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 for nearly four months, The Undertaker made his triumphant return with his long time manager Paul Bearer at WrestleMania XX to battle his demonic brother Kane, which after yet another very lackluster performance he won following a Tombstone Piledriver. Going into the summer, he engaged in various feuds including Booker T and The Dudley Boyz, the later of which culminated in the truly atrocious Concrete Crypt match at The Great American Bash 2004.
After this, he began feuding with John Bradshaw Layfield for the WWE Championship which seen two average pay-per-view encounters at SummerSlam and No Mercy 2004, the later of which was the Last Ride match (think ambulance match but with a hearse) but was ultimately unsuccessful in his pursuit for the championship. His next feud was with the truly abysmal Heidenreich, with two dire outings at Survivor Series 2004 and Royal Rumble 2005. Following on from the end of his feud with Heidenreich, he moved onto a feud which would see him through the remainder of the year, with the then up and coming star Randy Orton. After a solid effort at WrestleMania 21, their feud was temporarily halted due to Orton’s shoulder injury but quickly resumed later on in the summer, leading to their second encounter at SummerSlam 2004 which Orton won following interference from his father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton in disguise. It then became the Orton’s versus The Undertaker which led to their handicap casket match at No Mercy 2004, which was another very solid effort by all parties which The Undertaker lost and disappeared after his casket was set on fire.
He later reemerged in the closing moments of Survivor Series, where Orton was the sole survivor in the Team SmackDown! Vs Team RAW, and whilst celebrating with the SmackDown! roster, Taker emerged from a burning casket to obliterate the superstars in the ring but also make it clear to Orton that they had unfinished business. They met a month later at Armageddon inside Hell in a Cell, a brutal battle can only be used to describe it but also to some extent a disappointment. The reason: a win within HIAC would have done far more for Orton’s career than The Undertaker at this point. After settling the score with Orton, he once again vanished without any fanfare…
He returned just a few short weeks later at the 2006 Royal Rumble when he confronted the World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle following his truly horrific title defense again Mark Henry. He made his intention clear, he wanted the World Heavyweight Championship – so now the stage was set and they collided just a few short weeks later at No Way Out 2006, on an utterly fantastic and stunning encounter. He may not have won the title, but this was arguably his best match in years. He proved there was fire in the tank, and over the next few years gave some utterly flawless contests and feuds.
Whilst his next couple of feuds could have resembled something from his early years (Mark Henry and The Great Khali), he entered a very enjoyable feud with Mr Kennedy at the end of the year, with very solid and credible efforts at Survivor Series and Armageddon 2006 he moved back into the championship contention following his Royal Rumble victory in 2007, of which he entered an exceptionally enjoyable seven minute exchange with Shawn Michaels. After that he entered an ongoing feud with World Heavyweight Champion Batista which saw him capture the championship at WrestleMania 23 in a particularly average match followed by a rematch at Backlash a few weeks later which resulted in an exceptionally disappointing no-contest finish.
However, it was at this time he tore on of his bicep muscles which presented WWE with a problem – they needed the title off him and quick to a) allow the championship to progress but b) allow him time yo recuperate. After a grueling steel cage rematch with Batista on a May 2007 edition of SmackDown!, he was upsurged by recent Mobey in the Bank contract winner Edge who quickly and decisively took the title from The Undertaker but the most important aspect…it would establish one of his defining feuds in his WWE career. Upon his return in the autumn, his feud with Edge was temporarily halted due to Edge’s injury so he resumed his feud with Batista which eventually culminated in a Hell in a Cell match at Survivor Series 2007 which Batista won following interference by Edge.
Going into 2008, his feud with Edge stepped up a gear and lasted until late summer with various PPV matches including WrestleMania 24 and SummerSlam 2008, but more importantly each encounter was different yet fantastic. They truly delivered, in a feud which really solidified both men’s careers at this point but it was also The Undertaker having his love/hate relationship with SmackDown! General Manager Vickie Guerrero. This made the feud long lasting, compelling but memorable. Their feud ended at SummerSlam 2008 in a brutal Hell in the Cell match, where Edge was conveniently choke slammed to hell. After this, he engaged in yet another feud with The Big Show which is almost instantly forgettable, despite them clashing in a Last Man Standing match at Cyber Sunday 2008 and a Casket match at Survivor Series 2008. Moving into 2009, he moved onto a long lasting and truly epic feud with Shawn Michaels, a man who he had never beaten in a singles match. These two icons of the squared circle eventually collided at WrestleMania 25, in what is arguably one of the greatest matches in the history of WrestleMania…the skill and technique used in this match was fantastic and truly worth a watch. Shortly afterwards, he disappeared from our screens again for yet another hiatus…
He eventually returned at SummerSlam 2009 when he interfered in the main event between CM Punk and Jeff Hardy, attacking Punk leading to a series of matches between the two at Unforgiven 2009 and Hell in a Cell 2009 the later of which he captured the World Heavyweight Championship. Over the next couple of months, he engaged in short feuds with various WWE superstars including Batista before eventually losing the championship at Elimination Chamber 2010 following interference from Shawn Michaels who was out for revenge since his WrestleMania loss the previous year. After initially refusing, The Undertaker eventually conceded and accepted the challenge of Michaels on the condition he placed his career on the line. They clashed once again at WrestleMania 26, in yet another true wrestling classic…it was nowhere near the stand of the previous year but it was still an extraordinary effort by both men. After a short hiatus following WrestleMania, he competed in a single match on SmackDown! in later May 2010 where he qualified for a spot at Fatal 4 Way 2010, World Heavyweight Championship match but the match was not destined to be. In the match with Rey Mysterio, he suffered a multitude of injuries which included a broken nose and orbital bone. The storyline explanation was given by his brother Kane, The Undertaker had being discovered in a vegetative state but it allowed him sufficient time to recuperate from his injuries.
Undertaker eventually returned at SummerSlam 2010, in the World Heavyweight Championship match between Kane and Rey Mysterio were it was revealed that Kane had being the mystery man who had left The Undertaker in the vegetative state a few months earlier. Kane overpowered The Undertaker, and took him out again with a Tombstone Piledriver. The brothers then continued to feud with one another for the next two months over the WWE championship, with three PPV outings all of which Kane was victorious. The most notable involvement in this feud was the long awaited return of Paul Bearer, who whilst originally pledging his allegiance to The Undertaker eventually aligned himself with his son, Kane. Their feud eventually culminated in a Buried Alive match at Bragging Rights 2010, where Kane retained his championship following interference from The Nexus and The Undertaker once again disappeared from television. In reality, he had suffered a torn rotator cuff injury and required time to recuperate once again.
This period of The Undertaker has arguably seen some of his most notable and memorable feuds, but also true wrestling classics which will rank highly in the record books for many years to come. The stories which were told with Edge and Shawn Michaels were bar none, they are personal favorites of mine because they were constantly fresh and invigorating. Sadly, his match with Kane at Bragging Rights 2010 looks to mark the end of The Undertaker’s full-time career as he has only competed a handful of matches since. In the next, and final part of marking 25 Years of The Undertaker, we shall bring you a quieter period of his career as we look as his part-time work to the current day.
Image Credit: The Undertaker’s Undefeated Streak Facebook Page