WrestleMania Wrap Up – Undertaker vs. Triple H
Added by DieHard Derek on April 2, 2012.
In a match that was defined as “The End of An Era,” The Undertaker continued his WrestelMania winning streak to 20-0 by defeating Triple H in a Hell In The Cell Steel Cage Match featuring Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee.
As I woke up this morning, I had mixed feelings about this match. Perhaps I expected more. Perhaps I expected a swerve. And perhaps I got lost in creatively booking the match myself in my own mind.
I had expected to see some sort of one night only DX reunion, where Shawn Michaels would take off the zebra referee stripes and reveal he was wearing DX gear underneath. HBK would share an evil smirk and signature crotch chop with Triple H, as this had been the plan all along – two best friends who failed at defeating the Deadman individually, coming together and uniting in a two-on-one handicap match trapped within the confines of the cage. Superkicks, Pedigrees, Tombstones galore. Ultimately, Taker would have overcome the odds and defeated the two toughest opponents of his career. But, that didn’t happen.
Instead, we got a slower paced and more dramatic encounter with Shawn Michaels not really playing a major factor in the final decision. A few hours before Mania aired, I re-watched last year’s match between Taker and Triple H. I wanted to remind myself of the caliber of that match and what was needed to pull this one off effectively. If you watch the WWE video packages that were the lead-ins to the rematch, you would have thought that last year’s encounter was an epic for the ages. But, it really wasn’t.
As a matter of fact, it didn’t hold up to the expectations – perhaps because of the no holds barred stipulation. I have always found that Triple H matches always resort to using the sledgehammer as a crutch. Triple H is an incredible wrestler and master of psychology. The sledgehammer was always a staple to his gimmick, but the use of it took away from the quality of his matches. It worked as a heel, where he tried to cripple his opponents, but in EVERY single match, the sledgehammer makes a cameo and takes away from Triple H’s performance. Compared to the set of matches Taker shared with Michaels, Triple H didn’t even come close.
Michaels told a dramatic story. The first time, he had just come off retiring Ric Flair the year before. He challenged Taker because of all his accomplishments – the streak was a reward he wanted to add to his decorated career. In the rematch, he got a second shot at the holy grail, but put his career on the line as well. The stipulation gave away the finish, as we all expected Michaels to call it a career after a performance that couldn’t be matched. It’s hard to say which match between Taker and Michaels was better – but it’s easy to say that either match was better than the one with Triple H.
Hearing the rumors of this rematch, I knew the only thing that could make it work were two elements: Hell In The Cell and Shawn as the referee. My wishes were granted. Apparently, the creative team knew it was the only way to come full circle. Had I booked the matched, it would have been a roller coaster ride like a Michael Bay directed summer blockbuster. But I realized that the creative team decided to take a more candid approach. This match wasn’t about creative storytelling. This match was about saying farewell to what is arguably the greatest era of pro wrestling history – The Attitude Era.
Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Triple H. The last of a dying breed. Along with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, those five names carried the WWE on their backs in the late 90′s. But time waits for no one, and it’s hard to come to terms in believing that those days were over 15 years ago. When the Hulk Hogan era had run it’s course, when Bret Hart was out the door, and the WWE was on the verge of going out of business – these were the men that saved the company. Some wrestling fans don’t recognize the significance of who they are and what they did. Had it not been for them, there wouldn’t be a WWE today. And this match at WrestleMania, was the one moment where we literally said goodbye to yesterday.
Shawn Michaels, now a retired Hall of Famer. Triple H, now the man who will step away from the ring and take over the day to day corporate duties of Vince McMahon. And The Undertaker, a yearly WrestleMania attraction who could easily call it a career at any time now that he has 20 consecutive wins and zero losses. These three men define history and this match wasn’t about continuing the story. It was about ending it with class.
Had Shawn Michaels gotten more involved in determining the outcome of the match, it would have opened the flood gates of rumors and speculation that he’d be back for at least one more match. Maybe a triple threat. Maybe a handicap. Maybe even a final one-on-one with Triple H to see who the better man in DX really was. But what would be the point? We already know the answer to that.
It would be obvious that the WWE would be riding their talents into the ground rather than letting them bow out of their illustrious careers. The match didn’t need physical involvement. The story was told through expression. And my hat is off to whoever the producer/agent for the match was. It was technically designed so that you would be able to hear audio bytes of conversations between those involved. The close up shots of Taker and clear audio of him saying, “Don’t end this match Shawn.. No matter what, don’t end the match,” were more effective than any swerve. Michaels played the role to perfection. Had he tried to screw one of them – he’d lose the loyalty of the fans and, without a future match, he’d have no way to re-earn it. The story wasn’t in the punches thrown. It was in the facial expressions. And it’s an example of the lost art in this business.
One problem that I had with this match was the lack of blood. I wasn’t looking for anything gruesome, but Taker and Triple H were hitting each other with everything they had and any blunt object available to them. Not to mention, this match was in a cage. I understand the “no blood” policy for the PG-13 product, but this is WrestleMania. This is a cage match. And one of the participants is the guy who calls the shots for the entire organization. A little blood would have been justified. On the flip side of the coin, there were some minor trickles of blood from getting busted open the hard way, but not enough to add to dramatic storytelling.
There were also some points in the match where both Triple H and (especially) Shawn Michaels were overacting and overselling the facial expressions, almost to a comedic point. I also felt that the Shawn Michaels ref bump was a mistake. The Charles Robinson cameo provided nothing to the suspense, although it did make me question if they were going to screw up the ending to give reason for yet another rematch next year. Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way.
The finish was somewhat weak. Basic tombstone into a three count. After watching last year’s match with numerous finishers, reversals, and kickouts – I expected more. Instead, we got something simple. Similar to the “I’m sorry.. I love you” finish in the Flair/Michaels match. Taker saw the end in Triple H’s eyes and put the dying dog out of his misery.
The final shot of Michaels and Taker carrying Triple H to the back was worth a thousand words. You can’t put a price on that type of perfection. And, while I feel the match itself didn’t live up to it’s expectations, it told the story it needed to tell and ended one of the greatest wrestling books of all time.
For those that don’t know, I’m a HUGE film buff. And when talking about the Terminator movie series, I always get asked my thoughts on the third installment entitled “Rise of The Machines.” As weak as the movie is compared to its predecessors, the closing moments of that movie wrapped the story and completed the circle. Sure it’s not the easiest film to sit through, but that final scene was needed to come full circle. I feel the same way here. It may not have been a match that I would consider great or memorable, but it was needed to complete the story and end it in pure class.