With WWE WrestleMania 38 right around the corner, I figured it’s as good a time as any to look back at some WrestleMania classics.
I’ve already covered the big matches on most fans’ shortlists of greatest WM matches ever. Bret/Austin from WM13 is in my opinion the greatest match in WrestleMania history. Angle/HBK more than lived up to its billing as a ‘dream match’. Savage/Steamboat still holds up after over thirty years. WrestleMania X-Seven gave us not one but twoiconic matches. Then there’s the twoUndertaker/Michaels matches that are still revered as the best of the best.
Then there’s this match. It loomed in the shadow of better matches for many years, especially while one of the wrestlers involved was retired. Then that wrestler returned and suddenly people were talking about his greatest hits. And while most people think of Edge as a guy famous for tag teams and gimmick matches, he has proven that he actually can wrestle a normal match when the time calls for it. That’s what we’re looking at today.
It’s time to revisit Edge’s World Title match against The Undertaker from WrestleMania XXIV.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
The rivalry between Edge and the Undertaker began almost a full year prior to this match. Shortly after winning his second Money in the Bank briefcase from Mr. Kennedy at Backlash 2007, Edge shocked the world (once again) by cashing it in on the Undertaker on an episode of Smackdown. Moments earlier, ‘Taker had retained the title in a brutal steel cage match against Batista, and then suffered a surprise mauling by Mark Henry. He was left a bloody mess and Edge took advantage to steal Undertaker’s World Heavyweight title. Undertaker was out for a few months due to injuries, during which time Edge became one of the top stars on SmackDown. Undertaker returned later in 2007 to reignite his feud with Batista, but Edge cost ‘Taker the match and the title once again. Then at Armageddon 2007, Edge won the WHC back. Determined to get revenge, Undertaker won an Elimination Chamber match at the eponymous 2008 event to earn the right to face Edge for the title.
Like many before him, Edge spent the weeks leading up to WrestleMania selling the idea that he wasn’t afraid of the Undertaker. But unlike most of ‘Taker’s previous ‘Mania challengers, Edge had help in the form of his La Familia stable. Those allies helped Edge gang-up on Undertaker and gave Edge the upper hand going into the match. But would that be enough? Would the constant number’s game along with Edge’s brutality be enough to keep the mythical Undertaker down for the three-count? Or would Edge be the one staring up at the spotlights?
This match originally took place on March 30th, 2008 at WrestleMania XXIV. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It was rated ****1/2 by TJRWrestling’s John Canton in his WrestleMania 24 review.
‘Taker does the throat slash but Edge shoves him back. Edge hits some early corner punches but ‘Taker counters a corner whip and clotheslines Edge to the mat and then to the floor. Edge tries to choke ‘Taker but ‘Taker counters with a rope stungun. He hits Edge with more corner strikes but Edge boots ‘Taker on another corner charge. Edge sends ‘Taker into the ropes but ‘Taker counters with a flying clothesline that gets a one-count. ‘Taker goes for Old School but Edge blocks. Wait, no, Undertaker counters the counter and arm drags Edge. He chokes Edge in a corner and then hits a big running knee lift. But his momentum sends him to the outside and he hits his back on the edge of the ring. ‘Taker slowly makes it to the apron but Edge hits a spear and ‘Taker hits the barricade hard, and then does the same off a baseball slide. Edge drives Undertaker back-first into the apron and then lands a rope-assisted neckbreaker.
Edge forces Undertaker into a corner and then drives his shoulder into ‘Taker’s gut. He hits multiple elbows to ‘Taker’s ribs and back until Undertaker tries fighting back, only for Edge to counter with a midair pin press that gets a two-count. Edge hits a dropkick and goes to the top rope, but then Undertaker cuts him off and throws him off the top rope to the floor. Suicide dive to the floor! Wow, that was gorgeous!
Undertaker starts moving more slowly now but still hits his apron leg drop. Edge kicks out at two so Undertaker sets up the Last Ride but he stops himself because of the pain in his lower back. Edge capitalizes with a big boot and pins for two and then kicks ‘Taker to the floor. He continues showing why he was the ultimate Opportunist by back suplexing Undertaker spine-first onto the barricade. Back in the ring, Edge gets another two-count and hits clubbing forearms to ‘Taker’s back. He locks in a single leg crab while pre4ssing his knee into ‘Taker’s tailbone. Undertaker counters into a pin but only gets two and Edge locks in a double-leg hold this time. He kicks Edge off but Edge goes right back to hitting ‘Taker’s lower back. Undertaker fights through the pain and starts hitting punches. The crowd comes alive cheering ‘yay/boo’ as ‘Taker and Edge trade strikes. Undertaker begins his comeback in earnest. He hits snake eyes in the corner and goes for a big boot. Edge hits first with a dropkick for two. Edge dives off the second rope but ends up in a Chokeslam. Wait, no, Edge holds on by grabbing the ref’s shirt. Undertaker ducks a clothesline and tries the chokeslam again. He got him…no, Edge counters with an Impaler DDT. One, two, Undertaker kicks out. Edge goes for a Spear. Undertaker lands a kneelift to block. Chokeslam connects. One, two, Edge kicks out. It’s time for Old School…no, Edge blocks and Undertaker crotches himself on the ropes. Edge follows with a superplex. He pins but Undertaker survives. Edge does the corner punches spot…which Undertaker counters into a Last Ri – no, Edge counters that with a neckbreaker.
Edge hits ‘Taker’s back again and sends him into the ropes for a back body drop. Undertaker blocks with a tailbone forearm of his own and kicks Edge’s gut. Last Ride connects. Undertaker takes a few seconds to crawl over for a pin. One, two, Edge survives. Undertaker signals the end. Tombstone…is countered with an inverted mat slam. Edge pins but Undertaker kicks out once more. Undertaker counters an Irish whip with a big boot and both men collapse. Moments later, Old School finally lands. He goes for a big boot but Edge ducks and Undertaker hits the referee instead. Edge hits an inverted DDT and then starts talking trash. Undertaker grabs his throat. Edge counters with a low blow and then grabs a camera. He smashed Undertaker’s head with it.
Referee Jimmy Korderas falls to the floor, still selling that boot from the Undertaker. Meanwhile, Undertaker sits up. Edge goes ‘Taker’s throat slash gesture and goes for a Tombstone of his own. Undertaker counters. Tombstone Piledriver connects. ‘Taker pins. Another referee Charles Robinson sprints down the aisle as fast as he can! One, two, and – NO, Edge kicks out! Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder show up. Undertaker makes quick work of both of them…and then walks into a spear from Edge. One, two, no, Undertaker kicks out again. Edge signals for another spear. And hits that second one…but Undertaker counters. Hell’s Gate submission hold. Edge taps out. The Undertaker wins! 16-0!
Winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion after 23:50: The Undertaker
I had much higher expectations.
Given the names involved, the build, the venue, and the stakes, I went into this match hoping to see a marvelous, historic classic. Alas, this wasn’t it. It was as if one bad match and one great match were smashed together at high velocity to create a mix of both. And while the end result was an awesome match by Undertaker and Edge’s standards, it just doesn’t hold up that well compared to other matches we’ve seen in this series.
I’ll start with the most obvious issue: absolutely f**k all happened during the first ten minutes. It was mostly a by-the-numbers early Undertaker match that has been seen many times over the years. The only notable moment was seeing Undertaker do a cool arm drag counter and that’s it. The story didn’t really take off until Undertaker hit his suicide dive. That was when the real excitement began; and honestly, that’s where the whole match should’ve started. Instead of dragging things out with another plodding sequence that led to nothing, Undertaker, in his fury, should’ve jumped Edge during Edge’s entrance to start things off with a bang.
It was that dive that led to Edge’s extended heat segment, which made complete sense. Edge tried to eliminate Undertaker’s strength advantage by targeting his back once ‘Taker was no longer moving at 100%. That strategy actually worked wonders for a while as ‘Taker couldn’t hit any of his key moves or throws. Edge was a tremendous heel here as he took for any opportunity to try and take Undertaker out. He went low, he used weapons, he tried to use the referee, and so on. But when those avenues closed, he decided to show that he was more than just a cheap-shot artist: he actually wrestled and countered Undertaker’s big moves logically. Edge tried whatever strategy he could think of to win, but in the end Undertaker was just too much for him.
As for Undertaker, well, this was definitely one of his better WrestleMania performances overall. And yet, there was still something off about it. He sold for Edge, true, but his selling was wildly inconsistent which made it hard to really invest into the match’s story. Things really peaked in the final five minutes and especially with the creative finish. By countering Edge’s spear into the Hell’s Gate, it gave Undertaker more freedom to build matches in different directions. Edge looked strong in defeat here; he survived a chokeslam, a Last Ride, and a Tombstone. In fact, Edge really got beat by his own momentum; ‘Taker made a last-minute counter on Edge instead of Undertaker being in control down to the final second. There was enough lack of conclusion in the way that finish was executed to justify having at least one rematch.
There was also something that didn’t make that much sense: The Hawkins and Ryder interference spot. They came down to the ring at a strange time. Both the referee and the Undertaker were already up, so it’s not like they had the element of surprise. All they did was serve as cannon fodder; they did absolutely nothing else. Yes, they distracted ‘Taker long enough for Edge to hit a spear, but it’s not like Edge wouldn’t’ve hit that move anyway. It didn’t make sense for them to wait until the new referee came in to help Edge. Once Korderas was out, why didn’t they sprint down to the ring and help Edge weaken ‘Taker further? ‘Taker wasn’t fully weakened yet, so them helping Edge at that moment would’ve made Undertaker’s comeback much more satisfying, which in turn would’ve made the crowd louder and more engaged.
Final Rating: ****
This is definitely one of Undertaker’s better WrestleMania matches, but it’s still a significant notch below the two masterpieces that would follow in 2009 and 2010. He was clearly headed in the right direction in terms of how he wrestled; he just hadn’t polished things perfectly here. Even though Edge did a great job acting as an obnoxious foil, there was something missing here that caused the match to lack in raw tension. Maybe that’s why the crowd was so quiet for most of the match; either they didn’t believe Edge would win or that the action didn’t justify the coveted position of WrestleMania main event.
Either way, this match is solid yet a bit overrated. It’s Undertaker’s longest WrestleMania match up to that point, which is one of the reasons it doesn’t hold up that much today. If they shaved off 5-10 minutes and went to the jugular from the opening bell, this would be a much better contest in retrospect.