Greatest Matches in SmackDown History: Undertaker vs Batista (05/11/07)

Batista posing

Greatest Matches in SmackDown History is our short series which looks at some of the arguable contenders for the distinction of “Greatest Match in SmackDown History”. With SmackDown a decades old show boasting well over 1,000 episodes, this is, of course, purely opinion based. Today, we take a look at a major match from one of the brands defining rivalries of the late oos as The Undertaker battles Batista inside a steel cage.

Batista vs The Undertaker – SmackDown May 11 2007

The year 2007 is undoubtedly etched in the mind of any pro wrestling fan who had to live through it. The Benoit tragedy being one of, if not the single darkest spot in the history of not only WWE but the industry as a whole.  This event changed the face and heart of the business in a way that continues to send shockwaves through it even today 14 years later. Aside from the obvious, the year also featured one of WWE’s most diverse talent pools, and was now deep into its first brand split for better or for worse. Stars such as Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were still not only featured on the card but still sitting at the top of it. At the same time, new faces such as John Cena and Batista were still coming into their own in terms of popularity and the quality of their work as main event acts. As WrestleMania season began, it was clear the two worlds were set to collide, and the past would meet the present at the companies biggest show of the year. Shawn Michaels would unsuccessfully chase John Cena and his WWE Championship, while Batista would be made to defend his World Heavyweight Championship against that year’s Royal Rumble winner, the Undertaker. As fate would have it, the streak would continue to 15-0 and Undertaker would win his 5th world championship in the company at the ripe old age of 42 years old.

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Setting The Scene

The two would not end their feud there, however. A return match was booked under Last Man Standing rules at the companies next PPV, Backlash. The match would, unfortunately, end in a draw as both men were unable to answer the 10-Count after a spear from Batista off the stage. An indecisive finish if ever there was one, once again a match was booked for the championship, this time in a steel cage on an episode of SmackDown. Both men were going in selling the effects of their previous match; Batista with his right hamstring taped up, and Undertaker his right arm as he was legitimately suffering from a torn triceps at the time. Challenger and champion made their respective entrances, with Undertaker taking up a full 2 minutes for his, and the match begins

The Action

The two men immediately lock up, backing each other into each side of the cage like two pit bulls looking to assert dominance over one another. It doesn’t take long before they’re punching away at each other and brawling around the ring, as they had faced each other twice already recently and felt little need for a feeling out process. Eventually ‘Taker, being the better brawler between the two, gains the upper hand and nails Batista with a big boot as he’s coming off the ropes, and begins working away at his injured leg, kicking and punching it in an attempt to keep him from climbing out of the cage. After tweaking his bad arm by slamming Batista with it, Taker misses an elbow drop with the very same arm after selling long enough to give Batista time to move out of the way. After beating him down more with clotheslines and slams, Batista goes for the Batista Bomb but is prevented from doing so by Taker as he punches Big Dave in the leg again, Charlie Horsing it and allowing him to escape. He is caught on the top rope again, however, and Batista manages to knock him to the mat and hit a huge diving shoulder block from the top rope. Right away the pacing and structure of the match has been made clear. There will be no heat segments or comebacks, both men will simply be barraging the other with offense until they are unable to continue, and the pace will remain methodical and debilitating as both men know the other is hurt. It’s reminiscent in structure of an old MSG cage match, a la Sammartino or Backlund, as there is little in the way of actual wrestling or holds. The match is a fight, and it feels like a fight. Batista attempts to escape the cage via the door, but Taker chop blocks his bad leg out from under him to keep him in the ring as we go to the first commercial break of the match.

As we come back from break, we see Batista once again trying to stop ‘Taker from climbing out of the cage, pulling him back in by his leg. Undertaker manages to punch his way out of the situation, but re-enters the ring realizing it will take much more to incapacitate his opponent. As he moves in for more offense, Batista suddenly drop toe holds Undertaker to the ground, and immediately mounts him for the ground and pound in an act of desperation. Taker still gets up first however, and tries for more offense. Realizing he is not the most popular man in the match, and must go a bit heelish in order to get bigger reactions, Batista mule kicks the champion in the groin. After wearing the Deadman down with shoulders and clotheslines, Batista attempts to climb out of the cage again, only to get thwarted once again by a still too fresh Undertaker, who crotches him on the top rope. After sandwiching Batista’s head in between the cage and his boot, Undertaker goes for a big clotheslines off the ropes, only for Dave to attempt the same thing, laying both men out in the middle of the ring.

Batista gets the upper hand and beats ‘Taker around the ring and eventually into the corner after they both get to their feet, where he pulls him out and nails him with a devastating lariat for a close 2-count. Taker fights his way out from his knees as he rises, punching Batista in the gut then eventually in the leg in an act of desperate offense. It works, and he manages to get to his feet, continuing the onslaught of punishment to the Animal’s wounded leg. Kicking away at it, he backs Batista into the corner and opens up his usual offense; running clotheslines into the corner, then the snake eyes, and finally the big boot again knocking the challenger to the ground. Sensing the end is near, he signals for the Tombstone Piledriver to finish the match. Batista slips out of it, however, and heaves Undertaker headfirst into the cage wall, busting him open as the match goes into its final commercial break.

The Finale

When break ends, we come back to see Batista throwing Taker into the cell some more, softening him up for a huge spine-buster for a near-fall. After eating 7 punches in the corner, Taker attempts to hit a Last Ride out of the corner, punching Batista in his thigh again in an effort to wrench his fingers from the cell wall. He cannot get the extra lift due to his injured arm, however, and instead hits a standard yet effective powerbomb for yet another long 2-count. Running out of weapons in his arsenal, and after yet another attempt to escape the cage via the door failed at the hands of his opponent, Undertaker finally decided to hit the only thing he had left to him, a chokeslam off the top rope. The attempt is for naught though, and Batista once again punches his way out of it, knocking a bloodied and broken Undertaker from the top rope to the mat below, and allowing The Animal to finally make his much-needed escape over the cell wall. As he makes it to the top of the cell, Undertaker suddenly sits up with one last gasp of energy and begins climbing the next side of the cell in an attempt to beat Batista to the floor. As both men make it to the top of the cage and begin climbing down the outside of the wall, they both jump, (supposedly) hitting the floor with both of their feet simultaneously.

The referees and commentators scramble for an answer, not sure of what to do. Referee Jimmy Korderas asks to see a replay of the footage 4 different, times, all in slow-motion, before he decides to make a decision. Finally, after deliberating with other officials and re-watching the footage, he must rule the match as another draw, adding yet another indecisive finish to the two men’s history together. This chapter of the story, however, was not at an end just yet.

The Aftermatch

As the cage raises and the Undertaker takes his leave, Mark Henry suddenly comes out and makes a beeline for the bloodied and battered champion. He beats Underaker down on the outside of the ring, ramming him into ring-posts and steel steps, picking away at the bones of the already beaten Undertaker. Finally, he throws him in the ring, and hits two running splashes, dropping all 400+ pounds of his weight onto the chest and torso of the Undertaker. As he makes his way up the ramp, having done sufficient enough damage to satisfy himself, Edge’s music suddenly hits. When he hits the ring, he hands his Money in the Bank briefcase to the referee, cashing in the contract he had won just a few nights prior from that year’s ladder match winner, Mr. Kennedy. When Tony Chimel announces that we have another championship match and the time-keeper rings the bell, Edge immediately goes for a pin-fall on the champion, but somehow after all of the punishment the Deadman has taken he still manages to kick out just shy of a 3-count, leaving Edge and everyone else in the building shocked. As Edge contemplates what to do next, Undertaker, much to the surprise of all present, began to make an attempt at a sit-up. However, there is simply nothing left of the World Champion, and he collapses to the ground again in a bloody heap. Sensing the end was near, Edge sets up in the corner for a Spear, a final nail in the coffin for the Undertaker. He hits it, pins the Man from the Dark Side, and with a count of 3, steals the World Heavyweight Championship, having picked the carrion that Batista and Mark Henry left for him. Even this wouldn’t prove enough for The Rated R Superstar, however, as he would return to the ring after celebrating all the way up the ramp, just to hit Undertaker in his bloodied head with the briefcase one more time as the show goes off the air.

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The Verdict

This match stands out mostly for its very old-school style, feeling less like most cage matches of its time and more like an old match one might have seen on All Star Wrestling in the ’70s. It is brutal, it is bloody, it is simple, and it feels like a brawl. Undertaker was at his career-best here, being both believably muscular and yet lean enough to still move around unnaturally well for a man his age, and was arguably in the best shape of his life minus of course the torn triceps. Batista was no slouch at this time either, having only been back less than a year after his own torn triceps, he hadn’t faired well in his feud with Booker T in late 2006, and his feud with Undertaker throughout the next year would truly re-cement him as a long term top act in the company, and not just some flash in a pan. The two would have more matches with each other over the coming months and even years, but would ultimately fail to recapture the magic they had created in 2007 with each other.

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