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Deadman Walking - A Visual History of The Undertaker Part 1: The Man Behind The Legend Here
The 2nd of 3 picture blogs attempting to chronicle the life and key events of The Undertaker, exploring both who he is and whom he portrayed through pictures that hopefully capture his legacy, only from We Talk Wrestling / We Talk Podcasts.
Part 2 focuses on the Undertaker gimmick itself. It chronicles his changes in looks, different incarnations, major feuds, key moves and epic matches, except for The Streak, which will be the final part.
Deadman Walking – A Visual History of The Undertaker Part 2: Fury Of The Phenom
The evolving looks and gimmicks of The Undertaker through the years
Let’s start at the obvious, looking at his time as the Western Mortician Zombie. It worked because as stupid as it sounds it was a great unique look right from the start.
Day 1, the debut of Cain The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1990 (Yes, you read that right, he was CAIN THE UNDERTAKER for a couple of weeks). Note his original manager, Brother Love.
It wasn’t long before Paul Bearer joined The Undertaker as his manager, cementing the act as one of the best in the business.
Immediately The Undertaker was shot up into the main event level having feuds with Sid Justice and this man, the late Ultimate Warrior.
One year after his debut, at Survivor Series 1991, The Undertaker won the title from Hulk Hogan with a little help from Ric Flair,
While he would only hold the title for 6 days until losing it back to Hogan at the This Tuesday in Texas PPV for a little while, the dead champ was here. A sign of things to come.
The Undertaker would turn from heel to babyface shortly after, leading to this intense moment between him and the great Jake “The Snake” Roberts on an episode of Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlor. This was one of my favorite angles of the era.
For the 1993 Survivor Series Undertaker would show his patriotic side, joining Lex Luger and The Steiner Brothers as The All-Americans in a team against the evil heel Foreign Fanatics of Yokozuna, Crush, Ludvig Borga, and Quebecer Jacques.
After feuding with various big men like Kamala and Giant Gonzalez over the next few years Taker was finally put back into the WWF Heavyweight Title picture in the 1994 Royal Rumble, a casket match, with Yokozuna.
This led to an odd yet kind of cool vignette on the TitanTron. After Yokozuna dispatches The Undertaker in the match, with the help of several other villains, a video shows The Undertaker apparently in the casket, vowing revenge, before rising in a ghostly manner. This part is actually rumored to be Marty Jannetty as the spirit of The Undertaker.
His return would come several months later, at SumerSlam 1994. In that match he took on The Underfaker, brought to the ring by Ted Dibiase and played by Brian Lee, in a flop of a match. Well, give them credit for trying folks, and at least it gave us this cool behind the scenes photo.
Most of their use of The Undertaker character has been great over the years, but having him sing? Uh, no.
Annnnnnd… They did this.
Seriously, this Phantom of the Opera mask on The Undertaker in 1995 was a misstep, but at least it led to giving us the Mankind and original Kane mask.
In 1996 The Undertaker started his feud with his greatest rival of the decade. This Boiler Room Brawl match from The SummerSlam still stands out as a unique battle.
The match ends with The Undertaker’s long time manager, Paul Bearer, turning his back on the deadman and joining Mankind in a shocking move.
2 months later at the Buried Alive PPV The Undertaker would get the victory over Mankind, but after being jumped by Terry Gordy as The Executioner Taker would still end up in the grave in what was billed as the first ever unsanctioned match in WWF history.
Bwahaha!!! Taker returned at Survivor Series 1996 with a new look and… Bwahaha, I’m sorry, I can’t. It just looks so stupid.
And I understand wanting to freshen up his look, but they put a damned teardrop on him! Bwahahahahahahahahaha!!!
In 1998 Mankind and Undertaker met once again, but the Mankind character had little momentum heading into the match so to create interest the decision was made to make it the 2nd ever Hell In A Cell match.
They had the unenviable task of trying to live up to the first ever HIAC from 1997 Bad Blood between Taker and HBK, a spectacular match.
But they managed to do it, but at a horrific price with Mick Foley taking insane punishment that no one who’s ever seen the match will forget.
If you’ve seen the match and are looking at these images you may get a little chill remembering it. I almost feel guilty enjoying it.
This spot at Armageddon 2000 in the 6 man Hell in a Cell match was designed to cause the same kind of buzz as the Mankind spot, luckily for Rikishi though it was in a much safer designed fall. Still looked cool though.
Another of Taker’s HIAC matches was this intense battle against Randy Orton, again at Armageddon, this time in 2005.
This image from the 2008 SummerSlam main event HIAC between Undertaker & Edge’s one of the coolest looking action shots I’ve seen.
Years before their epic Wrestlemania encounter CM Punk and Undertaker feuded in 2009, facing each other at the first ever Hell In A Cell PPV.
As long as we’re looking at Undertaker in HIAC matches we might as well look at a few of the other gimmick matches he did, like this 2002 ladder match with Jeff Hardy on Raw, which did more to establish Jeff Hardy as a star than any other singles match he’d had to that point in his career.
Raising his hand here meant more than you may think.
Timberrrrr!!! Never let it be said Mark Calaway didn’t put himself through severe punishment to entertain you, as evidenced by this horrific bump in a Table, Ladders and Chairs match against Edge.
The first ever Punjabi Prison match in 2006 at the Great American Bash between Undertaker and Big Show, replacing Great Khali. Not many of these happened because, well, they suck. Looked kind of neat until the match starts though.
This is the first time the Undertaker rose up from under the ring and pulled someone down to the depths of hell. Diesel was his first victim during his WWE Heavyweight Championship match vs Bret Hart at In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell. Obviously in 1997 Undertaker was still a gimmick largely aimed at children.
By 1999 though Undertaker had taken on a much darker edge, with demonic undertones that Mark Calaway was, who had discovered religion in his personal life, was extremely uncomfortable portraying. Here he is leading his heel stable group, The Ministry of Darkness.
It was understandable the WWE needed a dangerous heel to face their top star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but it’s also understandable that moments like this crucifixion on the Undertaker Symbol would make both performers and viewers uncomfortable.
Of course, not so uncomfortable they didn’t keep doing it, as here Austin gets his revenge on The Undertaker.
And what could be more romantic than this, Stephanie McMahon strapped to the symbol while Paul Bearer performs a wedding ceremony between her and The Undertaker.
Of course Vince McMahon couldn’t stand for this as his Corporation feuded with the Ministry until it was revealed to be a ruse designed to make Austin more vulnerable as the Ministry of Darkness’s higher power was revealed to be McMahon. The 2 groups then merged to become the Corporate Ministry, immediately becoming about a hundred times less cool.
When that ended Undertaker formed The Unholy Alliance with The Big Show, capturing WWE Tag Titles, but an injury would end the team early and Taker would be gone for several months.
What was Undertaker gimmick going to be upon his return? A look at this shot from the mid 90’s might give you a hint.
At Judgment Day in 2000 Mark Calaway debuted his new Undertaker character, someone much closer to his real self. Gone were any of the characteristics designed for kids, or any of the dark demonic undertones that Calaway was no longer willing to due. What emerged was a biker, entering to music by Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit. We’ll forgive him for that last one.
Most people are pretty hard on this gimmick, as he no longer was the unstoppable zombie that people grew up with. Still, Diamond Dallas Page found him pretty unstoppable in this cage match teaming with Kanyon versus The Brother of Destruction.
Only a few moments from his American Badass run are fondly remembered, but his feud with an emerging Brock Lesnar was one of them. And I loved when they’ddo these Tale of the Tape graphics on Smackdown.
Their contest at No Mercy in 2003 was a Biker Chain match, where said object was hung on a pole to be used by the first man who got it. Yes, Lesnar retained in a decent match. No, Vince Russo wasn#t involved in the booking, he only put stupid stuff on a pole like Tequila, Viagra, or Judy Bagwell.
A year earlier at No Mercy 2002 they were in a Hell in a Cell, won by Lesnar with this F5.
It was a brutal match, but Undertaker and Lesnar had great chemistry, even if Brock always seemed to get the win. A sign of things to come perhaps?
One significant event in Undertaker’s time as the American Badass was defeating Hulk Hogan for the Undisputed WWE Championship, marking the 2nd time he’d won a major title from The Hulkster. If another guy defeated hogan twice to win a title I sure don’t remember it.
Far less memorable was his feud with Vince McMahon. I’m not sure if Vinny Mac always booked himself in these huge feuds because he found it fun, or because he didn’t trust anyone else to draw? Either way, the build up on TV was always more fun than the matches themselves. But at least when this match was over, with Kane helping McMahon get the win, it set the wheels for the return of The Deadman.
An extremely intense staredown between Batista and The Undertaker, the feud no one could have expected to be as epic as it was.
A slightly less intense staredown between the two, with former WBF Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton separating them. The irony is Hatton would likely beat either one in a fight handily.
The 2 main events for Wrestlemania 23 teamed to face each other at No Way Out 2007. Undertaker & Batista vs Shawn Michaels & John Cena.
The rivalry between Batista and Undertaker raged on for months, with a few pit stops to dispatch of Edge along the way. It culminated in yet another HIAC match for The Deadman, who has competed in the most during his career, 12 to be exact. This was another terrific match between the 2 at Survivor Series in 2007, where of course Edge played into the outcome helping an unsuspecting Batista get the win.
There’s a few moves that people think of with the Undertaker. The snake eyes into the corner for instance, but I couldn’t find a good picture of that. Of course The Chokeslam I could, so here’s one on Chris Jericho.
And here’s the ropewalk, which he was using before he became The Undertaker, but somehow seemed more supernatural when done as that character. Once he became the biker character they started referring to it as Old School.
A tremendous flying clothesline on Vader.
Would you consider the sit up a move? It’s certainly one of his signatures.
It was inspired by The Shape, Michael Myers, who did it in the original 1978 Halloween.
And of course it became a key part of Kane’s act too.
Undertaker always diversified, and eventually brought in more Japanese Strong Style moves and MMA submissions. Here’s a classic Dragon Sleeper on Maven, regrettably dubbed the Taker Care of Business by the WWE.
And the MMA move the Gogoplata, a name I love, but Hell’s Gate was cool too.
Undertaker debuted the last ride as The American Badass character, putting a unique twist on an established move in the powerbomb.
Due to the size difference it never looked more devastating than when done onRey Mysterio
And of course there’s the signature Undertaker pin.
Let’s move on to the man who’s career has been tied into The Undertaker more than any other. Glenn Jacobs, AKA Kane, Taker’s storyline half brother and common enemy, and occasional partner.
The first match up between them occurred when Jacobs was playing the awful Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS character. I find it hilarious to look at these pictures beside each other. What a difference a gimmick can make.
Say it with me folks, in your best Jim Ross voice… “THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!!!”
The inferno match they had at Unforgiven in 1998 wasn’t really much of a match, but the awesome spectacle of it made up for it.
Undertaker portrayed Kane one time on Raw as part of an angle. Believe it or not, some people still think it was often him as the character to this day.
Feb 22, 1999, on Raw, a rematch of the Inferno match. Still looks damned cool.
Here’s compilation of times Undertaker & Kane actually got along over the years.
Here’s a shot of Kane attacking Undertaker in the Vince McMahon match mentioned earlier. The last time we saw the American Badass.
When Undertaker returned as the Phenom his feud with Kane, by then The World Heavyweight Champion, culminated in a Buried Alive match at Bragging Rights 2010. With the help of Nexus Kane retained, and the feud ended. It seemed to be setting up Undertaker vs Wade Barrett at Wrestlemania 27. Unfortunately for Barrett that high profile match would be taken by Triple H. In retrospect, the right move for the event.
At Raw 1000 Kane and Taker were on the same page once again, a true mark out moment.
Exit the Brothers of Destruction
On April 8th, 2013, the night after Wrestlemania 29, the brothers were together again. This time Daniel Bryan managed to sneak his way into the picture, which is, I must admit, somewhat fitting.
If you’re looking for a great Undertaker match you may not have seen I suggest the No Way Out classic with Kurt Angle from 2006. Billed as the Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler against the best striker in WWE history, it surpassed already high expectations.
Or check out the hard hitting match with RVD at Vengeance 2001 for the Hardcore Title.
And of course just watch SummerSlam 1998. Not just the Austin / Taker main event, but the whole thing, arguably the greatest SummerSlam ever, and the peak of Vince Russo’s career.
This is the first time we saw Undertaker with this mohawk hairstyle. The announcers began calling him The Last Outlaw heading into his 2012 match with Triple H at Wrestlemania 28.
I hope no one forgets the Undertaker giving back to the business in 2013. You could argue he did more to put over the Shield in one month than Hogan ever did for anyone his whole career.
I’m not sure it ever fully played out between the 2 sides, but what we got I loved.
To end this post I’m just going to throw out some random pictures of cool merchandise, video game portrayals through the years, people dressing up and cosplaying as The Undertaker, comic books (uh, don’t actually read those) and some cool fan made tributes or wallpapers. And I’ll see you back here for the final blog on the streak soon!
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