4. AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker: Boneyard Match (WrestleMania 36)
The Undertaker is the best wrestling character of all time, and AJ Styles is one of the best wrestlers of all time. They both have a back catalogue of all-time great matches, and when Styles finally entered the WWE, everyone begged to see “The Phenom vs The Phenomenal One”.
The only problem was timing: Styles debuted at the Royal Rumble in 2016, and, by then, The Undertaker was a shell of the performer he once was. How could we ever see Styles vs Undertaker and wish it hadn’t had come sooner? It was a dream match that was best left alone.
Unless, of course, there was a way to cloak a contest between smoke and mirrors and deliver a character-centric story piece. The Boneyard Match was the single best way to present the characters: Styles operating with his goons, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, running amok over RAW, and The Undertaker working as the lone cowboy, looking to teach Styles a lesson in respect and humility as his “last ride”.
Furthering the idea of this being Taker’s last ride was the fact he embraced all avenues of his character through the years, including the “American Bad Ass” and “Deadman” gimmicks. Their contest was never going to be a technical masterpiece, so the change up to a cinematic contest was a refreshing way of making sure to preserve the atmosphere and attraction to their showdown. I’m a movie nerd, so, for me, the micro-stories being told during this match were fantastic.
While the fact that this could possibly have been the Undertaker’s retirement match was the central focus, we also saw Undertaker embrace Styles at the end of the match for his efforts, which seemingly represented that the long-time locker room leader acknowledging Styles as a worthy adversary. Although Styles returned shortly after, it felt fitting that Undertaker’s last match would be against AJ Styles in a cinematic version of a Buried Alive Match.
Had this been 10 years previous, Undertaker burying Styles would have had a totally adverse meaning and sour taste. The 2020 burial, however, was the perfect way for Undertaker to say farewell.