Posted by James Tee
It goes without saying that the Attitude era is the most successful period of modern professional wrestling history. Not only did it come about due to the rise, and somewhat dominance of WCW. Mark Calaway was a huge part in the WWF overcoming the challenge posed by WCW, with feuds and matches still talked about and watched by fans all over the world today.
At Survivor Series in 1996, The Undertaker returned after being buried alive by Mankind at Summerslam, and in doing so, returned to face Mick Foley in a unique match. Paul Bearer, who had turned on Taker earlier in the year, was hung 20 feet above the ring in a mini steel cage. If Taker won, he would be allowed to get his hands on his one time manager, however, not all was as it seemed. After Taker won the match, once again The Executioner came out, and in turn, allowed Bearer and Mankind to escape.
The Executioner had become a thorn in his side, and at In Your House: It’s Time
Heading into the start of 1997, The Undertaker was starting to move into the main event scene once again, and after defeating The Executioner, he moved on to the Royal Rumble, and in particular, a match against Vader. Once again, Taker was cost the match by interference by Paul Bearer. The event was not over for both men though, as they clashed during the final moments of the Royal Rumble match before ultimately being eliminated by Steve Austin, who infamously won the match despite crawling back into the ring after being ‘eliminated’ by Bret Hart before going onto win the match. He would go on to face both Vader and Austin, as well as Bret Hart in a match for the vacant WWF Championship at In Your House 13: The Final Four, but ultimately came up short, with Bret Hart.
However, the end of his push was not over. The scene seemed to be made for the Deadman. It was Wrestlemania 13, unlucky for some, but for the deadman, it was the start of a real era of dominance.
Taker moved to 6 and 0, and not only that, he had captured the WWF championship on the highest platform in the WWF. Once again, he was placed into a program with Paul Bearer post-Wrestlemania, with Bearer attempting to join forces with the Deadman. Bearer claimed that he would reveal Taker’s biggest secret, and through the storyline, it was revealed that Taker was a ‘murderer’, It was claimed that as a child, Taker had set fire to the family funeral business, where Bearer had once worked, and in the process, killed his parents and his younger half-brother.
Taker claimed there was no way that Bearer could have that information, but Bearer had another shock. Bearer revealed that Taker’s younger brother was not in fact dead, but badly scarred, and in fact, Bearer had raised him on his own. Now he was ready for revenge.
This coincided with a feud between Shawn Michaels and Taker, which culminated with the first ever Hell in A Cell match at Badd Blood 1997. Michaels had cost Taker his title after hitting him with a steel chair whilst acting as Special Guest Referee at Summerslam, handing the title back to Bret Hart. After a double count out between the two at In Your House, Hell in A Cell was set.
There is very little I can put into words about this, as the video above tells the whole story so much better. It was the first time in WWF that The Deadman had a rival who had some physical similarities. It was also the first time that we saw any kind of humanity in the character of Taker. Kane, through the mouthpiece of Bearer, constantly challenged his brother, and time and time again, The Deadman refused. This continued towards the Royal Rumble.
However, the week before the PPV, it seemed Kane had sided with his brother against DX. This brotherly alliance didn’t last long. It was at the Royal Rumble that The Undertaker once again met HBK, this time in a Casket Match. It was towards the end of the match that Kane trapped his brother in the casket, costing him the match. However, it did not end there; Kane proceeded to padlock his brother inside the casket, and proceeded to set it on fire. However, when the casket was opened after the flames were extinguished, The Deadman was gone.
It was not until Wrestlemania 14 in Boston that Taker would return, in a match somewhat overshadowed by the participation of Mike Tyson in the main event, and also by the Tombstoning of Pete Rose by Kane.
The Undertaker would go to 7 and 0, but the feud would continue to Unforgiven: In Your House. Once again, Taker would participate in a first for the WWF; an Inferno Match. As many of you will know, the basics of the match are to set your opponent on fire to get the win. And that is what Taker would do, setting his brother’s right arm on fire.
It was after this that one of the most famous periods of WWF history took place. Calaway renewed his feud with Mick Foley, and it was at King of the Ring 1997 that arguably, the most famous match of the Attitude Era took place. The second ever Hell in a Cell match, but this was so much different to the first.
Stepping away from the biography briefly, in my opinion, this is the match that really started to turn the tide slowly in the Monday night war. Everything about it defined what the Attitude era is about, and if you get a chance, watch the interview above, just because it gives a proper insight to how The Undertaker felt during this match.
Once he was past Mankind, The Undertaker took an unexpected turn, when he teamed up with Stone Cold Steve Austin to challenge for the WWF Tag Team Titles. Once again however, he would face Kane and Mankind, and again, he was victorious. For the first time in WWF, The Undertaker was a Tag Team champion. Although the title reign only lasted two months, the road was not over for Austin and Taker. Stone Cold had since regained the WWF Championship, and The Undertaker was the number one contender heading into that years Summerslam. It was revealed though shortly before the PPV that Kane and Taker were now working together as brothers. However, Taker told Kane to not interfere in the title match, and despite coming up short against Austin, he handed 3:16 his title at the end. It was soon after though that The Deadman started to show more villainous traits, and it was soon revealed that both Kane and The Undertaker were working on behalf of Mr. McMahon to take the title off Austin.
At Breakdown: In Your House, a Triple Threat match was set with Taker going up against Kane and Austin, with the stipulation of Kane and Undertaker not being able to pin each other. However, as both Kane and Taker pinned Austin at the same time, McMahon decided to vacate the title. McMahon decided to put the two brothers together in a match at Judgment Day to decide a new WWF Champion, with Stone Cold as Special Guest Referee. During the match, it appeared as though Paul Bearer handed Kane a steel chair, but as The Big Red Machine turned his back, Taker and Bearer hit him with a chair. Austin refused to count though, and declared a double count-out.
Finally the next night on Raw, The Undertaker turned heel officially for the first time in six years. He promised, alongside Paul Bearer, that they would unleash A Ministry of Darkness on the WWF.
Next Time – Part 5 – The Ministry of Darkness to American Badass
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