Ranking Undertaker's 7 Best Matches as 'American Badass' in WWE
While The Undertaker will always be best known for being The Deadman, his 30-year career in WWE has spawned many more iconic characters, including the American Badass.
After portraying The Phenom for the first 10 years of his WWE run, Undertaker successfully reinvented himself when he debuted the American Badass persona at Judgment Day 2000. For the next three-and-a-half years, he enjoyed great success as a character that was more a reflection of his real-life personality than what he was doing previously.
From Triple H and The Rock to John Cena and Brock Lesnar, Undertaker worked with and put over plenty of people during this period. As both a babyface and a heel, he was invaluable to the SmackDown and Raw rosters and provided fans with multiple memorable matches.
His stint as American Badass (later Big Evil) came to an abrupt end in 2004, when he returned as The Deadman at WrestleMania XX. His biker gimmick was a thing of the past until he reprised the role on the road to WrestleMania 36.
Undertaker officially brought it back in their Boneyard match at 'Mania, signaling that the character will be here to stay for the foreseeable future. If so, now is as appropriate of a time as any to look back on his best matches as the American Badass.
7. The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy (Raw, July 1, 2002)
One of The Undertaker's most important outings as American Badass came when he competed against Jeff Hardy on the July 1, 2002, edition of Raw.
Undertaker was the undisputed champion and was doing some of the best work of his career as a heel. Hardy, on the other hand, was struggling to find his footing as a singles star after being forced to part ways with his brother Matt during the 2002 Brand Extension.
Undertaker's Undisputed Championship was on the line, but few fans believed Hardy had a fighting chance of winning it in this Ladder match. Rather, it was more a question of how strong of a showing he would have in defeat.
Sure enough, The Charismatic Enigma was in his element and came close to capturing the prestigious prize on multiple occasions. He put forth an incredible effort but fell short of obtaining the victory.
It would be years before he finally won his first world title in WWE, but Jim Ross' legendary "make yourself famous, kid" call on commentary essentially solidified Hardy as a solo star. Ladder matches have always been a rarity on Raw—and rightfully so. And when executed the right way, as this one was, they can be magic.
Undertaker's endorsement of Hardy afterward was simply the icing on the cake.
6. The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania X8)
Shortly before winning the Undisputed Championship, The Undertaker was involved in a heated rivalry with Ric Flair heading into WrestleMania X8. Flair proved he could still go when he returned to the ring at Royal Rumble 2002 following a long layoff, and the idea of him having his first 'Mania match in a decade seemed far more plausible than it would have been beforehand.
Flair cost Undertaker a win against The Rock at No Way Out to put their program into motion, but it remained to be seen whether he would rise to the occasion when it mattered most. Then again, were anyone available who could bring out the best of Flair at that stage of his career, it was the American Badass.
This was less of a traditional wrestling matchup and more of a hard-hitting brawl, which is why it worked so well. Undertaker spending a majority of it beating down on the 16-time world champ made Flair's comeback that much hotter.
The peak of the bout came when Arn Anderson interfered on his fellow Four Horseman's behalf and hit his patented spinebuster to a raucous reaction from the crowd. Unfortunately for Flair, it wasn't enough to earn him the victory.
Despite dodging the Last Ride, Flair succumbed to defeat when Undertaker connected with the Tombstone Piledriver. This was one of Flair's finer outings ahead of his in-ring retirement in 2008, and that was largely thanks to the American Badass.
5. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (WrestleMania X-Seven)
The Undertaker missed WrestleMania 2000 because of injury and returned a short time later as the American Badass. His first match with his new persona on the Grandest Stage of Them All was at WrestleMania X-Seven, which is widely regarded by fans to be the greatest instalment of all time.
Undertaker's match versus Triple H was as much of a factor in the show's success as anything else.
Going on just before the main event, these two had the tough task of following what had gone before on that incredible card. They managed to do so by brawling all around the arena before the bell, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
What followed was a fantastic match filled with grit, drama and exhilarating action. Although Undertaker had already amassed eight consecutive victories at WrestleMania by this point, it wasn't about his undefeated streak as much as it was Triple H looking to prove his worth against one of the best in the business.
Undertaker was known for his wild brawls as the American Badass, and this one did not disappoint. It was much different and meant more to Triple H's career than their 'Mania matches a decade later because of how it took him to that next level of superstardom.
This entire event ended the Attitude Era on a high note and was the perfect place for this encounter to go down.
4. 6-Man Hell in a Cell Match (Armageddon 2000)
Multi-man matches (especially those consisting of six Superstars) are tough to include in these types of lists because the focus is not primarily on any one athlete. But this bout from 2000's Armageddon pay-per-view is just too tremendous to be left off.
This six-man Hell in a Cell clash is commonly referred to as the Armageddon Hell in a Cell match because of how it was the only one of its kind and just so happened to headline that year's Armageddon event. It pitted six of WWE's biggest stars against each other inside the Devil's Playground, with the WWE Championship up for grabs.
The Undertaker, Triple H, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Rikishi and then-champion Kurt Angle were embroiled in a six-way feud over the top title. With the immense amount of talent involved, it was anyone's guess as to who would reign supreme.
Undertaker was directly feuding with Angle prior to the pay-per-view after failing to beat him for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. They crossed paths a few times during this matchup, but it was Undertaker's interaction with Rikishi atop the steel structure that left a lasting impression on the audience.
The American Badass sending Rikishi spiraling off the cell down on to a truck bed is an image that will forever be etched into fans' minds. This action-packed Hell in a Cell main event encapsulated what the American Badass and the Attitude Era were all about.
3. The Undertaker vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle (Vengeance 2002)
Some of The Undertaker's best battles throughout his WWE career have been with Kurt Angle, specifically during his days as American Badass. He also always had quality chemistry with The Rock, and at Vengeance 2002, he faced both of them in a Triple Threat where his Undisputed Championship was up for grabs.
This match took place a few weeks after Undertaker's aforementioned title defense against Jeff Hardy. Some of his best matches as American Badass occurred in 2002, when the level of competition was at its highest and everyone was trying to show some ruthless aggression.
Rock, Angle and Undertaker was a bit of an odd mix of talent on paper considering none of them had anything to do with each other prior to that pay-per-view. Undertaker and Angle were fresh off wins at King of the Ring, while Rock had just returned from a brief sabbatical.
Together, however, they made magic and delivered one of the strongest Triple Threat matchups in WWE history.
Everyone hit their finisher, making the pace incredibly chaotic and fun to follow. Rock's pinfall victory over Angle set the table for him to face Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam while protecting Undertaker in defeat.
Everyone came away from this thing looking better than before because the bout was a blast from start to finish.
2. The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle (SmackDown, Sept. 4, 2003)
Speaking of Kurt Angle, The Undertaker went on to rekindle his rivalry with wrestling's only Olympic gold medalist briefly in the fall of 2003. Angle had just regained the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam and was gearing up for one more match with him.
Before then, though, he first had to go through Undertaker, who had been floundering for the better part of the year. Angle's title being at stake made this a must-see attraction for SmackDown.
Oddly enough, this wasn't positioned as the main event of the Sept. 4 edition of SmackDown. Despite being relegated to the middle of the show, they had no problem stealing it.
For more than 20 minutes, the two megastars battled back and forth and put on an amazing display of athleticism. It was difficult for fans to buy into the idea of Undertaker taking the title because of Angle's lingering rivalry with Lesnar, but that didn't stop the American Badass from giving him a run for his money and entertaining the audience in the process.
Had their hotly contested clash not ended in interference from The Beast Incarnate, it likely would have led this list. Thankfully, Angle and Taker had the chance to redeem (and outdo) themselves with a breathtaking rematch at No Way Out three years later.
1. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar (No Mercy 2002)
The Undertaker made more stars in 2002 than in any other year in his entire career. He endorsed both Jeff Hardy and John Cena just as their stocks were about to skyrocket, but it was his unforgettable feud with Brock Lesnar that reaped the biggest rewards.
To be fair, Lesnar was already a made man coming off his wins over The Rock and Hulk Hogan earlier that summer, but it wasn't until he was paired up with Undertaker that fans started to see him in a different light. Beating two faces of the former generation was one thing, but beating SmackDown's top dog was infinitely more impressive.
Their initial encounter at Unforgiven that year allowed a rematch to be made for No Mercy the following month, when they would wage war inside Hell in a Cell. It was an environment wherein the American Badass had thrived in the past, and he had every intention of humbling The Next Big Thing.
Lesnar was smart to injure Undertaker's head going into the event and then to target it during the match itself. Neither man held anything back as they brutalized and bloodied each other. Even Lesnar's advocate, Paul Heyman, wasn't off limits to the violence.
Lesnar more than held his own by countering and kicking out of everything Taker had to offer. Ultimately, it was one earth-shattering F5 from Lesnar that put down Undertaker.
Perhaps the greatest success of Undertaker's American Badass run was helping to cement Lesnar as the main event player and box office attraction we know him as today.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.