the triple threat so it became a tables match; this seemed to suit ‘Taker and Kane on the face of things, as they both had high impact finishers in the Last Ride and the chokeslam, so in kayfabe at least, they had a good chance, even in the specialist match of the champions they were trying to dethrone. Indeed, ‘Taker said in an interview backstage that evening that the other two teams shouldn’t be thinking about the tag team titles, but that they should be working out a way to survive the Brothers of Destruction. In a fun and chaotic brawl, the two giants often seemed unstoppable, unloading with power and menace a series of stereo manoeuvres, such as double chokeslams and double flying clotheslines, and their chemistry with the two specialist tag teams was seriously fun to watch, but their chance of winning the straps evaporated when Haku and Rikishi appeared again and brawled the brothers all the way to the back, allowing the champions to retain with a 3D on Christian.

With that intervention from the Polynesians, it seems that the original plan for Wrestlemania XVII was for Kane and ‘Taker to tag up against them at the big dance, and all of the first two or three weeks of TVs seemed to indicate this too, but a combination of an injury to Rikishi and Triple H in limbo after the Austin programme forced a rethink, and in the final couple of weeks before ‘Mania, the American Badass and The Game were set on a collision course with each other, when Trips gloated that he’d beaten all of the crowd’s heroes, until, of course, The Undertaker appeared to a massive pop...because Helmsley had never beaten him. This brought the vicious side out of Hunter, and he trapped Deadman Inc beneath his bike on the very next Raw, but the Brothers of Destruction soon gained revenge when Kane kidnapped Stephanie and threatened to throw her off a balcony unless Commissioner Regal signed a match between ‘Taker and Triple H for ‘Mania. For a match which came together so swiftly, the build was exceptional, and the two took up residence in the semi-main event of the greatest Wrestlemania of all. And what a bout it was; a helter skelter, rip roaring brawl around the arena with an incredibly creative finish.

Hunter went through a table within a minute, and then they fought into the ring and the bell finally sounded to indicate the beginning of the match proper. The Deadman came out hot and heavy with a variety of huge power moves, including an enormous powerslam, and when Triple H looked to be coming back into it, the American Badass showed his athleticism with an enormous flying clothesline. He took Trips to the corner for Old Schoo (this was the time when he started shouting out “OLD SCHOOL!” as he started the arm ringer)l, but this was Helmsley’s moment to counter, and he dragged the Phenom off the top and then proceeded to wear down the grounded veteran. Hunter continued to cover his opponent so that he was forced to expend energy kicking out, and remonstrated with the official when he didn’t count three, which cost The Game, as he turned into a revived Undertaker throwing body shots. An enraged Deadman ends up knocking the official down after he was slow on counting a pin following a chokeslam, and then we launched into what was essentially an unsanctioned street fight. All the way up into the crowd they went, with the Cerebral Assassin running like a scalded dog from his vengeful opponent. Up in the technical area, amongst all manner of monitors and sound equipment, Helmsley received a hellacious beatdown, but came back with sick chair shots atop a lighting tower. However, Undertaker found strength from somewhere and chokeslammed Trips right off the tower! As if that wasn’t bad enough, ‘Taker then dropped an elbow from that same tower. The heat in the match was just tremendous, with the story of the American Badass’ quest for revenge being nothing short of compelling. All the way back to the ring they fought, both men slugging it out with right hand bombs, and then Hunter’s arrogant attempt at a Tombstone is reversed by the Badass, who hit his own finisher, but of course, there is no ref to count the pin. He set up the Last Ride right after, but unbeknownst to him, Trips had picked up the sledgehammer and nailed him at the release point of the powerslam. Such a cool spot, even to this day. The official comes to but the shoulder of the Deadman came up! A frustrated Triple H took the busted open ‘Taker to the corner for strikes, but got caught in the Last Ride position a second time, and this time the move connects to take the American Badass to 9-0 at Wrestlemania. Easily my favourite of their three encounters at the Showcase of Immortals.

It’s interesting that this is the first time something of a song and dance is made of the Deadman’s Wrestlemania record; Jim Ross certainly comments on it extensively at the end of the bout. The idea of The Streak begins here really, even if it would only burst into full flower four years later at Wrestlemania XXI. What is clear is that the man who won that night in April 2001 was now fully in command of his gimmick and his past, marrying a legendary past to a vital present. The slogan “A Decade of Destruction” and the promos about “making people famous” had really helped solidify who The Undertaker character was in the 21st Century. And in the months that immediately followed Wrestlemania XVII, he and his storyline brother Kane would be cast first as the only force able to stand up to the Two Man Power Trip, and then as the locker room leaders rallying the WWF roster against the WCW/ECW invaders. And that’s where we’ll pick things up next time around.