The Undertaker’s appearance at Wrestlemania has become one of WWE’s annual highlights. Although it’s not exactly fair to compare it to sports records (as opposed to the “sports entertainment” streak this is), it still is an impressive feat, and shows how important the Undertaker has been over the past 20+ years of WWE history. For the first time, all 20 matches have been combined into one complete package. Some of these matches have become classics, and even if the others aren’t spectacular, they still have earned their place in the annals of WWE history.
Disc 1, containing a short documentary, runs about 37 minutes, Disc 2 runs 2 hours, 45 minutes, Disc 3 runs 2 hours, 35 minutes, and Disc 4 runs just short of 3 hours. The DVD is rated TV-14. As expected, the scratch WWF logo is blurred, and Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin'” is replaced with generic entrance music. The Motorhead performance from Wrestlemania X-Seven (Triple H) and Metallica’s “The Memory Remains” from Wrestlemania XXVIII remain in tact.
“Phenom”: The Format & Documentary
When WWEDVDNews first reported the content listing for this DVD set, I was excited to see that the documentary for the set had been given its own disc; however, once we were told the documentary was only 37 minutes, my expectations decreased considerably. Unfortunately, even these low expectations were barely met by the documentary. It feels like this documentary would fit well with the superstar features that the WWE was releasing on VHS back in the late 90’s. I don’t simply say this because of the short run time. The documentary on the Starrcade DVD set also had a very short run time, but still felt like it belonged with the other documentaries we have gotten in the “DVD Era” of WWE Home Video releases. It feels like we have gone backwards for this release, though. It offers a very cursory glimpse at each match in the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak, so you don’t get a great amount of insight into any of the matches. Even his highest profile matches (such as the “End of an Era” match) aren’t given more than 2-3 minutes of dicussion.
The narration and personalities being interview straddle a very strange line between staying in character and breaking “kayfabe”. The narration is kept completely in character in talking about each “challenge” that has laid in the way of the streak living on. Not all of the personalities interviewed follow this, though. Batista, Kevin Nash, & Triple H in particular come to mind as wrestlers interviewed who spoke about the “booking” (for lack of a better term) in regards to their matches. This creates a strange overall tone to the documentary. It also is strange to me that the WWE bothered to interview personalities not currently on the WWE roster like Paul Bearer and Batista and only use them for about 30 seconds on documentary (or in the case of Bearer, about 5 seconds).
The remaining 3 discs each contain the 20 complete matches that comprise the streak. Because of the time constraints, the way the matches are laid out was really the only way it could have been done. I would have preferred if Disc 2 ended with the Wrestlemania 15 match, leaving the entire “American Bad Ass” era on the 3rd Disc, but this is a very minor nitpick. I am very happy, however, that the Shawn Michaels/Triple H series from Wrestlemania XXV-XXVIII are given their own disc. Watching all of these matches in one sitting, they play off of each other very well, and tell one complete story. It doesn’t hurt that these matches are all classics, either.
The documentary/bonus matches format works out OK, but I would have preferred if this DVD more closely followed the format of the Tombstone: History of the Undertaker DVD set. Since I never expected them to break character, the documentary was going to disappoint. Therefore, I would have preferred including a 3-5 minute intro to each match explaining the storyline building up to each match, laying the matches across the 4 discs. My ultimate dream would have been to have The Undertaker record an alternate commentary with Jim Ross (or any of WWE’s play-by-play guys) for each match. This would have given incredible insight into each match in the streak, but I never expected that to actually come to fruition.
“Rest in Peace”: The Matches
The Undertaker Vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (Wrestlemania VII, 3/24/91) – * 1/2
A quick match that was used to get over how dominant the Undertaker was in the ring. Snuka and Taker both do a good job in their respective roles, but the match is very short and simple.
The Undertaker Vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (Wrestlemania VIII, 4/5/92) – **
Roberts and Taker have very good chemistry throughout this match and tell a nice story, but like the Snuka match, the match is too short to be anything memorable.
The Undertaker Vs. Giant Gonzalez (Wrestlemania IX, 4/4/93) – 3/4 *
Many long-time WWE fans have referred to Gonzalez as one of the worst in-ring workers in the history of the company, and this match doesn’t help him overcome that stigma. They try to work with Gonzalez’ in-ring limitations, but they still can’t put together anything too compelling. The non-finish is also disappointing.
The Undertaker Vs. King Kong Bundy (Wrestlemania XI, 4/2/95) – *
Bundy’s career was on the way down at this point, and he really couldn’t move too well in the ring by this point. Therefore, like the Gonzalez match, there wasn’t much that could be done to make the match interesting. Bearer & DiBiase at ringside become the most interesting part.
The Undertaker Vs. Diesel (Wrestlemania XII, 3/31/96) – ** 1/2
A solid big man match between the two men. Well paced given the style of match. Ultimately nothing particularly memorable, but still solid.
No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship: The Undertaker Vs. Sycho Sid (Wrestlemania 13, 3/23/97) – **
This match really shows just how sloppy Sid was in the ring. He was very limited, and I felt like Undertaker did what he could to tell a compelling story, but the match never got there. Way too long given Sid’s abilities (which I don’t mean to make sound terrible, but they aren’t great). The highlight of the match is Bret Hart’s promo before the match starts, completing his heel turn that started earlier in the night in his classic against Austin.
The Undertaker Vs. Kane (Wrestlemania XIV, 3/29/98) – ***
I was pleasantly surprised with this match. Probably the best match that these two have had against each other. The storytelling is great, and helps overcome any limitations they may have in the ring.
Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker Vs. Big Boss Man (Wrestlemania XV, 3/28/99) – * 1/2
There’s a reason why, at the time, this was only Hell in a Cell match left off the Hell in a Cell anthology DVD set. There is very little chemistry in the match, and it is surprisingly short. As expected, the post-match angle with Boss Man getting hung from the cell is removed.
The Undertaker Vs. Triple H (Wrestlemania X-Seven, 4/1/01) – *** 3/4
In hindsight, this match doesn’t live up to the classics these two men would have 10 years later, but it’s still a great match. I usually don’t love the “brawl through the crowd” spots, but it’s done very well in this match. Undertaker & Triple H are both great storytellers, so it’s no surprise their matches always deliver.
No Disqualification Match: The Undertaker Vs. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania X8, 3/17/02) – ****
Speaking of great storytellers, Ric Flair plays off of the Undertaker beautifully here. This match is wonderfully paced and put together. The screencapture above, where Undertaker does his patented “sit up” while Flair has the Figure 4 locked in, is an amazing spot.
The Undertaker Vs. Big Show & A-Train (Wrestlemania XIX, 3/30/03) – **
To be fair, this match is a lot better than I remember it being in hindsight. And I’m certainly not going to complain about an opportunity to use the words “Colossus of Boggo Road” again. In all seriousness, though, the match is decently put together, and the Nathan Jones appearance is a bizarre footnote in the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania history.
The Undertaker Vs. Kane (Wrestlemania XX, 3/14/04) – * 1/4
At the time, I still remember the Undertaker returning as the Deadman being an awesome moment, and his entrance in this match is still fantastic. The match itself, however, doesn’t come together much at all. A big disappointment after watching their match at Wrestlemania XIV.
The Undertaker Vs. Randy Orton (Wrestlemania 21, 4/3/05) – *** 1/4
A very solid if unspectacular match playing off the “Legend Vs. Legend Killer” gimmick.
Casket Match: The Undertaker Vs. Mark Henry (Wrestlemania 22, 4/2/06) – **
A very “by the numbers” big man match. The casket match gimmick doesn’t really add much, but probably helped make this match a bit better than it would have been otherwise.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: The Undertaker Vs. Batista (Wrestlemania 23, 4/1/07) – ****
The start of the Undertaker’s “streak within the streak” of stealing the show at Wrestlemania year after year. This also may be the best match of Batista’s career. They have great chemistry, and tell a fun story in the ring.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: The Undertaker Vs. Edge (Wrestlemania XXIV, 3/30/08) – **** 1/2
A classic between two of the best of the past generation. Again, The Undertaker helps deliver one of the best matches of his opponent’s career.
The Undertaker Vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 25, 4/5/09) – *****
In my opinion, one of the 3 greatest matches in the history of Wrestlemania (along with Savage Vs. Steamboat and Bret Vs. Owen), if not in the history of the WWE. An incredible match.
Streak Vs. Career: The Undertaker Vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XXVI, 3/28/10) – **** 1/2
Although this match is a step below the contest from the year before, it is still fantastic. The finish of this match is probably my favorite finish to any match. The emotion from Shawn and Taker is wonderful.
No Holds Barred Match: The Undertaker Vs. Triple H (Wrestlemania XXVII, 4/3/11) – **** 3/4
Although this match risks becoming “finisher overload” late in the match, the storytelling is still great. The Undertaker refusing to stay down is a great conceit for the match.
“End of an Era” Hell in a Cell Match (Guest Referee Shawn Michaels): The Undertaker Vs. Triple H (Wrestlemania XXVIII, 4/1/12) – *****
I know most fans do not go the full 5 stars for this match, but I honestly feel that the storytelling in this match is unparalleled and is enough to earn the 5 stars. I’ve never seen a match filled with this level of emotion, and I was completely invested in it. Michaels adds so much to the match as guest referee, and the match serves as a great “end of an era”.
“Last Ride”: Final Thoughts
This DVD ends up being somewhat difficult to review. While the format and documentary are not fantastic, a good number of the bonus matches are. It would be unfair for me to say that the documentary is “bad”. For what the WWE was going for, the doc is serviceable. I also did somewhat enjoy watching it, even if I was left disappointed and underwhelmed. If you pretend that you are watching a WWE Home Video released in the late 90’s, this will feel like it fits right in, and you may enjoy it. If your only reason to buy the DVD is for the documentary, though, I would rethink making the purchase. As I outlined earlier, there were other formats that I think would have worked better for this set, but for what we’re given, this ends up working out OK.
The major selling point for this DVD, though, is the complete matches. I know a lot of die-hard collectors found this set a bit unnecessary because they already own all of the Wrestlemania events on their individual DVDs. It’s hard for me to argue this point, but that doesn’t mean that this DVD wasn’t a great idea. I love the idea of having the streak on one set, and as someone who doesn’t own EVERY Wrestlemania on DVD, there were a few matches on this set that were missing from my collection. For the casual fan, I would say this set is an easy recommendation just for the opportunity to own each match, and I expect the set to be a pretty big seller.
An interesting note about the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches are that they tend to either be fantastic or bad. There are very few matches that are “middle of the road”. I’d only put the Diesel, Orton, and first Kane matches in that category. Eight of the matches on the set, though (Triple H at X-Seven, Flair, and from Batista onwards) are all great matches, with some being modern classics. As far as match compilation discs go, the 4th disc of this set is probably the greatest disc of matches the WWE has ever released, and I imagine that will never be beaten. I really love the idea of having those four matches on one disc. Watching them in one sitting was a great experience. For me, this is almost enough of a reason to recommend this set to everyone.
I should also note that the box art for this set is fantastic, and does make a great item for your shelf. The WWE has really been stepping up their game in this department over the past year. It feels like every DVD I get, the box art gets better and better each time. I like the idea of listing each “victim” along with the Wrestlemania number instead of giving the usual match listings. It helps the set feel special, while still giving pertinent information like which match is on each disc.
Overall, I think most readers have probably already made up their mind about whether or not they are going to buy this set, and I think my review will only help to bolster those opinions. The documentary is not worth going out of your way to see, so I would not recommend simply buying the DVD for that reason. If you do not own all of the Wrestlemania events on DVD, though, I think this set is a very easy recommendation. I enjoyed going through the 20 matches relatively quickly. The last 6 matches are all wonderful, and the last 4 in particular are a wonderful lesson in storytelling. This set makes a great addition to WWE’s home video library, even if some hardcore DVD collectors don’t have much new here.