WWE – Undertaker – The Streak 21-1: R.I.P Edition (Cert 15)
5 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 539 minutes approx.
From his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series as the mystery partner of Ted DiBiase’s team, The Undertaker has been something special, from feuding with the Ultimate Warrior just months after arriving to winning the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan one year after his first appearance.
Having accomplished plenty in his 25 years with the WWF/WWE Taker has been a prominent player due to and in many ways in spite of the supernatural gimmick, arguably the most successful of all time. He has even managed to evolve from being a Dead Man to being a tobacco chewing biker and back again without missing a step.
But the one thing which has become synonymous with The Undertaker was pure serendipity – The Streak! It seemed to go unnoticed at first that at Wrestlemania, the WWE’s biggest supershow of the year, Taker was unbeaten, until Jim Ross remarked at Wrestlemania 17 that Taker was 9-0, someone finally took notice.
Gradually it became a theme added to hype Taker’s matches until it took on a life of its own and wrestlers would actively line-up to challenge Taker and end The Streak! Even if a world title was on the line ending The Streak would be considered just an important prize to add to a wrestler’s kudos, at which point it became a key selling point for Wrestlemania and Taker’s matches. 15-0, 16-0, 17-0, could anyone topple Taker and end The Streak?
While a collection of this nature already exists the difference is that this features two extra matches including the fateful night when hell finally froze over and The Streak was brought crashing to a conclusion at the hands on Brock Lesnar. This explains the “R.I.P” suffix to the title, along with the limited edition Coffin Box available of which just 2101 (see what they did there) copies have been made!
This release also boasts that the matches are available on DVD for the first time “uncut and unblurred” – in other words the WWF scratch logo is visible again, references to “WWF” remain intact and blood is shown. However the hanging spot after the WM 15 match with Big Boss Man has been cut from this release.
Since this started innocuously enough the early matches are nothing special, the first against the latest persona non grata from the WWE Jimmy Snuka is noticeable for the face pop the dark heel received upon his entrance. Taker was a fully-fledged face for his next match against Jake “The Snake” Roberts in what would be Jake’s last match for the WWF until his 1996 return.
Wrestlemania 9 is widely considered one of the worst PPV of all time and Taker’s utter stinker against Giant Gonzalez complete with lame DQ finish, is indicative of why this is. The only thing worth seeing here is the sight of 6’8 Taker (his real height) being dwarfed by 7’7 Gonzalez.
This journey through Taker’s Wrestlemania career offers a chance to see how the character evolved both visually and as a worker. From an immobile zombie to a large man doing dives the changes range from the subtle to the startling. There are also the storyline developments too – at Wrestlemania 14 Paul Bearer is aligned with Kane but in the next match from Wrestlemania 15 Bearer and Taker are side by side again!
It is not until the Wrestlemania 17 match against Triple H that we start to get some decent action. Trivia note: Triple H had always used a real sledgehammer and never hurt anyone; here he used a plastic one for the first time and busted Taker open! The match against Ric Flair a year later is notable for Flair obviously whiffing the crowbar shot to Taker’s head, and Arn Anderson’s awesome run-in.
The handicap match at Wrestlemania 19 comes complete with Limp Bizkit (whatever happened to them?) playing Taker to the ring. Trivia note: this was supposed to be a tag match but Taker’s partner Nathan Jones couldn’t remember his spots and kept messing up so they wrote him off in a pre-show attack by the FBI and made it a handicap match instead.
Randy Orton was working with a shoulder injury for his match at Wrestlemania 21 (ironically the same reason he is out of action at the moment) but still put in a strong performance as he tried to slay another legend to add to his tally. After the abomination that was the Casket Match against Mark Henry, Taker had two consecutive title matches against Batista and Edge, the latter headlining Wrestlemania 26 and features the now famous spirited sprint from secondary ref Charles Robinson.
A second streak was born the next year – that being Taker’s matches stealing the show – beginning with the first of two classics against Shawn Michaels. With HBK eventually retiring after the second match in 2010 his best buddy Triple H stepped up to the plate, despite having already lost to Taker at WM 17 a decade earlier. This lead to another double run, the second match being contest in Hell In A Cell with HBK as referee leading to Triple H swapping his long hair and wrestling trunks for a shaven head and a suit!
Another excommunicated wrestler in CM Punk along with Paul Heyman rather tackily exploited the real life death of William Moody aka Paul Bearer to set up the next challenge to the streak. Heyman returned a year later with the Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar and the world stood open mouthed when Taker’s shoulders were finally pinned to the mat at Wrestlemania 30 (Taker suffered a mid-match concussion in the process), ending the streak at 21-1.
With The Streak now broken – hence the omission of the Bray Wyatt match from this year’s show – this is the collection the WWE should have waited to put out, so for anyone who hesitated before this is the definitive compilation of Undertaker’s once in a lifetime run of consecutive Wrestlemania victories.
Rating – ****
Man In Black