Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest #22: Mankind vs Undertaker Rivalry, 1996-1998

Digest

So, I decided to take in one of the best rivalries ever, and one of the pillars of the Attitude Era, with this edition of the Pro-Wrestling Digest.

First, I found a clip, about 3-minutes long, of their very first, official match. This one is from In Your House 7 and was a dark, send the fans off with a smile, brawl that saw Master of Pain take the W. It felt like a strong starting point before things were to officially kick off.

I've included the beforementioned clip above.

I watched the ending of a casket match between Goldy and Taker afterwards, which saw Mankind being revealed inside of the casket before he would attack the deadman. Check it out HERE.

Next, we had their famous King of the Ring battle. Very good, borderline great content, folks. They had glimpses of violent brilliance sprinkled throughout a modest pace and a meaty runtime. A shit finish might have taken a touch of the steam away, as a building block I sincerely appreciated this.

Seed planted, and on the show that most see, including myself, as the first night of a new era.

A battle royal match from an old episode of Raw saw the two go immediately after each other. They'd eliminate themselves rather quickly. I stopped watching shortly after. I'm just not big on the match gimmick and this one didn't have much going for me.

A side note, but I am surprised Mero and Owen never clicked and that it wasn't attempted more than it was.

The boiler room brawl encounter was an entertaining walk-and-brawl that toured the area. Good shit and entertaining TV for sure, but admittedly flawed in presentation and logic (yeah, I know). Early cinematic wrestling that they'd build on again later. Paul's turn was perhaps the biggest part of this.

I checked out the above video with JR and Conrad chatting about the brawl, which served as a nice companion piece. They gave an respectable amount of praise and shit and Ross provided decent insight into the backstage brain.

This package rocked because it was the campiest fucking thing ever!

Next, a buried alive match, presented as the first unsanctioned contest in WWF. A good intensity, strong pace, and multiple awesome shots and spots made this a great one. That they pushed past the overbooked antics and a few rough spots here to the point that they ended up giving us something borderline cinematic in a positive nature deserves some form of praise.

Foley talking about the buried alive match is in this video above. If you want to get a bit of a peak behind the curtain and hear what was going through the dude's brain at the time, it's worth the watch. He covers the traveling casket matches between the two and a rambles in the best ways, as he is prone to do, too.

They were the warm-up for Al Snow!

Paul was placed in a shark cage and pulled up above the ring for a Survivor Series showing. Taker came down from the rafters. The match never really broke out into anything past being simply good, sadly. They worked well enough, but it also was clearly a dip in general considering the build of the buried alive outing.

The Executioner ran out and then was ran off.

A television, no holds barred contest kept the program moving. It wasn't anything of true note, opting not to surpass the general restraints of the circumstances and served more as a filler bout as Taker was meant to face The Executioner days later.

Speaking of, Gordy attacked in post.

I decided to skip that side-story contest. If memory serves, it wasn't much of anything so I don't think I'm making much of a mistake here.

We're going to flashforward a touch now, moving ahead to In Your House 14 for a World Heavyweight Championship match. The Undertaker had won the strap in a panned match against, then champion, Sid. It was his second reign, the first lasting under a week. Thanks to the period of time that this occurred, it was, of course, overbooked. It was also a great clash on titans with quality storytelling and a nice intensity.

The Undertaker would retain. He'd later defeat Triple H, Austin, Faarooq, and Vader before falling to Bret at Summerslam.

Next, we get Undertaker and Stone Cold against Kane and Mankind in a hell in a cell tornado tag from a go-home edition of Raw. Paul would bleed thanks to an attack by Taker and it was a general spectacle for sure and a car crash brawl overall. I like shit like this, personally. It's part of why I still tune into IWRG at times, as they do smaller scale (but more intense) versions of this kind of thing rather often.

They cut to Extra Attitude as a spill-over, which was kind of cool. Austin would put away Mankind via a claw reversed into a stunner. I am sure this cell match is polarizing, but I enjoyed it for the chaos. You might, too.

I watched their most iconic encounter previously and wrote a bit about it HERE. Simply put, the cell match remains a pillar of the era and one of the most important things that exists in the world of wrestling history. Anyone that hasn't seen this, likely younger fans, should watch this one from the set if nothing else. It was revolutionary at the time, holds up nicely today, and is simply a fantastic performance top to bottom.

I also watched an interview with Foley for this one, too. Clearly, to those that have noticed the sit-down above. It goes all over the place and is wonderful.

The Hell in a Cell truly was a great match that wasn't.

And, with that, we've reached the perfect place to stop for now. I am considering running a bonus match review post as a cherry to this digest sundae. We'll see.

The internet here, where I am for the next bit on this assignment, is shitty so expect things to be of a more peaceful pace. Thanks for reading as I relieved one of the most entertaining rivalries of all time, flawed as it was.

Ratings

  1. In Your House 7, Dark Match NR
  2. King of the Ring 96 ***1/2
  3. #1 Contendership Battle Royal, Raw 171 NR
  4. Boiler Room Brawl, Summerslam 96 ***
  5. Buried Alive, In Your House 11 ***3/4
  6. Survivor Series 96 ***
  7. No Holds Barred, Raw 188 **3/4
  8. WWF World Heavyweight Title, In Your House 14 ***3/4
  9. Hell in a Cell Tag, ft. Kane & Austin, Raw 264 ***1/2
  10. Hell in a Cell, King of the Ring 98 ****1/4