In this piece we take a look at a man who is synonymous with the world of professional wrestling. Some of us at Nerd Lowdown are big fans, so every so often we will take a look at characters, matches and story lines, as a break. This piece we look at the career of Mark Calaway, or as he is better known, The Undertaker, the man from the dark side.
Making his debut at Survivor Series way back in 1990, a good quarter of a century ago. He was brought in by The Million Dollar Man Ted Debiase, and was first managed by Brother Love, but he was later paired with Paul Bearer. His character was so unique at the time, he portrayed an Undertaker, a super natural being who can’t be killed. He would make his entrance to the funeral march, and walk with a slow pace, striking fear into his opponents. From Survivor Series, he went on to conquer the WWF (as it was called at the time) winning the WWF title from Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991. In 1991 he also began his legendary undefeated streak at Wrestlemania beating Super Fly Jimmy Snuka.
Thought out 1991-1996 Undertaker feuded with various mid card talents, but it wasn’t until the debut of Mankind that he truly has a great feud. Himself and Mankind has plenty of battles throughout 1996-1998 including a Boiler Room Brawl, a Buried Alive Match, and the infamous Hell in a Cell in 1998.
1997 changed a lot of things for The Undertaker, in 1997 at Bad Blood, his brother Kane, long thought to be dead (through a fire at their parents funeral home) debuted, and cost the Undertaker his match against Shawn Michaels. His feud with Kane went on and off between 1997 to 2010, with The Undertaker getting the best of his brother on most the occasions.
Undertaker also turned heel in 1998 (played the bad guy for those unfamiliar with wrestling) and formed the Ministry of Darkness, which later merged with the Corporation to form the Corporated Ministry, a heel super group that ran the WWF as they seen fit. This faction disbanded in early 1999, and Undertaker spent the majority of the year feuded with various stars before taking time off to heal up some injuries.
He returned in 2000 with a new image, he got rid of the funeral march and slow ring entrance, instead he came to the ring on a motorcycle, and dressed like a biker, calling himself the American badass. From 2000-2003, Undertaker feuded with the likes of Stone Cold, Triple H, WCW/ECW (as part of the invasion storyline). He turned heel in 2002 wining the WWE Undisputed title from Hulk Hogan. He turned face again in the same year, feuding with WWE champ Brock Lesnar, and put him over in a violent Hell in a Cell match. In late 2003 he began a feud with the chairman of the WWE Vince McMahon, with was to be decided in a buried alive match at Survivor Series, thanks to interference from Kane, Undertaker was buried alive and disappeared from the WWE until March of 2004.
He returned at Wrestlemania 20 to defeat his brother Kane, this brought his undefeated streak which began in 1991 up 13-0. 2004 to 2010 saw the Undertaker engaged in a wide variety of feuds with all kinds of superstars, he even won the World Heavyweight Title on several occasions. In 2007 he also became the first man to win a Royal Rumble by entering for the number 30 spot. In 2009 the interest in his streak really increases, at Wrestlemania 25, he and Shawn Michaels put on a 40 minute classic, which has been voted the greatest match in Wrestlemania history. Following this, the Undertaker only really competed once a year which was at Wrestlmania, his body not being able for the wear and tear of regular in ring action. 2010 saw him again square of with Shawn Michaels, this time saw him end Shawn Michaels’ career. 2011 and 2012 saw him battle Triple H at Wrestlemania, and 2013 saw him battle CM Punk all of which he defeated. In 2014 at Wrestlemania 30 Undertaker was 21-0, and looked set to increase his streak. That unfortunately did not happen, the following happened…
Brock Lesnar broke the streak. To say fans were devastated would be an understatement. You could here a pin drop the crowd were that silent. Childhoods were destroyed in 3 seconds. I myself was gutted, still to this day can’t believe it happened. The streak is over. While it may be over, 21-1 is still impressive, it will never be equalled. Looking at the Undertaker character, what makes so unique is not his early entrance with the fog the lights and the music, it’s his presence as a character and his ability to adapt to the times. Every year would see a twist on how the character looked, on the move set he used, he kept himself relevant.
Mark Calaway the man behind the character is also what makes the Undertaker so unique. Mark done anything that was asked of him for the business. He put over younger superstars, he rode the wave of poor storylines, he even stayed away from the mega bucks WCW were offering in 1996. He is a true company man, and does anything to help new talent, and give back to the business. When he does retire if he decides to help out in the developmental show NXT the talent there would benefit from having someone with such experience and knowledge there. He would be a huge help. He is a sure-fire WWE Hall of Fame candidate and arguably the greatest character to come out of the WWE.
He is the Phenom, he is the Deadman, he is the American Badass, but most importantly, he is The Undertaker.