July 8, 2009
WWE Championship: Undertaker (c) vs. Mankind w/ Paul Bearer
In Your House: Revenge of the Taker - 4/20/97
Ring Announcer: Howard Finkel
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler
Introduction: This is not a sugar-coated situation for the World Wrestling Federation at the time. The ratings were down, revenues were down, and the whole morale of the locker room was down. In Civil War terms, the Union was down and Ted Turner was pillaging everything he can muster. The time period of this match is on paper a low-point in WWE history, yet the television produced every Monday night on RAW was actually better than the much higher-rated WCW Monday Night Nitro. The feud between Undertaker and Mankind, with Paul Bearer as a catalyst for both sides, is a shining example of this. Mankind was introduced via series of vignettes in the early part of 1996, while Mick Foley was also still under contract in ECW. The night after Wrestlemania XII, Mankind debuted and attacked Undertaker, who was fighting Justin Bradshaw (later known as Bradshaw and JBL). For the better part of a year, these two had matches it seemed like on every PPV, from singles matches at King of The Ring & Survivor Series, to special stipulation matches like the Boiler Room Brawl at Summerslam & the Buried Alive match at the In Your House event of the same name. They also had a No Holds Barred match on RAW in December of 1996 that was groundbreaking for being especially brutal just as a television match. Undertaker had just come off from winning the WWE Championship from Sycho Sid at Wrestlemania 13, viewed by almost everyone as a s****y match, both figuratively and literally (though the literally may have been at a house show). Mankind was named the #1 contender, and in the lead-up to IYH: Revenge of the Taker, he lit a lighter and burned Undertaker in the eye after Undertaker tried to hit Paul Bearer in the head with the urn. It would be the focus point for the match, and though the formula of Mankind vs. Undertaker had been literally dug down to the ground by this point, you could never tell what these two athletes could realistically pull off. And so here we are in Rochester, New York as we have the 14th edition of In Your House with the 6th one-on-one match of these two.
Match: Mankind brings down a fire extinguisher in his entrance, as he anticipates some more charred dead man during the course of this match. King notes he does not want to be at ringside when this match really heats up, and so this cues the signature dongs of the Undertaker bells and thunder. Another thing you will NEVER see in WWE entrances anymore: people holding lighters for Undertaker, as if this was a rock concert! Undertaker walks down to the ring with a bandage over his right eye as a result of the lighter from Mankind on RAW the Monday previous. It’s also the first time Undertaker has defended the WWE Championship in a PPV setting since the rematch on Tuesday in Texas from Survivor Series in 1991 against Hulk Hogan. Another fun fact, Undertaker is the only man Hulk Hogan has lost the WWE Championship TWICE to. The match starts immediately as Mankind does a shark smells blood pound on Undertaker as he comes through the second rope. Mankind punches Undertaker into the corner, Irish-Whips him, then Undertaker does a choke-reversal on Mankind and starts mauling on him in the corner! After punching and kicking Mankind to the bottom of the turnbuckle, Undertaker brings him up, and whips him to the other side, but gets punched in the bad eye. After punching him twice, Mankind bounces off the ropes with enough force to knock down Undertaker with just one more punch. It’s evident that even the most basic of moves is starting to affect Undertaker. Undertaker sits up, goes to the ropes, and then gets that wild Cactus Jack-like clothesline from Mankind over the to, only for both to land on their feet. Undertaker then grabs Mankind by the throat and would proceed to do this segment of throwing him into the barricade twice, all while having a especially demonic look on his face. After the second one, Undertaker rolls back in to stop the count-out count. Undertaker then got Mankind off the ground, and slammed over the barricade on the other side! The Phenom went over the barricade, punched Mankind twice, and slammed him back into the barricade. Undertaker goes over the barricade and back to ringside where he can stop the count. Then the dead man went back outside to slam Mankind’s head back into the barricade twice while Mankind is still in the crowd. After Mankind goes over the barricade and back into the ring, then gets right-handed and prepped for Old School. Jim Ross notes that Mankind loves pain, that the day Mankind lost his ear was the best day of his life! Instead of old school, Undertaker does a clothesline off the top rope which was almost botched when Undertaker slipped when leaping off! As Undertaker tried to get Mankind up for the Tombstone, Paul Bearer raised up crap with the referee, and Undertaker grabs Paul. Meanwhile, Mankind is able to grab the urn, bash Undertaker in the head with it, and earn a 2-count for his troubles! Mankind is not too pleased and starts ripping out his hair. At this point in his life, how does Mick Foley even have hair to speak of? Mankind stomps on Undertaker as Undertaker gets up, and punches Undertaker back into the corner and down to the turnbuckles. The deranged wrestler would then do his specialty running knee to the face, which must have harmed the Undertaker’s eye even more. Undertaker then got choked at the ropes, and Mankind released the choke at 4. Jim Ross also notes Undertaker would not have to worry about Vader, rival and tag partner to Mankind, because Vader is in Kuwait awaiting a trail for punching that reporter in the face during that infamous, “Is wrestling fake” question. Undertaker got up and rebounded with 4 successive right hands to Mankind, the fourth one a block from Mankind attempting one of his own! Mankind got whipped into the ropes and did a neckbreaker on a reversal! As Mankind gets a 2-count, Paul Bearer shouts out instructions, and while Undertaker kicks out, he says, “DAMN!” I don’t think Ron Simmons approves. Mankind applies a nervehold to Undertaker while the dead man is , down, and then modifies it to a camel clutch which King incorrectly identifies as the Mandible Claw. Undertaker is gaining momentum as the fans in attendance chant, “REST IN PEACE!” Undertaker finally gets out of the predicament with body shots, and then a right-hand which sends Mankind out the bottom rope on his ass. Undertaker tries to grab Mankind, but Mankind takes the legs out from the under the Undertaker, slides him under the bottom rope, but eats some steel on the steps after trying to get Undertaker to eat some. Mankind then got a water pitcher off of one of the announcer tables and smashed Undertaker in the head with it. I believe both men got injured here from the glass, but at least Vince Russo never did a Taipei Death Match between this two! Undertaker then receives a smash to the head with a steel chair to the cue that the announcers are to wonder why there are no disqualifications yet! Mankind then drags Undertaker to the barricade, goes to the middle turnbuckle, and measures Undertaker with an elbow! Mankind tries to get the bandage off of Undertaker’s head, but rolls back into the ring to break the ten-count. Wow is this ref stupid, or he is really letting stuff fly. Meanwhile, Undertaker makes it to the ropes on the outside, but gets grabbed by Mankind on the inside who is still trying to rip away at the bandage. A four-count choke is also done here trying to get the bandage off. Mankind then stomps Undertaker to the ground from the apron. On the Undertaker’s face in a close-up, there is a burn, some bandage, and some blood that most likely came from the glass. Not a crimson mask or anything major, but there is some blood to note. Then the masked superstar punched Undertaker in the corner and punished him with a piledriver. Mankind applies a loose cover to Undertaker, but only got a 2-count. Undertaker attempted to get up twice, but was stomped down twice by Mankind. Mankind then headbutted the burn of Undertaker, and gave him a SECOND piledriver. Mankind screams at Undertaker while Undertaker gets up, and Mankind greets him with right hands that send Undertaker wobbling all around the ring trying to get a sense of equilibrium. Undertaker then half-way settles a score trading blows with Mankind, improving his state from about a minute before. Undertaker is then able to connect with a flying clothesline to Mankind! Mankind got up first, but Undertaker kicks him in the corner. JR knows Mankind may not know where he is. Undertaker then does a choke to a 5 count in the corner, scares the ref, and then while the Undertaker does a reversal from a whip by Mankind, Undertaker clotheslines both Mankind and the referee! Mankind is then able to get the Mandible Claw in, but there is no referee! Another ref comes in, and HE GETS THE CLAW! So then Paul Bearer throws a chair in the ring. On another train of thought, Mankind goes to the outside, retrieves ring steps, and barely gets them over the top rope into the ring. Mankind slides under the bottom rope, lifts the steel step, and then Undertaker sits up to dropkick the steps out! To describe this next segment, Jim Ross said it best, “GOING, GOING, GONE!” Undertaker gave Mankind one hell of a chair shot, and it made even King gasp! Mankind was then thrown into the ropes, did his hangman routine, and then Undertaker ripped his mask off! This following sentence is in all caps to show the brutality of this next segment. MANKIND GOES TO THE APRON, UNDERTAKER GRABS THE STEPS, AND MANKIND GOES HEAD-FIRST THROUGH THE SPANISH TABLE! BAH GAWD BOOMER SOONER, WE‘RE YEARS AHEAD OF OUR TIME! Undertaker, with a wobbly sense of balance, picks up Mankind, and throws him back into the ring. JR, with another observation, notes that the torn ear of Mankind is bleeding (I assume from the hangman spot). Meanwhile, back in the ring, Undertaker sends Mankind to hell with a chokeslam and only gets a two from the referee who got knocked down first. Then Undertaker seals the fate of Mankind with a Tombstone Piledriver, and a 1-2-3 at 17:01 to retain the World Wrestling Federation Championship. ***3/4 Undertaker poses with the belt as the arena goes black. However, the lights go up and Undertaker signals for Paul Bearer’s demise. Paul tries to escape, but Undertaker catches him, and chases him back into the ring. An obvious botch happens as Mankind tries to flick the lighter, but it doesn‘t. Undertaker kicks Mankind in the gut and punches out Paul Bearer. Again, Mankind botches with the lighter, and gets punched out of the ring. With lighter and belt on the canvas, Paul Bearer is in the corner and Undertaker picks up the lighter as if, “Hey, I could do some damage here!” Undertaker does something to the lighter, and gets successive flame on three or four flicks, so then he flicks the lighter onto a cloth that has some liquid on it, and it blows up in Paul Bearer’s face! Mankind carries Paul (whose jacket is over his face)to the back, and Undertaker stands doubly victorious.
Aftermath: Though Undertaker’s business with Mankind would die down for now, Undertaker’s beef with Paul Bearer was only beginning. Over the course of a couple of months, Paul gave the opportunity to Undertaker to join him or a terrible secret would be unleashed. Undertaker said yes at first, and for a few weeks, Undertaker had his manager back. Then Undertaker told Paul he could go straight to hell and on RAW, Paul revealed the secret that ‘Taker has a brother who was feared dead as a result of an accident at the funeral home, but was really alive. The secret wouldn’t come full circle until Badd Blood, and a famous Hell in a Cell match. In the meantime, this match was Undertaker’s best one of this reign, until he met Bret Hart at Summerslam.
Grade: This match, compared to some of the stipulation spectacles Undertaker and Mankind have had, is a diamond in the rough, and for anyone who loves underrated matches, this one should give you some bang for the buck at the very least. Recommended.