Although WWE sort of stumbled into its good fortune with Undertaker's streak of wins at WrestleMania, now up to 21 in a row without a loss, in recent years it has become the stuff of legend. Simply challenging it is considered an honor as great as -- or perhaps even greater than -- challenging for the WWE world heavyweight championship title.
Considering the fact that the streak is held in such high regard, and Undertaker is set to defend it once again against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 on April 6, 2014, in New Orleans, we're going to rank each match from worst to best. Considerations will be made for both the work within the match and the story heading into it, not to mention historical significance.
11. Kane, WrestleMania 14
Here we get to the first match that actually had a damn good story attached to it. Kane had debuted in Oct. 1997 to cost Undertaker his match against Shawn Michaels at Badd Blood, the first ever Hell in a Cell match. That led to a months long build up of Kane baiting his brother, as explained in the storyline, into fighting him.
Undertaker refused to bite time and again until he finally snapped and accepted the match so it would take place on the biggest stage possible.
The idea here was that Kane was presented as every bit Undertaker's equal. He worked most of the same spots, did very little selling, and actually had, arguably, a better Tombstone piledriver.
Essentially, Undertaker was wrestling a darker, more sadistic version of himself. How would he deal with it?
There were some little issues within the match. Things like Paul Bearer distracting the referee so Kane could use the steel steps on Undertaker, which would have been fine had the steps not bounced and hit the referee.
When he turned around, he did absolutely nothing about it. What's more, Kane used the steps again, this time with the referee looking on. Again, he did nothing about it, instead weakly starting a count that was never going to reach 10.
There was another spot that featured Kane executing a pinfall and instead of actually allowing the referee to complete it, he picked Undertaker up by the hair. So he could have won but chose not to. What did he do next, in all his cockiness?
A sleeper hold.
The crowd had trouble getting into this but that changed in a big way when Undertaker did his over the top rope dive and missed completely, crashing into the Spanish announce desk and taking out the entire commentary team in the funniest way possible. Up to this point, this was the best spot in any Undertaker WrestleMania match.
There were more. Kane reversed an Undertaker Tombstone attempt into one of his own, and the fact that it only got a two count shocked everyone. When Undertaker did get the Tombstone, it looked brutal as all get out and Kane's kickout was a real surprise. Then Undertaker hit another Tombstone and Kane kicked out AGAIN.
The third Tombstone got the pin, but even then Kane kicked out JUST after the third slap of the mat.
Up to this point, this was easily the best of Undertaker's WrestleMania matches.
10. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 18
This was the first match that the commentary openly referenced the fact that Undertaker had never lost at WrestleMania, though it wasn't pushed as a long streak. That made sense considering he was up to nine wins at that point.
The story headed in was Flair was co-owner of WWE at the time and therefore couldn't accept a challenge from Undertaker to wrestle a match. So "The Deadman" did everything he could to convince Flair to accept, including a beat down of Flair's best friend, Arn Anderson, and his son.
Eventually, he gave up his spot as co-owner to work the match.
Because Vince McMahon was back in full control, he added a no disqualification stipulation, which was really the only way they could book this considering the nature of the feud.
Considering his age, the wear-and-tear on his body, and his many personal issues -- crisis of confidence notwithstanding -- there weren't many expecting Flair could deliver a classic the way he could have even five to seven years prior. And while this fell short of that distinction, he most certainly did the streak proud with a strong, passionate effort.
Flair, as he is wont to do, bled all over the place. He was willing to go the extra mile for this, including taking a superplex about halfway through the match. That's a big spot from any wrestler but when Undertaker's tall ass is the one giving it, you really have to respect the dedication and commitment to excellence.
"The Nature Boy" also did a great job taking a beating for most of the match, setting up his comebacks nicely. He always was a hell of a babyface.
The highlight of the match, funny enough, featured not Flair, but his old running buddy Arn Anderson, who came into the match out of nowhere with a beautiful Spinebuster that a got a two count and brought the previously docile crowd to its feet. Anderson even got color.
The finish was a tad anticlimactic, what with Undertaker no selling chair shots before delivering a Tombstone, but it was a fine match. Probably as good as it was going to get for a Flair vs. Undertaker match in 2002.
This represented the last WrestleMania match Undertaker worked as a heel.
9. Edge, WrestleMania 24
This match came about after almost an entire year of build thanks to Undertaker suffering an injury not long into his world heavyweight title reign after defeating Batista at WrestleMania 23. Edge was the man who cashed in a Money in the Bank briefcase to get the strap off him.
Edge would also get hurt but later return and, with Undertaker and Batista battling over the strap once again, cost "The Deadman" a match, win the title himself, and set the stage for an honest to goodness WrestleMania main event showcase.
The match was incredibly slow to start. Undertaker hit what amounted to an ass splash in the corner early and went barreling over the top rope to the outside. Despite the offensive maneuver, he sold like he injured his back on the way out, which became a focal point of Edge's attack.
Then, suddenly, as though he wasn't hurt at all, 'Taker did his over the top rope suicide dive and the announcers started selling this like Undertaker, the babyface, would do absolutely anything to both win the title and keep his streak alive.
However, because of the psychology of the match, it slowed down considerably. Edge was a crafty heel taking advantage of his opponent's weakened state while 'Taker was made to work at half strength. This led to some good spots, some playing off Undertaker having used them enough that Edge could see them coming, like the Last Ride from the corner that Edge managed to counter into a neckbreaker. There were multiple spots like this, and this could have been one of the best matches Undertaker had at WrestleMania from a pure psychology standpoint.
They did what they could to build to Edge winning, but there was never ay real doubt. The finish was slick enough, though: Edge hit his spear but before he could make the cover, Undertaker locked in the Hell's Gate submission to get the tap.
This would have been a much better match had they cut about five minutes off it.
One major gripe: Although it had nothing to do with Undertaker or Edge, the commentary team of Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman was downright brutal.
One major plus: Although it had nothing to do with Undertaker or Edge, Charles Robinson running in to count a pinfall when the original ref had taken a bump was the best thing to ever happen.
8. Randy Orton, WrestleMania 21
During this time, Orton was working a "Legend Killer" gimmick and Undertaker would represent the ultimate legend to kill off at WrestleMania, ending "The Deadman's" streak at 12 wins. Though no one has ever officially gone on record saying as much, rumors have persisted that Undertaker, at one point, offered to do the job for Orton.
It certainly would have done wonders for the young man's career, especially considering he was coming off the Evolution issues with Triple H and looking to make a name for himself to get over it. The "Legend Killer" gimmick was working well and this absolutely would have put it over the top.
As it were, Undertaker did well to get Orton over without having to do the job.
The match was a solid back-and-forth affair, with Orton showcasing the mean streak he would come to be known for later and Undertaker working in all his signature spots.
There was a weird spot with Undertaker attempting a Last Ride despite seeing the referee was out after just taking a bump. Said spot was made even more weird when Undertaker went down in a heap with Orton on top of him. It looked unintentional, though it was made clear it wasn't when Randy's father, Cowboy Bob, did a run in and used his infamous cast to knock Undertaker's block off.
All this was okay because the ensuing near fall was electric.
Not as electric as the next one, though, when Orton beautifully countered a chokeslam into an RKO. The execution was outstanding and the crowd truly bought it as the finish.
That came not long after when Undertaker reversed an Orton Tombstone attempt into one of his own, ending with his signature pin. This was done really well, and it showcased more and more how important the streak itself was becoming.
7. Triple H, WrestleMania 17
The match WWE tried to convince you didn't exist 10 years after it happened, which is a real shame because it's actually pretty damn good, even if it was the first WrestleMania featuring BikerTaker.
The build up was simple but effective: Triple H was campaigning for a main event slot on the show by rightfully pointing out that he had defeated everyone in the WWF up to that point, and more specifically Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
Naturally, Undertaker stepped forward because the two had never had a singles match at a pay-per-view. That's all that was needed to book this one, though they played out an intense feud in the weeks leading up to the eventual showdown.
That's why it was nice to see good psychology early in the form of Triple H not allowing Undertaker to complete his entrance before going out and kicking off what would turn out to be a strong brawl between two of the top stars in the business.
It got really good when the referee took a bump that was choreographed to the max. What made it good was how they made up for it. After a chokeslam got a two count, Undertaker just laid the ref out.
To hell with good guys and bad, this is a brawl and the referee was in the way. As commentator Jim Ross put it, "this has turned into a glorified street fight". They battled through the crowd, using props and lifts and camera towers and everything else they could find. Then Undertaker chokeslammed Triple H off said camera tower to "holy shit" chants. Then he came down and dropped an elbow off said camera tower. Amid the sea of fans in Texas, it made for a great visual.
It was also just incredibly fun.
By the time they got back to the ring, they had a finish set up really nice. Actually, it may have been one of the best set ups ever. Triple H had grabbed a sledgehammer early but had it taken away by the referee, who was knocked out by Undertaker not long after. The sledgehammer, however, remained in the ring while the two were brawling all over the arena, as mentioned previously.
The finish saw Undertaker pick Triple H up for the Last Ride but as he was doing so, "The Game" grabbed the sledgehammer, unbknownst to "The Deadman", and used it on him right after he was lifted up. He ditched the evidence just as the referee was finally coming to, roused by Undertaker not long before following a Tombstone I didn't even mention here, and got an incredibly close near fall on it.
Pissed, Triple H took to the corner and unloaded on Undertaker with punches but left himself open to be picked up and slammed with the Last Ride anyway. His anger and frustration cost him and Undertaker won again.
This was a damn good match, easily the best one of the streak up to this point.
Tomorrow we'll get to number 6-2.