Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Undertaker: The Phenom Review

I was recently going through some of my old DVD's and happened to come across a very great, yet in my opinion, underestimated video on The Undertaker's WWE Career during 1997-1998 era of the company. While it may have not gotten well known along other videos produced along with it (Cause Stone Cold Said So, Mick Foley's 3 Faces, etc) It was still indeed a good enough video to review.

The video starts off with the vintage WWF Attitude opening, followed by a superb introduction video showing Undertaker's 1998 Titantron with his 'Attitude' theme playing behind it. 'Classy' Freddie Blassie does the voice-overs which always brings that more of an edge and epicness to any montage.

"From darkness to light and back again, his future remains shrouded in mystery. His destiny is unclear, he is ever lasting, he is everlasting, he is perpetual. He is the Phenom.
He is The Undertaker."

What I love personally about Undertaker's 1998 Attitude Titantron is that it showcases all the memorable moments of the 'Takers during his 1998 run. From the battles with Steve Austin and Kane, to throwing Mankind off the Hell in the Cell at King of the Ring in 1998, it truly does bring a chill down any Undertaker's fan's spine , who was a fan of the Lord of Darkness character back in the late 1990's.

We are shown numerous clips of Undertaker's early WWF career before entering a dark era that marked the Phenom. Introduction to the man who took 'Taker to the edge - Mankind. It shows Mankind's domination of Taker back in 1996 until we are brought to the first headline into this epic story.

The Boiler Room Brawl

SummerSlam 1996. Paul Bearer makes his entrance to the ring for the very last time being 'Taker's manager. Bearer had been very worried about the Phenom for weeks leading up to the event, and that he truly met his final nemesis, Mankind, in a match, specializing in favor for the former Cactus Jack. Taker is shown making his way into the Boiler Room, a cold, dark place within the Arena, Mankind suddenly out of no where jumps the Deadman, to begin the match.

SummerSlam 1996 - Boiler Room Brawl

The match itself happened to be something fans have not seen during the 'New Generation Era' back in the mid 1990's. We are shown moments of the match including Mankind falling off a ladder into a table, Taker using the fire extinguisher on Mankind, which eventually the brawl leaves the Boiler Room and ventures throughout the arena's backstage area. Both men make there way out to the ring area as we reminded the first person to gain possession of the Urn is the winner. Conspiracy begins when Undertaker kneels to Paul Bearer holding the Urn, but Bearer turns away. Mankind strikes Taker with the Claw while Bearer is shown laughing!

Bearer finally chooses his path, turning on his long time friend, The Undertaker, by striking him in the head with the Urn. This famous shot graced the cover of the RAW Magazine back in 1996, which many thought it would never happen. Paul Bearer officially lines himself with Mankind.

"Betrayal, the Undertaker walks alone. But the jackals will not rest, they seek to bury his body, and his soul."

In Your House: Buried Alive 1996 - Buried Alive Match

The match begins with Undertaker going full force on Mankind. With the Phenom feeling right at home, Taker lets out months of anger and fury on the man who has been a nightmare for months and many months to come. Both men fight throughout the arena's stands, with Mankind taking his very well known bumps during the match. The match finally gets to the grave area with at one point, Taker falling into the casket. Taker gets up from the grave and they continue fighting into the ring once again. Chairs are brought into the match, with Taker executing a legdrop to the chair while it's wrapped around Mankind's neck. Taker finally hits the Tombstone and brings Mankind into the grave, as Taker shovels dirt into the grave.

Out of no where, a masked man strikes Taker with another shovel, bringing the Phenom to his knees. The masked man helps Mankind out of the grave, while Mankind, the Masked Man and Paul Bearer shovel dirt into the grave as Undertaker gets Buried Alive.

Suddenly a lighting bold strikes the gravestone and Undertaker's hand reaches from within the grave, signally the Undertaker is still Alive!

"With death comes rebirth, and a new purpose. The spirit of the Undertaker, has awoken. With great vengeance and furious anger."

Hell in the Cell

We are taken to the next chapter into the story that truly marks a very special place with the character of the Phenom's. Numerous clips of the Cell being constructed and made shows how special and unique the Cell was back in the late 1990's Something the wrestling world hadn't seen, besides the ever famous Cage Matches.

In Your House: Bad Blood 1997 - WWF Championship - Hell in a Cell

The feud that was brought into the Devil's playground was Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. Ever since SummerSlam 1997, both men had been at each others throats on the actions of HBK during the Bret Hart vs. Undertaker, WWF Championship match, which saw HBK inadvertently, strike Undertaker with a chair, causing Bret Hart to pick up the title win.

The match itself was something fans would remember as being a very brutal yet interesting match, regarding the comments of Paul Bearer, leading up to the PPV. Bearer for weeks had kept reminding Taker that his brother was alive and coming for him. While fans may have not completely cracked onto the whereabouts of the storyline, this match ended one long feud and brought in something, all Taker fans would remember for years to come.

Taker had been dominating HBK within the cell, as Chyna nor Triple H could get in the way of the match, thanks to the Cell's structure, it would be impossible to enter the Cell. The match did however, eventually make it to the outside via the Cell's door, with famous shots of Taker driving HBK's head into the Cell. While HBK climbing up the cage thought it was a good idea to get away from the Deadman, Taker followed, resulting in HBK falling mid way off the cage through an announcers table (which a year later was outshined by Mankind's fall)

At the end, with a chairshot and a chokeslam, Taker singalled for the Tombstone to end the match. But this wasn't the outcome he was thinking of. The lights went out and a strange organ tune played with a fiery explosion from the entrance area. Cue in Undertaker's brother - Kane.
Kane destroys referee Earl Hebner and rips the Cell's door right off the hinges. Kane stands toe to toe with Undertaker, as he lets off his pyro. Kane attacks Taker, hitting him with his own Tombstone, costing Taker the match with HBK, but to begin a feud that neither men would ever think about.

"From the fires of hell, his brother Kane came forth. There forbidden battle, was about to unfold."

Royal Rumble 1998 - WWF Championship - Casket Match

While this match was known to be a good casket match, and one of the final Casket matches in Taker's run as the Lord of Darkness, it was always widely known for the injury during the match to Shawn Michaels, would force HBK into retirement following WrestleMania 14 till his remarkable return in 2002. Leading up the match, it seemed that the bad blood between Kane and Undertaker was not present anymore, as Kane saved Taker during a beat down by DX. But the Phenom was miserably wrong.

As the match went on, we saw another familiar outcome to the match, regarding the Hell in the Cell match. Taker had the upper hand and was winning until the New Age Outlaws, Savio Vega and other WWF Superstars hit the ring to take out Undertaker. Kane suddenly emerges from the back and takes out everyone in the ring. But sadly, out of no where, Kane attacks Taker and chokeslams his brother back into the casket, closing the lid, signally the win for HBK. Kane rolls the casket to the stage area, destroying it with an axe, followed by setting the whole casket on fire, with the Deadman inside! But something is wrong, after the officials check inside, they reveal that Undertaker disappeared!

The Forbidden Battle

WrestleMania 14 1998

What I actually like about his part is that they for the first time in this DVD, show the complete match between Kane and Undertaker at WrestleMania, compared to the last three that were just highlights. The epic promo for the match shows Taker returning to RAW and finally putting his wishes behind him, to face Kane and send him straight back to hell.

Kane is the first to make his way to the ring for the battle with his brother, sadly enough the DVD edits out Kane hitting the Tombstone to Pete Rose, but I guess we can always relive the moments on the WrestleMania 14 DVD itself. The gongs hit the arena as the Druids make there way out, marking the flames for Taker's most memorable entrance to date (injunction with Undertaker's WrestleMania 20 entrance).

Now to actually go a bit off topic here, I was lucky enough to be present at WrestleMania 14 with my parents back in 1998 while on holiday. While I was only 8 years old, I can to this day, proudly say Undertaker's entrance scared the living daylights out of me. But the atmosphere from what I can remember was unbelievable. To this day I am a very proud Undertaker fan, and to be present at this PPV, was and still is, the icing on the cake to any wrestling fans.

The match did truly deliver the powerhouse vs. powerhouse match type it was all hyped up to be. Even though there feud in 2010 wasn't all that lived up to be, both men's first encounter back in 1998 was something truly any Taker fan (and Kane) would love to see. Kane dominated Taker during the early parts of the match, with at point, many thought Taker would loose for the first time in his career at WrestleMania. Kane did have his near falls, hitting Tombstones, followed by a hard Tombstone on the chair. But this wasn't enough to keep the Lord of Darkness down.

After three Tombstone piledrivers, the Undertaker finally puts his brother away at WrestleMania.

Brother. Nemesis. Traveler.

"Each on a downward spiral towards damnation. They are among the blackest souls; a different sin has dragged them to the bottom."

One man walks with blood red fury, causing through his veins. The other, with ice blue vengeance burning in his soul.

"For here, one must leave behind all hesitation; here, every cowardice must meet it's death."

Both mythical figures of dantes inferno, all who cross the freehold into the eight circles of hell, will be shown no mercy.

"Within those fires there are souls; each one swathed in that which scorches him."

The inferno knows no pitty, the inferno knows no remorse."

"Within the flames they will suffer. They who went as one to rage now share one punishment."

The Inferno

In Your House: Unforgiven 1998 - Inferno Match

This match has to be the most terrifying match to watch as a child. As i first saw it, obviously before knowing how much we know now of the professional wrestling world (or the Sports Entertainment world) on paper and hell on television, another man burning another man seemed scary as hell, maybe even horror like! This match was the first to be seen in the WWF, and didn't fit more than to feature Kane and Undertaker.

Match kicks off with the Phenom taking down Kane, as Kane eventually catches up and begins the domination once again. What is cool about the Inferno match, is that every slam and big move, caused the flames to reach as high as the top rope. During the match, Bearer slides Kane a chair, which Kane uses to his advantage. Both men were able to hit each other with chokeslams, while Kane sits up from Taker's chokeslam. Taker eventually is able to get Kane out of the ring, escaping the fire.

Undertaker is stuck in the ring with the flames around him as Kane decides to leave the match. Out of no where, Vader attacks Kane for revenge on their match at No Way Out earlier in the year, and they brawl towards the ring. With the right time to dive over, Undertaker dives over the top rope through the flames onto Kane and Vader! While Taker has been using the chair to get the revenge, Paul Bearer keeps on trying to rid Taker of the chair. This eventually pisses off the Deadman and chases his former manager to were Tennessee Lee, Jeff Jarrett & Sawyer Brown played earlier.

Taker destroyed Bearer with the band gear, hitting Paul over the head with a drum, causing Bearer to be busted open. Taker then makes his way back to the ring area to finish off Kane. Kane attempts a chairshot on Taker, but is countered with a big boot, causing Kane to fall back and hit the flames with his hand!

Hell in the Cell 2

King of the Ring 1998 - Hell in a Cell

While this match was not known for wrestling moves or an actual match compared to the Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker match back in 1997, it did truly deliver another way - with Mick Foley's life, let alone career on the line.

Mankind makes his way out, and instead of starting in the ring, makes his way up the Cell, waiting for The Undertaker. Undertaker makes his way out and follows Mankind up the Cell as both men begin brawling on top of the Cell, which could give at any point! Mankind uses the chair to the advantage, but is not enough to keep the Deadman down. Taker eventually gets the upper hand and throws Mankind off the top of the cell, crashing through the announcers table!

"Good God all mighty, that killed him!" - Jim Ross's statement during the fall of Mankind

This was something, no one had ever seen before during a Wrestling television show, let alone a PPV from the WWF, WCW or ECW at the time. Mankind's drop of the Cell is to this day, the most memorable moment in WWE history, with the Cell being regarded after that as the Devil's playground. While ever since the match, WWE officials and most possibly Vince McMahon would never allow someone to fall off the top of the Cell, Mankind's survival of the match was truly something out of this world, and only someone like Mick Foley, could have done this.

EMTs come out to stretcher Foley away, but Foley doesn't want it to end this way! Foley, in some in-human doings, get's up from the stretcher, against EMT's and officials requests, makes his way back up the Cell with a smile on his face while Undertaker follows! Without any time letting by, Undertaker chokeslams Mankind through the Cell's roof with the chair also hitting Foley on the way down. Which we also later find out, knocks out Mankind for a brief moment, and his tooth going through his nose/lip area.

"That's it, he's dead." - Jerry 'The King' Lawler after Foley falls through the Cell

This brings out Terry Funk in a rush to the ring, in consideration for his friend. Officials, referees and Funk tend to Foley in the ring as Taker looks on from top of the Cell. Taker eventually drops down inside the ring and Chokeslams Terry Funk right (literally) of his shoes. Undertaker then continues the domination to Mankind, beating him senseless outside of the ring. But even with enough damage, Mankind happens to move out of the way during a top rope dive, causing Taker to bust open the hard way. Mankind then proceeds his own beating on the Deadman, even hitting the piledriver on a chair to Undertaker.

While Foley bringing out the tacks, adapting to his old ECW days, Undertaker turned the tables in the end by hitting the Chokeslam to Foley on his very own tacks, followed by the Tombstone to end the match.

"In a battle to draw first blood, Undertaker's brother was in war, with a champion"

We are shown the highlights of the Stone Cold vs. Kane First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998, which saw Undertaker inadvertently hit Austin with the chair, causing first blood on Austin, thus making Kane the WWF Champion.

"The bound of blood, can not be broken. The brothers were reunited."

SummerSlam 1998 - WWF Championship

For weeks leading up to their match at SummerSlam, the brothers had finally put his differences aside to rejoin each other, as the Brothers of Destruction for the first time ever, stood side by side, helping each other in matches, which Vince McMahon proclaimed the brothers were in cahoots with each other, which made it hard for Austin to trust Undertaker heading into their WWF Championship bout. Austin didn't just have to worry about the Phenom, he also had to worry about his younger brother.

Highway to Hell

The match itself delivered the brawl of the Summer. Both Austin and Undertaker had given each other it's run for their money, as both men tried to out wrestle each other, with their own moves and take downs. Austin even also managed to interrupt the Old School while Undertaker tried to execute the move. It wasn't long before Kane made his way out to the ring trying to help his fresh and blood capture the title. Displeased with the interruption, Undertaker tells his brother to go to the back, signalling he doesn't need nor want his help. The match then proceeded to the outside, and even as far as the stands in the crowd, in typical Undertaker-Austin brawl style.

One of the major spots in the match saw Undertaker deliver a rarely seen, top rope leg drop to Austin, that was on the outside laid out on the announcers table. Despite the Tombstone, Chokeslam and Stunners executed by both men, the Rattlesnake eventually prevails with the Stunner, putting the Phenom away. In honor of respect, Undertaker hands Austin the WWF Championship.

Triple Threat

Breakdown 1998 - Triple Threat Match for the WWF Championship

Leading into the match since SummerSlam, continued the storyline of both Undertaker and Kane in cahoots. McMahon gave a very rude yet motivational speech regarding both men, saying Undertaker made the mistake of not taking his brothers help in August. McMahon went far as saying both men were a bunch of pussies and couldn't even scare a kindergarten group. This caused the Brothers of Destruction to cause havoc on the entire WWF roster, with McMahon's idea of making Austin's life a living hell that much more easier.

McMahon vowed to make Austin's life a living hell by adding him into a match with Undertaker and Kane at Breakdown for the WWF Title. With the brothers working together, it seemed it was indeed the Highway to Hell for Austin this time around.

Heading into the match, the stipulations were that Undertaker could not pin Kane and Kane could not pin the Undertaker, which leaves Austin the hunted, inadvertently being a handicap match. The match began out as a fight between Austin and Undertaker, but eventually turned into the plan Vince wanted, a handicap. Kane and Undertaker began working together, beating down Austin before the brothers turning on each other's plan and beating each other senseless.

The ending saw Undertaker and Kane hit the double chokeslam to Austin, and pinning Austin at the same time, as the only way of either men winning was to pin the Rattlesnake. To McMahon's disbelief, he walks out to the ring and takes the WWF Championship, without announcing if either Kane or Undertaker were declared the champion as he leaves both men staring at each other, trying to work out what went wrong.

Judgment Day 1998 - WWF Championship - Steve Austin Special Referee

Vince McMahon leading up to the PPV had forced both brothers to face each other at Judgment Day for the title, adding Austin as the special referee making things more interesting. Undertaker and Kane show their anger with McMahon's actions by assaulting him on RAW, leaving McMahon laid out for the second time in his WWF career as Chairman.

The match was vastly compared to there previous bouts in 1998, nothing less than a powerhouse brawl. Through the near falls, Austin made sure to screw both men in some way or form within the match. The match took a strange turn when Undertaker went to Irish whip Kane into the corner, but was thrown back his own way, knocking Austin who was in the corner. As Austin stumbled out of the corner, Kane caught him by the throat and chokeslammed him, after which Undertaker helped hold a choke on Austin. Undertaker soon turned on Kane though, kicking him from behind as the two resumed fighting, with Kane chokeslamming Undertaker.

At this point Paul Bearer walked to the ring with a chair, persuading Kane to let him hit The Undertaker, but in fact hitting Kane, not effecting Kane in the slightest. While distracted with Bearer though, Undertaker hit Kane over the head with the chair, this time forcing him to the ground - his efforts were for nothing though as Austin refused to count the pinfall. When Undertaker went to complain, Austin delivered a stunner to him, then hit him with a chair shot and counting a double pinfall three count, then grabbing the microphone and declaring himself the winner.

With the turn of events between Undertaker and Kane, the following night on RAW, Undertaker spoke out about the turn of events the previous night. He mentioned that Brother Paul was back by Undertaker's side to help him lead his Ministry of Darkness, and that he was going to unleash something the World Wrestling Federation has never seen.

This is where the DVD ends and the following are my two cents on the production of the video.

- Among the Undertaker Home Videos, 'The Phenom' has to be one of the best videos in my opinion based on Undertaker. While I am a fan of the other collections, and how most of them cant really be compared as mostly others are collections of all Undertaker matches, being based on the 1996-1998 character of the Deadman, it really showed the evolution of one of the best stars in the WWE.

- Even though not all matches were showed in it's entirely form, the main matches were shown in near full. Undertaker vs. Kane and Mankind vs. Undertaker at King of the Ring had to be the best matches to watch in this video.

- Freddie Blassie's voiceovers describing each chapter also brought pure class to the video.

- While I would've hoped for a Part 2 on the video dedicated to the Ministry and Undertaker's transform in 1999, it was still a great video for any Undertaker or even a WWE fan, to see and own.

- Funny enough, at the end the video revolves around Undertaker, Kane, Paul Bearer, Austin and Shawn Michaels.

- If anyone spots out, the DVD starts with Paul Bearer's back stabbing siding with Mankind to the end of the video with Bearer rejoining the Undertaker.

I give the Undertaker: The Phenom a 5/5.

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