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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: The Undertaker Is For Life, Not Just For Wrestlemania (4: Going For Gold, A Dark Secret, Losing The Gold)
By Maverick
Aug 27, 2015 - 4:02:24 PM

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The Undertaker Is For Life, Not Just For Wrestlemania
(4: Going For Gold, A Dark Secret, Losing The Gold)

Having conclusively dealt with Mankind, Paul Bearer and The Executioner in kayfabe during late 1996, proving in the process that he was an elite level worker, The Undertaker once again found himself entering the title picture during early 1997. In his six years with the company to that point, The Lord of Darkness had wrestled for the title on pay-per-view five times: twice with Hogan at Survivor Series 1991 and This Tuesday In Texas; at Royal Rumble 1992 when the winner would win the vacant gold; in the casket match with Yokozuna at Royal Rumble 1994; and at Royal Rumble 1996 in a straight one on one match with Bret Hart. For a wrestler of his profile, this really was a remarkable statistic. The interesting parallel of course is Bray Wyatt, who to this point has wrestled for the title only once at the time of writing, at Money In The Bank 2014, when the vacant title hung high above the ring. However, for The Undertaker, 1997 would be the year that the title match paucity ended, as his character pursued the gold with single minded intensity, captured that gold, and then relinquished it in spectacular and controversial circumstances in the rarified air of Summerslam. In the process, he would have some of his best matches to date.

The chase began at the Royal Rumble in San Antonio, Texas. Entering at the legendarily advantageous number 30 spot, The Deadman made short work of Mankind, Rocky Maivia and Henry Godwinn, but as he battled with Vader, the referees had failed to spot hot heel Stone Cold Steve Austin’s elimination by Bret Hart, meaning that the sneaky Rattlesnake was able to climb back in and toss both ‘Taker and The Mastodon, and as Hart got rid of ‘Fake Diesel’ (Glen Jacobs, who will be re-appearing with greater significance in this column next week), he was dumped by the man he thought he’d eliminated. It was the most dramatic Royal Rumble since 1994, when Lex Luger and Bret Hart had eliminated each other, causing both of them to get a title shot at Wrestlemania X. In this case, the referees’ failure to see Austin’s elimination had far reaching and epic kayfabe consequences, which combined with backstage politics to make early 1997 one of the most fascinating periods in WWF/E history. Bret Hart came out on Monday Night Raw the next night to publicly quit due to the assurances given to him by Vince when he signed his latest contract being broken. This caused Gorilla Monsoon and an increasingly “outed” as company owner Vince McMahon to offer a solution to the problem caused the night before, a four person elimination match involving the final four of the Rumble: Vader, The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Bret came back to accept the offer, and the four men spent the rest of the build to In Your House: Final Four brawling back and forth in some of the more anarchic Monday Night Raws seen to date. From The Undertaker’s perspective, his battles with Vader were lent even greater significance by the fact that The Mastodon’s career was now being guided by his hated former manager, Paul Bearer.

Originally, the Final Four match was for the number one contendership to Shawn Michaels’ WWF Championship. The plan backstage was for Shawn and Sycho Sid to have a rubber match for the strap on Thursday Raw Thursday, which Michaels would win. Bret was due to triumph at Final Four and go on to face Shawn to “get a win back” from HBK a year after Wrestlemania XII. This had been locked in from the moment their ironman match had been booked. Meanwhile, our man The Undertaker would begin a big man feud with Sid so much like the others we had seen him have down the years. Plans were thrown into confusion though when The Heartbreak Kid claimed to have suffered a knee injury in a triple threat match with Sid and Bret on Raw a week before the special Thursday Raw Thursday, one which would apparently require surgery (Bret always believed that Shawn vacated the belt because he wouldn’t drop it to him, which of course led to all sorts of trouble down the line). In the infamous “Lost My Smile” promo, The Heartbreak Kid vacated the belt, meaning that the Final Four match became a title match, with the winner due to face Sid on the Raw that followed the pay-per-view. In any event, the Final Four match, already a huge deal, became an even bigger one. I’ve actually recommended this match so many times in my columns and on The Right Side Of The Pond radio show that you may be bored of hearing me discuss it, however, it was, to this point, the best match The Undertaker had ever wrestled in, and I really can’t recommend this match highly enough; in the vocabulary of Jim Ross, it’s an absolute class A slobberknocker. Not only that, it’s the first real example of an Attitude style main event, and if you’re still not sold, just look at the talent in the ring! Four of the biggest legends in the industry kicking the crap out of each other; there is only win here.

As the bell rings, the two feuding pairs (Austin and Hart, Vader and ‘Taker) go right after each other and the brawling is utterly convincing. They look like they despise each other. The no disqualification stipulation comes into effect very early on, with Vader taking The Fink’s chair and setting about The Phenom with it, something that backfires when the Demon of Death Valley viciously boots it into the Mastodon’s face, following that up with a steps shot. The Man They Call Vader is soon bleeding like a stuck pig, and I think he’s legitimately busted open rather than the blood being the consequence of a blade job. The visual of the cut eye and the masked face smeared in claret is arresting and gives the bout that brutal feel from the off. When the four begin to mix more freely and organically, there are high spots a-plenty: Austin is backdropped onto the concrete while trying to execute a powerbomb on ‘Taker, Bret is hurled like a baseball into the steel steps by Vader, Bret superplexes the 450 pound Vader in an incredible display of power and technical ability and Austin hits a top rope clothesline that shows just how agile he was before his neck injury. The eliminations don’t really come until the match has been running for a long while; this effectively builds suspense for the crowd, as the four men seem inseparable. The entire finish hinges around Stone Cold being the first man out; surprisingly he goes quietly, but then returns to viciously assault Bret Hart just as Undertaker is uppercutting Vader over the top rope. As the referees get the Mastodon down the aisle, Austin continues his assault on Hart. The ironic twist is that the Texan’s interference actually helps the Pink and Black Attack to win, as a frustrated Deadman tries to remove Austin from the apron, leaving himself open to the clothesline that eliminates him. It was an amazing effort from Calaway, who proved again that the main event was the best place for him, and it wouldn’t be long before he had another chance to grasp the gold.

You see, the title scene was by now utterly chaotic in both real life and in storyline. On Bret Hart’s first night with the belt, he dropped it to Sid after Austin interfered in the match. As ‘Taker could have been said to be hard done by in the Final Four, he was named Sid’s number one contender for Wrestlemania, much to the disgust of an at the end of his tether Bret Hart. The Hitman was booked in a Submission Match with Stone Cold for Chicago, but would end up having one more chance to regain his gold before the big dance. In an epic cluster-you-know-what, both The Undertaker and Austin interfered in the match to help their hated rivals; The Lord of Darkness wanted to preserve Sid’s title reign so that he would still have his own signed title match at ‘Mania, whilst The Rattlesnake tried to win the belt for Bret so their grudge bout would be over the gold. In the event, it was ‘Taker whose will prevailed, as Sid retained with heavy Deadman interference, leading to the famous Bret Hart reality rant to Vince at ringside which would precipitate his heel turn at the Rosemont Horizon. If there is an issue with what is still one of my favourite Wrestlemania builds of all time, it’s that Sid and Marc were both very much overshadowed by Austin and Hart all the way through due to the sheer spontaneous brilliance of that rivalry between Canadian and Texan. Nevertheless, I think that the Sycho Sid vs Undertaker bout from Wrestlemania XIII is very much unfairly underrated, with the two big men doing an admirable job in beating the hell out of each other, although again, the brilliance of Bret Hart overshadows them both as the interference of The Hitman allows The Phenom the window he needs to hit The Tombstone for the title win. It feels like a big moment; over five years since he last held the eagle belt aloft. You can’t help but mark out as Jim Ross ponders what the belt going to the darkside might mean for the future of the business.

Having defeated Sid, it turned out that The Deadman would not need to deal with him again, as the newly heel Hart wrote both Sycho and Shawn Michaels off television immediately after the Showcase of Immortals. Instead, The Undertaker’s first challenge was from a familiar quarter; Mankind. The feud was a masterpiece of simplicity as the company used the Paul Bearer connection to set things up. The estranged manager brought out his former client to beg for forgiveness, but it was a trap, as Mankind appeared and threw a fireball in the face of The Phenom, badly burning him in kayfabe (it’s interesting to think about how much this foreshadows the appearance of the Kane character five months later). Despite the fact that The Undertaker had managed to finally vanquish the deranged one back in ‘96, this was the sort of rivalry where the heel just would not go away no matter how many times he was beaten, and thus the title match set for the aptly named In Your House: Revenge of the Taker was highly anticipated. Interestingly, on the night itself, it was bumped from the main event slot for Hart vs Austin III, and it’s certainly true that The Undertaker’s second title reign, though considerably longer than the first, arguably suffered from playing second fiddle to other storylines, notably heel Bret Hart and his Hart Foundation rampaging through the company. Nevertheless, when we judge these things historically, I believe that the quality of the work is more important than where it took place on the card; I think the same way about the babyface portion of CM Punk’s long title reign. If the title matches are great, it doesn’t particularly matter where they took place on the bill, and the Mankind title match is probably the forgotten classic of their long rivalry, sandwiching the ‘96 feud and the ‘98 feud. Furthermore, 1997 is, for me, in the running for the title of best in ring year in WWF/E history, and this title match certainly adds hipster weight to that claim.

The narrative of the match is that of the renewal of an intense rivalry, and there is admirable continuity with the 1996 feud in the way the two wrestle and the way that Paul Bearer tries to manipulate proceedings. Neither man backs down during the violent brawl that begins the match, but the bandages on one side of the face of The Undertaker are a constant reminder that he is at a disadvantage and facing the only man ever to make a sustained challenge to his dominance. This is underlined by Mankind managing to careen the urn off the skull of The Deadman after a distraction by his Uncle Paul. The unhinged use of foreign objects, which of course would become a key trope of Attitude, continues with the smashing of a water jug over the head of The Phenom, as well as a sick chair shot, but neither can keep the ultra-resilient champion down for long. The turning point comes when Mankind attempts to use the steel steps but gets them booted back in his face. Soon after, the deranged one is sent head first through the Spanish announce table, chokeslammed, and finally Tombstoned for a final and conclusive victory. After the bout, ‘Taker gets a measure of revenge on his former mentor when he fireballs him in the corner. This would write Paul Bearer off TV for a while, facilitating the Mankind face turn which was gathering pace as his antics and ring skills won crowds over in droves.

Next up for The Phenom was a very different kind of opponent, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who, despite his face turn at Wrestlemania XIII, was behaving no differently to the way he had as a badass heel. His nonconformist, troublemaking ways were a fascinating contrast to the methodical inevitability of The Undertaker, who stated in the pre-match television promotion of the bout that he would quench the fire of The Rattlesnake (hence the pay-per-view title, In Your House: Cold Day In Hell). Austin had won the number one contendership by finally defeating his nemesis, Bret Hart, the month before, but this also meant that he and the Hart Foundation were highly likely to get involved in the scheduled face vs face title match. Indeed, that piece of long term storytelling is much in evidence, with the Hart Foundation making a gloriously funny show of walking to their ringside seats purchased from “a scalper” with Bret in a wheelchair to sell his knee injury. Seeing that, you just know that they will have a huge influence on the outcome of the match. Their match here is an intense, methodical brawl, for the most part, livened up by the odd exciting sequence and an excellent screwy finish. At the beginning, the Rattlesnake lives up to his moniker by ambushing The Phenom as he enters the ring- the first minutes take place with the champ still in his trademark trenchcoat and with his title belt still around his waist! When Owen dares to lean over the barricade, ‘Taker flings Austin into the ring steps and throws a haymaker at The Rocket, which Lawler hilariously sells on commentary as an assault on paying spectators. After this frenetic opening however, we settle down into an extended period of Austin working over the leg of his opponent, before a trademark comeback from The Deadman. The eventual finish showcases everything that was fun about these early days of the Attitude Era; a low blow by Austin in the corner does not lead to the disqualification, but Hebner does admonish him, which of course causes the Rattlesnake to flip the bird to the official. That distraction allows the champion to hit his volatile challenger with a low blow of his own, at which point Earl flips off Austin! After a chokeslam and stunner have been exchanged, it looks as if the Redneck is going to win the title, but then the Hart Foundation make their presence felt, as Pillman rings the bell to distract everybody in the ring. Austin’s rage at Flyin’ Brian allows ‘Taker to hit the Tombstone and get the victory, and although the two men team up to chase away the Harts after the bell, The Rattlesnake lives up to his untrustworthy reputation by nailing a Stunner on The Undertaker to get his heat back. I suppose that the bookers felt that The Phenom was established enough not to be hurt by such an ending.

Fascinatingly, the next move made with The Undertaker’s character was for his much neglected backstory to finally be explored through the return of the still bandaged and burnt Paul Bearer. Appearing in an interview with Vince McMahon on the 26th May 1997 edition of Raw, Bearer noted that Brother Love bringing him into the WWF to take over the management of The Phenom was no random chance, but a consequence of Paul knowing The Undertaker and his family for “many, many years”. In a brilliant promo, The Lord of Darkness’ onscreen mentor set the scene of a cold, drizzly morning with vermin crawling in the ground at a funeral parlour. His story exposing the dark secret of The Deadman had got as far as a discussion of “three graves in the ground that day” when a furious Undertaker appeared, foregoing his usual methodical approach to arrive quickly in the ring to prevent his former agent from going further. After appearing to set himself up to pummel Bearer, The Phenom instead cut a cryptic promo where he explained that those who had loved him in the past would understand what he had to do now. With that, he got down on one knee and accepted Paul Bearer back as his manager, under the presumed threat of blackmail. Meanwhile, his next challenger was the leader of the Nation of Domination, Farooq. One thing that was great about title runs in the mid to late 90s was the way in which there was a challenger per month as opposed to endless rematches, as we have today. In his time as champion, ‘Taker faced five different challengers. That’s awesome. Farooq was a slightly odd choice though. Despite his world title win down in Atlanta, Ron Simmons and his group had built all of their heat in the midcard, and their sudden step up was not entirely successful, particularly as the feud was overshadowed by the blackmail story, which was, of course, far more juicy.

The bout begins with your standard brawling; these are two big, powerful men, heavy hitters unlikely to stand on ceremony. There’s added intrigue in the corners of both men in the form of the mysterious Paul Bearer, back by ‘Taker’s side, and in the form of the Nation. It’s the black power group who exert more influence in the opening stages, distracting the referee and pummeling the Deadman on the apron. At one stage, they even manage to prevent the Demon of Death Valley from hitting Old School, pulling him all the way to the floor, whereupon a vengeful Phenom takes all five henchmen out with righteous fury. Farooq is booked to remain in control through much of the match thereafter; this is fairly standard “face comeback” storytelling, all in all. The pace is plodding, and at the bout’s nadir, we get yet a “chinlock of doom” that eats up minutes and souls alike. The only intrigue is in the Nation’s own outside the ring squabbles; Crush and Savio take exception to each other, forcing Farooq to restore order, hastening his demise as he turns into the Tombstone. The goons rush the ring after that, but ‘Taker has chokeslams for all. Then begins a rather confusing passage where Bearer rants in the Deadman’s face until he agrees to continuously chokeslam a prone Farooq, bringing out Ahmed Johnson, who hits the Pearl River Plunge on the Phenom as he either announced physically his sudden arrival in the ranks of the Nation, or tried to beat some sense into the WWF Champion, depending on how you read it. It’s a very lame conclusion to what was, honestly, a very lame main event, but the “dark secret” storyline would continue, feeding into the next month’s feud with the Man They Call Vader after Johnson’s injuries meant that a planned programme between Ahmed and The Undertaker had to be nixed.

As Bearer’s domination of The Undertaker became more and more onerous (he was not even allowed to conduct interviews by his manager, who would tell him to shut up), he forced his client to team with Vader in a tag team title tournament match on Raw against the Ahmed-less Nation, using cryptic references to “the fire!” to get him to comply. When The Undertaker became frustrated with Vader, he allowed him to be pinned by the Nation, and then Tombstoned his erstwhile partner straight afterwards, causing Bearer to snap and declare that he would reveal the “dark secret” the next week. ‘Taker got in there first to ask the audience to hear his side of the story, but said no more. Later that show, Paul Bearer came out to tell the story we would become so familiar with. The Undertaker’s father ran a funeral home, teaching Bearer how to be a mortician and raising both the young Deadman and his younger brother Kane. The young Phenom had “the look of the Devil in his eye”, but to Kane, his elder sibling was a hero. The boys were mischievous, having the run of the funeral home, and one day, something didn’t seem right. When Paul Bearer came back from night school that evening, he saw fire trucks, ambulances and the funeral home in ashes. The Undertaker was the man who had burnt the funeral home to the ground, killing his parents, a secret Paul Bearer had kept for twenty years. It was an incredible promo, filled with passion and believability, and it set the scene for one of the very best slow burn storylines in company history, one which got further progression later that evening, when Bearer stopped The Undertaker from beating him to a pulp with two simple words “KANE’S ALIVE!” The shock and disbelief felt by the Lord of Darkness was palpable, and it allowed Vader to brutally ambush him from behind, setting the pay-per-view match up beautifully.

At In Your House: Canadian Stampede, the psychological warfare was very much at the forefront of Vader’s title tilt, with Bearer hammily telling Michael Hayes that he did not know how a MURDERER like The Undertaker could possibly look in the mirror in the morning. A furious, focused Undertaker went right after Vader with vengeful intent at the outset of the contest, but the sheer size of The Mastodon allowed him to come back into proceedings and hit some heavy body shops, before throwing his opponent outside to use the steel steps, all while Bearer screams “murderer!” at him. In fact, the presence of his former manager is a distraction that hurts ‘Taker’s title defence throughout as he turns his back on Vader to pursue his manager, leaving himself open to cheap shots from behind. The brutal style of the massive heel makes him more than a match for his supernatural opponent, and he exists on the very limit of the rules in order to take The Phenom to his the margins of his tolerance for punishment. A legendary sit up and low blow (hey, Lesnar, it’s not just you!) as Vader goes for the Vader Bomb and a huge chokeslam from the second rope almost finishes things for The Undertaker, but a second chokeslam, followed by a Tombstone, finally does. A brilliant, stiff-as-you-like title match that is well worth tracking down. Although The Deadman and The Mastodon played second fiddle to the epic ten man tag that closed the show, they did a great job nonetheless. Furthermore, having foiled Bearer’s plan to take the belt from him using his client Vader, the “dark secret” storyline would get darker still, all while The Undertaker tried to prepare for the ultimate test against the best technical wrestler in the entire fed, The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be, Bret Hart.

The night after The Hart Foundation’s apotheosis at Canadian Stampede, Monday Raw moved to Edmonton, and to show Canadian solidarity, Bret wore an Edmonton Oilers jersey down to the ring, despite being from Calgary himself. By putting aside this local rivalry, The Hitman cemented the “us against them” mentality in the Border Wars angle. The Pink and Black Attack swore he would never, ever let his Canadian fans down and that he was so confident that he wouldn’t, he made a vow to never wrestle in America again if he lost the WWF title match against The Undertaker at Summerslam. In the weeks that followed, Hart made more and more worked shoot remarks about the USA on controversial subjects such as gun control, healthcare and education, all areas where Canada was significantly more progressive than the States. It was a fantastically heated storyline, and ‘Taker was brought back into relevancy in defending the ideals of his country in a way that would come more into focus in the second half of the era when he changed his gimmick. Interestingly, WWF also played off the Deadman’s uncertainty over the revelations of Paul Bearer about Kane’s survival. It was all written in such a way as to make the audience doubt whether the Phenom’s head was truly in the game. The third element in this combustible mix was Shawn Michaels, who soon came back into the fold once Vince threatened to stop his $11000 per week pay cheques. Still injured, he was booked as guest referee, but with all the history behind the two men, we were left to doubt whether HBK would call it down the middle, even though he continually protested that he would.

The vicious nature of the villainous version of Calgary’s favourite son lent his matches a must see quality through this window of time. As Hart marches to the ring for the main event of Summerslam ‘97, defiantly carrying the Canadian flag, it’s easy to see exactly what a heat magnet he really was. American audiences legitimately hated him. There aren’t many times I can think of when the heat was so genuine, as opposed to our modern trend of admiring heels for doing their job well. Vince in ‘98, Trips in ‘99, Punk in ‘09...but there aren’t many others. Here, Bret manages to out do himself, shooting on Americans, praising the Canadian and International fanbases, and then demanding that fans in attendance listen to ‘Oh Canada!’ in its entirety as he stands proudly in the middle of the ring. Great stuff. Michaels is next to come down to the ring, and he’s still pretty popular at this point, even though he’d started to show tweener tendencies in-keeping with his real life attitude (no capital!) and the fans pop for his dancing and thrusting. He even gets some primitive pyro, a funny thing to watch when you consider its modern day sophistication and ubiquity. In a neat touch, once ‘Taker’s entrance is over, Shawn checks the boots and tights of both men, asserting the rules of the bout, showing that he intends to call the match down the middle, just as he had assured us in his backstage promo earlier in the evening. Bret is unimpressed and grabs the championship from the guest referee to set about ‘Taker in a sneak attack that ramps up the heat to boiling point as the bout proper begins. Bret manages to get in a whole raft of cheap shots by entangling the Phenom in his trenchcoat, as Shawn attempts to separate them. The pace is already frenetic and only grows more so as The Undertaker reverses the advantage by flinging Bret into a corner and hitting him with rapid rights and lefts in a convincing bit of simulated boxing he would make into trademark in future years (Jim Ross had yet to begin calling ‘Taker the “best pure striker” and such). As Bret is given a hard Irish whip to the turnbuckle and a clothesline that looks as if it could decapitate him, the crowd pop huge.

The Hitman is forced to take refuge outside the ring, but of course this is Attitude and that means outside brawling, with ‘Taker flinging his opponent into the barricade, only for the hardy Canadian to come back and fling the champ into the steel steps. It’s fantastically violent and entirely in keeping with the volcanic nature of the angle that led to the bout. As Bret is caught by the Phenom and rammed back-first into the post, Michaels begins to threaten a disqualification and he really does play the role of referee beautifully...better than many actual officials, in fact. Inevitably, the bout takes something of a breather after the hectic opening, but even this portion, where Undertaker works over the back with backbreakers, forearms and bear hugs, is fascinating. However, with the Demon of Death Valley emulating Bret’s technical style, he is playing his opponent’s game, and a chop block and a series of elbows to the knee cut the WWF champion down to size. All the while, the crowd are still hot, even during this more cerebral section of the contest.

Further intrigue is provided in the middle portion of the match by Paul Bearer approaching ringside, the distraction costing The Undertaker when Bret ambushes him from behind with chop blocks, elbows and the ringpost figure four. As the action moves back into the ring, Owen and Pillman also make their presence felt, with Hart’s comrades luring Michaels away from his job so that Bret can continue to work over the leg, which ‘Taker sells well, showing how far he’s come as an in-ring competitor at this point. But this is still a man booked as superhuman, to a degree, and he breaks away from Hart eventually to take the initiative and drive away Bret’s cohorts outside the ring, with Shawn’s help in his capacity as referee. In a fantastic twist though, Undertaker’s chokeslam on Hart does not get him the three as the guest official is too busy ensuring Pillman and Owen return to the backstage area. The fury of the Deadman almost gets him disqualified twice and also almost leads to Bret winning with a sneaky roll up. It’s just so compelling, and playing up tension between both men and the official creates real suspense, as any good drama should.

As the bout speeds towards its conclusion, Hart is unsuccessful in applying the Sharpshooter several times, with The Undertaker’s striking ability preventing the submission hold from being locked in. A flurry of offense from the Phenom- a sick flying clothesline is particularly eye catching- amps up the pace and heat once again, only for The Hitman to foil an attempt at Old School by crotching him on the top rope, after which the Pink and Black Attack hits a picture perfect top rope superplex on his larger opponent. This allows Bret to finally slap in the Sharpshooter, but like Austin at ‘Mania, ‘Taker has no intention of submitting, and he breaks the hold with sheer leg strength, which sends JR wild on commentary. After that frustration, Hart ups the ante, going for his signature manoeuvre around the ring post, but Shawn breaks the hold up, being hurt in the process. This allows Bret to crash a chair off the Deadman’s skull, but it takes Michaels some time to slither into the ring to make the count, and the champ’s shoulder comes up at two, yet another exciting moment in a bout full of them. What happens next is, of course, legendary. After seeing the blue chair in the corner, HBK remonstrates with The Hitman, who responds by spitting full in the referee’s face. Michaels swings the chair in a vicious arc but accidentally strikes ‘Taker as Hart ducks. True to his word about calling the match fairly, Shawn reluctantly counts the three and walks away in disgust. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart’s win here was his fifth WWF title, tying up Hogan’s record. It was clearly a special night for him, and he wrestled as such, in a main event that really does stand the test of time. Fantastic storytelling, and plenty of plot points to take into the autumn. An epic.

In losing the WWF Championship, The Undertaker finally gained something he’d never had before- participation in an undisputed, non gimmick technical classic. Not only that, he had a new rivalry with Shawn Michaels that would yield a trilogy of great matches, and a rematch with Hart in front of an avid UK audience to come too. Most significantly, the mysterious figure of his storyline brother Kane was lurking in the shadows, and when he arrived, all hell would quite literally break loose. Join me next week for one of the most fascinating chapters in the storied history of The Undertaker.