Best: Mankind vs. Undertaker Forever and Ever
This feud just won’t stop owning my heart. Mankind is coming off a match of the year contender with Shawn Michaels and is back in the feud of the year with Undertaker. Buried Alive matches are supposed to be as bad as Boiler Room Brawls but this match is incredible. It’s classic hardcore Mick Foley style and Undertaker adds another layer of physicality to his repertoire.
One of the underrated aspects of Taker’s career is the way he adds moves to his matches as the stakes get higher. Like how he does the top rope dive at WrestleMania or the crazy flying DDT against Batista or something. Here, he’s jumping off the top rope to the outside and doing flying clotheslines over the security railing. Just those two moves made the match seem more important.
Take away the grave and we’ve got one of the first truly great hardcore matches of the early Attitude Era.
Worst: 50/50 Booking And A Million Hilarious Things
So Undertaker wins the match which features another ending due to Worst Chokeslam, but 50/50 booking dictates that Mankind still has to get his heat back immediately so the Executioner or whatever his name is hit ‘Taker with a shovel and puts him in the grave instead.
And this is where the literal magic happens.
So next we have lights going dim and thunder and SFX lighting happening as Undertaker is getting “buried”…presumably to allow Taker to duck away while they put a DUMMY OF THE UNDERTAKER in the bottom of the grave. Or at least it damn sure looks like one. Then, we get to watch Mankind STRUGGLE to get dirt on Undertaker because shoveling is difficult as sh*t. So naturally we get the entire heel roster come out to help because Undertaker picked out all the roast beef from the sandwiches in catering and just left a tray of bread or something to cause heels to hate Undertaker always. Also, because it would probably take Mankind 40 minutes to shovel a ton of dirt with his bare hands.
Still, we get five minutes of guys shoveling. It’s not exactly compelling television. Naturally, though, it all ends with SOUND GUY MAGIC that scares the heels away and Undertaker ominously raising his hand from the grave to close the show in typical horror movie fashion. Wrestling is real, dammit.
Worst: In Your House Is An Episode Of Smackdown
I don’t know if this means that the product was too slow in 1996 or it’s too fast in 2014, but IYH was an hour and 45 minutes of wrestling that people paid 15 bucks for and it’s about half as newsworthy as an episode of Smackdown now. The event was five matches, zero title changes and some story development. Hell, the champion didn’t even wrestle. If this were an episode of RAW it’d be considered filler or solid at best. Shit, no wonder the writers are so stressed these days.