- Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan (1980-1988)
- Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes/Ricky Steamboat/Terry Funk (1985-89)
- Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (1989-1997)
- Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon (1997-1999)
- Kane vs. Undertaker (1997-)
- The Rock vs. Triple H (1996-)
- Diamond Dallas Page vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (1997)
- Trish Stratus vs. Lita (2000-2006)
- Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (1997-2005)
- Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz (1999-2009)
5. The Undertaker vs. Kane: 1997-TBD
Once in every great while there is a spectacle which allows those witnessing to marvel at the brilliance & gasp at the creativity on display right in front of their eyes. Very few performers have had the ability to stop someone in their tracks, freeze them in time, and make them go “wow, that’s pretty cool”. At the end of the day, isn’t that all we are ever trying to achieve? If we work in a restaurant we like to have our service noticed & appreciated, if we make food it makes us feel good to know it was enjoyed and not pushed aside like a boring cheap salad. Whether we fix cars or empty septic tanks, we like to know people are driving around safely & their crappy pipes aren’t clogged because of the fine job we provided. No matter the walk of life, we all take pride in what we do for a living. To be considered the best, most respected, and/or the head of the peers in any field is a distinguished honor; one bestowed upon the most disciplined/resilient/loyal ones of the pack.
As the end of 1990 approached, it seemed the annual Survivor Series event had a dark cloud looming overhead. The “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase had assembled a strong team to face Dusty Rhodes’ “Dream Team” and had promised everyone a surprise mystery partner. On the other side of the ring, standing alongside the Hart Foundation, Dusty’s team looked to be the heavy favorite until the very first nerve-tingling gong struck, and out appeared the ghoulish figure turning the “American Dream’s crusade into a Million Dollar Nightmare. The Undertaker had emerged to begin his over two-decade long quest of destruction throughout the entire World Wrestling Federation by first eliminating two of Dusty’s teammates within minutes before being officially counted out after eliminating Rhodes and still wanting to put the beat down to him.
As the 90’s progressed, The Undertaker evolved; different colors, hats, robes, entrances, & attitudes were displayed to amplify the incredible persona which could only be produced if done correctly.
An ambiguous connection with the supernatural sparks a certain intrigue, whether one admits it or not. A silent intensity rages in the eyes of a mysterious, seemingly-indestructible being who claims to be from “the dark side”. Being accompanied by his confidante, Paul Bearer, a rotund yet remarkable intelligent certified funeral director, who was always seen carrying a questionable golden urn as Undertaker owned his opponents weekly. Weeks turned to months, months to years, which during the mid-90s we were later introduced to Undertaker’s specialty matches. These were psychological tactics used to intimidate & get inside the mind of ‘Taker’s opponent(s) and capture their soul.
First, we witnessed the famed “casket match”, which was basically a no-holds-barred street fight, where you decimate your adversary until they are rendered unconscious, then you put their limp carcass in the casket and close the lid ending the contest. Ironically the “deadman” has lost more of these matches than he has won. Next we were taken on a ride through wrestling’s mini-graveyard when the deranged Undertaker presented the cult favorite known as the “buried alive match” during his 1996 epic encounter with Mankind. This personal affair burned of vengeance after “The Phenom’s longtime friend and manager Paul Bearer betrayed his Undertaker and sided with the future “Hardcore Legend” at SummerSlam. Then in early 1997, after winning the WWE(F) Championship, Undertaker got his revenge on both Mankind and Bearer by burning his once dear close friend and conquering his mentally unstable foe.
Thwarted but not defeated, a rage-fueled Bearer was desperate to enjoy the last laugh against his former ally by revealing a dark family secret the mysterious dark figure had tried to conceal for most of his life.
After failed attempts to control his former “instrument of destruction” Bearer angrily told the world that the Undertaker had set fire to his home when he was a young child and had accidentally murdered his parents as well as his younger brother, Kane. The loud-mouthed, rotund Bearer went on to uncover that Kane was indeed alive, and not perished as the guilt-stricken ‘Taker had long thought.
After Shawn Michaels cost Undertaker the championship, the darkened eyes of the reaper were set upon the “original degenerate” in the very first bloodbath known as “Hell in a Cell” in early October 1997. As Undertaker completely destroyed Michaels, he signaled for the end of the match by setting up a tombstone piledriver. Suddenly, the lights go out, the arena turns to a dark red, and Paul Bearer emerges alongside a masked giant of a man we later find out to be Paul Bearer’s son, Kane!
Kane rips the cage door of its hinges and stands face to face with his older brother. The big red monster raises his hands and drops them rapidly which brings fire shooting out of the corner ring posts. Kane then tombstones his brother, giving Michaels the shocking win and leaving a lasting first impression that fans still remember fondly to this day.
As 1997 concluded and the “attitude era” officially began, Kane would taunt his brother and challenged him to a one-on-one battle; a challenge which the honorable Undertaker refused for months. Kane would spitefully lay waste to a majority of the WWE(F) roster and crew in an attempt to lure the Undertaker into a fight. The man from the dark side chose to side with his brother and fend off Kane’s resentful enemies, only for little brother to turn on “The Phenom” and set fire to him after yet another casket match. At this point, ‘Taker had enough of his brother’s ignorant and foolish attempts of intimidation and returned weeks later to overcome his fire-obsessed kin at WrestleMania 14 in 1998.
This led to another specialty match Undertaker would become known for, the Inferno Match; which the only way to win is to set your opponent on fire. Undertaker overcame his maniacal brother yet again.
As the years went on the “Brothers of Destruction” would switch between dominating each other and completely dismantling the tag team division, winning the tag team titles multiple times during the widely criticized “Invasion” in 2001. Kane, not to be upstaged by big brother would always be the one to turn on his self-professed “greatest ally and greatest adversary” by helping Mr. McMahon bury him alive after unmasking in 2003; only to be defeated once again by “the demon from Death Valley” at WrestleMania 20 in 2004. The brothers often go their separate ways then come back together to vanquish common enemies i.e. Mr. Kennedy & MVP in late 2006 and stood atop the wrestling world just waiting for someone to knock them off their perch for years until Kane gets another attack of insecure paranoia and assaults his hermano secretly during the summer of 2010. Kane tries to lead everyone astray by accusing innocent wrestlers of putting the legendary deadman in a vegetative state. Later that year, the Phenom re-emerged but was actually defeated by his diabolical half-brother, being buried alive yet again.
Undertaker was never one to “forgive and forget” but it seems blood is thicker than revenge when it comes to these two incredible supernatural characters.
Undertaker let bygones be bygones as he once again joined forces with Kane during the 1000th episode of Monday Night RAW in 2012, then later were abducted and taunted into eviscerating the back woodsy, dastardly and insane Wyatt family in late 2015; establishing this volatile yet competitively solid brotherly bond as one of the most impressive & entertaining tandems to ever grace a television screen. In my perspective, Kane is sin and the Undertaker is death…neither discriminate, whomever is unlucky or unwise enough to get in their way, gets taken down and obliterated, end of story. These two were a huge reason I became a wrestling fan; this tumultuous family saga is as captivating as it is endearingly sociopathic.
Due to Jeff’s trip to CO next week, this article will take a week-long hiatus and will return the following week with the next three spotlighted rivalries. Until then, take care Brand!