WWE's Looking Back At Legends: Best Feuds Of the Biggest Stars in PPV Era, Ep. 3
In the mid-1900’s, the Undertaker was building what would become one of the most legendary careers in WWE history. To do so, he would feud with many of the significant heels during this time and maintain popularity for several years despite not wearing championship gold between 1991 and 1997.
One of his biggest feuds was against the premier stable at the time, the Million Dollar Corporation, headed up by the man who brought the Undertaker to the WWE, Hall of Famer Ted Dibiase in a non-wrestling role.
Let’s take another stroll down memory lane and check out their rivalry.
Dibiase Debuts the Undertaker
To start this one, we have to go all the way back to when Dibiase introduces ‘Taker as his mystery partner in the 1990 Survivor Series. Roddy Piper’s commentary practically secure the Dead Man’s legendary status in his debut.
The Undertaker is nearly impervious to pain in the ring and helps Dibiase’s team win, though the two split ways shortly after.
The Mystery of the Undertaker Deepens
Undertaker continues to be impressive over the next several years, securing the WWE championship briefly at the next year’s Survivor Series and feuding with the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior.
When given the chance though, he fails to gain his second WWE Championship losing a casket match against. Yokozuna at the 1994 Royal Rumble.Ted Dibiase had since retired from wrestling due to injury and was now serving as color commentator in the WWE, including at ‘Taker’s title bout.
Many of the heels of the WWE are used to secure the Undertaker in the casket to conclude this match, only for him to appear on screen and vow to return.
He misses his first WrestleMania during this time while allowing some nagging injuries to heal and keeping his character fresh.
Dibaise Debut’s the Undertaker Again… Or Does He?
In April of 1994, Dibiase, unable to wrestle due to career-ending injury, forms the Million Dollar Corporation and serves as the manager to several superstars. As he introduces new members, he provides what appears to be the second coming of the Undertaker.
Paul Bearer, the Undertaker’s longtime manager who had not been heard from since the Undertaker’s last match, would return to contest that this man Dibiase touts to be the Dead Man is nothing but a fraud.
Undertaker Vs. Undertaker
The Undertaker eventually made his return to set the record straight himself and prove Dibiase’s Undertaker was really an Underfaker in the infamous Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at the 1994 SummerSlam.
With (kind of) help from George Kennedy and the late Leslie Nielsen (as their Naked Gun characters), the real ‘Taker was revealed and Dibiase’s fraud was buried away after being defeated, not heard from again (at least not as that character).
The feud would cool while ‘Taker gained his revenge on Yokozuna at the ’94 Survivor Series but soon the Dead Man would be once again at odds with the Corporation.
The Corporation Gets Their Hands On The Urn
The Undertaker reignites his feud with the Million Dollar Corporation in the months leading up to the 1995 Royal Rumble.
At the pay-per-view, 'Taker decisively defeats Corporation member Irwin R. Shyster. However, recently acquired MDC member King Kong Bundy would sneak down during the match and steal ‘Taker’s urn from his manager Paul Bearer.
The real feud would just be getting warmed up.
The Urn Is Regained Only To Be Lost Again
The Undertaker extends his now infamous undefeated streak at WrestleMania XI against Corporation member King Kong Bundy.
During the match, the Undertaker’s manager Paul Bearer momentarily gets the stolen urn back from Dibiase only to lose it to another corporation member, Kama, also known as Papa Shango—The Godfather.
Dibiase’s crew, even in defeat, would get the upper hand on the Dead Man.
One More Casket Gets Filled
Corporation member Kama would melt the urn to make jewelry out of it and make a mockery out of the Undertaker.
The Undertaker’s fans (or Creatures of the Night) became overtly supportive of the missing urn and began hanging black wreaths around the rings during Kama’s matches at live events.
Taker himself sought revenge in a series of matches against Kama and the feud persisted throughout the summer, including when Kama prevents him the Dead Man from advancing against eventual King of the Ring winner Mabel at the June pay-per-view event.
The Undertaker would have the final say though, defeating Kama at a casket match at SummerSlam 1995 and ending his feud with Dibiase’s stable.
While this feud served to escalate some key figures in the WWE, it mainly benefited the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, who were able to add depth to their characters and build the legend of the phenom.
Taker was on the cusp of his legendary status which would be shored up in his feuds with Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Kane, Mankind, and Steve Austin throughout 1997 and 1998.
The Million Dollar Corporation dominated the heel end of a fairly weak period in the WWE with several members of this stable not really accomplishing much with their pushes. (The exception would come shortly after this feud when Dibiase introduces the new Million Dollar Champion, "The Ringmaster" and future stone cold rattlesnake, Steve Austin.)
Dibiase was able to stay valuable to the WWE during this time despite his limitations in the ring before ultimately jumping ship for a WCW payday in 1996 with continued managerial success in and out of the NWO.
What Can Be Learned Today
One Man vs. An Army is hard to pull off. If done right, the One Man is escalated to stardom. If not, his character can become stale and the feud irrelevant. For example, the Undertaker vs. the 1999 Corporation did much less for his character than this feud.
This is a challenge primarily because the One Man in the equation has to believably be feuding with the under-carders of the stable while also being worthy of going at it with the top guy.
This would be the equivalent of John Cena having PPV matches with Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel before he gets to CM Punk; it would hurt Cena and likely not help Slater or Gabriel because they would have to be squashes or the blow-off with Punk would never be built properly.
If the top heel can be a non-wrestler, such as Dibiase was here, then the hierarchy of the stable matters less and the characters can battle without having to worry about not matching statuses in order to secure a later blow-off match with a bigger name.
This is just one of many reasons why the manager deserves a serious attempt at a return in the WWE.