WWE Opinion: 25 Years of The Undertaker – The American Badass

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Here at Wrestling’s Dirty Deeds, we want to celebrate and embrace 25 years of arguably one of the WWE’s most premier performers…Mark Callaway, better known to millions as The Undertaker. Now is the time to look back, embrace and celebrate the man…

Scheduled to make his return at the 2000 Royal Rumble, sadly The Undertaker found himself nursing another injury sustained whilst training just before the event which delayed his return by a further 5 months. However, he eventually made his triumphant return to the WWE at Judgment Day 2000 in the closing moments of the Iron Man match between Triple H and The Rock, inadvertently costing The Rock the WWE Championship. Instead of the Lord of Darkness and Deadman personas which had being adopted for the previous 9 years, he debuted The American Badass gimmick taking on the persona of a biker…

After his return, he engaged in a variety of feuds throughout the rest of 2000, including a series of matches with Kurt Angle at Fully Loaded and Survivor Series, the later for the WWE Championship whilst renewing his rivalry with brother Kane at SummerSlam 2000 in a very intense brawl which never officially started. He finished the year well, taking part in the infamous six-man Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon 2000 and whilst he didn’t win the match, he notably made Rikishi “famous” in this match but pushing him off the top of the cell. Going into 2001, it could be argued that he was once again found in a real lack of direction with forgettable performances at Royal Rumble and No Way Out 2001. However, the highlight to date was his encounter with Triple H at WrestleMania XVII which whilst it could easily be lost in what was truly an epic event, truly stood out and was an utterly fantastic encounter.

Following on from his encounter with Triple H, Undertaker then turned his attention to the WWE Championship and engaged on a short but equally memorable feud with newly heel turned Stone Cold Steve Austin before engaging on his most humanized but controversial feud to date, when his real-life wife Sara was being “kayfabed” stalked by a mysterious figure which was later revealed to be former WCW Champion Diamond Dallas Page. The feud was exceptionally questionable, and a serious of lackluster matches took place throughout the summer of 2001 with the feud eventually culminating at SummerSlam 2001 where he and Kane captured the WCW Tag Team Championship from DDP and Kanyon. Next, he and Kane faced Kronik (Bryan Adams and Bryan Clark) at Unforgiven 2001 in a truly atrocious match, it was awful on so many levels that in some ways it still remains a blot on The Undertaker’s book to this day. Going forward, he became a staple of Team WWE in the conclusion of The Invasion storyline, which culminated at the 2001 Survivor Series. Again, with no real direction to go in following this 8 days after the events of Survivor Series, The Undertaker made a memorable heel turn when he forced Jim Ross to kiss Vince McMahon‘s ass, before later capturing the WWE Hardcore Championship from Rob Van Dam at Vengeance 2001. Going into 2002, he was memorably eliminated from the 2002 Royal Rumble match by Tough Enough Rookie, Maven. After brutalizing Maven in the immediate aftermath, he later lost the Hardcore Championship  to Maven following interference from The Rock which resulted in their painfully average encounter at No Way Out 2002, which he ultimately lost thanks to interference from Ric Flair. This took him in a different direction going into WrestleMania X8, as legend has it that The Undertaker personally chose Ric Flair as his opponent and their encounter was brutal but The Undertaker’s best match in a long time. He later stretched his WrestleMania Streak to 10-0 when he obliterated Flair…

Following his domination of Flair at WrestleMania, he was surprisingly the first draft pick for Flair’s RAW amd quickly engaged on a feud with Stone Cold which culminated in a victory at Backlash 2002 in a very poor effort, which was then immediately followed by a feud with Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship, ending with Undertaker capturing the championship at the 2002 Judgment Day in a truly dire match. Whilst his next PPV outing against Triple H was equally as dire, he did have a series of great televised matches with Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam before finally losing the championship in a Triple Threat to The Rock in a credible effort which also featured Kurt Angle. Following this, he was once again left with no real short term direction and a very quick and quiet face turn, he began a short but forgettable feud with the Un-Americans which culminated when faced and defeated Test at SummerSlam 2002 in a very mediocre offering. After this, he was moved to SmackDown! were the fun really began.

He immediately began his first installment of his memorable feud with Brock Lesnar with a solid outing but disappointing finish at Unforgiven 2002 followed by a brutal Hell in the Cell match at No Mercy 2002, were personally he bled a little bit to much. The feud itself was really good, even if fiction did blur reality a little to much thanks to a lady called Tracy, who delivered the post pathetic slap probably ever seen on SmackDown! Shortly after his war at No Mercy, he took a hiatus for the remainder of the year, when he was taken out by The Big Show and thrown of the SmackDown! stage.

Upon his return at the 2003 Royal Rumble, he resumed his feud with The Big Show which culminated in victories at No Way Out and WrestleMania XIX, the later of which was a handicap match after his scheduled tag team partner, Nathan Jones was attacked before the match but both victories were forgettable and really didn’t do much for his status at the time. He disappeared shortly afterwards to undergo surgery before returning in the summer to battle John Cena and A-Train at Vengeance and SummerSlam respectively. The problem at this time, in 2003 The Undertaker hadn’t really had that stand out match, and shown an ever more humanized version of himself and susceptible to pain. It was his match with Kurt Angle in September 2003 where he had a true classic match, and whilst he didn’t win it is still remembered to this day. Shortly afterwards, he briefly reignited his feud with Brock Lesnar going into the 2003 No Mercy in a losing effort Biker Chain match. The match itself was painfully average, but it setup up his next feud with Vince McMahon. His feud with McMahon was short thankfully, it certainly wasn’t either mans finest hour and their Buried Alive battle at Survivor Series was nothing but abysmal. Thanks to interference from Kane, McMahon was able to pick up the win and The Undertaker disappeared from our screens and so did The American Badass – this would be the last time to date we’d see this incarnation of this gimmick.

This era of The Undertaker is arguably one of his most memorable but whether it is for the right reasons I’m not sure because the number of poor or lackluster matches massively outweigh the good ones, but the number of memorable moments and feuds is good. By the time of his disappearance in November 2003, the character of The American Badass had become tiresome, and it was clear something needed to change. It was a very up and down period, which makes it difficult to fully comprehend how it impacted on his legacy, to be frank it served it’s purpose of resting The Deadman character but he may as well of competed as Mark Callaway during this time as The Undertaker of 1999 and 2003 were universes apart. In the fourth part of our series celebrating 25 years of The Undertaker, we shall be bringing you The Resurgence of The Deadman years!

Image Credit: The Undertaker’s Undefeated Streak Facebook Page

About Dave Harper 799 Articles

Dave Harper is a writer for Wrestling’s Dirty Deeds. Born a Brummie, and proud of it…passionate about wrestling, family, friends, good cider and the railway (no I’m not a train spotter)

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