For Whom the Bell Tolls – Act IX
You know what I noticed in this column? It is quite strange that we go from Streak match to Streak match because a lot changes in a year of wrestling. Our latest couple of matches have been a war against Kane and then the next day, we are talking about the extreme version of The Deadman who is crucifying people on Raw and hanging The Big Bossman from the Hell in a Cell at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, The Phenom wouldn’t compete at Wrestlemania 2000, or Mania XVI due to consecutive injuries. However, he would ironically make his return at Judgement Day 2000 during the Iron Man match where he attacked Triple H to give him the match. The Undertaker had gone through a dramatic shift again, but this time it was a little more badass. The Deadman transformed into The American Badass. He rode a motorcycle and dressed as the man behind The Undertaker to dawn a new dimension of the character. Six months after The reincarnation of The Undertaker with Wrestlemania on the horizon, Stone Cold won the Royal Rumble, The Rock was Champion, Triple H had beaten Austin in a Three Stages of Hell match and Hunter had a legitimate point when he believed that he had beaten everyone there is to beat in the company after beating The Rock and Stone Cold during that time. The Undertaker took exception to that because the two had never faced each other in singles competition. Triple H wanted to prove he was the best wrestler in the WWF and Big Evil wanted to prove again that it was his yard.
Just for your information, I like this match a lot. Wrestlemania XVII is the best event there has ever been in WWF, or WWE history. Between Angle vs. Benoit, Jericho vs Regal, TLC and the hell of a good time match between the McMahon men, this is the most stacked PPV I’ve seen thus far in my wrestling tenure. One of my favorite matches of all time is Rock vs. Austin at this show. I’d argue it is the most important match WWF ever had, but I look at the Triple H and Undertaker match to be of equal importance and here’s why.
Rock vs. Austin is the biggest draw I’ve ever seen. Maybe some shows have better numbers, but has the industry ever been hotter than when this went down? I argue their match was the one that determined “the man” in the industry at the time. However, I think The Undertaker vs. Triple H match was the one that determined who was going to carry the company into the future. Look at the card and then look at the card of Wrestlemania X8. Stone Cold and The Undertaker win their matches here, but a year later, they are in solid matches with Ric Flair and Scott Hall respectively. Meanwhile, The Rock and Triple H lose here, but a year later. The Rock has one of the biggest matches of all time with Hulk Hogan and is on his way to Hollywood. Triple H comes back from a career ending injury, wins the Rumble and captures the Undisputed Title from Chris Jericho in the main event of Wrestlemania XVIII. My point here is that while The Rock and Austin might be important at Mania XVII, don’t forget how crucial this match between Triple H and The Undertaker has been for WWF history. I feel it is highly underrated in the history of Wrestlemania and as a part of The Undertaker’s Steak.
Motorhead plays the entrance of Triple H live and it set the tone quite well. This was going to be a war. Just as the tempo had been set by The Game and Motorhead, The Undertaker arriving at Wrestlemania after a two year hiatus upped the ante by several notches. The Deadman has established the best atmosphere in the industry by this point that he could get away with the motorcycle. He rides to the ring on said motorcycle, and enters the ring only to go directly after Triple H on the outside as the match begins.
No bell is tolled yet, but the fight between the two men starts out aggressive on the outside. Big Evil beat and battered Trips around ringside. He even punched him through the cheap Spanish announce table. Those guys couldn’t catch a break that night. Taker threw Hunter into the ring shortly after to start the match officially. Over 67,000 people in the Reliant Astrodome were ready as The Undertaker and Triple H exchanged blows early to feel each other out. Taker hit a big back bodydrop on Hunter. He maintained control through aggressive work in the corner and a big Oklahoma Slam. His attack continued until he took too long to hit Old School and The Game sent him flying off the top rope back down to the mat to take control.
Triple H continued with a nice neckbreaker, a solid burst of offense to pound Taker onto the mat and another nice swinging neckbreaker. Hilariously, Triple H was always having beef with referees at this time. He beefed with Mike Chioda on two occasions. The first was intimidation. The second was when Hunter tried to bring a sledgehammer into the ring and then Chioda took it from him. This led to Hunter being knocked down and catapulted into Chioda in the corner. The American Badass took the advantage to hit a huge chokeslam. Unfortunately, Hunter kicked out. It was The Deadman’s turn to have beef with Chioda as he dropped him with a vicious elbow that knocked him out of the match. The rule book had been thrown out.
The Undertaker threw Trips into the corner for him to spin out to ringside. The two battled briefly until The Game was back bodydropped over the barricade and onto the concrete of the stands. Taker followed him over and the two men fought through the crowd. To quote the great Jim Ross, this had turned into a slobber knocker. The two fought their way to a technical area on a stage. They climbed to the top as The Undertaker pummeled The Game on the top in front of Houston’s finest. Luckily, The Cerebral Assassin found a steel chair and used it to put The Undertaker down with several chair shots. What is it with these two in a match together and there being like fifty chair shots? As always, they still aren’t enough for Hunter to keep Taker down. Taker caught Trips in time, lifted him up and chokeslamed him over the rail, off the technical stage and onto the concrete beneath the fans feet. The Undertaker took a dive off the stage for an extra elbow for good measure. He then dragged The Game through the sea of Houston’s fans back over the barricade and back into the ring.
So The Undertaker was walking around the ring. You know, just hanging out. When he discovered the sledgehammer still in the ring. Of course he picked it up, but a low blow by Trips would be enough to save him. Trips tried with the sledgehammer, but was stopped by a big boot himself. The two men entered into a strange stalemate as they traded bombs in the middle of the ring. Unfortunately for Triple H, The Undertaker outlasted him and would shortly after hit The Game with the Tombstone Piledriver. Due to The Undertaker’s own attack, the referee was still knocked out. He tried to revive the ref and go for the kill against Triple H. He set him up for The Last Ride, but his set up was over the sledgehammer. When Triple h was brought into position, he finally used the sledgehammer on The Undertaker’s skull.
Somehow, someway, The Deadman kicked out. A livid Triple H couldn’t believe it. Hunter continued to assault The Undertaker across the ring and into the corner. He stood on the second rope and beat on The Deadman as best he could. However, a moment of self worth cost The Game. A slight taunt was enough time for The Undertaker to put Triple H into The Last Ride position and deliver the devastating powerbomb for the 1-2-3. Houston erupted as The American Badass had defeated The Game for victory number nine at Wrestlemania XVII.
Yep, this match is still awesome. It is brutal and physical in a very different way. It was clear that there was a need to prove a point and define their spot on the roster as two major stars before Rock and Austin tore the house down. In my opinion, this is the match that defines Wrestlemania XVII. TLC is staggering and the main event is legendary, but if you just watched that match, you know it wasn’t anything to look over. Yet, a lot of people still do and this match was a big reason why I wanted to do this column. It’s place in history gets overshadowed by two other great matches on the same card. I think Triple H and The Undertaker deserve a more vocal place in making Wrestlemania XVII the best event WWF ever had.
The match was really good as I’ve stated. It was crisp, physical and just proves the hot streak Triple H was on at the time. In terms of the story and the importance to The Streak. The story of two great competitors battling it out on the grandest stage of them all to see who is the better man is exactly what defines Wrestlemania in the first place. In my opinion, it is also what has defined The Streak. I discussed the mortality vs. the immortality of The Undertaker at Wrestlemania before, but what is important to understand is at this point of his career, The Undertaker has plateaued. He is riding his peak as a performer to have good matches with great atmosphere with almost anyone. Unlike ninety percent of guys, The Undertaker had a long plateau to have great matches. We are going through that time period where The Undertaker wasn’t the rising Deadman who had to be stopped, or put down. This is The Undertaker that is the top dog because he couldn’t be stopped. A lot of big guys have a ton of momentum until they lose once in big fashion and they can’t rekindle that fire. The Undertaker is special and he kept the fire burning long enough to establish himself as the standard of the company. This match isn’t even about The Streak. The fact that it is number nine is just to have a place in history. I gave some disdain for The Bossman being “just” number eight. I don’t see Triple H like that here. I see The Undertaker at the top of his game and in the prime of his career doing what no one else in the wrestling industry will ever do again.