It’s WrestleMania weekend!!! And what does that mean? I should do a review of a ‘Mania match! I have a few Top 10 ‘Mania-related lists, one about Top 10 ‘Mania Main Events (click here to see) and one about Top 10 ‘Mania matches (click here to see). But what about underrated WrestleMania matches? You have Bret Hart vs Roddy Piper, Ric Flair vs Randy Savage, the ‘Mania XIII Street Fight, Daniel Bryan vs HHH…there are plenty more, of course considering WrestleMania has been going for nigh-on forty years. But one of my favourite underrated matches is Undertaker vs HHH from WrestleMania X-7. Yes, forget their other two subsequent ‘Mania bouts. For me, this is their best clash…
Surprisingly, on the road to WrestleMania X-7, two of the biggest stars of the era, Undertaker and HHH, looked to walk a lonesome road. HHH, after defeating no other but Stone Cold at No Way Out 2001, had nowhere to go. The same applied for ‘Taker. Upon reading up on this bout, I read that Jim Ross and Vince McMahon were shocked to discover that they hadn’t booked Taker and HHH for ‘Mania X-7! A glaring omission. So, in typical WWE style, they were booked to fight each other at ‘Mania X-7, for no real reason other than to give them something to do! Admittedly, I’ve forgotten the feud that led to this bout…but it can’t have been that memorable.
They may have fought in one of the all-time great WrestleManias, but the match is overshadowed by several others. There’s TLC I, Shane vs Vince, and of course, Austin vs The Rock…classic bouts that have stood the test of time. This bout goes on just before Austin/Rock. Yes, the spot meant for short bouts that cool the audience down before the main event went to Taker/HHH. But would these two give the crowd a nothing match? Oh, hell no!
Almost to prove to the bookers/Vince McMahon that they deserved a better feud/storyline leading into ‘Mania X-7, these two kick off the bout with a ferocious brawl and rarely let up from that point onwards. There’s no intricate psychology or limb work here, just two big men battering each other. I think, in storyline terms, they were trying to prove who was the biggest dog in the yard (or something like that). That’s all the story necessary for this bout. Without any titles on the line, ‘Taker and HHH want to prove who is the better man, who is the better wrestler. HHH, the top heel of the company at the time (again, who forgot to book him for the biggest show of the year?), resorts to his typical heel tactics, attempting to bring in his sledgehammer when things aren’t going his way. ‘Taker has the upper hand in terms of strength and brawling, and easily takes the fight to HHH.
Around the halfway point, the referee takes a huge bump, and is out of action for at least another ten minutes…so the two wrestlers take the brawl outside, increasing the stakes and the bumps.
At this point in time, my favourite wrestler was HHH. I loved the idea of the ‘cool’ bad guy, a bad ass with a hot wife. Yes, I loved Austin and The Rock, but I found myself hypnotised by HHH’s promos. My friend at the time loved The Undertaker, in the latter’s ‘American Badass’ days, and when this bout was announced it was all we would talk about at school. I watched the event live, recording it for said friend. However, the tape conveniently ran out just as it looked like HHH was going to win the match…(of course, I had a second tape ready in hand!).
But whilst replaying the tape to my friend, I feigned ignorance when the tape cut off. He was going out of his mind, wondering whether HHH had beaten Taker or not…and my conscience wouldn’t let him wonder about it too long, so I produced the second tape and we watched the final five minutes of the bout.
Perhaps that memory is in itself is a reason why I rate this match so highly. Don’t get me wrong, I love their ‘Mania XVII bout (click here for my review), but that’s a different match for two more mature wrestlers. This is a non-stop brawl, one that never takes a long pause to sell a single move. Even after some high spots on the outside, the wrestlers don’t linger on it for too long. There’s sufficient selling, but not the excessive selling that the two wrestlers exhibit in their ‘Mania XVII clash (don’t get me started about their Hell in a Cell bout. Overrated! Click here for my review). But I only shared that ‘Mania XVII with another friend as we talked about it over Whatsapp.
Sometimes, it is the sharing of something that makes that particular thing so special. The whole ‘Mania X-7 event reminds of a time where I truly loved the WWF…a time where I had few cares in the world apart from school, and a time where I didn’t understand the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff about wrestling. And I had friends, too, that appreciated wrestling without knowledge of the backstage drama A simpler time, of course. And while Austin/The Rock remains one of my favourite matches, what really ensnared my heart was Taker/HHH.
Up to that point, it was both wrestler’s finest ‘Mania bout, and while both would go on to have better ‘Mania bouts, this still deserves to be talked just as much as their subsequent ‘Mania bouts at XVII and XVIII.
Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)
(Click here for more of ‘Reviews of Wrestling Matches‘)