Welcome to our Legacy of the Undertaker series, where we look back at the stunning career of one of the greatest Superstars to ever walk the earth. In part one, we focused on where Mark Calaway started, and how he ended up coming to WWE. In part two, we reminisce about his huge impact in WWE following on from his debut, where he faced the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Kamala, Giant Gonzalez, and Hulk Hogan.
After making a huge impact on his debut in WWE, he would lose Brother Love as a manager and be reunited with Percy Pringle III, now known as Paul Bearer. Bearer would be the Undertaker’s mouthpiece allowing Undertaker to just be quiet, cold, and menacing during promos. To say the pairing was a seamless match would be an understatement. Bearer’s high-pitched ghoulish voice combined with his Gomez Adams-like face complimented the menacing, stoic Undertaker to perfection. Under the guidance of Paul Bearer, the Dead Man would make his WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania VII defeating wrestling legend, Jimmy Snuka.
Sometime after defeating Snuka, Undertaker would form an alliance with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. It began with Jake appearing on Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlor talk show where Jake threatened to teach the secrets of the darkness with the Ultimate Warrior. After a series of vignettes that saw Jake have Warrior lie in a grave (which Warrior had dug himself), Jake brought Warrior down to a snake pit. As he locked Warrior in the room full of various snakes, he encouraged Warrior by telling him the key to defeating the Undertaker was in the box in the centre of the room. After making his way through the squirming reptiles, Warrior opened the box only to find it was a cobra; the cobra bit Warrior in the face sending the muscle-bound behemoth to floor and crawling to the door where Roberts stood. Warrior finally collapsed the door down but when he fell, he fell at the feet of the Undertaker. With a sinister smile, Jake told Undertaker that the Ultimate Warrior was all his. Warrior and Undertaker would have a series of matches at house shows including a body bag match and a casket match.
Soon after his feud with Warrior, Undertaker found himself in the main event of the 1991 Survivor Series in the first ever singles match main event of the PPV. His opposition? The World Wrestling Federation Champion, Hulk Hogan. As the Undertaker made his way to the ring, there was an obvious split in the crowd, it was a rare time someone had divided a crowd against Hogan who had been a perennial fan favourite since 1984. After delivering a Tombstone Piledriver to Hogan onto a steel chair that was being held by Ric Flair, Undertaker was able to capture his first heavyweight championship. While he would lose the belt just two weeks later back to Hogan, getting a win over the seemingly unbeatable Hulkster was a huge feather in the cap of the Dead Man.
With the undeniable fan reactions for Undertaker only growing, the company decided to run with it and have him turn on friend Jake Roberts, who was among the most hated men in the promotion at the time. On an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event as Jake waited behind the curtain for Randy Savage and Elizabeth to come back through – proclaiming he was going to hit whoever he saw first with the chair – Undertaker stopped the evil Roberts from hitting Miss Elizabeth with the chair. A short time later, Jake would confront the Undertaker on the Funeral Parlor and ask whose side he was on? In his gravelly voice, Undertaker said, “not yours.” Jake then slammed his hand in the nearby casket then locked the door before hitting ‘Taker in the back with the chair. Undertaker dropped to a knee, but soon slowly rose back to his feet. Roberts hit him again, but Undertaker got up once again. As Roberts began to draw Undertaker away from the Parlor, Undertaker would drag the massive metal casket with him in a truly awe-inspiring sight.
This confrontation led to a match between the two former friends at WrestleMania VIII. After a short match, Undertaker polished off Roberts with a Tombstone, giving him his second win on the big stage. Over the next few months Undertaker would feud with Kamala. The two would meet for the first time at SummerSlam 1992. Undertaker would make a spectacular entrance, riding down on the back of a Hearse before entering the ring to face the Ugandan Giant. The match ended in a disqualification after Kim Chee, Kamala’s “handler,” struck the Undertaker in the stomach with his hard hat, causing a disqualification. After this indecisive finish, the first ever televised casket match in WWF history would take place at Survivor Series. This led to some unique character-building promos by Undertaker and Paul Bearer as they would be shown multiple times in an old, dingey work shop where as Bearer gave a chilling warning to Kamala, Undertaker would be in the background making a casket for Kamala.
Undertaker would defeat the Ugandan Giant, placing him into the coffin then nailing the lid shut. With Kamala out of the way, Undertaker set his sights on winning the Royal Rumble. After he had cleared the ring, the massive 8-foot tall Giant Gonzales walked to the ring and attacked The Undertaker. Gonzales was brought in by Harvey Whippleman to get revenge for what happened to Kamala at Survivor Series. Undertaker and Gonzales would clash at WrestleMania IX and the Dead Man would enter the outdoor arena on a funeral chariot with a giant vulture at his side. Undertaker got the win via disqualification after Gonzalez smothered him with a towel drenched in “chloroform.” After being carried out on a stretcher as the crowd (for some odd reason) chanted for Hogan, the familiar gong hit and the Undertaker staggered back down to the ring and knocked Gonzalez off his feet after three consecutive clotheslines.
Undertaker would meet Gonzalez one more time at SummerSlam in the first and only, Rest in Peace match ( a no disqualification match). Undertaker would beat Gonzales and leave a black wreath at the giant’s side. Undertaker’s next rivalry was with the mammoth Yokozuna. They would battle in a casket match at the 1994 Royal Rumble, after almost every bad guy on the roster came out, Yokozuna was able to stuff the Taker in the casket and get the win. As the bad guys rolled the casket back up the aisle, a greenish grey smoke began to come out of it. The gong hit and the image of an unconscious Undertaker appeared on the video wall from inside the casket. After another gong, he snapped his head straight forward and opened his eyes, looking right at all those who had locked him inside the coffin. He vowed that he would not rest in peace and after some cheesy special effects his image exploded from inside the coffin. As his music played, the “Undertaker” was elevated from behind the video wall, but it was actually Marty Jannetty in Undertaker attire being risen.
All images and video courtesy of WWE