‘The Deadman’ returned at WrestleMania XX in front of a raucous New York City crowd to face off against his biggest rival, his estranged brother Kane. But after months of build-up, did the match itself live up to the hype?
The Undertaker vs Kane
WWE WrestleMania XX: Madison Square Garden, New York – April 14th 2004
It’s unlikely that even in an empty Madison Square Garden (such is its rich history among the echoes of Ali & Frasier), that you’d be able to hear a pin drop. On a Sunday night in March 2004, in a packed arena on the twentieth year of the WWE’s annual showcase event, The Undertaker achieved just that, as through blue hue and dry ice all in unison held their breath for the return of ‘The Deadman’.
Months before, Kane interfered in a ‘Buried Alive’ match between his storyline brother and Vince McMahon, costing The Undertaker his victory and dumping a tonne of dirt onto him into the process. ‘Taker then took a hiatus to recover from injuries and ready himself for WrestleMania. Meanwhile Kane competed in the Royal Rumble match in January, entering at number 12. After dominating all in the ring, the timer counted down to zero. The lights dimmed and the bell tolled signalling the arrival of number 13 … little Spike Dudley. Distracted, Kane was eliminated by Booker T, and Spike received a chokeslam to the steel ramp for his troubles. Kane spent the weeks up to and including WrestleMania denying that his brother was alive. But on that Sunday night in March, the druids filed in, burning torches lighting a path for the entrance firstly for Paul Bearer, smirking with rubber-faced delight, and secondly for The Undertaker. Not the American Badass. Not the Gothic leader of the Ministry of Darkness, but the good old Deadman, with Stetson, dark trench coat and a slow methodical walk to the ring.
From the moment he arrives on the ramp, the New York crowd are chanting “Undertaker, Undertaker!” as Kane looks on, visibly shaken at the sight of his former ally. Kane refuses to believe what he is seeing, shouting “You’re not real!” at an unmoving Undertaker who simply stares from across the ring. Reaching forward, Kane attempts to touch what he won’t believe is true, but before he gets the chance, The Undertaker swats his hand away and, swinging from the hip, the fight is on. Covering up in the corner, Kane has no response. The referee tries to break up the fight, but is sent running through the ropes as The Deadman threatens to bring him into the fight. Kane scurries outside the ring as well, but there is no respite, as The Undertaker continues the offence with elbows and a big leg drop onto the ring apron.
Back in the ring, The Undertaker throws Kane around like a ragdoll, as Paul Bearer leads the trash talking from outside the ring, and it’s not until The Undertaker attempts to go for a powerbomb does The Big Red Machine retrieve any ground in the contest, with a reversal that is short of the ropes, forcing The Undertaker into a fairly ugly looking fall. A big boot from Kane floors The Undertaker again and, gaining momentum, Kane delivers a sidewalk slam followed by a top rope clothesline and attempts the first pinfall of the match and a two count.
With both combatants back on their feet it’s time for a little slugging, as they and the crowd start to lose their way a little, until a big boot and leg drop from the Deadman. Grabbing Kane by the arm, The Undertaker goes for his top rope ring walk, but is caught by the throat on landing. Retaliating, Undertaker applies a choke grip of his own and both men stand vying for control. A chokeslam attempt is blocked by The Big Red Machine who hits a chokeslam of his own, sending his brother crashing to the mat. But instead of going for a pin he decides to have a chinwag with Paul Bearer at ringside and then have a good old evil giggle in the centre of the ring. The Undertaker sits up to a great response from those in attendance, and Kane’s jaw drops while his arms remain aloft and it’s all go to the finish. Brilliantly no-selling Kane’s kick to the face, The Undertaker hits a flying clothesline and a chokeslam, before the fans chant for a “Tombstone, Tombstone!”. The Undertaker delivers and Kane is his victim for a second time at WrestleMania.
This match doesn’t get close to their epic encounter at WrestleMania XIV. It’s short but not really short enough. Not because the wrestlers involved are in any way bad performers. It’s just that after months of build up, after the mental torment Kane had suffered in the run up to the match and given how excited the crowd was for The Undertaker’s return, it may have been better received as total squash. A long entrance, a long stare down and then a quick chokeslam and Tombstone may have got a more epic response, especially from a New York crowd who really thrive on seeing Goliath beat up David.
The crowd seemed to lose interest half way through, the commentary team of JR and King were struggling for their superlatives, and maybe the match, between two competitors who have fought for and against each other so many times before, just couldn’t meet the expectations. The main story is told however. The Undertaker is back, and this character, the one who debuted at the Survivor Series fourteen years before, is here to stay.
This article was written by James Musselwhite.