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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Undertaker vs. Mankind: A Rivalry One of a Kind
October 13, 2005 by Jon Gumble


Throughout the history of wrestling, one thing we have always appreciated and paid attention to is rivalries. If we didn't have rivalries, there would not be a wrestling business. We always loved feuds involving a good guy and a bad guy. We have seen rivalries that have shaped wrestling organizations for years to come, such as Hogan and Piper, Triple H and The Rock, and probably the most compelling feud of all time, Austin and McMahon, which realistically is a wrestler/boss feud. However when you look at any rivalry that have the terms "bizarre and twisted" next to them, there is truly only one rivalry that beats them all. A rivalry that was enjoyed by all WWE fans everywhere. A rivalry truly one of a kind, The Undertaker vs. Mankind.

No two superstars ever played more mind games, had more memorable moments, or faced each other more times on pay-per view, Monday Nigh Raw or SmackDown!, more times than the Undertaker and Mankind. These two men fought each other more times than any other superstars, including six times on pay-per view. Those six pay-per view matches were all classics and immensely memorable, along with several other moments in this rivalry that made it so special.

The date is April 1, 1996, the night right after the man from the dark side, The Undertaker, defeated Big Daddy Cool Diesel at WrestleMania XII. On that night, The Undertaker would of never of expected to meet his equal that he would be battling for the next two years. For weeks, WWF fans saw videos of a strange and deranged individual sitting in a sewer, infested with rats, bashing himself in the head and pulling his own hair out. His name is Mankind, a wrestler with a scarred and battered body, three fingers on one hand, one leg longer than the other, enjoys pain and punishment, and undoubtedly, the toughest opponent, I bet, the Undertaker has ever fought in his career.

The rivalry begins on that day of April 1, 1996 when the Undertaker fought Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw (called JBL today), when all of a sudden Mankind comes out of no where and begins to inflict punishment on the man form the dark side, including putting his bizarre submission hold on him by sticking his fingers down his throat. Week after week, Mankind continued to torment the Undertaker, attacking him back stage, outside in the locker room, and then at the May pay-per view, In Your House: Beware of Dog. The Undertaker was taking on Goldust for the Intercontinental Title in the Undertaker's specialty match, a Casket match. And right when it looked like the Undertaker was about to put Goldust in the casket and win the match, Undertaker opened up the lid and out popped Mankind and slapped on the Mandible Claw on the Undertaker and stuffing him in the casket and costing him the match and the IC Title.

That set up the first official meeting between these two superstars on June 23, 1996 at the King of the Ring pay-per view. The match was a brutal first encounter that lasted almost twenty minutes. The moment of this match was when it seemed that the Undertaker was about to win with the Tombstone, Mankind reversed it into the Mandible Claw. At the same time, Undertaker's manager Paul Bearer climbed on the ring apron to try and help The Undertaker. As the Undertaker ran towards the turnbuckle to shake Mankind off, Paul Bearer raised his trademark urn to hit Mankind, but Mankind ducked, and Paul hit the Undertaker instead by accident, or did he" Mankind, re applied the Mandible claw on an unconscious Undertaker and won the match. Mankind: 1 Undertaker: 0

Mankind did what very few have been able to do, and that was defeat the Undertaker. Though Mankind won the first round, the war was far from over. The following pay-per view, In Your House: International Incident, The Undertaker was in a rematch with Goldust form two months earlier. Once again history repeated itself. Just when it looked like the Undertaker was about to win the match, Mankind pops out from under the ring and attacks the Undertaker again! The two then battled it out all the way into the basement of the arena, which gave the WWE an idea and set up round two. The date is August 18, 1996. At the pay-per view SummerSlam, it was a night no Undertaker fan will ever forget. The Undertaker and Mankind faced each other again, this time in the first ever Boiler Room Brawl. The rules were that both men were to start out in the boiler room and fight there way to the ring where Paul Bearer was holding his urn. The first person to get to the ring and gain possession of the urn would be declared the winner. After countless drops to concrete floors and using any weapon that wasn't nailed down, they eventually made there way to the ring where the unthinkable happened. The Undertaker entered the ring first, extends his hand to take the urn but Paul Bearer turns his back on him. Mankind ambushes Taker from behind with the Mandible Claw. Paul Bearer than bashes the Undertaker in the head with the urn and hands it over to Mankind, giving him the win again. Now, decisively, the Undertaker truly has found his equal in Mankind, as he now has defeated him twice in a three month span. Mankind: 2 Undertaker: 0

With another decisive win under his belt now, Mankind was now officially the number one contender for the WWF Championship. Mankind was in a classic match against Shawn Michaels until Vader came in to interfere giving Michaels the win by DQ. However, Mankind applied the mandible claw to Michaels, incapacitating him. As Mankind was about to roll Michaels into the casket he brought to ringside with him, Paul Bearer opened up the casket and out popped The Undertaker and both battled there way to the back again. It was clear that the WWE wasn't big enough for the both of them and they would meet once again in one of the most bizarre matches in WWF history.

The date, October 20, 1996, and the event was called, In Your House: Buried Alive. The Undertaker and Mankind would meet again for the third time in five months on pay-per view, this time in a Buried Alive match. The first person to put their opponent in a created ringside grave and cover him with dirt will be declared the winner. In a match that featured Mankind nailing The Undertaker with a spike, and the Undertaker wailing Mankind with the steel ringside steps, and hitting a big steel chair leg drop on Mankind's head, The Undertaker hit his Tombstone Piledriver and carried Mankind over to the grave. The Undertaker then reversed the mandible claw and Chokeslammed Mankind right into the grave and covered him with dirt, giving the Undertaker the win. Mankind: 2 Undertaker: 1 Even as the match was over, The Undertaker continued to pile dirt on Mankind, until the Taker was nailed from behind with a shovel by a man in a mask, known as The Executioner. Paul Bearer and The Executioner got Mankind out of the grave and put the Undertaker in there and covered him with dirt. Goldust, Crush, Triple H, and Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw all came out to help Paul, Mankind and The Executioner bury the Undertaker, until thunder began to start and a lightning bolt hit the gravesite and the Undertaker's hand shot out showing that he is still alive.

The following month, The Undertaker and Mankind would meet again, this time at Madison Square Garden in New York City at the Survivor Series pay-per view on November 16. The Undertaker came down supporting a new look ready to do battle with Mankind for the fourth time in six months on pay-per view. The stipulation of this match was that Paul Bearer was to be suspended above the ring in a steel cage to keep him from interfering, and if The Undertaker won, he would get five minutes alone in the ring against Paul Bearer. All the previous battles between these two men were classics, and this one was no exception as both men battled, including fighting in the audience where The Undertaker Backdropped Mankind over the guardrail down to the concrete floor. Eventually, The Undertaker hit his Tombstone on Mankind and scored the victory. Mankind: 2 Undertaker: 2 The cage began to lower and the Undertaker was just about to get his hands on Paul Bearer until The Executioner came out and ambushed the Undertaker, saving Paul Bearer. It was clear that The Undertaker wanted to do away with Mankind's partner, The Executioner. So to finish out 1996, The Undertaker fought the Executioner at the December pay-per view called, In Your House: It's Time. However this was no ordinary match, it was known as an Armageddon Match. Once a contestant is pinned, he has 10 seconds to resume, if he can not, the match is over. Obviously since there were no disqualifications, or count outs in this match, Mankind ultimately made his presence known in this match and it became a handicap match. This match featured The Undertaker and Mankind "tearing the house down" literally as Mankind was thrown right through the In Your House entrance set. The Undertaker battled The Executioner all throughout the arena, including outside where The Undertaker threw The Executioner in a fountain! Meanwhile, back in the arena, Mankind, not officially in this match, was maced by security and put into a strait jacket! The Undertaker continued to beat the hell out of Mankind anyway, and then hit his Tombstone on the Executioner in the ring and pinned him. The Executioner couldn't resume after that and the Undertaker was declared the winner.

Then at WrestleMania XIII, after going through a six year drought without winning the WWE championship, The Undertaker finally won the championship from Psycho Sid. However, The Undertaker's old friend Mankind wanted to renew their rivalry immediately after the Undertaker won the title. He renewed it alright including burning the Undertaker on Monday Night Raw with a fireball. That set the stage for their first meeting together in 1997, and it was also the first time these two men fought each other for the WWE championship. It was April 20, 1997 at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker, and boy did he ever get his revenge. These two men wanted each other in the worst way once again. This match featured Mankind breaking a glass pitcher over The Undertaker's head, and bashing a steel chair on The Undertaker's already burnt face. Then, not one, but two referees get knocked out in this melee and Mankind brings in the steel steps. Right when he is about to bash The Undertaker with them, The Undertaker drop kicks the steel steps right on to Mankind, then he wails him in the head with the steel chair. The Undertaker than throws Mankind into the ropes getting his head tied up in it, and the Undertaker takes of Mankind's mask! As Mankind gets to his feet on the ring apron, The Undertaker grabs the steel steps and nails Mankind with them right off the apron through an announcer's table, head first!

A Chokeslam and Tombstone later, the Undertaker retains his title. Mankind: 2 Undertaker: 3 But the Undertaker wasn't through yet. He trapped Paul Bearer in a corner and did to him what Mankind did to The Undertaker a few weeks earlier. He burned Paul Bearer with a fireball and he and Mankind cowardly retreated back to the locker room, arm in arm.

The final chapter of this brutal rivalry takes place more than a year after this last encounter. Mankind wanted to renew his rivalry with The Undertaker one last time, and did so at the 1998 King of the Ring. It was the two year anniversary of when these two superstars first met (1996 King of the Ring was their first encounter). This final match that these two men would face each other in would go down as one of the most brutal and memorable matches in WWF history. For the sixth and final time on pay-per view, The Undertaker and Mankind would meet each other one final time, this time in one of the most vile, dangerous matches: Hell in a Cell. Mankind came to the ring with a steel chair and climbed up to the top of the cell and called out The Undertaker to start the match on top of the cage. Undertaker gladly accepted and began to climb the cage. After several minutes of battling on top of the cage, The Undertaker than literally threw Mankind off the top of the cell and through the announcer's table below! After several minutes of being laid out, they put Mankind on a stretcher and begin to wheel him out. But he surprisingly got off and began to climb the cage again! This time, after a head butt and right hand, The Undertaker then Chokeslammed Mankind right through the top of the cell down to the ring below! Mankind kept mounting an offense, but after being thrown more than 16 feet twice, it was clear the Undertaker was dominating. In one last act of desperation, Mankind than brought in a bag, and it was filled with thumbtacks and he poured them all in the ring. He managed to get the mandible claw on The Undertaker, but the Undertaker lifted him up on his back and dropped him on the thumbtacks. Then the Undertaker grabbed Mankind by the throat and Chokeslammed him on the tacks. Finally, a Tombstone Piledriver later, and the Undertaker picked up the victory and ended a rivalry that was not only for the ages, but was truly one of a kind. Mankind: 2 Undertaker: 4

by Jon Gumble ..


Zachary Goldman wrote:
A great article on this fantastic rivalry. I have only seen two of their matches so thank you for giving me the info on the other ones.
Peter Barretto wrote:
Great article. I got back into the WWF/E programmes in 1998 and saw the final chapter in one of the greatest rivalries of all time. The Hell in a Cell match was probably the most brutal match I have seen. Thankfully Mick Foley wasn't too badly injured on that night, as he was out of this world. I wish he had won the World Title earlier in his WWF/E stinct and off the Undertaker in a clean win. Once again thank you for the article and detailed information of all their PPV matches.
MNOWAX wrote:
It was April 20, 1997 at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker, and boy did he ever get his revenge. Wow i still remember that night. I t was the best Pay per view ever in My hometown of Rochester, NY. I remember the opening match LOD vs Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, and i was thinking the only one alive wrestling right now was Animal! Anyway, This is a great article describing one of the rare Rivalries that literaly took it to the edge of The WWF and i enjoyed eery nimute of it.
dylan king wrote:
great artical ive seen three of their matches so i think im going to watch the rest
GGlor369 wrote:
I agree the battle that mankind had with the Undertaker was one of a kind. To think that it al started at Summerslam 96 and would have turned out to be a Hell in a cell match at king of the ring its truly phemomenol. also it made Undertakertaker what he is today a legend.
Fraser Allen, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. wrote:
A great article and it was a memorable feud.

It takes me back to an interview with Shane 'Dean' Douglas in UK Powerslam magazine when he was talking about why his WWE tenture bombed. He said that they will ruin Mick Foley and immediately stick him in a feud with The Undertaker and will be a flop. He was right in one instant ,however, the feud brought out the best of the Undertaker after being stuck in so many poor feuds with Kama, King Kong Bundy, Mabel etc... in 1995 and rejuvenated his character. The WWE clearly recognised this and did not bury him, instead making him WWE Champion on two occasions as he was so popular. They also brought back 'Cactus Jack' and made 'Dude Love', his matches with Austin were superb as well as well as his association with The Rock.

Even now Foley is an asset to WWE, as last year's matches with Randy Orton will testify. Heard a rumour that Foley/Undertaker want to have another Hell in a Cell Match in 2008 marking 10 years since the last one. I'd rather they didn't, as it would blot the wonderful memories of the 1998 match, it even caught my friends attention, who loathes wrestling, saying 'maybe wrestling isn't always fake'.
Heather wrote:
I'd have to say the Undertaker and Mankind's rivalry is obviously one of the highest points in WWE history, not to mention the WWE/WCW war. The one thing that I don't like is when people say Kane was the first to stop the Undertaker and actually appear to hurt him. Well yes the Undertaker showed more emotion in these battles with Kane, the first person to physically stop him in his tracks was Mankind. Although Undertaker did get revenge, I feel Mankind came out on top in this one. Not only did Mankind cost the Undertaker titles he also put him through hell in their encounters (besides Hell in a Cell).
Luan Erasmus wrote:
Great article!! I am a major undertaker fan and have a great deal of respect for both of these 2 wrestlers. This rivalry was definitely the best so far and probably the best there ever will be, I mean who else will put themselves through a series of horrific matches like these 2 did. I have seen all their matches and I still say they fall under the best matches ever to come out of the WWE. I still get flash backs from that Boiler Room Brawl.

I hope that Mick Foley will consider finally retiring now, although I miss seeing him fight it's sad to see him having to stand up for himself against guys like Randy Orton and having to lose just to lift Randy's career. Let him have his legend and go out with the dignity and legacy he deserves. Same for Taker, although I hope that doesn't happen for another year or 2, but I don't want to see him having to fight mediocre wrestlers just to stay in the business. He has had one of the best careers and is one of the most respected and feared wrestlers in the world, let him end it that way!

These 2 men have done more for the WWE than any other, Hall of fame candidates for sure!

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