Neutral Dave on Classic Wrestling: Undertaker v Steve Austin


fullyloadedAn historic battle for power – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

So I had a new idea for a feature. I have a friend who didn’t really watch wrestling so much as a kid, doesn’t watch it religiously now, but has a genuine interest. I thought it would be really cool to see wrestling through the eyes of an adult being properly introduced to it. I sent Dave a video of the match at Fully Loaded 1999 between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker. If Austin lost, he could never compete for the title again. If Taker lost, Vince McMahon could no longer appear on WWF television. This is one of my favourite matches from the beloved Attitude Era. Let’s see what my newest correspondent made of it.
Craig


Stone Cold Steve Austin(c) v The Undertaker (First Blood Match for the WWF Championship)

The thing with getting into wrestling (as with all long running shows, or even sports) is that there are worries about how vast a body of material there is and where to start. Therefore, credit must be given to the makers of Fully Loaded. Through flashbacks and the commentators (who could make paint dry seem exciting) put everyone up to speed. In the minutes before the match, we understand to some extent the relationship between these two fighters and what it means to them.

Another way this is shown is through the acting of both Steve Austin and Mark Calaway. From all that I have seen wrestling is an underrated art form and I do stress that term. Wrestling is a theatre performance with the extra pressures of their being no stage exit and the fact that they have to knock the stuffing out of each other. The hatred between these two and likable bastard boss Vince McMahon was apparent.

The production must also be praised. As it is recorded live, finding the right camera shot to trick the viewer (Psycho style) that these blows have really hit with full force is paramount. While I did notice some joins, the majority are carried off really well.

One aspect of the fighting I find interesting and dramatic is the slowness of the early stages, where the combatants move slowly when they are hurting each other. I enjoy this as it shows that they are battle weary. For The Undertaker in particular, this adds to his badass persona. He is Death, he can take his time if he wants to, but he is still going to get you and fuck your shit up. This made him my favourite to win this match. I have never been a huge fan of Stone Cold, as his persona is mostly that of a redneck, which reminds me of the worst stereotypes of conservative America. I still think it is an injustice that he beat the Adonis that is The Rock. However in this situation, Austin represents the fight against the corporate exploitation that McMahon tries to get away with. So his victory is something you can still wish for. Especially with the odds against him; even one of the commentators seemed to be out to get him. You can truly invest yourself in both of these characters.

My favourite part of the match was actually after the titular first blood was drawn. Then it just seemed that Stone Cold and The Undertaker just went for each other regardless that the match was finished. The Undertaker, incredulous that this could have happened to him seemed to take this blow on his person even more personally.

Therefore it seems rather churlish to dismiss wrestling because it is all fake. I think those injuries must hurt quite a bit actually. While you know that what goes on isn’t literal reality as with any story, with well-drawn characters it feels real enough.

David Smith

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