We are in uncertain times and I dare say we all need a bit of an escape from the uncertainty, WWE did the best they could over the last 48 hours to provide sports entertainment fans with an escape, putting on the most unique WrestleMania of all time. Coming from an empty Performance Center in Orlando, Florida and for the first time ever, WrestleMania was not live. There was some good, some bad…some really bad but I am going to focus on what was for me, the highlight of the entire weekend, the boneyard match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles.
When plans changed for WrestleMania, many fans wondered how WWE would adapt to those changes well. We found out and the result was a truly unique spectacle that reminded me of what I love about professional wrestling – captivating stories being told by larger than life characters – and to me, outside of the Randy Orton and Edge build, there was no more captivating story than Undertaker and AJ Styles. A feud that admittedly when I first heard they were fighting it had disaster written all over it to me. The Undertaker is truly a legend in the wrestling world and is among my top 5 favourite wrestlers of all time. That said, he hasn’t really had a stellar match since WrestleMania 29. So initially the thought of him going one on one with a younger, faster AJ Styles who himself has had, to me, disappointing matches on the grandest stage as well, my expectations were at the bottom of the barrel.
Once it was decided that WrestleMania had to be inside an empty performance center, WWE apparently decided that this gave them an opportunity to do something truly different from the status quo. Maybe I am biased here, but there is no more unique character than The Undertaker (sorry Fiend fans). AJ Styles comes out and says (and I am paraphrasing), “Undertaker, I want you in a Boneyard Match,” left all of us scratching our heads as to just what in the world a Boneyard match was. We would find out Saturday night in a cinematic masterpiece.
You wanna shoot? Let's shoot.
This @undertaker promo <
— WWE on BT Sport (@btsportwwe) March 31, 2020
I want to start with the promo Undertaker cut Monday night before the showdown on Saturday night with Styles. RAW opened with… Mark Callaway in a graveyard wearing a skull cap and a black leather jacket. For the first time since 2004, he talked as himself and not the Undertaker. He gave what was, in my opinion, the best promo of his career. He chastised Allen Jones (AJ Styles) for bringing up his wife, for calling him an old man and warned AJ he was not ready to face the wrath he had unleashed.
Fast forward to Saturday night and we see the opening shot of a spooky cemetery and hear the original Undertaker theme as a long grey hearse slowly rolled into the graveyard. Two druids exited the vehicle and pulled out a coffin from the back, many expected this to be The Undertaker, after all, coffins and druids were synonymous with the deadman for well over twenty years. Instead, we get AJ Styles hopping out with the biggest smile on his face proclaiming that it wasn’t so scary. Now, I was thinking Undertaker would already be in the cemetery and he was going to attack AJ, but instead, we hear the sound of a motorcycle and we see… the American Bad Ass roll into the graveyard. He parks his bike and walks slowly over to Styles who began talking trash to Undertaker. Styles asked how much Undertaker has left to which he replied, “Enough for you.” This was shot perfectly as the Undertaker seemed like an old gunslinger preparing to take down the brash, young punk who dared challenge him…which is exactly the story that was being told.
Undertaker dominated the early portion of this fight, taking time to remind AJ that the boneyard match was his idea. Undertaker grabbed something from the ground and went to stab AJ with it as he is laying up against the side of the hearse, Undertaker missed, putting his forearm through the window and cutting him. Undertaker looks at the blood dripping down his forearm and calls AJ an S.O.B. and said, “look what you made me do!” as AJ tried to get away from him. As AJ attempted to climb on top of the hearse, Undertaker again told AJ that this was his idea and there was nowhere to run. They end up on top of the hearse and Undertaker tossed him off after they exchanged some punches.
AJ eventually ended up in the grave that he had told Taker “he’d dug for him.” Before Undertaker is able to complete the burial of Styles, Gallows and Anderson appeared and told Undertaker that they were just getting started. Gallows and Anderson back away from Undertaker and are in front of a barn that lighted up. Several pieces of wall fall revealing several druids behind them. They surrounded Taker who boldly says, “if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.” He easily disposed of the druids, but Gallows and Anderson attacked him, getting the upper hand on him momentarily. Undertaker fought back, hitting them with the handle of a shovel. Before he can finish off Anderson, Styles hit him from behind with a literal tombstone causing Undertaker to wheeze as he rolled around the cemetery in pain.
Undertaker crawled over to a tree, leaning against it breathing heavily. Styles again ran down Taker calling him an old man and saying Michelle should not have let him out of the house. Undertaker gave him the finger and the two men brawl back over to the grave. AJ hit Undertaker in the back with a shovel, sending him into the grave. Styles climbed on a tractor and started the engine preparing to empty the loader full of dirt into the grave. A bright white light illuminated from behind him and we see the scary figure of the Undertaker behind him.
— WWE (@WWE) April 5, 2020
He grabbed Styles by the throat and punched him several times until he fell off the tractor. Like a leather-clad Jason Voorhees, Undertaker stalked AJ Styles back to the barn. AJ climbed to the top of the barn, using a conveniently placed ladder to do so. Undertaker followed him up and again told him there is nowhere to run and as AJ nears the edge of the roof, Undertaker caused a wall of flames to burst up, keeping AJ from escaping.
Like a rat in a trap, AJ rushed towards Taker and got a big boot for his trouble. As AJ was down, Gallows and Anderson made their way to the roof as well. Undertaker fought them off and tossed Gallows off the roof and Tombstoned Anderson on the roof. This made it just AJ and Undertaker. The deadman grabbed AJ by the throat as they are at the edge of the roof. He then chokeslammed Styles off the roof.
— WWE (@WWE) April 5, 2020
Undertaker then climbed back down and told AJ to say his wife’s name again or how old he is. He then carried Styles to the grave over his shoulder before setting him down and picking him up again. Styles pleaded with ‘Taker not to bury him and Undertaker hugged Styles, assuring him he wasn’t going to bury him. Undertaker told him that AJ was tougher than he gave him credit for and let AJ stand there as he walked away, Undertaker glared over his shoulder at AJ before booting him in the face sending the not so phenomenal one crashing into the grave.
Undertaker sat on the tractor and emptied the loader full of dirt, burying Styles. Undertaker climbed off the tractor and uncovered the headstone above the grave to reveal it had AJ’s name on it. Undertaker grabbed his bandana that was lost in the scuffle and got back on his bike. He began to roll out the cemetery stopping momentarily to throw his fist in the air causing a wall of fire to burst on the roof and his symbol be lit up in purple lighting behind him in a very cool visual.
My words have not done this match justice. Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment but this was my favourite thing of WrestleMania weekend and truly one of my favourite Undertaker moments ever. If you haven’t watched this match, do so now. As a wrestling match, this wasn’t anything but that’s okay because the way this story unfolded it wasn’t about who the better wrestler was; this was a fight between two men who were out to prove who the better man was. I am not an AJ Styles fan but he played his role to perfection and in matches like this, it really doesn’t matter that he “lost.” As an Undertaker fan, I wish this would be truly his last ride as he was able to play to his strengths and not look like a shell of himself. I love this match for the theatre it was. This was what made me fall in love with wrestling as a kid. Seriously, go out of your way to watch this…. a fun, easy 20-minute ride.
All images and video courtesy of WWE