For Whom the Bell Tolls – Act I
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is how it all began. The bell of The Undertaker echoes through the Wrestlemania arena as Paul Bearer carries the urn in hand on his way to the ring as he is followed by The Undertaker. Little did we know, this would be the first of many. In the ring was Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who also didn’t know the ass whooping The Undertaker was about to lay him to rest with. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka became number 1 after a Tombstone Piledriver in a match that isn’t special or unique, but every great streak has a first step.
They say Wrestlemania is where “Legends are Born”, despite what I say about this match, it was the birth of The Streak. The Legend of The Undertaker was born in this match against The Superfly. Every streak has to start somewhere and everyone involved obviously had no clue to the historic moment. The problem this match has is that it hasn’t aged well. Jimmy Snuka is a Hall of Famer and he definitely changed the wrestling industry as a performer. On paper, this match still looks good, but the problem is it isn’t good. I was too young to catch The Superfly Jimmy Snuka in his prime. I realize that Snuka was almost a decade away from that prime, but I know people loved him. I believe I am right in assuming that almost no one wanted to see him in a squash match. Because unfortunately, that is what this match is twenty years later.
I’d like to point your attention to the photo above for a moment. Take note that Jimmy Snuka’s head is clearly hitting the mat like a lawn dart as The Undertaker lands the Tombstone Piledriver for his first win. We have the next three weeks to get into how awesome the Tombstone Piledriver is, but that picture basically sums up the match in a nutshell. Snuka builds Taker up to show how invincible he is, barely gets any real offense and makes a dive onto the ropes before falling to the outside. He tries a springboard and Taker is supposed to make the catch and turn him inside out with a Tombstone. It would have been a cool ending, but the men screwed up and recovered quickly to finish it off with a Tombstone. It’s cool that they screwed up a little, Snuka was a big dude and it was a tough spot. The match had bigger issues than that. The match just had no time and no momentum. It was a squash match. That is how they are. It’s only use was to put someone over. They are useful, Goldberg made a career out of these kinds of matches, but I expected more from the first Streak match.
Something I’ve never understood about wrestling, if you had a match on any card and through the decisions of the powers that be, you have five minutes to tell a story in the ring. I’d think about making that match the most intense five minutes I could. At that point, the match is a sprint, not a marathon. Push the intensity and the atmosphere because that is what a wrestling show needs. Yet for some reason, there is always that one match that just goes through the motions. A ton of simple moves and bumps before someone hits their big finisher. I know Taker was really green at this point, but this match doesn’t live up to the hype of the names involved. It’s unfortunate because I’m picking and prodding an early Undertaker match that was just supposed to give him a decent victory at his first Wrestlemania. It clearly wasn’t meant to become this glorified, but history has declared it the first of The Streak. It’s an unfair bias because of what The Undertaker became later.
Having said all of that, it is in fact the perfect match to start off The Streak. See, I’m going to look at three things while going back through each of these matches. I’m going to look at the work in the ring, the story that is being told and the importance of the match to The Streak. We have clearly demonstrated how disappointing the match was in the ring, but in terms of story and for The Streak, this match gets two out of three perfectly. The story of the match isn’t very complicated. The Undertaker takes down a well known and loved guy with the Tombstone Piledriver. His finishing move is made and he is shown well as the unstoppable Deadman on the grandest stage of them all. The match put Taker over as a force to be reckoned with. The match did it’s job and it did it well. If you never saw a single Undertaker match and you went through The Streak and this was your first Undertaker match ever, you would believe him as a threat. You’d question a lot of things about his persona, but you’d believe he can kill people with that Tombstone. The first win of The Streak isn’t very good, but it serves a purpose and it still puts The Undertaker over as a character even twenty years later. As the first match of The Streak, it does a decent job of reminding us of the early days of The Undertaker and a few matches from now, we can remember it was The Superfly who helped get The Undertaker his first big win at Wrestlemania. I think history is kind to the match since it still makes both men look good despite its flaws in luck and technical work in the ring. The Streak began with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and it continues tomorrow with Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.