Dead Man's Touch: WWE Superstars Whose Careers Undertaker Forever Changed
Envision what Kane's career would have looked like had he never become Undertaker's brother.
It's next to impossible. It's like imagining Van Helsing's story minus Dracula.
Undertaker reshaped Kane's career. He was a central part of The Big Red Machine's success, the reason WWE elected to create the character in the first place and the greatest rival Kane ever had.
That last part is true for several others. Batista and Mankind are among those who had some of their most memorable battles against Undertaker.
One measure of a wrestler's greatness is how much they elevated others. Undertaker did that in a variety of ways. A war with The Phenom has been a boon for many.
These are the men whose careers would be vastly different had Undertaker not been a part of it. As a rival, an ally or a measuring stick, The Deadman added to these stars' lore in a substantial way.
The late Bill Moody had two distinct periods in his wrestling career—before Undertaker and after Undertaker.
Moody was a successful manager outside of WWE, but a good percentage of fans don't remember him as Percy Pringle, they remember him as the ghoulish Paul Bearer.
Bearer was a vital part of the early Undertaker gimmick. He carried the urn said to hold the source of Undertaker's power. He added to The Deadman's mystique as a bizarre presence and mouthpiece.
The Bearer character gave Moody a stage on which to shine, a means to add years worth of material to his highlight reel.
WWE wouldn't have come up with the Bearer act had Undertaker not been around. So without The Deadman, who knows what the second act of Moody's career would have looked like.
Glenn Jacobs was long a wrestler without the right platform. He played everything from the Christmas creature to an evil dentist. It wasn't until he tore into the Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood 1997 that he found the character that would make his name.
WWE introduced him as Undertaker's brooding, silent brother that year and everything changed.
As Kane, Jacobs now had a gimmick and a rival that would propel him to stardom. His feud with Undertaker put him in the spotlight and was often the go-to story WWE would return to years down the road.
In 2015, Kane spoke with the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast (h/t Wrestling Inc) about that rivalry.
"I believe that the story of Undertaker and Kane was some of the most epic storytelling WWE has ever done," Jacobs said. "It was something out of Greek mythology and of course, that was the culmination of that whole story and for that reason, it made it very special."
Undertaker and Kane were partners as well as rivals and as The Brothers of Destruction twice won the World Tag Team Championship.
It's hard to imagine what Jacobs' career arc would have looked like had he not been written into Undertaker's family, had he been stuck wrestling as Isaac Yankeem DDS or forced to keep searching for the ideal gimmick.
It's been nearly 20 years since Mick Foley, as Mankind, battled Undertaker atop the Hell in a Cell, a clash that saw The Deadman hurl Foley off the steel structure in one of the most dangerous and unshakeable moments in WWE history.
The crash that followed is a key part of Foley's legend. It's something he will forever be asked about, something fans will always speak about with reverence.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated columnist Justin Barrasso, Foley revealed the effect the famous Hell in a Cell bout had on him.
"It's literally the match that changed my life, physically and emotionally," he said. "I realized I could not continue to do the things I had been doing to connect with audiences, I had to find a different way."
Undertaker served as one of Mankind's greatest rivals even before that night.
The two slugged it out in a Boiler Room Brawl, at SummerSlam 1996, in a Buried Alive match. The Phenom was a fitting foil for the masked, deranged Mankind throughout.
You cannot tell the story of Foley's WWE run without mention after mention of his archenemy.
Shawn Michaels' career almost ended in 1998, before his classics against Kurt Angle and John Cena, before D-Generation X's reunion, before his emotional farewell to Ric Flair.
That year, Michaels spilled out of the ring during a casket match against Undertaker and cracked his spine against the edge of the casket. It looked as if The Heartbreak Kid was done. His back injury kept him out of action until his comeback in 2002.
It's oddly poetic that it was Undertaker who officially retired Michaels years later at WrestleMania 26 in a Career versus Streak match.
The two men's careers intertwined in other places, too.
Undertaker was Michaels' opponent for three of his greatest bouts: Badd Blood 1997, WrestleMania 25 and WrestleMania 26. He was the object of Michaels' obsession in the Hall of Famer's final WWE storyline. Mr. WrestleMania also refereed some key Undertaker matches, getting physically involved each time.
Michaels would have been a legend without ever facing The Deadman, but his story wouldn't be nearly the same without him. He may never have had to step away from the ring to heal a wrecked back, and he likely wouldn't have found as artful a way to exit the business the second time around.
Edge was a tag team specialist for a long time. He had Christian tore down the house in ladder matches and fast-paced bouts during the Attitude Era.
The Rated-R Superstar slowly established him as a singles star later in his career, but it wasn't until he and Undertaker rammed horns that Edge truly felt like a top-tier wrestler.
Edge told Sports Illustrated he believed main-eventing WrestleMania against Undertaker was the pinnacle of his career.
It's hard to argue with him. To thrive in that spotlight against a name that big was huge for Edge.
His rivalry with The Deadman had been a boost for his career before that, too. In 1999, The Brood feuded with The Ministry of Darkness, giving Edge and his stablemates added limelight. Nearly a decade later, Edge cashed in on Undertaker on SmackDown in 2007 to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.
Undertaker was a pivotal opponent for The Ultimate Opportunist. He was the big tree Edge chopped down to show off how sharp his ax was.
Undertaker and Batista were made for each other, two powerful bears slugging it out.
They often clicked in the ring. No one seemed to bring out The Animal's best like Undertaker.
In a 2007 interview with Kevin Eck of the Baltimore Sun, Batista said of his chemistry with Undertaker: "It's one of those things that is hard to put your finger on, but there definitely is something there. When we get in the ring together, I think it's magic."
Batista went on to call The Deadman "the perfect opponent" for him. Their match at Cyber Sunday 2007, TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2009 and WrestleMania 23 speak to that.
That last bout was a huge one for Batista. He looked most like a headliner in that spot. He came into his own in a big way that night.
Had Batista not feuded with Undertaker, his career would have been incomplete, leaving him a gladiator never finding his equal.
None of Brock Lesnar's wins will matter as much as his victory over Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans. He can win championships and end rivalries, but nothing will compare to ending Undertaker's historic WrestleMania undefeated streak.
As his advocate Paul Heyman so often points out, Lesnar will forever be the first man to hang a loss on Undertaker at The Show of Shows.
That gives The Beast Incarnate a notch on his belt like nothing else. It has made him a hated man with some fans.
Lesnar has to credit Undertaker for an assist during his early rise, as well. When the powerhouse was charging up the ladder in 2002, his battles with Undertaker helped establish him as a star. Not only was he adding victories over a big name to his resume, he was producing some of his best work including a classic inside the Hell in a Cell at No Mercy 2002.
Undertaker has since been there for other major moments in Lesnar's career.
The Beast Incarnate last eliminated him to win the 2003 Royal Rumble. Their 2015 feud was one of the high points in Lesnar's second WWE run.
When Lesnar eventually slips into a tuxedo and gives his Hall of Fame induction speech, he will surely mention Undertaker's name several times.