Undertaker vs. Mankind
1996 - 1998
Written by Canadian Bulldog
If you think this conversation begins and ends with Hell In A Cell... you're way off.
The rivalry between The Undertaker and Mankind was largely expected to be a quick one. When the former Cactus Jack entered the WWF in 1996 and was seen as many as the next victim of The Undertaker, going the way of Giant Gonzales, Mr. Hughes, Kamala and so many others before him.
Instead, Mankind provided an edge that other Undertaker opponents didn't necessarily have: he could get into The Dead Man's head and intimidate him psychologically. It began on an April edition of Monday Night Raw when Mankind (who had debuted earlier that night) attacked The Phenom at the conclusion of his match with Justin Hawk Bradshaw.
Over the coming months, Mankind would hide in The Undertaker's casket and be a thorn in The Dead Man's side whenever they competed... leading to what everyone assumed would be their blow-off match at that year's SummerSlam.
The ensuing Boiler Room Brawl (in many ways a precursor to the Cinematic Era of wrestling) at SummerSlam finished with a surprising result. As The Undertaker made his way back from the boiler room to the ring, he was set to claim his urn from long-time manager Paul Bearer to "win" the unconventional match. Only Bearer turned on his man and allowed Mankind to gain the victory.
With Bearer now clearly in Mankind's corner, The Undertaker remained out for revenge and challenged Mankind to the first-ever Buried Alive Match at the 1996 Survivor Series. Keep in mind, this was seven months after the feud first began -- a rarity at the time and something never seen in today's environment. Undertaker buried Mankind, ending the feud once and for all.
Or so we thought...
After taking a break and deciding to see other people, Undertaker and Mankind got back together the following March, with The Dead Man now being WWF World Champion. They had a championship match on April 20, 1997 at In Your House: Revenge Of The Taker, which The Phenom won. They went their separate ways again for nearly a year following that match.
The following June, they met again at King of the Ring (oddly enough, two years from their first PPV showdown) in the match that virtually everyone thinks about when they think of this rivalry - Hell In A Cell. One of the craziest and most memorable matches in modern wrestling history, the bout capped off a rivalry that was much more than a one-off match between Undertaker and his latest opponent.