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The Undertaker

The Undertaker
Mark Calaway in April 2014
Birth name Mark William Calaway
Born (1965-03-24) March 24, 1965
Houston, Texas, United States
Residence Austin, Texas, United States
Spouse(s) Jodi Lynn (m. 1989; div. 1999)
Sara Frank (m. 2000; div. 2007)
Michelle McCool (m. 2010)
Children 4
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) The Commando[1][2]
Kane the Undertaker[3]
Mark Callous
Mean Mark[4]
The Master of Pain
Dice Morgan
The Punisher
Texas Red
The Undertaker
Billed height 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)[5]
Billed weight 299 lb (136 kg)[5]
Billed from Houston, Texas
Death Valley[5]
Trained by Don Jardine[2]
Debut 1984[6]

Mark William Calaway (born March 24, 1965),[7] better known by his ring name The Undertaker, is an American professional wrestler and actor. He is currently signed to WWE, where he has worked since 1990, making him the company's longest-tenured in-ring performer.

Calaway began his wrestling career with World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in 1984. After wrestling for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as "Mean" Mark Callous from 1989 to 1990, he signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 1990. As The Undertaker, his gimmick is a horror-themed, dynamically dark, macabre entity who employs scare tactics and holds links to the supernatural. He won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter best gimmick award a record five times (more times than any other professional wrestler), all of which he won continuously.[8] The Undertaker is the storyline half-brother of fellow WWE wrestler Kane, with whom he has alternately feuded and teamed with as The Brothers of Destruction. Since unseating Hulk Hogan as WWF Champion in 1991, The Undertaker has been involved in numerous pivotal storylines within WWE history.[5]

The Undertaker is well known for The Streak, an unprecedented run of 21 straight victories at WWE's leading pay-per-view (PPV), WrestleMania (including main event bouts at WrestleMania 13, WrestleMania XXIV, and WrestleMania XXVI); he sustained his first loss at WrestleMania XXX to Brock Lesnar.[9] He was also winner of the 2007 Royal Rumble. Among other championship accolades, Calaway is an eight-time world champion, having held the WWF/E Championship four times, the World Heavyweight Championship three times and the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship once. He has cultivated a legacy within pro wrestling, being highly regarded by fellow veteran WWE personnel and fans alike as he is considered to be one of the best professional wrestlers of all time.[10]

Contents

  • Early life 1
  • Professional wrestling career 2
    • Early career (1984–1989) 2.1
    • World Championship Wrestling (1989–1990) 2.2
    • World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment/WWE 2.3
      • WWF Champion (1990–1994) 2.3.1
      • Lord of Darkness (1994–1997) 2.3.2
      • The Brothers of Destruction (1997–1998) 2.3.3
      • The Ministry of Darkness (1999) 2.3.4
      • American Bad Ass/Big Evil (2000–2003) 2.3.5
      • Return of the Deadman (2004–2007) 2.3.6
      • World Heavyweight Champion (2007–2010) 2.3.7
      • Defending and ending of the Streak (2011–2014) 2.3.8
      • Resurgence (2015–present) 2.3.9
    • Undertaker character 2.4
    • Legacy 2.5
  • Personal life 3
    • Mixed martial arts and UFC involvement 3.1
  • Other media 4
  • Filmography 5
    • Film 5.1
    • Television 5.2
  • In wrestling 6
  • Championships and accomplishments 7
    • WrestleMania record 7.1
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Calaway was born in Houston, Texas, the son of Frank Compton Calaway (died July 22, 2003) and Betty Catherine Truby. He has four older brothers: David, Michael, Paul, and Timothy. He is of Irish and Native American descent.[11][12] He graduated from Waltrip High School in 1983, where he was a member of the basketball team.[13] He also played college basketball at Texas Wesleyan University during the 1985–1986 season.[14]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1984–1989)

Mark Calaway made his debut in 1984 for gimmicks.

On February 2, 1989, managed by Dutch Mantell, he debuted as The Master of Pain, a character fresh out of the Atlanta State Penitentiary after serving five years (much in solitary confinement) for killing two men in a fight. After his second match the next week, he stayed in the ring, challenging USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion Jerry Lawler to an impromptu match. The Master of Pain easily dominated Lawler until Mantell entered the ring and called him off, saying they'd done what they'd wanted. Lawler agreed to a title match, and on April 1, The Master of Pain won the title. He held it for just over three weeks before Lawler became the first man to pin him, winning it back.

While performing as The Punisher, Calaway won the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship on October 5, 1989, when Eric Embry forfeited the title.[15]

World Championship Wrestling (1989–1990)

In 1989, Calaway joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as a villain and adopted the ring name Mean Mark Callous, a name devised for him by Terry Funk.[16] He was portrayed as a morbid character; he wore predominantly black ring attire, and was described by announcer Jim Ross as having a fondness for pet snakes, and the music of Ozzy Osbourne.[17] Callous was promptly drafted into The Skyscrapers tag team to replace an injured Sid Vicious, and made his debut on January 3, 1990 in a match later televised against Agent Steel & Randy Harris.[18] The new team gained some notoriety at Clash of the Champions X when they beat down The Road Warriors after their match.[19] However Callous' partner Dan Spivey left WCW days before their Chicago Street Fight against the Warriors at WrestleWar 1990. Callous and a replacement masked Skyscraper went down in defeat in the Street Fight and the team broke up soon afterwards.[20] As he went into singles competition, Callous took on the guidance of Paul E. Dangerously and defeated Johnny Ace at Capital Combat and defeated Brian Pillman at the Clash of the Champions. In July 1990, he wrestled against Lex Luger for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship at The Great American Bash, but was pinned by Luger. Callous then faced Brian Pillman, Paul Orndorff, and Doug Furnas on the house show circuit before giving notice to WCW on August 27.[18] His final match was on September 7 at a WCW Worldwide taping in Amarillo, TX where he defeated Dave Johnson.

During his time in WCW, Calaway briefly wrestled in Bill Dundee in the first round, but lost to Jerry Lawler in the quarterfinals. In October 1990, he signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment/WWE

WWF Champion (1990–1994)

Calaway made his WWF debut as Kane the Undertaker at a taping of WWF Superstars on November 19, 1990. His original version of the Deadman depicted him in a trench coat, gray-striped tie, and gray-ringed, black stetson hat with gray gloves and boot spats. He was portrayed as impervious to pain, something accomplished by Calaway not selling his opponents' attacks. Calaway made his official on-camera debut on November 22 at Survivor Series as a heel when he was the mystery partner of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar team.[21] Approximately one minute into the match, the Undertaker eliminated Koko B. Ware with his finisher, the Tombstone Piledriver. He also eliminated Dusty Rhodes before being counted out, however, his team won the match with DiBiase being the sole survivor. During the match, Calaway was referred to as the Undertaker, neglecting the Kane name, which was dropped shortly after the event. At the same time, the Undertaker switched managers from Brother Love to Paul Bearer — a histrionic, ghostly character, almost always seen bearing an urn, which he used to revive the Undertaker's strength whenever Undertaker fell victim to his antagonists. During his heel run, Undertaker placed his defeated opponents (almost always jobbers) in a bodybag and carried them to the back.[22]

He made his WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania VII, quickly defeating "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.[23] He began his first major feud with the Ultimate Warrior, when he attacked the Warrior and locked him in an airtight casket on the set of Paul Bearer's Funeral Parlor interview segment. After a year of battles with the Warrior, Randy Savage,[21] Sid Justice, Sgt. Slaughter, and Hulk Hogan, he defeated Hogan to win his first WWF Championship at Survivor Series with the help of Ric Flair, and thus became the youngest WWF Champion in history until having this record broken by Yokozuna in April 1993 at WrestleMania IX.[24] WWF President Jack Tunney ordered a rematch for This Tuesday in Texas six days later, where the Undertaker lost the title back to Hogan.[24] However, due to the controversial ends to the two title matches between the Undertaker and Hogan the title was vacated by Tunney. The title was awarded to Ric Flair as the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble match.

In February 1992, the Undertaker's ally Giant González and Yokozuna. Also in this time he headlined the first episode of Monday Night Raw on January 11, 1993 with a victory over Damien Demento.[25] He faced González at WrestleMania IX, which is notable as Undertaker's only disqualification win at WrestleMania after the use of chloroform. His rivalry with Yokozuna culminated in a WWF Championship casket match at the 1994 Royal Rumble. During the match, champion Yokozuna sealed the Undertaker in the casket with the assistance of several other villainous Wippleman-managed wrestlers to win the match. The Undertaker appeared from inside the casket on the video screen, representing his spirit, warning that he would return.[26] The Undertaker did not appear in the WWF for seven months after his loss to Yokozuna. In reality, he was given time off to allow a back injury to heal.[27]

Lord of Darkness (1994–1997)

Paul Bearer betrayed Undertaker by hitting him with the urn he is seen carrying here

During his absence, the WWF promoted his return by showing video clips of people who claimed to have seen the Undertaker. After WrestleMania X, Ted DiBiase introduced an Undertaker back to the WWF. This Undertaker, however, played by Brian Lee, was an impostor Undertaker (dubbed the "Underfaker" by fans) and led to the return of the real Undertaker in the SummerSlam main event, appearing as a new version of his Deadman persona, represented now by cool colors and replacing grey with purple. The Undertaker defeated the impostor after three Tombstone Piledrivers.[26] At Survivor Series, the Undertaker defeated Yokozuna in a rematch, another casket match. Throughout most of 1995, the Undertaker feuded with members of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation. At WrestleMania XI, while the Undertaker was facing King Kong Bundy, Kama stole the urn, and antagonized him by melting it into a large gold necklace.[26] Later, the Undertaker defeated Kama in a casket match at SummerSlam.[26] Several weeks later, the Undertaker injured his orbital bone near his eye, forcing a period of absence for surgery, until his return at Survivor Series.

The Undertaker returned at the 1995 Survivor Series, wearing a Phantom of the Opera-like, grey upper-face mask.[26] In the main event of the 1996 Royal Rumble, the Undertaker was unmasked in a WWF Championship match against Bret Hart. Diesel interfered in this match, costing the Undertaker the championship.[28] A rematch for the title on the February 5 episode of Raw saw similar interference.[29] At that month's In Your House: Rage in the Cage, while Diesel was facing Hart in a steel cage match, the Undertaker delivered a surprise attack, emerging from a hole he had ripped through the ring canvas and dragging Diesel with him down under, allowing Hart the victory.[28] After several weeks of more tit for tat between Diesel and the Undertaker, the feud culminated in a match between the two at WrestleMania XII, to which Undertaker was victorious.[23]

His next feud commenced the very next night when Mankind made his debut and interfered in the Undertaker's match with Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw. For the next few months, Mankind ambushed and cost the Undertaker several matches.[28] The feud intensified, and they began taking their battles into crowds, backstage areas, and in the boiler rooms of different arenas. Mankind cost the Undertaker the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, assisting champion Goldust to victory. As a result, the first ever Boiler Room Brawl was booked between the two at SummerSlam. During the match, when Undertaker reached for Paul Bearer's urn, Bearer hit him with it, betraying the Undertaker and allowing Mankind to "incapacitate" him with the Mandible claw, giving him the win.[28] After Bearer's betrayal, the Undertaker took his rivalry with Mankind to a new level, resulting in a Buried Alive match in the main event of In Your House: Buried Alive. The Undertaker won the match after a chokeslam into the open grave, but after interference from The Executioner, as well as the help of several other superstars, the Undertaker was ultimately "Buried Alive."[28]

After being buried alive, the Undertaker returned at the Survivor Series again pitting him against Mankind, but with a unique stipulation; hanging 20 ft (6.1 m) above the ring was Paul Bearer, enclosed in a steel cage. If Undertaker won the match, he would be able to get his hands on Bearer. Even though the Undertaker won the match, interference from The Executioner enabled Bearer to escape the Undertaker's clutches.[30] It was also at this event that Undertaker had developed a more informal, casual Deadman incarnation than before. In this then-new form, he took on a Gothic, brash and rebelling persona (perhaps to better fit in with the Attitude Era that consisted of more adult-oriented programming content and that was budding at around the time). In this form, he proclaimed himself as "The Lord of Darkness." Following Survivor Series, the Undertaker briefly turned his attentions to The Executioner, who had been interfering in on his matches since his arrival and had months earlier helped bury the Undertaker alive at In Your House Buried Alive. At In Your House: It's Time, the Undertaker defeated The Executioner in an Armageddon rules match.[30] He then moved on to feud with Vader. They met at the 1997 Royal Rumble in a singles match, where Undertaker lost after Bearer interfered on behalf of his new protégé.[30] The two then clashed in the Royal Rumble match itself as they made it to the final moments of the match, but both were eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had crept back into the match after his elimination was unseen. He met both Vader and Austin in a Four Corners Elimination match for the vacant WWF Championship at In Your House 13: Final Four, but Bret Hart won.[31] However, the following month the Undertaker managed to win the title for the second time by defeating Sycho Sid at WrestleMania 13.[32]

The Brothers of Destruction (1997–1998)

In May 1997, Paul Bearer attempted to rejoin the Undertaker, using the ultimatum of revealing the Undertaker's "deepest, darkest secret" to the world. In storyline, Bearer announced that the Undertaker was an arsonist/murderer, who as a child had burned down the family funeral home business (where he and his family lived and Bearer worked), killing his parents and ostensibly his younger half-brother as well. The Undertaker denied all this; however, Bearer claimed to having proof in the form of the Undertaker's alive and well half-brother Kane, who had survived though horribly scarred and burned. Bearer raised Kane after the fire, having him institutionalized from the date of the fire all the way into adulthood. Ever since the fire, Kane had been awaiting to exact vengeance on his older half-brother. In defense, Undertaker responded that Kane, a pyromaniac, had been the one to set the fire and could not have possibly even survived. Also during the period, Bearer had unintentionally admitted to Undertaker's mother having an affair with him. As a result, it was revealed to the Undertaker that Kane was actually his half-brother. Until that point, Undertaker spent his life (entirety of the father's life) under the impression that Kane was fully related to him and his family. It was during this time that the Undertaker also made an appearance in Michinoku Pro Wrestling, defeating Hakushi in a singles match.[33][34]

The Undertaker in September 1997

Concurrent to the deep, dark secret storyline directed by Bearer, Undertaker began a new rivalry at

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References

WM Opponent Record Notes
VII Jimmy Snuka 1–0 [23]
VIII Jake Roberts 2–0 [23]
IX Giant González 3–0 Won via disqualification.[23]
XI King Kong Bundy 4–0 [26]
XII Diesel 5–0 [23]
13 Sycho Sid 6–0 For the WWF Championship in a No Disqualification match.[32]
XIV Kane 7–0 [35]
XV Big Boss Man 8–0 Hell in a Cell match.[186]
X-Seven Triple H 9–0 [23]
X8 Ric Flair 10–0 No Disqualification match.[23]
XIX Big Show and A-Train 11–0 Handicap match.[23]
XX Kane 12–0 [65]
21 Randy Orton 13–0 [68]
22 Mark Henry 14–0 Casket match.[23]
23 Batista 15–0 For the World Heavyweight Championship.[187]
XXIV Edge 16–0 For the World Heavyweight Championship.[89]
XXV Shawn Michaels 17–0 [23]
XXVI Shawn Michaels 18–0 No countout, no disqualification, Streak vs. Career match.[188]
XXVII Triple H 19–0 No Holds Barred match.
XXVIII Triple H 20–0 Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee.[117]
29 CM Punk 21–0 [124]
XXX Brock Lesnar 21–1 End of the Streak.[189]
31 Bray Wyatt 22–1 [190]

WrestleMania record

1 ^ Won during The Invasion.
2 ^ The Undertaker's fourth reign was as Undisputed WWE Champion.

Championships and accomplishments

  • Entrance themes
    • World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment/WWE
      • "Funeral March" by Jim Johnston (November 19, 1990 – January 22, 1994)[176]
      • "Graveyard Symphony" by Jim Johnston (November 19, 1995 – July 20, 1998; January 11, 1999 – March 22, 1999)[176]
      • "The Darkest Side" by Jim Johnston (July 26, 1998 – December 13, 1998)[176]
      • "Ministry" by Jim Johnston (March 28, 1999 – September 23, 1999)[176]
      • "American Bad Ass" by Kid Rock (May 21, 2000 – December 4, 2000)[176]
      • "Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" by Limp Bizkit (December 10, 2000 – May 6, 2002; March 30, 2003)[176]
      • "Dead Man Walking" by Jim Johnston (May 19, 2002 – September 19, 2002)[176]
      • "You're Gonna Pay" by Jim Johnston (September 22, 2002 – November 16, 2003)[176]
      • "Rest in Peace" by Jim Johnston (March 14, 2004 – February 21, 2011; January 30, 2012 – present)[176]
      • "Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)" by Johnny Cash (March 7, 2011 – April 3, 2011)[177]
The Undertaker jumping down from the top rope to strike Heidenreich with Old School
The Undertaker locking in Hell's Gate on Lesnar
The Undertaker performing the Last Ride on Brock Lesnar
The Undertaker performing the Chokeslam on Zack Ryder
The Undertaker executing the Tombstone Piledriver on Zack Ryder

In wrestling

Year Title Role Notes
1999 Poltergeist: The Legacy Soul Chaser Demon 2 episodes
1999 Downtown The Undertaker Episode: "The Con"
1999 Celebrity Deathmatch The Undertaker Voice
Episode: "Halloween Episode I"

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Suburban Commando Hutch
1999 Beyond the Mat Himself Documentary
2015 The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age SmackDown! The Undertaker Voice

Film

Filmography

Calaway made his feature film debut as Hutch in the 1991 film Suburban Commando. He had guest roles on Poltergeist: The Legacy and Celebrity Deathmatch. In 2001, Calaway appeared out of character on the Canadian sports show Off the Record with Michael Landsberg.

Other media

Calaway is also an avid mixed martial arts fan and has attended several Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) shows, including a show where Calaway verbally confronted then UFC fighter Brock Lesnar after Lesnar lost to Cain Velasquez, and his striking gloves and Hell's Gate submission (a modified gogoplata) were also inspired by mixed martial arts. During a Calaway interview conducted by an internet show after UFC 121, Lesnar walked past him staring. Calaway answered Lesnar's stare by saying "You wanna do it?".[12][165] They eventually fought at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, where Lesnar finally gave Calaway a loss at a WrestleMania event. He is close friends of actor Tony Longo and mixed martial artists Pat Miletich, Jeremy Horn, and Matt Hughes.[12]

Calaway is an avid boxing fan and carried the Flag of the United States while leading Team Pacquiao to the ring during the Pacquiao vs. Velázquez fight in 2005.[164] He was also in attendance at the Lennox Lewis vs Mike Tyson fight in 2002.

Calaway has trained under Rolles Gracie to earn a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Mixed martial arts and UFC involvement

In addition, according to a blog by Dutch Mantel, Calaway was also the subject of a bar fight when he knocked a man out cold with one blow.[163]

Calaway was once also involved in a backstage controversy with Shawn Michaels. Calaway had threatened Michaels that he would get beat up by Calaway if he didn't put Stone Cold Steve Austin over cleanly, in their match at Wrestlemania XIV.[162] Following the threat, Michaels did lose cleanly to Austin.

According to Kurt Angle's book, (It's true, It's true!) Calaway was once involved in a backstage fight with Kurt Angle.[161] On a previous date before the fight, Vince McMahon once jokingly took Angle down and constantly bragged about being the only person in WWE to take down Angle. A few months later, when both Vince and Angle were on the plane, the latter took Vince McMahon down. For the rest of the duration of the flight, McMahon also constantly tried to take Angle down in retaliation, however, one of their friendly scuffles woke up Calaway, who was sleeping. Calaway then immediately locked in a chokehold on Angle and managed to choke him out. However, once he realised what was actually going on he apologised to Angle, and Angle never retaliated since he respected Calaway's loyalty to Vince.

Calaway invests in real estate with business partner Scott Everhart. Calaway and Everhart finished construction on a $2.7m building in Loveland, Colorado, called "The Calahart" (a portmanteau of their last names).[159] Calaway and his ex-wife Sara established The Zeus Compton Calaway Save the Animals fund at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to help pay for lifesaving treatments for large-breed dogs.[160]

Calaway married his first wife, Jodi Lynn, in 1989. They had a son, Gunner Vincent (born 1993). The marriage ended in 1999. Calaway married his second wife, Sara, in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 21, 2000. In 2001, Sara made televised appearances with the WWE (then known as the WWF) as part of a feud between Calaway and Diamond Dallas Page, in which she was acknowledged as being Calaway's wife. The couple had two daughters together: Chasey (born November 21, 2002) and Gracie (born May 15, 2005). In 2007, he and Sara were divorced, and he became romantically linked to former wrestler Michelle McCool, whom he married on June 26, 2010 in Houston, Texas.[12][156] On August 1, 2012, it was announced that they were expecting the couple's first child.[157] Kaia Faith Calaway was born on August 29, 2012.[158]

Personal life

The Undertaker is one of only two wrestlers (the other being The Rock) to main event WrestleMania in three different decades, doing so in the 1990's (WrestleMania 13), the 2000's (WrestleMania XXIV) and the 2010's (WrestleMania XXVI).

WWE.com editors have placed The Undertaker at rank one in various retrospective listings, including that of the greatest WrestleMania performers ever and greatest big man in professional wrestling history.[150][151][152][153][154] In an ongoing WWE fan poll to determine the greatest performer of the company's SmackDown brand, The Undertaker leads by a large margin as of September 2015.[155] In naming him the second greatest wrestler ever, IGN have described The Undertaker as, "one of the most respected wrestlers, and characters, in the business; treated with actual reverence. Like a cherished, invaluable artifact".[10]

Aside from his WrestleMania streak and victories, The Undertaker also holds the record for the most victories at the SummerSlam, Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series PPV events, which contribute to his overall record of the most victories ever at WWE PPVs.[140] The Undertaker was voted the greatest WWE wrestler ever in a 2013 Digital Spy poll.[141] Prominent wrestler Big Show considers the Undertaker to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time,[142] while Mark Henry[143] and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon[144] have named him as their favourite. The former, Mark Henry has mentioned believing that Undertaker has collectively sold out and made more money for the business than The Rock and Hulk Hogan.[145] Jim Ross, a WWE Hall of Famer commentator, regards Undertaker as the greatest giant in pro wrestling history and also as an icon who no one will ever surpass.[146][147] He is widely regarded as one of the most well respected locker room leaders in the WWE and he was also the judge of the wrestlers' court, a kangaroo court held periodically by wrestlers to determine the "guilt" of a performer who was accused of violating the norms of the roster.[148] Kurt Angle, once called The Undertaker the best ever, Triple H referred to him as the greatest legend in the history of this business, Shawn Michaels mentioned wrestling with Calaway as the best professional experience of his life and Michael Cole stated Undertaker to be the greatest Smackdown and WWE superstar of all time.[149] Bret Hart, a former World Champion and WWE Hall of Famer once also quipped that the Undertaker ‘could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear' as a reference to his in ring work, gimmick commitment and overall ring presence.

Legacy

The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania, his most famed and exalted achievement, increasingly became a WrestleMania focus and driving point of his storylines. Over time, however, The Undertaker became less supernaturally impervious to pain, having to be stretchered out after his match at WrestleMania XXVII,[114] and eventually gaining a loss at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX.

The Undertaker is connected with various specialty matches, including the Casket match, the Bodybag match, the Buried Alive match, the Rest In Peace match, the Hell in a Cell match, and the Last Ride match. In 1997, the Undertaker gimmick was embellished with a dramatic pre-wrestling personal life that enhanced the character with a youth backstory. A key part of this backstory is the character's Satanic, Juggernaut half-brother, Kane, who was introduced in 1997 and has both feuded and allied (as a tag team called "The Brothers of Destruction") with the Undertaker.

From May 2000 to November 2003, The Undertaker abandoned his horror-themed identity in favor of adopting the gimmick of a biker, commonly referred to as "The American Bad Ass". This gimmick ended at Survivor Series in 2003, when he was buried alive by Kane. Undertaker returned at WrestleMania XX to get revenge on Kane, with many of his original scare tactics associated with his Deadman persona. Fusing elements of The American Bad Ass into his Deadman gimmick, this incarnation has been the most humanized and least adorned in terms of dark, horror elements, such as exampled in his occasional propensity to wrestle or celebrate victories shirtless.

  • The Undertaker's on-camera debut at Survivor Series in 1990 saw the introduction of the original Deadman. Here, he portrayed a Western mortician, donned in black attire with gray accessories and impervious to pain. Not long after his debut, he began being accompanied to the ring by the histrionically spooky manager, Paul Bearer, who carried an urn which contained his "powers".
  • By SummerSlam in 1994, he began appearing as a mystic, chilling superhuman represented by cool colors, replacing the gray with purple. In addition, he began utilizing blue fog for the first time and more aesthetic displays and entrances.
  • At Survivor Series in 1996, the Deadman transformed into the Gothic "Lord of Darkness". Despite new elaborate goth elements, he became noticeably more informal and casual by comparison to his two previous incarnations. Moreover, he became brash, rebellious and far more vocal in persona (perhaps to better fit in with The Attitude Era that consisted of more adult-oriented programming content and that was just budding at around the time). Under this incarnation, he was more diverse in appearance, not limited to one attire as was the case with his two previous incarnations.
  • By January 1999, the Deadman was presented in the form of a ritual-performing dark priest. In the initial stage of this incarnation, The Undertaker reigned over a stable called "The Ministry of Darkness". Under this Deadman incarnation, he took on a wicked, demonic presence, much more so than ever before. He often claimed to be invoking and taking orders from a "Higher Power" and had a smart aleck nature about him. Moreover, he often appeared in a hooded black robe and sat on a throne that was specially designed into his character symbol. With the help of his minions, he frequently performed sacrifices on select WWE superstars, using various incantations and magic words with intent to extract out the dark side of the superstars in question so as to recruit them into his Ministry.

The Deadman persona has come in several different versions:

During the original Deadman era, The Undertaker shared a unique relationship with his fans, often referring to them as "Creatures of the Night". Whenever Paul Bearer had been deprived of his urn, used for reviving The Undertaker's strength during matches, a "rest in peace" chant by the live audience or "Creatures of the Night" was used as a substitute for reviving The Undertaker's strength. When this was cheered frantically, The Undertaker would often bounce back from a weakened state into a furious state of offense.

As part of the Deadman gimmick, The Undertaker has mysterious connections to a body of dark angels dubbed "The Druids". The Druids are distinguished by their choir droning and black cloaks that conceal them. They have factored into the Deadman's character by removing and treating him when sick or injured, returning him from lengthy disappearances, harbingering his presence, and general adding to his overall horror effect.

  • Highly philosophical, deep and morbid in his verbal communication style, Undertaker often analyzes and explains the meaning of life, existence, reality, wisdom and death to his opponents in very technical terms. Much of his vocabulary and sentence structures recall Early Modern English, such as "Be not proud" and "For I shall strike down upon thee". He speaks of his wrestling matches in a metaphorical sense as the funeral service of his antagonists and his punishment as the seizing of their soul. To that end, most of The Undertaker's promos conclude with him delivering his most popular catch phrase, "Rest in peace". All of his declarations are presented in dramatically low-pitced and menacing vocal tones. For further horror effect, The Undertaker will sometimes speak without present in the manner of an intercom announcement amid blue dusk or total darkness. This is often done unexpectedly as he interrupts a series of events going on, usually involving his antagonist.
  • Conversely, The Undertaker is full of nonverbal communication as well: He often uses a decapitation gesture to signal his finisher the Tombstone Piledriver, respond to insults, or accept challenges. Moreover, unaligned curled-up fingers and glove-pulling were common hand gesticulations when he was garbed in extended grey, and later purple gloves in his early stages. As another form of nonverbal communication, The Undertaker celebrates his victories in a one-knee victory kneel, originally used as a worship posture towards Paul Bearer's raising of the urn.
  • The Undertaker's most dynamic form of communication is electrical and technologically-powered, making use of pyrotechnics, special effects, and mechanical techniques. This form of communication is typically designed to give the illusion that The Undertaker is a supernatural, controlling force, such as seen through his raising of lights ostensibly by his risen arms while bombing or thunder sound. Darkness, thunder, lightning, cloudy smoke, flickering lights, firecracker stunts, bell-tolling, a modified funeral march theme song, etc., are further examples of this, all indicative of The Undertaker's presence.

As The "Deadman", Undertaker has three very distinguished forms of communication:

For much of The Undertaker's run, a long-hair hair-toss was also used as a scare tactic, typically done to signal his fury or for emphasis during his patented pin-fall cover in which he crosses the arms of his opponents over their chest following the Tombstone Piledriver. Beginning in 2012 however, at WrestleMania XXVIII, The Undertaker was first seen in his Deadman form without his long hair, sporting a shaven/mohawk hairstyle (though he did have short hair from late 2001 through 2003, but as the "American Bad Ass").

The Undertaker gimmick has two distinctly different identities, the "Deadman" and "The American Bad Ass". The "Deadman", Undertaker's first and foremost identity, is a horror-themed character of an undead, macabre and paranormal dark presence. Prone to scare tactics, The Deadman has a multitude of earmarks intended to induce feelings of terror in his opponents and fans alike. These earmarks range all across the board from a sit-up accompanied with a sharp hiss; rolling back eyes to hide the iris, giving his eyes a ghostly appearance; fast and furious head-turns; extended tongue displays; prestigious spooky entrances filled with smoke, fire and dramatic funeral dirge music; various coffin schemes; effigies; disappearance and out-of-thin-air appearance acts; delivering ominous monologues amid blue dusk surroundings, etc.

The Undertaker making his entrance on the 800th Raw

Undertaker character

At Hell in a Cell, the Undertaker was defeated by Lesnar after Lesnar hit him with a low-blow and delivered the third F-5 of the match. Afterwards, Undertaker was given a standing ovation by the crowd. However, he was attacked and ambushed by the entire Wyatt Family. They then carried out the downed Undertaker from the ring. Bray Wyatt explained the following night on Raw that he wanted to "claim" the Undertaker's spirit and wasn't going to stop until he reached his goal. Kane interrupted in an attempt to avenge his older brother's suffering the night before. However, this was a trap and as Kane cornered Bray, the rest of the Wyatts ambushed Kane and carried him away like they did to the Undertaker the night before.

At Battleground in July, Undertaker made his return, attacking Brock Lesnar as Lesnar was on the verge of defeating Seth Rollins during his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, which caused the match to end in a disqualification win for Lesnar.[136] The next night on Raw, Undertaker explained his actions as revenge – not for Lesnar breaking the streak, but rather the constant taunting he allowed Paul Heyman to engage in. Later that night, after Undertaker and Lesnar brawled throughout the arena and had to be separated, it was announced that they would face off in a WrestleMania XXX rematch at SummerSlam in August. At the pay-per-view, Undertaker controversially defeated Lesnar; Undertaker tapped out to a Kimura Lock by Lesnar and the bell rang, but the referee did not see the tapout and allowed the match to continue. Lesnar then passed out to Undertaker's submission hold, Hell's Gate. At Night of Champions, it was announced that, in a rubber match, Undertaker would face Lesnar in a Hell in a Cell match at Hell in a Cell.[137] Throughout this period, Undertaker's stance as either a face or a heel was widely debated among WWE fans due to his dirty tactics against Lesnar.[138] On October 17, 2015, at a house show in Mérida, Mexico, Undertaker teamed with Kane reuniting The Brothers of Destruction to take on Luke Harper and Braun Strowman of The Wyatt Family. They won after Harper tapped out to The Undertaker's Hell's Gate.[139] Undertaker appeared on the October 19 edition of Monday Night RAW, trying to goad Brock Lesnar into a fight.

In February 2015, Bray Wyatt began a series of cryptic promos which led to Fastlane, where Wyatt challenged Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania 31. On the March 9 episode of Raw, Undertaker accepted the challenge, playing mind games of his own.[133][134] At the event on March 29, Undertaker defeated Wyatt, garnering his 22nd victory at WrestleMania.[135]

Resurgence (2015–present)

In December 2014, in an out-of-character interview, Vince McMahon confirmed that it was his final decision to have Lesnar end the Streak, and that the Undertaker was initially shocked at the decision. McMahon's reasons for making the decision were that it would make a huge deal out of Lesnar to set up the next WrestleMania event and that there were no other viable candidates to fill Lesnar's role.[132]

On the February 24, 2014 episode of Raw, the Undertaker returned to confront Brock Lesnar and accepted his challenge for a match at WrestleMania XXX.[128] After a long 25 minutes and three F-5s, Lesnar won the match by pinfall, ending The Undertaker's Streak in what was described as "the most shocking result in WWE history".[129][130] Following the match, Undertaker was hospitalized with a severe concussion which he suffered in the first minutes of the bout.[131]

The Undertaker approaching the ring at WrestleMania XXX in 2014

The Undertaker's next television appearance was on Old School Raw on March 4, 2013, where he opened the show by performing his signature entrance. CM Punk, Randy Orton, Big Show, and Sheamus fought in a Fatal Four-Way match to determine who would face him at WrestleMania 29, which Punk won. Following this, Undertaker made another entrance and stared Punk down.[120] After the real-life death of Paul Bearer on March 5, 2013, a storyline involving Punk regularly spiting the Undertaker through displays of flippancy and disrespect towards Bearer's death began.[121] Punk interrupted the Undertaker's ceremony to honor Bearer on Raw, stealing the trademark urn and later using it to attack Kane, humiliate the Brothers of Destruction and mock Bearer.[122][123] Undertaker defeated Punk at WrestleMania 29 to extend his streak to 21–0 and then took back the urn.[124] The following night on Raw, Undertaker came out to pay his respects to Paul Bearer, but was interrupted by The Shield, who attempted to attack Undertaker before Kane and Daniel Bryan made the save.[125] Undertaker wrestled his first Raw match in three years on the April 22 episode, teaming with Kane and Bryan against the Shield in a losing effort.[126] Four days later, he wrestled his first SmackDown match in three years, defeating Shield member Dean Ambrose via submission. Afterward, Undertaker was attacked by Ambrose and the rest of the Shield, who powerbombed him through the announce table.[127]

On the January 30, 2012 episode of Raw, the Undertaker returned after a ten-month hiatus to confront Triple H.[115] On the February 13 episode of Raw, Triple H refused the Undertaker's challenge for a WrestleMania rematch.[116] After the Undertaker accused Triple H of living in the shadow of Shawn Michaels on the February 20 episode of Raw, Triple H accepted the challenge on the condition that it be a Hell in a Cell match; Michaels was later inserted as referee in the match. At WrestleMania XXVIII, Undertaker, debuting his new look, a mohawk, defeated Triple H to extend his streak to 20–0. After the match, Undertaker and Michaels carried Triple H to the entrance stage, where the three embraced.[117] Later in 2012, the Undertaker appeared on the 1000th episode of Raw on July 23 to help Kane, who had been confronted by Jinder Mahal, Curt Hawkins, Tyler Reks, Hunico, Camacho, and Drew McIntyre. The Brothers of Destruction overcame and dominated the six other wrestlers.[118][119]

The Undertaker vs Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII

After the 2011 Royal Rumble, promotional videos began airing, showing the Undertaker entering and standing within a Western-style old house on a rainy desert. Each promo ended with the date 2–21–11 being "burned into" the screen. On the February 21 Raw, the Undertaker returned. Before he could speak, Triple H also returned and confronted him. The two challenged each other to a match at WrestleMania XXVII in a unique interaction involving no verbal or physical exchanges, which was later announced as a No Holds Barred match. On the March 28 episode of Raw, the two had a last confrontation with the presence of Shawn Michaels before WrestleMania that involved praise, demonstrations of respect, and conflicts. At WrestleMania XXVII, the Undertaker defeated Triple H via submission, but had to be carried away from the ring on a stretcher.[114]

Defending and ending of the Streak (2011–2014)

At SummerSlam, the Undertaker returned to confront Kane and Rey Mysterio, only to be overpowered and Tombstoned by Kane. With Kane revealed as his attacker, the two feuded for the next few months over the World Heavyweight Championship. After losing to Kane at Night of Champions, Paul Bearer returned as Undertaker's manager on an episode of SmackDown.[113] However, Bearer turned on him at Hell in a Cell to help Kane win once again. The feud ended at Bragging Rights when The Nexus helped Kane defeat Undertaker in a Buried Alive match; in reality, he needed medical treatment for his injury.

The Undertaker then accepted Michael's Rematch at WrestleMania XXIV, a Streak vs. Career Match, where Undertaker won and Shawn Michaels was forced to retire. After a hiatus (which included wrestling two matches on Raw), he returned to SmackDown on May 28, defeating Rey Mysterio to qualify for a spot in the Fatal 4-Way pay-per-view to compete for the World Heavyweight Championship.[109] During the match, the Undertaker suffered a concussion, broken orbital bone, and broken nose; he was visibly bleeding profusely on camera by the end of the match.[110] To cover for the injury, Kane revealed the Undertaker had been found in a vegetative state;[111] Mysterio took his place in the match and won the World Heavyweight Championship. While attempting to learn which superstar had attacked the Undertaker, Kane defeated Mysterio to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Kane and Mysterio continued to clash as they accused one another of being the assailant behind the attack.[112]

At the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, a pyrotechnics malfunction momentarily engulfed the Undertaker in flames on three occasions during his ring entrance. He was able to continue with his scheduled match, with first- and second-degree burns on his chest and neck that, according to a WWE spokesman, "looked like a bad sunburn".[105] He lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Chris Jericho after interference from Shawn Michaels;[106] Jericho has told on multiple occasions how the pyrotechnician responsible was immediately escorted from the arena, and relieved of his employment with WWE, at the behest of the Undertaker.[107][108]

The Undertaker defending his World Heavyweight Championship at Royal Rumble 2010

After the four-month hiatus, the Undertaker returned at SummerSlam in August by attacking CM Punk, who had just won the World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Hardy in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.[98] At Breaking Point, the Undertaker faced Punk in a submission match. The Undertaker had originally won the match with his Hell's Gate submission hold, but the match was restarted by SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long, who ruled that the ban placed on the move by Vickie Guerrero was still in effect. Punk went on to win the match with his Anaconda Vise when referee Scott Armstrong called for the bell, despite Undertaker never submitting in a recreation of the Montreal Screwjob, which took place in the same venue in 1997.[99] On the September 25 episode of SmackDown, Theodore Long announced that the ban had now been officially lifted, after being released from a casket that the Undertaker had apparently placed him in.[100] The feud between the two continued and at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the Undertaker won the World Heavyweight Championship from Punk in a Hell in a Cell match.[101] The Undertaker successfully defended the title against CM Punk on SmackDown, in a Fatal Four Way match at Bragging Rights, and in a Triple Threat match at Survivor Series.[102][103] He faced Batista at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs for the championship, and won when the match was restarted by Long, after Batista had originally won after utilising a low blow.[104]

On the July 25, 2008 episode of SmackDown, Vickie Guerrero announced that she had reinstated the Undertaker, and that Edge would face him at casket, the Big Show, who appeared at first to aid the Undertaker, betrayed and assaulted him.[93] As a result of this altercation, the Undertaker and Big Show faced each other in a match at No Mercy, where the Big Show knocked the Undertaker out with two hook punches in the forehead and a punch to the back of Undertaker's head.[94] At Cyber Sunday, the Undertaker defeated the Big Show in a Last Man Standing match after applying Hell's Gate. Then the Undertaker was engaged in a short feud with Jeff Hardy who interfered during his match with Vladimir Kozlov. But the feud ended when Jeff Hardy defeated the Undertaker in an Extreme rules match the following week on Smackdown due to the interference of The Big Show.[95] The Undertaker then went on to defeat the Big Show at Survivor Series in a casket match, to end the feud.[96] At No Way Out, the Undertaker was part of the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match; however, he was unsuccessful at winning the match. He then became embroiled in a long time feud with Shawn Michaels over his WrestleMania undefeated streak and the fact that the Undertaker had never defeated Michaels in a singles match previously. The feud culminated in a match at WrestleMania XXV which the Undertaker won.[97] Their match was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and is now considered by many to be one of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time. On the April 24 episode of SmackDown, after Big Show defeated Undertaker by knockout, he attacked Big Show. Following this, Undertaker took another hiatus from the WWE.

The Undertaker, after defeating Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV

At No Way Out, the Undertaker defeated Batista, Finlay, The Great Khali, Montel Vontavious Porter, and Big Daddy V in an Elimination Chamber, to become the number one contender for Edge's World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXIV. He defeated Edge at WrestleMania with his Hell's Gate submission hold, to win his second World Heavyweight Championship in his 16th WrestleMania win.[89] In a WrestleMania rematch, the Undertaker defeated Edge once again at Backlash to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.[90] Vickie Guerrero announced that the Undertaker's Hell's Gate was an illegal hold and stripped him of the title. The Undertaker battled Edge for the vacant title at Judgment Day, which he won by countout. Vickie ordered that the title remain vacant, because titles cannot change hands in this way. Edge and the Undertaker faced each other again for the vacant championship at One Night Stand in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, which the Undertaker lost after interference from La Familia. As a result of the stipulation, Undertaker was forced to leave WWE.

, which Edge won. Armageddon, sending her to the hospital. Returning Assistant-General Manager Theodore Long declared a Triple Threat match for the title at SmackDown!, on the next Vickie Guerrero General Manager In response to this, the Undertaker delivered a Tombstone piledriver to [88] where Edge returned and interfered to help Batista retain the World Heavyweight Championship.Survivor Series They battled again inside a Hell in a Cell at [87] Stone Cold Steve Austin, but Batista retained the world title.special guest referee with the fans choosing the Cyber Sunday Batista and the Undertaker reignited their feud at [86] During Calaway's

The Undertaker, after defeating Edge at WrestleMania XXIV

The Undertaker won his first Royal Rumble match in 2007,[84] in doing so becoming the first man to enter the Rumble at number 30 and win the match.[85] He then began a storyline with Batista, whom he defeated at WrestleMania 23 to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. At Backlash in a Last Man Standing match, they had a rematch that ended in a draw when neither man was able to answer the ten-count, resulting in the Undertaker retaining the Championship. On the May 11 episode of SmackDown!, the Undertaker and Batista fought in a steel cage match that ended in a draw when both men's feet touched the floor at the same time. After the match, Mark Henry made his return and assaulted an already exhausted Undertaker, after which Edge ran to the ring and cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, forcing Undertaker into a second title defense. Although he kicked out of two quick pin attempts, Undertaker was pinned by Edge after a spear and lost the title.

World Heavyweight Champion (2007–2010)

The Undertaker's next match was with WWE United States Champion Mr. Kennedy at No Mercy but was disqualified in the match after he hit Kennedy with the championship belt.[81] On the November 3 episode of SmackDown!, the Undertaker reunited with Kane to form the Brothers of Destruction for the first time in five years, defeating the reluctant opposition team of Mr. Kennedy and MVP, with whom Kane was feuding with at the time.[82] As part of the storyline, Kennedy defeated the Undertaker in a First Blood match at Survivor Series after interference from MVP,[81] but finally defeated Kennedy in a Last Ride match at Armageddon.[81] The two continued to feud into 2007 as Kennedy cost the Undertaker two World Heavyweight Championship opportunities for a championship match at the Royal Rumble.[83][84]

The Undertaker was not heard from until the May 5 episode of SmackDown!, as Theodore Long delivered a challenge from the Undertaker to Khali for a match at Judgment Day.[75] The Undertaker lost to Khali,[76][77] and he did not appear again until the July 4 episode of SmackDown!, when he accepted Khali's challenge to a Punjabi Prison match at The Great American Bash.[78] Khali, however, was removed from the match and was not medically fit and was replaced by ECW Champion The Big Show, over whom the Undertaker gained the victory. In the storyline, Teddy Long replaced Khali with Big Show as punishment for an attack on the Undertaker shortly before the match.[76] Khali was then challenged to a Last Man Standing match at SummerSlam after interfering in the Undertaker's match with World Heavyweight Champion King Booker.[79] Khali refused the challenge for SummerSlam, though Long made the match official for the August 18 episode of SmackDown! instead. The Undertaker won the match by striking Khali with the steel stairs, delivering several chair shots, and finishing him with a chokeslam.[80]

In January 2006 at the Royal Rumble, the Undertaker returned during Kurt Angle's celebration of his World Title defense against Mark Henry on a horse-drawn cart, signaling for a title shot. As part of their storyline feud, the Undertaker lost his match with Angle at No Way Out after a thirty-minute bout. Undertaker cornered Angle after the match and told him he was not finished with him; however during a rematch on SmackDown! Henry attacked the Undertaker from behind, costing him the title. This led to the Undertaker challenging Henry to a Casket match at WrestleMania 22, and Henry – like Orton a year before – vowed to end Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak. The Undertaker defeated Henry to become 14–0 at WrestleMania. During a rematch on the next episode of SmackDown!, The Great Khali made his debut and assaulted the Undertaker to transition into a new storyline.

The Undertaker retaining his undefeated streak at WrestleMania 22

Soon after, Randy Orton challenged the Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania 21, and claimed that he would end his WrestleMania winning streak.[69] Even with help from his father "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Randy lost and the Undertaker improved his WrestleMania record to 13–0.[68] After a two-month hiatus, Undertaker returned at the June 16 episode of SmackDown! but lost to JBL, thanks to interference from Randy Orton.[70] At The Great American Bash, the Undertaker became the number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, a position that JBL felt he should have. As part of the feud, on the following SmackDown!, the Undertaker lost the number-one contender-ship to JBL, once again due to interference from Orton.[71] With this, the Undertaker resumed his feud with Orton. At SummerSlam, Orton defeated the Undertaker in a WrestleMania rematch.[72] The storyline intensified as the two taunted each other with caskets, leading to a handicap-casket match at No Mercy, in which the Undertaker lost to Randy and his father "Cowboy" Bob Orton.[72] After the match, the Ortons poured gasoline on the casket and set it on fire. When the charred casket was opened, however, the Undertaker had once again vanished. He returned at the Survivor Series, emerging from a burning casket.[73] The Undertaker returned to SmackDown! in early December to haunt Orton and set up a Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon.[74] After winning the match,[73] Calaway took a brief hiatus from wrestling.

The Undertaker began a feud with WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL) by challenging to a title match at SummerSlam, which the Undertaker lost by disqualification.[65] At No Mercy, the Undertaker and JBL competed in the first ever Last Ride match, although the Undertaker lost after Heidenreich interfered.[65] After defeating Heidenreich in a match at Survivor Series,[68] The Undertaker turned his focus to the WWE Championship once again. Along with Eddie Guerrero and Booker T, he challenged JBL to a championship rematch at Armageddon in a Fatal Four-Way match, in which the Undertaker was unsuccessful, again due to Heidenreich's interference.[68] The feud culminated in a Casket match between the Undertaker and Heidenreich at the Royal Rumble, where the Undertaker sealed Heidenreich in a casket for the victory.[68]

In the storyline leading up to WrestleMania XX, Kane was haunted by vignettes proclaiming the Undertaker's return. The first was during the Royal Rumble when the Undertaker's bells tolled, distracting Kane and allowing Booker T to eliminate him.[63] Accompanied by Paul Bearer, the Undertaker returned as a hybrid version of The Deadman at WrestleMania XX and defeated Kane.[65] At Judgment Day, the Undertaker defeated Booker T. Three months later, The Dudley Boyz kidnapped Bearer on Paul Heyman's orders.[66] Thus, Heyman "took control" of Undertaker.[67] On SmackDown, Undertaker attacked Rob Van Dam and John Cena. The next week, Cena confronted Undertaker and was booked by then-General Manager Kurt Angle to wrestle the Undertaker. Undertaker won after hitting Cena with his chain and delivering a Tombstone Piledriver. At The Great American Bash, Undertaker fought a handicap match against the Dudley Boyz, with the stipulation that if he did not lay down and purposely lose, Heyman would bury Paul Bearer in cement. The Undertaker won and stopped Heyman from burying Bearer, but, after claiming Bearer was merely a liability he had no use for, buried him himself.[65]

The Undertaker, awakening the arena lights as he enters the ring

Return of the Deadman (2004–2007)

Over the remainder of the year, the Undertaker entered a brief feud with John Cena and was booked to have two WWE Championship opportunities. The first, on the September 4 SmackDown!, against Kurt Angle, ended in a no contest, due to interference from Brock Lesnar.[62] The second, at No Mercy, was a Biker Chain match between the Undertaker and Lesnar, which Lesnar won with the help of Vince McMahon.[63] This match resulted in a feud with McMahon, culminating at Survivor Series where the Undertaker lost a Buried Alive match against McMahon when Kane interfered.[63] The Undertaker disappeared for some time following the match, with Kane claiming that he was "dead and buried forever".[64]

The Undertaker took a leave from wrestling after the Big Show threw him off the stage, sparking a feud.[60] The Undertaker returned at the Royal Rumble in 2003.[61] He immediately continued his feud with Big Show and defeated him by submission at No Way Out with a triangle choke. A-Train entered the storyline by attempting to attack the Undertaker after the match, but Nathan Jones came to his aid.[61] The storyline resumed as the Undertaker began to train Jones to wrestle, and the two were scheduled to fight Big Show and A-Train in a tag team match at WrestleMania XIX.[23] Jones, however, was removed prior to the match, making it a handicap match, which the Undertaker won with the help of Jones.[61]

[59] in a Hell in a Cell match. The Undertaker performed in the match with a legitimate broken hand and eventually lost to the champion.No Mercy Their feud carried over to [59] After the storyline with Flair, the Undertaker defeated Steve Austin at

The Undertaker's next storyline began at the Royal Rumble in 2002 when Maven eliminated him by dropkicking him from behind. Subsequently, the Undertaker eliminated Maven in return and brutally assaulted him backstage.[54] On an episode of SmackDown!, The Rock mentioned the Undertaker's elimination at the Royal Rumble, angering the Undertaker. The Undertaker responded by costing The Rock the number one contendership for the Undisputed WWF Championship.[55] The storyline continued when The Rock cost the Undertaker his match with Maven for the Hardcore Championship.[56] The two faced off at No Way Out, where the Undertaker lost due to interference from Ric Flair.[54] This interference began a storyline with Flair, who declined a challenge to wrestle Undertaker at WrestleMania X8,[57] and, as a result, Undertaker assaulted his son David.[58] Flair eventually accepted the match after the Undertaker threatened to inflict the same punishment on Flair's daughter.[58] A no disqualification stipulation was added to the match, and the Undertaker defeated Flair.[23]

The Undertaker during his "Big Evil" persona

As part of "The Invasion" storyline, the Undertaker's next nemesis was Diamond Dallas Page, who was obsessively following the Undertaker's wife, Sara.[51] While they were presented as being married from the start of the storyline, in reality, Mark and Sara got married during the height of this feud.[52] At SummerSlam, WCW Tag Team Champions the Undertaker and Kane defeated Page and his partner Chris Kanyon in a steel cage match to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.[51] At Survivor Series, the Undertaker teamed with Kane, The Rock, Chris Jericho, and The Big Show to take on The Alliance's Steve Austin, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon, and Kurt Angle (this was the last time the Undertaker and Kane teamed until 2006). Angle pinned the Undertaker due to interference by Austin.[51] After the Alliance was defeated, the Undertaker became a villain once again by forcing commentator Jim Ross to kiss Vince McMahon's ass.[53] This was the beginning of a new persona for the Undertaker, as he cut his long hair short and called himself "Big Evil". At Vengeance, the Undertaker defeated Van Dam to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.[54]

In 2001, the Undertaker reunited with Kane as The Brothers of Destruction, challenging for the WWF Tag Team Championship once again. They received a shot at the title at No Way Out, facing Edge and Christian and then champions the Dudley Boyz in a tables match, but they weren't successful.[49] The Undertaker then went on to defeat Triple H at WrestleMania X-Seven.[23] He and Kane continued a storyline that focused on Triple H, who formed a "surprise alliance" with then WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Brothers of Destruction were granted an opportunity to face Triple H and Austin for their titles. After the Undertaker and Kane acquired the WWF Tag Team Championship from Edge and Christian,[50] Triple H pinned Kane after attacking him with a sledgehammer at Backlash, where the Brothers of Destruction dropped the title.[51] With Kane injured, the Undertaker feuded briefly with Steve Austin for his WWF Championship, but at Judgment Day, Austin retained his title.[51]

The Undertaker then challenged Kurt Angle for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series.[49] Angle, however, defeated the Undertaker after Kurt switched places with his real life brother, Eric Angle. The Undertaker demanded and was awarded a spot in the six-man Hell in a Cell match for the WWF Championship at Armageddon. The Undertaker promised to make someone "famous" and did so when he chokeslamed Rikishi off the roof of the cell.[49]

When Undertaker returned at Judgment Day, he took out all the members of the McMahon-Helmsley Faction, which caused him to once again be a fan favorite. He also targeted their leader, WWF Champion Triple H. At the King of the Ring pay-per-view, the Undertaker teamed with The Rock and Kane to defeat the team of Triple H, Shane McMahon, and Vince McMahon.[47] Afterward, he was booked to team with Kane to contend for the WWF Tag Team Championship. They defeated Edge and Christian, earning the right to face them the following week for the tag title, which Edge and Christian retained. Kane betrayed the Undertaker by chokeslamming him twice, with the second one putting the Undertaker through the ring, on the August 14 episode of Raw.[48] This incident led to another match between the two at SummerSlam, which ended in a no contest as Kane ran from the ring area after the Undertaker removed Kane's mask.[47]

By his return in May 2000, the Undertaker had taken on a drastically different identity from before. He abandoned the somber mortician-themed attires, his funeral dirge ring music, allusions to the supernatural, and the accompanying morbid theatrics. In place of this, he took on a biker identity, riding to the ring on a motorcycle, and wearing sunglasses and bandanas to the ring. His entrance music was replaced with popular rock songs of the time, like Limp Bizkit's "Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" and Kid Rock's "American Bad Ass" (from which the name of the Undertaker's new gimmick originated), though it was accompanied by the characteristic opening bell of the Undertaker's original theme.

Undertaker at WrestleMania XIX

American Bad Ass/Big Evil (2000–2003)

[46] During his injury, WCW offered him a contract, but Undertaker declined it.[45] In actuality, Undertaker went on a hiatus from the WWF in order to treat his groin injury. While recuperating, he tore a pectoral muscle, thus taking almost eight months off from wrestling.[44] The Undertaker then began a storyline where he teamed with

Thereafter, the Undertaker kidnapped Stephanie McMahon, forcing Vince McMahon to enter into a reluctant alliance with his longtime nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Undertaker attempted to marry Stephanie in an eldritch ceremony conducted by Paul Bearer, but Austin was able to rescue her.[40] At the Over the Edge pay-per-view, the Undertaker defeated Austin for his third WWF Championship with help from Shane McMahon, the special referee.[41] The Ministry eventually merged with Shane McMahon's Corporation alliance to form the Corporate Ministry. The Undertaker later revealed that Vince McMahon had been his "Higher Power" all along.[42] After the Undertaker dropped the WWF Championship back to Austin following King of the Ring,[42] and an additional loss to him in a First Blood match at Fully Loaded, his relationship with the McMahons dissolved and the Corporate Ministry disbanded.[43]

After building up to his second heel run in the latter part of 1998, the Undertaker introduced an updated version of his Deadman identity by January 1999—the dark priest who in the initial period of this persona reigned over a stable known as The Ministry of Darkness. In this form, he took on a wicked, demonic presence, much more so than ever before. He often claimed to be invoking and taking orders from a "Higher Power". Moreover, he often appeared in a hooded black robe and sat on a throne that was specially designed into his character symbol. With the help of his minions, he often performed sacrifices on select WWE superstars, using various incantations and magic words with intent to extract out the dark side of the superstars in question so as to recruit them into his Ministry. The completed Ministry of Darkness consisted of The Brood (Edge, Christian and Gangrel), The Acolytes (Bradshaw and Faarooq), Mideon, and Viscera. Calaway himself did not wrestle for a period having undergone a hip replacement. As part of the angle, Undertaker expressed a desire to take control of the World Wrestling Federation, displacing its owner, Vince McMahon. These ambitions culminated into a rivalry between The Ministry and The Corporation, ultimately resulting in a match between Undertaker and Corporation enforcer the Big Boss Man. The two faced off in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania XV, which Undertaker won.[38] At Backlash, Undertaker defeated Corporation member Ken Shamrock after interference from Ministry member Bradshaw.[39]

The Undertaker, wearing a variation of his Lord of Darkness attire, in late 2009

The Ministry of Darkness (1999)

After Survivor Series, the Undertaker returned his attention back to his previous feud with Austin for costing him the title at Judgment Day, hitting Austin in the head with a shovel during a title match with The Rock, returning the favor for what happened a month earlier. With this twist in the storyline, McMahon scheduled a Buried Alive match between the Undertaker and Austin at Rock Bottom: In Your House. In the weeks leading up to Rock Bottom, the Undertaker attempted to embalm Austin alive, tried to have Kane committed to a mental asylum, and had his druids chain Austin to his symbol, raising it high into the arena.[36] The Undertaker, however, lost the match after Kane interfered.[37]

At Fully Loaded, the Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Kane and Mankind to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.[35] The Undertaker and Austin's reign as tag champions lasted for only two months, as Kane and Mankind regained the titles on an episode of Raw is War.[36] The Undertaker then became the number one contender for the WWF Championship at SummerSlam, now held by Austin. Shortly before SummerSlam, however, the Undertaker revealed that he and Kane were working together as brothers. Despite this revelation, the Undertaker told Kane that he did not want him to interfere in the match with Austin, and even though the Undertaker lost the match, he handed Austin his belt back after the match in a show of respect.[35] In September, the storyline continued, and the Undertaker began to show some villainous characteristics when he and Kane revealed the fact that they were in cahoots to rid Austin of his title for Vince McMahon. At Breakdown: In Your House, the Undertaker and Kane were booked in a triple threat match with Austin for his WWF Championship; McMahon stated that the brothers were not allowed to pin each other. The Undertaker and Kane pinned Austin simultaneously after a double chokeslam,[35] so the title was vacated by McMahon. This event led to a match at Judgment Day: In Your House between the two brothers for the title, with Austin as the special guest referee. Near the end of the match, Paul Bearer seemed about to assist Kane by handing him a steel chair to hit the Undertaker with, but as Kane had his back turned, both Bearer and the Undertaker hit Kane with the chair. The Undertaker went for the pin, but Austin refused to count the fall, attacked the Undertaker, and counted out both brothers.[35] Finally, the Undertaker became a villain the next night on Raw is War for the first time in over six years, reconciling with Bearer and claiming that he and Bearer would unleash their "Ministry of Darkness" on the World Wrestling Federation. As part of this new storyline, he admitted that he had indeed set the fire that killed his parents, for which he had previously blamed Kane.[36]

The Undertaker's feud with Mankind was renewed afterward, and they faced each other in a Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring. During the match, the Undertaker threw Mankind off the roof of the 16 ft (4.9 m) cell onto the Spanish announce table below, in what was a preplanned move. He later chokeslammed Mankind through the roof of the cell into the ring which legitimately knocked Mankind unconscious. Mankind also used thumbtacks in the match and was backdropped and chokeslammed onto them before Undertaker won the match with his Tombstone Piledriver.[35]

[35]

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