A rivalry that can't be destroyed?
An unbelievable rivalry has come full circle. An epic struggle that began last February, then ended unexpectedly in May, now takes its latest -- and possibly greatest -- step forward at Cyber Sunday. It's up to you to vote on a special guest referee for this contest -- JBL, Mick Foley or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin -- though Batista will put his World Heavyweight Championship on the line against Undertaker at the pay-per-view in Washington, D.C., come hell or high water.
If you ask us, we think the former is on its way. And no amount of HÃ‚Â²0 -- or beer, should you vote for Austin -- can possibly extinguish the fires that fuel these two warriors when they meet in the squared circle this Sunday.
Some Superstars in the SmackDown locker room may argue that Undertaker has no right to stake a claim for a title opportunity so soon after returning from a four-month hiatus due to injury. Finlay and Rey Mysterio, however, weren't among those debating the point during their No. 1 Contender's Match two weeks ago, especially after The Phenom left both men tasting canvas. And Mark Henry, the one who injured Undertaker last May? Until ECW this past Tuesday, he hadn't been seen since The Deadman defeated him on SmackDown last month (and summoned a flock of druids to cart his 400-pound carcass off to…well, wherever the hell Undertaker casts his claimed souls).
As for Batista…haven't we figured him out yet? The champion Animal won't be intimidated by anyone. He has beaten The Great Khali -- twice. Not even Undertaker can claim that many clean victories against the 7-foot-3 Punjabi Goliath. If that alone doesn't convince you, then do what prospective official JBL did in the ring during last Friday's SmackDown: Accuse Batista of fearing The Deadman. Though first confirm with your health insurance agent that your premiums are up to date, as your resulting hospital bills will be costly.
Batista-Undertaker has become the sports-entertainment equivalent of Gotti-Ward, North Carolina-Duke, Cowboys-Steelers and Red Sox-Yankees (though not this year). Certainly no one, ourselves included, could have foreseen this rivalry skyrocketing to such exalted prominence, even in the weeks before their first classic confrontation last April in Detroit, at WrestleMania 23.
Still, the harshest of critics had to admit that despite losing the title to Undertaker, Batista's WrestleMania performance truly accounted him as a WWE Superstar of the highest caliber. The Phenom, meanwhile, somehow pulled off what even his legions of followers had questioned feasible: In winning his fifth World Championship and keeping his unbeaten WrestleMania record intact -- against his greatest opponent to date at the sports-entertainment spectacle -- he surpassed just about every other personal accomplishment in an unparalleled two-decade career of destruction.
WWE.com is not in the habit of using words like "war" lightly; the very remark speaks of atrocities and struggles against humanity that often hit much too close to home. However, it is truly difficult to otherwise describe the WrestleMania 23 conflict that transpired between Batista and Undertaker. Therefore, it is equally arduous a task to depict the carnage that ensued when these two Superstars battled over the World Heavyweight Title again at Backlash, only four weeks after Undertaker had claimed it.
"Batista-Undertaker II," a Last Man Standing Match, was brutal affirmation that The Animal and The Phenom were natural adversaries for each other. Too bad neither one of them could appreciate it, as their contest proved every bit as physically taxing as the stipulation suggested. The role-reversed champion and challenger took it as far as they could go -- which, by the way, is very far -- pummeling each other to the point where, after a Batista spear sent them flying off the stage and the Backlash scaffolding crashing down on top of them, neither man could rise to his feet before the referee completed a dual 10-count.
Since the title couldn't change hands in the event of a draw, The Deadman still wore the World Heavyweight Championship, with Batista still in hot pursuit. So in May, the two clashed for the gold once again, this time on SmackDown and within a Steel Cage. Like its predecessors, "Batista-Undertaker III" pushed each man to their very limits and, also once more, exceeded fans' wildest expectations.
"Volcanic" best suits fan reaction that night in Pittsburgh. Everyone in attendance cheered, chanted or clamored wildly over one another, as if it might greater urge their respective ring favorite to be first in exiting the steel mesh structure, either by door or over the top. Ultimately, though, The Animal and The Phenom defied all probability scenarios when -- from opposing cage sides -- both battered warriors' feet simultaneously touched down on the outside floor. With officials or even instant replay unable to determine whose feet touched the ground first, the only fair decision to render was that of a draw, which again kept the championship in the hands of The Deadman.
Another clash of these titans appeared to be a given -- until Mark Henry suddenly came down to ringside and assaulted the battle-weary Undertaker. Even worse, no sooner had Henry's unexpected brutality left the champion badly injured and defenseless than Edge cashed in a "Money in the Bank" contract to challenge for a World Championship any time, anywhere. The Ultimate Opportunist made the most of his chance, capturing the gold from a Deadman who was more "dead" than "man" -- and seemingly taking away the one element that would produce a "Batista-Undertaker IV."
Thankfully, the Rated-R Superstar's desserts were just after injury forced him to relinquish his title in July. However, the SmackDown universe still seemed badly misaligned when The Great Khali captured the gold by winning a 20-Superstar battle royal. You, our fans, felt it, too; you knew who deserved to wear it…or at least you narrowed it down to the select few individuals of this piece.
Perhaps, when Batista did reclaim the World Heavyweight Title at last September's Unforgiven -- on the same night that heralded Undertaker's return -- you also felt that karma had somehow righted the SmackDown realm. Don't call us Earl, but there's something to it. This struggle began with The Animal, The Phenom and you eight months ago. It seems only fitting that with "Batista-Undertaker IV" at Cyber Sunday, you'll be part of the determining factor that could make this the battle to end all battles.
However, if you're like the fan in all of us who loves watching this rivalry so much, do you really want it to end?