WWE's 20 Years of the Undertaker: 20 Things to Love About the Dead Man
Hello, Buzzers. Buzz is back.
Twenty years ago, Mark Calaway AKA Undertaker, one of the best superstars in the history of WWE, made his special debut.
After this, we arguably witnessed one the craziest careers in pro wrestling history. A career full of unforgettable rivalries, gimmicks, moments and matches.
Whether you like him or not, no one can deny how essential Undertaker was to WWE with all the matches and top moments we witnessed when watching him.
Being huge fan of the Phenom, I wanted to write an article remembering his remarkable career, but I couldn't come up with an interesting title.
However, thanks to Mr. Adam Hirshfield (B/R deputy editor) and the list of suggested articles he had, I was able to find my choice.
In the next slides I'll break down 20 things to like about the Dead Man.
I tried my best to stay away from his "Dead Man" gimmick and focus on other various things. However, it's still mentioned in some slides because it's a major part of his career after all.
All said and done, let the show begin.
I'll begin with simple reasons to like the Phenom.
Undertaker is one of the most loyal superstars in WWE.
The Dead Man is the only superstar left to still be with WWE since the first RAW episode ever, and his career is one of the longest in the organization.
We all know that he never left WWE during his run, whether to another rival organizations or for semi-retirement.
Some people might say that anybody who receives the same treatment he does won't leave for sure. This might be another story for another article, but we still did see people leave while being on top.
Of course, the Phenom put his body on the line and received a lot of beating during his long career.
This is something that all WWE fans could agree about, even haters.
Nearly all WWE superstars admit this.
Undertaker might be the most respected superstar in WWE, especially in the locker room among other WWE superstars.
Even the Heart Break Kid, Shawn Michaels, one of the best WWE performers and the No. 1-ranked superstar in WWE's top 50 superstars DVD, wanted the final match of his career to be against none other than the Phenom.
Do you still have any doubt how respected he is?
Undertaker is one of the most popular superstars in the history of WWE. It's very hard to find a wrestling fan in the world who doesn't know the Phenom.
The Dead Man is not only popular but he's also loved by most WWE fans. The loud pops he receives every time he makes his way to the ring are a proof for this.
It's weird that many people (including me) never mention him when talking about current superstars who receive loud cheers.
Of course, WWE had many other famous and well-known superstars too, but Undertaker can't be denied when we mention WWE's most popular superstars.
4. Paul Bearer
Even though he wasn't the man to introduce the Phenom, but Paul Bearer played a major role in Undertaker's career on many occasions during his early run.
Just think about the Dead Man without the Father of Destruction at that time. I'm sure he wouldn't have been the same hadn't he been with him.
Undertaker was more like a zombie who speaks little and acts big. Bearer was a great addition to him especially in promos where he did all the talking.
The creepy and ghostly manager spent years with Undertaker before turning on him. During this time, he was more like his guide to the ring and he further pushed his scary character. Of course, don't forget the "Urn."
After Bearer turned on the Dead Man, he threatened to reveal a dark secret about the Undertaker. This secret lead to the introduction of the person in the next slide.
They did rejoin forces again after few years, and Bearer made his surprise return this year to help the Phenom regain his powers again, just to turn on him and join his brother again.
It is said the Undertaker might retire while being managed by Bearer.
Who can forget the Big Red Machine's debut?
As we watched the Undertaker throughout the years, many people thought that this could be the craziest gimmick we might ever see.
However, just when we had such thoughts, a more insane superstar made his debut during the first ever hell in a cell match at "In Your House" PPV in 1997.
He was none other than the Big Red "masked" Monster, Kane. He was introduced by Paul Bearer as the Dead Man's young brother.
Bearer introduced Kane after he revealed the secret behind him. He said that Undertaker caused a fire that killed his family including his young brother long time ago. However, Kane didn't die and he was raised by the Father of Destruction himself.
Throughout their careers, Kane and Undertaker had numerous feuds and encounters. Though they did team together on many occasions as the "Brothers of Destruction" and won the Tag-Team Titles, Kane never wasted an opportunity to turn on his brother and try to take him out.
Undertaker is currently out of WWE after Kane himself buried him alive few weeks ago.
Many people believe that Kane has always lived under Taker's shadow. They might be right, but I blame WWE for this. Both men did have separate runs most of the time, and they were on separate shows too.
But WWE never gave Kane a big push before, and they only had some interesting, but not leading to anywhere, stories.
However, Kane has finally won the World Title again and even beat his brother in three consecutive PPVs. He's currently enjoying the best world title reign of the year.
Anyway, the relation between those two will always be surrounded by mystery.
6. Gimmick Matches Introduced
Hell in a Cell, buried alive, casket, inferno and last ride are all matches that were introduced by the Undertaker.
Now I'm not saying that that he was the mastermind behind them, but such contests were introduced to match his character.
He was the first to participate in such matches against numerous superstars.
As we moved on, most of these gimmick matches became exclusive to him as he became the only wrestler to participate in them, except for the inferno match which became exclusive to Kane.
But still, other types of matches like Hell in a Cell became a gimmick match that made us witness countless great and epic battles.
Ironically, Undertaker didn't have impressive records in most of those gimmick matches when they were first introduced.
7. In Ring Skills
Sometimes, the excessive focus on the "Dead Man" gimmick makes people forget that Undertaker is not just about gimmicks.
Sure his gimmick had a big influence on his career, but we can't deny the fact that he's one of the best in-ring performers in WWE.
First, he's considered as one of the best brawlers in this business. You can't be called the best pure striker in WWE history by announcers for no reason. I always liked watching him involved in a slug fest during matches.
Second, Undertaker is so athletic given his big size. Taker weighs nearly 300 pounds and is 6 ft 10.5 in tall. This makes him a big man. Most big men (I'm saying most and not all) in WWE are about being pure powerhouses only. However, that's not the case when it comes to the Phenom.
Undertaker is one of the most athletic big men in WWE. He never made you feel that his big size is backing him and limiting his moves. His agility and speed are remarkable. Of course, this is said given his big size.
Overall, Undertaker has a large move set and his wrestling skills can't be questioned unless you never watched his matches and only focused on his entrance and gimmick.
As for getting old, I'll touch this issue in another slide.
8. Mind Games and In Ring Psychology
That's definitely something we can't ignore when talking about the Dead Man. Mind games were one of the many things that made most of his rivals even more interesting.
The Phenom was involved in countless rivals with numerous superstars throughout his career. He wasn't a bad talker, but unfortunately his Dead Man gimmick made him sound cold and robotic most of the time. However, the creepy atmosphere that used to surround every feud was enough to make it memorable.
Who can forget the mind games he played during his feuds against his opponents prior to their matches? Light flickers, introducing caskets to the ring and even coming out of them, playing scary vignettes during his opponents' promos, teasing returns when being on hiatus and other creepy games.
Undertaker is also considered as a master of in-ring psychology. Some people consider his non-selling gimmick as unfair, but it sure added drama to the matches.
Anytime the Undertaker would rise after receiving one hell of a beating the crowd would go crazy. Of course, he was still put down on many occasions and did lose in many matches.
I know this looks a bit cheesy, but it's all about entertainment here.
How can a wrestler's career be considered great without having epic and memorable matches involved in it?
Undertaker is one of the few superstars to be involved in most type of matches during his career. Boiler room brawls, Hell in a Cell, TLC, steel cage, inferno, buried alive, last ride, casket and even single matches were few among other matches that Taker was part of.
Most of his battles, especially in big PPVs, were great and unforgettable.
Who can forget his brutal and bloody matches against Mankind, Kane and Lesnar? Or who can forget his epic five-star matches against HBK and Kurt Angle?
Throughout his career, Undertaker had great matches against Bret Hart, Mankind, HBK, Kane, Stone Cold, Ric Flair, HHH, Randy Orton, Batista, Kurt Angle, Edge and other superstars.
We were always guaranteed to watch one or two great matches during most of his rivalries.
Wrestlemania is the first thing to come to our mind whenever Undertaker is mentioned. That's no surprise for sure as the Dead Man has one of the most unbreakable records in sports entertainment when it comes to the biggest event of WWE.
But the streak isn't the only attractive thing here. Sure it's the most recognized thing, but the hype leading to the event and the match were also something to remember.
His early Wrestlemania matches weren't really memorable especially against Giant Gonzales and King Kong Bundy.
However, who can forget his WM rivalries and matches against HBK, Edge, Randy Orton, Batista, Ric Flair, HHH, Diesel (Kevin Nash), Kane and even Mark Henry?
His streak is considered as a big attraction for Wrestlemania. Every year, people will be on the edge of their seats wondering whether the streak will end.
Throughout his career, Undertaker was involved in countless memorable feuds.
Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Yokozuna, Bret Hart, Diesel, Mankind, HBK, Kane, Ric Flair, Big Boss Man, HHH, Randy Orton, Edge, Mark Henry, JBL, Batista, Big Show, Kurt Angle and even Great Khali were few among many rivalries he had.
All those rivalries were made look interesting by Taker. Most of them included some memorable "oh my" moments and numerous great matches.
The interesting concept about his rivalries was the fact that most of them weren't for World Titles.
Of course, Kane remains his biggest nemesis in my opinion.
12. Ministry Of Darkness
This has to be one of my favorite moments when watching Taker in the late 90s.
Just when I thought that Dead Man can't be more scarier, he formed the Ministry of Darkness.
During this time, he became even creepier, crazier, more evil and more satanic. The Phenom was more badass during this time.
Stonecold crucified, Big Boss Man hanged and Stephanie McMahon abducted were some moments among many other evil moments we witnessed during this period of time.
Unfortunately, the stable didn't last long and it merged with the Corporation. However, it was definitely an unforgettable run during the famous Attitude Era.
13. His Returns Are Always Highly Anticipated
Throughout Undertaker's career, he did take some time off on numerous occasions. At the beginning, this was done to keep his gimmick fresh. However, in the past few years he suffered numerous injuries that kept him out.
During his hiatus, fans always eagerly anticipated his returns especially when revenge was part of them.
I guess that WWE always believed that his returns have money in them, and they tried their best to make them memorable most of the times.
Some of the returns we remember are returns for revenge like his return to haunt Mankind, Randy Orton, Kane, Edge and others.
In one of his returns, Undertaker returned with a completely new gimmick. A character I never expected him to play. Find it yourself in the next slide.
14. The American Badass/Big Evil Gimmick
After performing the Dead Man gimmick for 10 years. The Phenom finally returned with a totally new character.
I always wondered about the real man behind the coat. I always wanted to see the person living in the dark and playing the Zombie as a real and normal man like us.
My dream came true on the beginning of the 21st Century. Undertaker returned as a biker.
Gone were quotes like "Rest in Peace" and new quotes like "This is my yard" were introduced. Gone was the tombstone (partially) and last ride was introduced. Gone were the caskets, urns and darkness and motorcycles, sunglasses and bandannas were introduced.
Even in his promos, he sounded like a real man rather than the cold Dead Man he was before.
During this time, he had numerous feuds against HHH, Rock and Stone Cold. He even turned heel at a certain point and shaved his hair and called himself Big Evil.
Overall, that was sure a refreshing character for Taker. The Dead Man was getting boring and we did need something new for the Attitude Era.
However, the Dead Man gimmick will always be the best thing for Undertaker in my opinion. It is said that Mark Calaway didn't like this new gimmick during its final moments.
Anyway, the Badass character was an awesome one because playing the same gimmick for 20 years would have been boring for sure. At least they made many fans miss the Dead Man and when he returned with this gimmick in 2004 it was refreshing again.
I liked the American Badass debut. Taker received a nice reaction from the crowd.
15. He's One Of The Best Despite Not Being The Poster Boy Of Any Era
Throughout his run, Undertaker has never been the face of any era. Of course, he was always considered a major part of WWE, but just name one era that had the Phenom as its main guy.
The Golden Era was more about Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior. As we moved on, new faces like HBK and Bret Hart emerged.
Enter the Attitude Era, Stone Cold is the first superstar to come to anyone's mind followed by the Rock when remembering this famous period of time. D "Generation" X wasn't far behind, and neither were Mankind and the Phenom himself. But again, he wasn't the face of this era.
Fast forward to the "Ruthless Aggression" Era, and we had the likes of HHH, John Cena, Batista, in addition to Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle at the beginning of this era.
Sure Undertaker had his fair share during this era too, but so did HBK, Eddie Guerrero, JBL, Edge, Chris Benoit, Y2J, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy and others at certain moments. However, the three guys I mentioned first were on top most of the time.
In our "not so loved" PG Era, the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton are now considered as the top men of this business.
Don't get me wrong here. This isn't considered a bad thing for the Dead Man. In fact, I find this as something to like. I guess his gimmick can't be the face of the company. But still, he was always a major part of all those eras.
Undertaker is considered as one of the best WWE superstars ever. Some people might even call him the best. WWE ranked him as No. 2 after HBK in their to 50 superstars DVD.
So despite not being the poster boy or the franchise of a certain era, he's still regarded as the best. Today, he's considered as the locker room leader and the most respected superstar there.
People saying that Undertaker backed many talents from shining should remember this fact and think of the other top superstars available during his run.
16. Beating Him Is Considered a Big Deal
This looks weird and I agree. In fact I added this just to address haters who always said that Undertaker never lost or never loses cleanly.
As the Phenom moved on in this organization solidifying himself as one of the best, he became more dominant year after year.
During this time, many people wondered whether this character can be put down and defeated.
However, Taker did lose in countless matches and against numerous superstars. I know that most of his losses were unclean but I'll explain my thoughts about this.
Sure WWE made him a character that can't be easily beaten cleanly, but that's how most top faces were treated in WWE. The only difference here is the fact that Undertaker was face in nearly all his career.
Other than this, who remembers how many clean losses did superstars like John Cena, Batista, HHH, Rock, Stone Cold, Randy Orton and other top superstars suffer when they were baby faces? They weren't really different.
Current faces like Orton, Edge, Show and Cena look nearly indestructible.
What I'm trying to say here is that the same argument can be made about any top face in WWE because that's how they're booked most of the times.
But still, the Dead Man did suffer numerous clean losses. The ones I remember were against Stonecold, Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Great Khali, Big Show, Batista, Vladimir Kozlov and Kane. I also remember HHH pinning him cleanly in an Elimination Chamber match.
Anyway, my purpose here is to talk about all losses in general and not only clean ones.
In the 2000's, Undertaker lost to the likes of Edge, Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar, JBL, CM Punk, Kane, Great Khali, Vladimir Kozlov, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Big Show and many other superstars.
Every time someone beats Taker, WWE announcers used to make a big deal out of it.
It's always interesting to see an indestructible guy lose because it's refreshing. A clean loss is even more memorable. Just remember the buzz made after Batista and Great Khali defeated him.
Even when others like Orton and Edge won, they did cause a fuss as they both took him out of WWE for a while.
17. Despite His Age, He Can Still Put Epic Matches
This might be another tricky thing, but hear me out.
First, I can't lie to myself and say that Undertaker is currently in his best physical condition because that's far from true.
For years, I've always heard people saying that Undertaker is not the same anymore. But for me, he was better than ever in the 2000's. In fact, I dare to say that he was less entertaining in his early years.
Of course, his debut was great and his character caught our imaginations since then. But he was more like a zombie with pure power only at that time.
As he grew in the company he evolved and became a better wrestler. He did have some great and memorable matches against Bret Hart, Mankind, HBK and Kane.
But in the 2000's he had more epic and unforgettable battles against HHH, Ric Flair, HBK, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Kane and Rey Mysterio (not their last match).
The man proved that he can put two or three five-star matches per year when needed. He proved that he can still be great when he's in a good condition despite his age.
For a 45-year old man, he's still great. Wasn't his Wrestlemania 26 match against HBK considered as one of the best matches in WWE? Didn't this match occur only eight months ago?
Sure, Taker now needs some time off after similar matches like WM 25 and WM 26, but he should be given credit for his efforts.
The only problem right now is the countless injuries he suffered. Many people thought that he was horrible in his matches against Kane. He was still recovering from his injury and was only cleared few weeks before the feud started. Unfortunately, he suffered another injury before we even forgot about the previous one.
But still, he wasn't that bad in my opinion and still showed that he can go for it.
I'm not a person who likes to tell someone when to retire. As long as he's happy about it, I can't blame him.
I'm not really optimistic about it, but let's hope Taker can return soon and prepare for another epic battle on Wrestlemania 27.
18. His Retirement Will Definitely Be an Emotional and Unforgettable Moment
Many fans don't want this day to come. But that's how things go in life.
A great superstar like Undertaker will sure have a special and memorable farewell.
Who can forget Ric Flair's farewell episode (before he came back) or HBK's farewell speech? Even John Cena's fake retirement was touching.
WWE can really book such angles and promos perfectly. Just imagine Undertaker when he decides to call it a career. Given his character, you can anticipate an epic farewell that will definitely stay in our minds for years.
19. The Dead Man Gimmick
I can't end the slideshow without touching this gimmick. How can I miss it? How can I miss the gimmick that made the Undertaker and was part of his best moments? How can I miss one of the craziest, longest running and most popular gimmicks in the history of WWE?
Many people say that this gimmick is boring and was shoved down our throats by WWE for years, but I totally disagree here.
Of course, everybody is entitled to his opinion, and I can't blame some people for not liking it but they can't say that it's not popular and successful.
I agree that WWE tend to shove many things down our throats but not for twenty years. Hadn't the Dead Man been successful and loved by fans they wouldn't have kept it for all these years.
At a certain moment, they decided to introduce a new gimmick and it worked for three years. But the Dead Man is still the most popular gimmick ever. I even read many reports saying that majority of WWE fans voted for the return of the Dead Man gimmick after Taker was buried by Kane and Vince McMahon at Survivor Series 2003.
Whether you like it or not, this gimmick is considered as one of the best creations in WWE.
Whenever we mention Gregory Helms, the first thing that comes to our mind is Hurricane. Same goes with the Undertaker and his Dead Man gimmick.
What can be said here? Let's put everything in summary here.
Undertaker is a seven-time World Champion, seven-time Tag Team Champion and one time Hardcore Champion. He was the winner of the 2007 Royal Rumble match. He is undefeated at Wrestlmania.
Undertaker is considered as one of the best creations in WWE. He introduced numerous gimmick matches to this organization.
He's one of the most popular, most loyal and most respected superstars in this business. He had countless memorable rivalries, matches and oh my moments. He was one of the few WWE superstars to catch our imagination.
Any WWE related list will definitely include him. Whether top matches, top moments or top rivalries.
Mark Calaway has sure created a big name for himself in sports entertainment that can't be repeated.
I usually don't have a specific superstar in mind to name as the best ever in WWE. But I can't disagree with someone saying that Undertaker is the best.
All thoughts and comments are welcome.