The Undertaker vs. Mankind
The Undertaker vs. Mankind was a professional wrestling match between The Undertaker and Mankind, also known as Mick Foley, of the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), and the third held inside the Hell in a Cell structure (two weeks following the second, which took place on the June 15 episode of Raw is War to promote the pay-per-view's dual main-event). The match took place at the King of the Ring pay-per-view on June 28, 1998, at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It set the standard for future Hell in a Cell matches. During the bout, Foley received numerous injuries and took two dangerous and highly influential bumps. Journalist Michael Landsberg called it "maybe the most famous match ever."
|Date||June 28, 1998|
|Venue||Civic Arena (Pittsburgh)|
|Title(s) on the line||None|
|Event||King of the Ring|
|The Undertaker performed a Tombstone Piledriver on Mankind and ended the match as well as the feud.|
Events leading up to the matchEdit
Upon debuting with the World Wrestling Federation in 1996, Mankind immediately began feuding with The Undertaker, debuting the night after WrestleMania XII when Mankind interfered in The Undertaker's match with Justin Hawk Bradshaw. For the next few months, Mankind ambushed and cost The Undertaker several matches. The feud intensified, and they began taking their battles into crowds, backstage areas, and in the boiler rooms of different arenas. Mankind cost the Undertaker the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, assisting champion Goldust to victory. The following month at King of the Ring saw Mankind defeat the Undertaker when the Undertaker passed out while Mankind applied the mandible claw on him. Both wrestlers continued to feud with each other during the summer months, and as a result, the first-ever Boiler Room Brawl was booked between the two at SummerSlam. During the match, when Undertaker reached for Paul Bearer's urn, Bearer hit him with it, betraying The Undertaker and allowing Mankind to "incapacitate" The Undertaker with the Mandible claw, giving him the win. After Bearer's betrayal, The Undertaker took his rivalry with Mankind to a new level, resulting in a Buried Alive match in the main event of In Your House: Buried Alive. The Undertaker won the match after a chokeslam into the open grave, but after interference from The Executioner, as well as the help of several other superstars, The Undertaker was ultimately "buried alive".
After being buried alive, The Undertaker returned at Survivor Series, again pitting him against Mankind, but with a unique stipulation; hanging 20 ft (6.1 m) above the ring was Paul Bearer, enclosed in a steel cage. If Undertaker won the match, he would be able to get his hands on Bearer. Even though The Undertaker won the match, interference from The Executioner enabled Bearer to escape The Undertaker's clutches. With no manager, Undertaker developed a more humanized incarnation, with a different, gothic and rebelling attitude — perhaps to better fit him to The Attitude Era, a more adult-oriented programming content period of World Wrestling Federation —, proclaiming himself to be "The Lord of Darkness". After The Undertaker attended to other feuds and won the WWF Championship at WrestleMania 13, the feud with Mankind temporarily ended after one more match at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker, won by The Undertaker.
In the following year, The Undertaker would either hold the WWF Championship or be in contention for it while Foley would gradually bring out his "Three Faces of Foley": Mankind, Dude Love, and his old gimmick from World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, Cactus Jack.
Prelude to the matchEdit
On the June 1, 1998, edition of Raw is War, Foley would revert to his Mankind character, who began wearing an untucked shirt with a loose necktie and restarted the feud with The Undertaker. Mankind reunited with Paul Bearer, the father and manager of Undertaker's (kayfabe) brother Kane, and the new alliance challenged Undertaker and WWF champion Stone Cold Steve Austin to the second Hell in a Cell match on the June 15 episode of Raw. That bout ended in a no-contest, with Undertaker attacking Bearer in a locked cell while Austin assaulted Kane atop the structure. This set up the double main-event for King of the Ring; Austin and Kane in a First Blood match for the title, while Undertaker and Mankind would then be booked for a one-on-one inside Hell in a Cell.
Before this match, Foley and Terry Funk were discussing the previous year's Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood: In Your House that featured the Undertaker backdropping and slamming Shawn Michaels onto the chain-link ceiling of the cage. Foley and Funk were brainstorming ideas about how to top that match when Funk said, "laughing, 'maybe you should let him throw you off the top of the cage.'" Foley:
"Yeah," I shot back, "then I could climb back up – and he could throw me off again." Man, that was a good one, and we were having a good time thinking completely ludicrous things to do inside, outside, and on top of the cage. After a while I got serious and said quietly to Terry, "I think I can do it."
When presented with the idea of throwing Foley off the top of the cage, Undertaker was a little more hesitant, even going as far as to ask Foley, "Mick, do you want to die?" Ultimately, Undertaker reluctantly agreed to perform the spot. Fittingly for Foley, King of the Ring was scheduled to take place that year at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. Foley himself trained to become a professional wrestler at Dominic DeNucci's wrestling school in nearby Freedom, Pennsylvania, only 25 miles (40 km) from Pittsburgh, bringing his career full circle.
Foley came out first and once he reached the cell, he threw a chair on top of the structure and began to climb up to the top. The Undertaker then made his way to the ring, saw Foley on top of the cell, and also climbed to the top. Both wrestlers then began to fight on the roof of the cell.
The first bump Foley would take came as both wrestlers were brawling on top of the cell, and the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of the structure from a height of 16–22 ft (4.9–6.7 m), if including the angle of the fall, and sent him crashing through the Spanish announcers' table, which triggered announcer Jim Ross to famously shout, "Good God almighty! Good God almighty! That killed him!" and "As God as my witness, he is broken in half!"
Foley remained motionless underneath debris, while the Undertaker remained on top of the cell staring down. Foley's longtime friend Terry Funk was the first person on the scene, followed by WWF's resident doctor, Dr. Francois Pettit, and various others, including Vince McMahon, who broke character by looking legitimately worried about someone (Foley) that, on-air at least, he was supposed to dislike. Foley was placed on a stretcher and began to be wheeled out of the arena.
Moments later, there was commotion on the entrance ramp as Foley got up from the stretcher and proceeded to make his way back to the cell, climbing to the top of the structure, with the Undertaker doing likewise (this time they both climbed the cell surprisingly quickly despite Foley having suffered a dislocated shoulder due to the fall, and the Undertaker wrestling with a broken foot that night). With both men back on the top of the cell the match resumed.
Earlier as both were walking on the chain-link mesh which comprised the cell's ceiling, the metal fasteners were snapping off causing the roof to sag and partially give way under their combined weight. According to Terry Funk, the prop guy had purposely designed it that way, except it was never meant to give way completely. In the second huge bump of the night, the Undertaker chokeslammed Mankind atop the chain-link mesh cage, causing one panel to give way completely, resulting in Foley falling through and hitting the ring canvas hard below. In response, announcer Jim Ross shouted, "Good God...Good God! Will somebody stop the damn match? Enough's enough!"; along with color commentator Jerry Lawler adding, "That's it. He's dead."
The cage giving way completely was unplanned by both Foley and the Undertaker. The Undertaker later said that he thought Foley was dead following the second fall, yet he was able to stay in character. Foley was genuinely knocked unconscious for a few moments from the impact, but was able to come around. Terry Funk wrote in his autobiography, "Watching from the back, I thought he was dead. I ran out here and looked down at him, still lying in the ring where he'd landed. His eyes weren't rolled back in his head, but they looked totally glazed over, like a dead fish's eyes." Foley later said that the only reason he survived the fall was because he did not take the chokeslam properly, as he had been too exhausted to lift his body weight in response to the chokehold. In his memoir Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, Foley called it both the best and worst chokeslam he ever took, saying that despite its looks, he would have likely died if he had landed properly. He also cited the fact that the ring onto which he landed had a harder surface than that of modern rings, which stopped his momentum once he landed. Foley would later explain that the roof of the cell was supposed to sag sufficiently so that Undertaker could kick him through, allowing him to dangle by his feet and eventually fall in a rotation to land on his front. Years later, The Undertaker would note that just before executing the chokeslam, he had been standing with his left foot on the same panel that Foley fell through, but at the last second decided to instead place it on the support bar the panel was attached to so that he would have more stability for lifting Foley; had he not done that, he would have fallen through and probably landed at least partially on Foley, thus potentially injuring Foley (and himself) far worse.
Some time after getting up and being attended to again by the aforementioned personnel, TV cameras showed a lingering shot of Foley smiling through his profusely bleeding mouth and lips, with a loose tooth hanging beneath his nose; the tooth having been knocked out due to being struck by the chair which had fallen through the cage and landed on his face, dislocating his jaw.
The match continued for a while longer, ending with Foley being chokeslammed by the Undertaker onto a pile of thumbtacks, which Foley himself had strewn onto the ring canvas, and The Undertaker executing the Tombstone Piledriver to end the match and the feud as planned.
Aftermath and legacyEdit
Both wrestlers received a standing ovation for the match. Foley has said that although this match grew in legend, the reality was that his career remained "somewhat sluggish" for sometime afterwards until Foley further developed the Mankind character, and fans began to catch on. Foley would go on to become a three-time WWF Champion after the match, and would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 6, 2013, while Undertaker would develop his 'Streak' and win five more world championships.
In the storyline; the cell reappeared that night, as both Undertaker and Mankind interfered in the Austin/Kane First Blood match. Kane won the WWF title, although the match is not considered an official Hell in a Cell match, and Austin won back the belt one night later on the June 29 episode of Raw. The fourth Hell in a Cell match took place on Raw is War two months later, between tag team champions Mankind and Kane, concluding their alliance. This bout, like the second cell match which was also televised on Raw, involved interference from Undertaker and Austin. Three official Hell in a Cell matches transpiring in the summer of 1998 made this particular four-way feud unique, as well as the WWF championship title changing hands within its confines.
Many future matches attempted to replicate some of the spots from the match at King of the Ring. In his autobiography Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, Foley wrote that he could not remember much of what happened, and he had to watch a tape of the match to write about it. The match was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year for 1998. Although many fans regard the match as a classic, it has generated controversy as well. Critics charge that the falls in the match were so extreme and they set the bar for further bumps so high that the inevitable attempts to equal or surpass them would be very dangerous for any wrestlers involved. While WWE continues to have Hell in a Cell matches—and even now has an annual pay-per-view featuring the match—the match itself has been toned down somewhat in the wake of WWE's move towards more family-friendly programming since 2008. Foley himself acknowledged in 2014 while being interviewed about the Monday Night Wars that had the match taken place today, WWE would have immediately stopped the match after the first fall off the top of the cage "and rightfully so."
Foley said in his first book that his wife cried during a post-match phone conversation between the two, and this made Foley strongly consider retiring from wrestling, something that Foley did eventually do on a full-time basis in 2000. Fittingly, his last match as a full-time wrestler was also a Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out in February 2000; Foley decided to replicate his fall through the roof of the cell during the match and proper precautions were taken to ensure his safety performing the stunt.
After the match, Vince McMahon said to Foley, "You have no idea how much I appreciate what you have just done for this company, but I never want to see anything like that again." He also made mention in the book of a rather humorous exchange he and Undertaker had while being checked out more thoroughly by Dr. Pettit in the backstage area. Foley, still somewhat dazed from the concussion he sustained, turned to the Undertaker and asked "Did I use the thumbtacks?", which was a staple of a number of Foley's early matches. The Undertaker looked at him and rather sternly replied "Look at your arm, Mick!", at which point Foley discovered a significant number of thumbtacks still lodged in his arm.
Both participants have said that the original Hell in a Cell match, between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at Badd Blood: In Your House on October 5, 1997, was superior; The Undertaker named the Badd Blood contest as his favorite match, while Foley called it the greatest Hell in a Cell bout ever.
In 2019, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter wrote that "with 20 years of perspective", this match "was a terrible thing because of all the stunt bumps it encouraged and how guys got into the business thinking they could get over by doing that stuff rather than wrestling." Meltzer also wrote that New Japan Pro Wrestling's match of Kota Ibushi versus Tetsuya Naito at Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall was the modern successor of Undertaker-Mankind in lacking safety for the wrestlers, but is "probably going to be copied and admired".
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