WWE Opinion: 25 Years of The Undertaker – The Deadman!

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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…

After being absent from the WWE arena for nearly 8 months, The Undertaker made his shocking return to the WWE at the 1994 SummerSlam, where he faced “Fake” Undertaker in the closing match on the event. The “Fake” Undertaker had being depicted as the real Undertaker ever since WrestleMania X, a mere two months after he disappeared by Ted DiBiase. Nevertheless, Paul Bearer claimed to be in contact with the real Undertaker (legit) and proclaimed he would bring him to SummerSlam to face the imposter. Paul Bearer stood true to his word, and The Undertaker returned at SummerSlam defeating The “Fake” Undertaker in a forgettable match…

Following on from this, he sought revenge against Yokozuna at the 1994 Survivor Series once again this time in a Casket match were he was this time victorious before going into 1995 and various feuds with members of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, including King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania XI and Kama at SummerSlam 1995 in yet another casket match before disappearing for the autumn due to an injury sustained to his face (broken orbital bone). Going into 1996, he looked incredibly strong against Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble were he challenged for the WWE Championship, but ultimately lost out due to interference by Diesel. The match itself nonetheless could be argued as one of the defining of his WWE career to this point, as he and Bret truly showcased their abilities. Going forward, he engaged in a feud with Diesel which culminated at WrestleMania XII, were The Undertaker successfully maintained his WrestleMania Streak to 5-o. After this, he engaged on his most enduring feud to date when he went up against the deranged Mankind…a feud which truly defined both men, but also spearheaded The Undertaker in a different direction following the allegiance of Paul Bearer and Mankind. They engaged in various PPV matches, including the Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam 1996 and Buried Alive, In Your House 11 before drawing a temporary line under their feud at Survivor Series 1996 which saw The Undertaker being victorious.

Going into 1997, it could easily be argued that The Undertaker had no real direction and the WWE were unclear on what to do with The Deadman given the general lack of direction within the company in general, which was worsened by Shawn Michaels vacating the WWE Championship because of “Losing His Smile” throwing any plans for WrestleMania 13 into disarray. However, this proved to be a sort of turning point for The Undertaker as he captured only his second WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 13 and held the championship for nearly 5 months, competing against various superstars including Faarooq and Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was during this time when his biggest storyline to date, and arguably ever began when Paul Bearer attempted to realign with The Undertaker on the prov-ado he would keep his deepest secret a secret. He later went onto face Bret Hart in the main event of SummerSlam 1997, with Shawn Michaels as the Guest Referee…and would ultimately lose the championship after being nailed with a steel chair by Michaels. In the months following, he engaged in a feud with Shawn Michaels competing against him at Ground Zero and Badd Blood, the later of which featured the first Hell in a Cell match but notably the debut of his long-lost brother Kane…

Kane would ultimately cost his brother the match against Michaels, and for months would antagonize him into trying to face him in the ring, for which The Undertaker consistently refused. It was the events of the 1998 Royal Rumble, were Kane cost The Undertaker his WWE Championship match against Shawn Michaels were he changed his tone, as at the event Kane locked The Undertaker inside of the casket and set it alight. The Undertaker disappeared thereafter before returning at WrestleMania XIV where he took on his brother and eventually defeated him following 3 Tombstone Piledrivers. After once again battling Kane at the 1998 Unforgiven in the inaugural Inferno match, his feud was reignited with the slightly more normal Mankind, which culminated in their iconic and epic battle at King of the Ring 1998 in a Hell in a Cell match, arguably the most famous of the matches to take place and remains a personal favourite of mine to this day for the sheer heart and guts put in by both men.

Following his epic battle with Mankind, which rated number 1 in our Top 5 Hell in a Cell matches, he moved onto a variety of feuds throughout the remainder of 1998 including an epic battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1998 and an allegiance/betrayal feud with Kane, he moved into 1999 with a complete new direction, as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness, regularly sacrificing WWE superstars to the higher power which included Steve Austin and a fresh faced Stephanie McMahon who he attempted to marry in a dark wedding. He went onto to win his third WWE championship from Stone Cold at Over the Edge 1999 with assistance from the McMahon’s who were revealed as the higher power of the Ministry of Darkness before later losing the championship again to Austin shortly after the 1999 King of the Ring before another loss to Austin in a First Blood match at Fully Loaded 1999 to culminate their feud. Following a brief allegiance with The Big Show, a more humanized Undertaker walked out on the WWE in September 1999 after a disagreement with Vince McMahon shortly before the 1999 Unforgiven PPV, and was not seen again for nearly 8 months.

This era of The Undertaker is probably one of his most notable, because it saw a noticeable shift in his feuds and the delivery of a higher standard of his matches than those seen within his early era, with epic and memorable feuds with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Kane, Bret Hart and Mankind to name but a few. By the time he disappeared in 1999, the character was becoming tired and needed a break in order to become refreshed…little did we know at the time this would be the last time we would see the true Deadman until WrestleMania XX. In the third part of our series celebrating 25 years of The Undertaker, we shall be bringing you the American Badass 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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