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The Tao of Undertaker
When Undertaker steps into Hell in a Cell this Sunday at Survivor Series against the World Heavyweight Champion Batista, The Phenom will enter the "devil's playground" with a streamlined, evolved hunger for the gold, and a unique weapon in his already dangerous offensive arsenal -- the triangle choke.
During The Deadman's No Holds Barred battle with The Great Khali last Friday on SmackDown, announcer Michael Cole pointed out, "Undertaker is less than 300 pounds for the first time in his career." Judging from the way Khali fell victim to the triangle choke -- while Undertaker's back was still on the canvas -- it's evident that the lighter weight has put the challenger to Batista's title in arguably the best shape of his life. More importantly, it demonstrated how Undertaker over the years has balanced his power-packed, pure striker offense with a more technical approach, and sent a strong message to The Animal: That there is more to Undertaker than just strength.
Certainly, Undertaker is accustomed to overpowering his opponents, as he has dominated many of the biggest names in sports-entertainment history throughout his storied career. However, during those rare occurrences in the past when The Phenom has come face-to-face with an opponent who could overpower him, it has been his veteran intelligence and in-ring savvy that has carried him to victory.
Another prime example occurred at No Way Out in February 2003, when Undertaker took on Big Show in a battle of two of the largest athletes in WWE history. There are few who could ever stand toe-to-toe and match power with Big Show. So The Phenom knowing this, surprised the giant -- and our fans -- that night by unleashing a technical barrage, breaking down Big Show in a calculated manner, and eventually forcing his monstrous opponent to submit to the triangle choke.
As if he didn't have enough to think about regarding Undertaker and Hell in a Cell at Survivor Series, Batista better keep The Deadman's painful submission maneuver in the back of his mind Sunday night -- or he may be reminded when it's locked around his massive neck. And if anyone doesn't believe the triangle choke can completely incapacitate someone like The Animal, just ask two men familiar with its effects: SmackDown's JBL and ECW's Tazz.
"By the time you start seeing things, it's all blurry and you feel yourself going down for the count; that is how it was for me when I fought Undertaker," said JBL, who experienced The Phenom's triangle choke at No Mercy in October 2004. "Luckily," he added, "when it was locked in, I had some outside help, and was able to escape the choke and retain my title."
Tazz has never felt the submission move applied by The Phenom, but he made his in-ring career as an in-ring competitor by slapping on painfully similar holds. "When the choke is applied by an average athlete, it is lethal," Tazz said. "But when the triangle choke is applied by someone the size of Undertaker, with all the power in his legs, once he focuses that power and tightens up on your neck, the tapout has to be quick, because you are at his mercy."
Can Undertaker display that mixture of power and poise, tenacity and technical, and intensity and intelligence this Sunday? Batista and The Phenom have stalemated in two of their four epic matches leading up to this monumental fifth meeting over the gold. This match, however, is in the confines of Hell in a Cell, where Undertaker has laid waste to many Superstars before Batista, and will look to regain the title that was taken from him back in May. But to defeat the caged Animal and walk away with the gold, The Phenom will have to bring everything in his arsenal. And Batista better be careful, because if his line of sight starts to get blurry, the last thing he may see before he goes out cold is Undertaker walking away as the new World Heavyweight Champion.