MIAMI — What happened between Undertaker and Triple H inside the Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 28 was every bit as brutal, vicious and dramatic as the WWE Universe expected it to be. And, yet, this nearly hour-long epic between two legendary Superstars who helped define WWE’s biggest era would forever be summed up with three numbers. ( PHOTOS)
The only question is would the record books read 20 – 0 or 19 – 1?
Defending his iconic WrestleMania Streak against an intensely focused Triple H for the second year in a row, The Deadman faced the horror of Satan’s Structure, the offensive onslaught of a sledgehammer swinging Game and the unpredictable officiating of Shawn Michaels in his quest to maintain sports-entertainment’s most revered record and add one more tombstone to his cemetery of WrestleMania souls.
It was a near impossible challenge for The Phenom who first set foot on The Grandest Stage of Them All more than two decades ago. Absent from the ring for a full calendar year after nearly falling to Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII, Undertaker spent months agonizing over the beating he received in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Deadman miraculously won that bout with the well-timed application of his Hell’s Gate submission hold, but he was beaten so badly he could not exit the ring under his own power.
The Undertaker’s body slowly healed, but his mind did not. Driven to the edge by an unfamiliar feeling of vulnerability, The Phenom went into seclusion, reliving every second of the hellish encounter before he returned to Raw on Jan. 30, 2012 to challenge Triple H to a rematch at WrestleMania XXVIII.
The stage was set for the biggest return match in WrestleMania history, but The King of Kings was not interested. According to the WWE COO, he no longer felt humbled in the presence of The Undertaker and he knew that destroying the icon on The Grandest Stage of Them All would be nothing but a bad business decision.
The bout may never have happened had it not been for Shawn Michaels. Triple H’s best friend and the man who was sent into retirement by The Deadman at WrestleMania XXVI, HBK confronted The Game on Raw and questioned his DX cohort’s manhood. According to Michaels, if The Game didn’t face The Undertaker, he’d be a sellout or, worse yet, a coward.
Triple H relented, but soon the bout became about something other than preserving a brand or breaking The Streak — it was about defining a legacy. No matter how many championships he’s captured, no matter how many major events he’s headlined, The Game has always stood in comparison to his best friend, Shawn Michaels — the man most people consider to be the single greatest Superstar in WWE history. There was nothing Triple H could do to eclipse the grandeur of HBK — except beat The Undertaker.
With that in mind, The Game agreed to The Undertaker’s challenge, but he raised the stakes. The two Superstars wouldn’t just face at The Show of Shows — they’d meet in the Hell in a Cell and HBK would be the guest referee. Inside the confines of Satan’s Structure, Triple H and The Deadman would not only close their rivalry, but end an era in sports-entertainment.
All eyes were on The King of Kings as he entered Miami’s Sun Life Stadium through a massive archway of gruesome skulls that spewed green smoke into the darkening sky. It was nearly 8:00 PM and the moon was just beginning to settle in above the sold-out crowd. It was an appropriate shift — this showdown wasn’t meant to take place under sunny Florida skies.
Then it was The Deadman. Slowly making his way down the entrance ramp through a thick fog, The Undertaker found himself facing down an opponent on The Grandest Stage of Them All for the 20th time. As legendary commentator Jim Ross set the dramatic scene for the WWE Universe, the iconic Superstars took their places on opposite sides of the ring like one-man armies of old as the five ton Hell in a Cell structure began to lower around them. The anticipation in the open-air stadium was palpable as Undertaker deliberately removed his hood, revealing an intimidating mohawk.
Something about The Phenom’s menacing new appearance sent a clear message to WWE fans. It was on.
From there, it was war. The Undertaker — a Superstar whose current wellbeing Triple H has called into question — looked as dangerous as ever as he blackened his opponent’s eyes with deliberate right hands. The Game barely had an opportunity to familiarize himself with the dangerous environment before The Phenom was introducing his forehead to the business end of the steel steps.
The brutality brought out the worst in Triple H. Wielding a steel chair the way a barbarian would a broadsword, The King of Kings battered his foe with such aggression that even HBK begged him to stop. Still, The Undertaker would not be deterred as he struggled to his feet and told Shawn not to call for the bell.
By then, The Game had grabbed his sledgehammer and warned Michaels to end the match before he ended Taker. HBK considered it, nearly calling for the bell before he was suddenly pulled into Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate out of nowhere. With Michaels out, Triple H went in for the final blow. That’s when The Deadman introduced him to Hell’s Gate.
The next five minutes were the kind of rare moments that make WrestleMania history. As a second referee hit the ring, Undertaker leveled Triple H with a chokeslam, but The Game powered out of the pin. Then, HBK rose to his feet and blasted The Phenom with Sweet Chin Music before The King of Kings nailed a Pedigree. It looked like The Streak had finally been broken, but The Undertaker would not be denied.
The Deadman answered with a Tombstone. The Game fought right back.
Triple H hit another Pedigree. The Undertaker rose from the dead.
The emotion in Shawn Michaels’ tear soaked face said it all — this match wouldn’t be finished until one of these men was finished.
In the final moments of this “End of an Era” Match, three of WWE’s most iconic Superstars stood in front of more than 78,000 WWE fans and revealed their true selves. Defiant to the end, a battered Triple H crotch chopped his adversary, knowing he was done for, but choosing to go out just as he came in. The Undertaker, as ice cold as ever, shrugged his latest victim away before delivering a final Tombstone. Shawn Michaels, no longer able to stomach the brutality of in ring competition, turned his face away.
And then it was over. The match. The decades long conflict. The era.
The Cell was raised as HBK stood above The Undertaker and Triple H with tears in his eyes, studying the carnage. Fireworks erupted in celebration for The Deadman’s unbelievable 20 – 0 accomplishment, but in that moment it wasn’t about a record. Reaching out their hands, The Phenom and Michaels helped The Game to his feet and together the three exited the ring.
Joined as one, the legends walked up the entrance ramp and into the locker room and then they were gone. And so was the greatest era in sports-entertainment.