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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Heel Turns: Undertaker one of a kind

Posted by Achilles Heel On April 11

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Achilles HeelWhen people depart or die, there is a tendency to overstate their importance. But it’s impossible to do that with the Undertaker.

The Undertaker was one of a kind.

There might be other dominant superstars. There might be other amazing characters. But there will never (cue Chris Jericho) ever be anyone else like the Undertaker.

The Undertaker’s career appears to be over. For those who missed WrestleMania 33, after Undertaker’s loss to Roman Reigns, he folded up his gloves and long coat and placed them in the center of the ring. He then placed his hat on top of his coat and exited the ring. A wrestling tradition is to leave your boots in the ring after your final match, so it certainly appeared as if Undertaker was saying farewell.

It’s even difficult for the Greek God of Wrestling to find the proper words to capture the magnitude and brilliance of Undertaker’s career. He burst on the scene as “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s surprise teammate at the 1990 Survivor Series. One year later, Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series to win the WWF Championship.

Of course, you can’t talk about Undertaker without mentioning his WrestleMania winning streak. Undertaker won his first 21 WrestleMania matches until his shocking loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30. The WrestleMania streak began with Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VII. Undertaker’s other victims during the streak were Jake “The Snake” Roberts; Giant Gonzalez; King Kong Bundy; Diesel; Psycho Sid; Kane (twice); Big Bossman; Triple H (three times); Ric Flair; A-Train and Big Show; Randy Orton; Mark Henry; Batista; Edge; Shawn Michaels (twice); and C.M. Punk.

The Undertaker’s WrestleMania legacy includes quality as well as quantity. Four of the top 11 matches on PhillyPhanatics.com’s Top 33 WrestleMania matches involve the Undertaker, including matches with Shawn Michaels that rank third and fifth (and rank as high as No. 1 on some WrestleMania lists). Undertaker is involved in seven matches on the Top 33 list, and four more of his matches are included in the honorable mention category.

Even the streak doesn’t do justice to the Dead Man. He had, arguably, the greatest entrance in wrestling history. From the moment the gong sounded to the moment he removed his hat and brought the lights back up, Undertaker’s entrance was pure magic. The ovation he received when he returned in Chicago earlier this year was one of the loudest Achilles Heel can remember for a ring entrance. Undertaker could pop an audience without saying a single word.

Undertaker’s character evolved over time. He presided over the Ministry of Darkness, with his Acolytes (Ron Simmons and JBL) and The Brood (Edge, Christian and Gangrel), among others, helping him carry out his evil plans. He was the American Badass, a biker-type character who rode a motorcycle to the ring. But he was always the Undertaker.

The Undertaker was such an awesome character that he spawned another successful character. Kane was brought in by manager Paul Bearer as Undertaker’s brother to get revenge on the Undertaker, and that relationship continued years later as they formed the formidable team of The Brothers of Destruction. (In an interesting related note, Undertaker’s name when he made his WWF debut was Cain the Undertaker.)

The respect for the Undertaker’s accomplishments in the ring is exceeded by the respect the other wrestlers had for him outside of the ring. Undertaker was a true leader in the locker room.

As Achilles Heel said earlier, there aren’t any words that are sufficient to describe Undertaker’s career.

All, I can say is there will never be another Undertaker.

*****

HONORING UNDERTAKER: WWE should not wait to put Undertaker in the Hall of Fame. He should headline the Hall of Fame class of 2018.

*****

WRESTLEMANIA MOMENTS: WrestleMania 33 had a number of good matches, but there weren’t any classics. Only one or two matches are even a threat to make the PhillyPhanatics.com Top 34 WrestleMania matches next year. But there were numerous WrestleMania moments.

The following are some of the awesome moments for which WrestleMania 33 will be remembered:

  • Undertaker’s apparent retirement to close the show after his loss to Roman Reigns.
  • The return of Matt and Jeff Hardy, who won a four-way ladders match to capture the Raw Tag Team Championship. When the Hardy’s music started – after a nice misdirection by the New Day, who acted as if they were adding themselves to the match – the stadium erupted.
  • John Cena’s marriage proposal to Nikki Bella after they defeated The Miz and Maryse.
  • Stephanie McMahon going through a table during the final sequence of Seth Rollins’ hard-fought victory over Triple H.
  • The weird images of maggots, worms and cockroaches projected on the ring during Bray Wyatt’s unsuccessful WWE Championship defense against Randy Orton.
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s involvement in the finish of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which was won by Mojo Rawley.

*****

TITLE CHANGES: There were numerous title changes at WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar defeated Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship in a match constructed just the way the Greek God of Wrestling recommended, with Lesnar kicking out after a spear and jackhammer before putting Goldberg away.

As already mentioned, Randy Orton defeated Bray Wyatt to win the WWE Championship and the Hardy Boyz won the Raw Tag Team Championship from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a four-way ladders match. Kevin Owens beat Chris Jericho to capture the United States Championship, and Naomi won a six-women match to take the Smackdown Women’s Championship from Alexa Bliss.

*****

A  LONG, LONG NIGHT: Achilles Heel pointed out that WrestleMania 32 was too long. Well, that was an early night compared to WrestleMania 33, which lasted until midnight. That’s too late.

How many young fans missed Undertaker’s farewell match because it started too late? Furthermore, the live crowd got burned out, just as it did last year. It took Triple H and Seth Rollins a long time to get the crowd revved up during their match. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, who only had 10-12 minutes to get their story across – there was no way Triple H’s match would be cut short – never quite got the crowd involved as much as one would expect for a championship match.

With a two-hour preshow, WWE should try to limit WrestleMania’s main show to four hours.

*****

BEST MATCH: The best WWE-related match of WrestleMania weekend may have been the NXT Tag Team Championship match in which The Authors of Pain (Akam And Rezar) defeated The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) and DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa). That match took place Saturday night at NXT Takeover: Orlando, which also featured Bobby Roode’s successful NXT Championship defense against former champion Shinsuke Nakamura in a terrific match.

The best matches at WrestleMania took place early in the card. Neville and Austin Aries kicked off the preshow with an excellent match, with Neville successfully defending the Cruiserweight Championship. In the opening match of the main show, A.J. Styles defeated Shane McMahon in a well-constructed match that included wonderful psychology.

*****

MOVING ON UP: Within 48 hours of WrestleMania, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tye Dillinger and the tag team of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder made their television debuts on WWE’s main roster. In the grand tradition of elevating opponents on your way out the door, Dillinger, Nakamura and The Revival were all on the losing end at NXT Takeover: Orlando.

*****

WELCOME BACK: Drew McIntyre was seen sitting in the crowd during the NXT Championship match between Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Orlando. McIntyre, who wrestled under his real name of Drew Galloway outside of WWE, has joined NXT a few years after being released – mistakenly, according to the Greek God of Wrestling – by WWE. At the time, I wrote that Galloway would excel outside of WWE and would eventually be brought back. That’s exactly what happened.

With Roode and McIntyre in the fold, NXT has two of the best TNA world champions from recent years. If you throw in Kurt Angle, they have recently added three of the best TNA champions. McIntyre/Galloway and Matt and Jeff Hardy were a few of the people who made TNA worth watching during the past year or so.

*****

WELCOME BACK: Drew McIntyre was seen sitting in the crowd during the NXT Championship match between Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Orlando. McIntyre, who wrestled under his real name of Drew Galloway outside of WWE, has joined NXT a few years after being released – mistakenly, according to the Greek God of Wrestling – by WWE. At the time, I wrote that Galloway would excel outside of WWE and would eventually be brought back. That’s exactly what happened.

With Roode and McIntyre in the fold, NXT has two of the best TNA world champions from recent years. If you throw in Kurt Angle, they have recently added three of the best TNA champions. McIntyre/Galloway and Matt and Jeff Hardy were a few of the people who made TNA worth watching during the past year or so.

*****

WELCOME BACK II: Finn Balor returned from a shoulder injury during Raw the night after WrestleMania. He was a surprise guest partner in the main event. Balor became the first WWE Universal champion after the brand split, but injured his shoulder during that match and required surgery.

*****

HALL OF A NIGHT: The Hall of Fame ceremony remains one of the Greek God of Wrestling’s favorite nights of the year. You don’t think wrestling is real? Watch the Hall of Fame ceremony and see the real emotions on display.

Kurt Angle, who was the headliner, was awesome. His ability to entertain is uncanny.  He re-enacted some of his favorite bits, including wearing a tiny cowboy hat, pouring milk over himself and singing “Sexy Kurt” to Shawn Michaels’ theme song. The reaction from the crowd, both when he was introduced and when he was finished was wonderful. Angle, of course, is now general manager of Raw. What an outstanding choice!

Other poignant moments included:

  • Natalya describing her kinship with Hall of Fame inductee Beth Phoenix and describing her as a gift from her Uncle Owen (Hart).
  • Beth Phoenix’s story about Molly Holly, now Nora Benshoof, surprising her by (without telling her she was going to do it) paying for her to go to wrestling school.
  • Ricky Morton telling Robert Gibson he was the perfect partner, inside and outside of the ring.
  • JBL and Rom Simmons talking about Teddy Long and civil rights.
  • Rick Roode’s son’s speech. His father would be proud.
  • The inspiring Eric LaGrand, the former Rutgers football player who won the Warrior Award.

*****

RANALLO GONE? It appears increasingly likely that Mauro Ranallo won’t be returning to WWE broadcasts, and that’s a shame. Ranallo has done a terrific job since coming to WWE. His work with Daniel Bryan is part of the reason last year’s Cruiserweight Classic was so incredible. There are rumors of a rift involving fellow Smackdown announcer JBL, but Achilles Heel won’t join the Internet chatter with additional speculation. If Ranallo has called his last match for WWE, though, it will be the fans’ loss.

*****

ROSS IS BACK: Ranallo may be gone, but Jim Ross, the greatest broadcaster in wrestling history, is back. Ross called the Undertaker’s WrestleMania match with Roman Reigns. His contract reportedly calls for him to perform a variety of duties rather than return as a regular announcer on Raw or Smackdown.

*****

KINGS OF THE LADDERS: Matt and Jeff Hardy wrestled in ladder matches on back-to-back days, first losing the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship to the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) at Supercard of Honor XI and then winning the Raw Tag Team Championship the next night at WrestleMania 33. Wrestling in ladder matches on consecutive days takes a tremendous toll on your body – although the Hardys might have been running on pure adrenaline from the incredible crowd response.

*****

BRAUN’S BEATING: Eric Fisher’s tardiness in posting this edition of Heel Turns allows me to include several late notes. I’m not going to comment on the WWE roster shakeup until it’s complete, but Achilles Heel is in favor of mixing the rosters up to create new rivalries. What I will call attention to from Raw is the brutal beating Braun Strowman put on Roman Reigns.

Strowman gave Reigns a running power slam on an equipment travel case, and then slammed a similar case into Reigns. Once Reigns was strapped to a stretcher, Strowman wheeled Reigns off the edge of what appeared to be a loading dock. Once Reigns was in the ambulance, Strowan – and this is not a mistake – lifted the ambulance off the ground and tipped it over. This was an extraordinary display of strength and an impressive beatdown that should keep Reigns out of action for a long time.

*****

FAREWELL TO SHARPE: “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe (real name Larry Weil) died Monday after battling liver cancer for several years. Weil, from Paulsboro, N.J., is best-known for running The Monster Factory, which produced numerous professional wrestlers, including Bam Bam Bigelow. Through his training of future wrestlers, Sharpe made a major impact on professional wrestling.

But Sharpe was also an entertaining enhancement wrestler. Before executing a big move, Sharpe would look to the crowd and shout, “Watch this!” He would pick up some wins and had some tag team success, but his main job was to entertain and make fans want to see his opponent defeat him. Achilles Heel sends condolences out to Sharpe’s family and friends.

(Undertaker photo by Eric Fisher. Please credit Eric Fisher/PhillyPhanatics.com if you use this picture.)

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