Posted by James Tee
The Invasion marked the end of one of the most incredible periods of, not just professional wrestling, but popular culture towards the end of the twentieth century. The Monday Night War dominated television, and saw the birth of some of the biggest superstars in wrestling history; superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Goldberg were created, and others who were already stars, including The Undertaker thrived in the new competitive environment.
In March 2001, Vince McMahon bought WCW, and after Wrestlemania 17, the Invasion storyline was put into affect. However, a storyline was established where Shane McMahon had sneaked ahead of his father, and had in fact bought WCW, and soon after, Stephanie McMahon revealed she had bought ECW, and had joined forces with her brother, creating The Alliance.
It was during this that one of the creepiest story-lines in modern wrestling took place. As I mentioned in my last part, it was during this time that Mark Calaway married his second wife, Sara, and in turn gained one of his most famous tattoos across the front of his neck.
For weeks, videos of the Undertaker’s wife were shown, allegedly being stalked. After weeks of guessing, the assailant made himself known to the world.
Strangely though, a PPV Singles match between Taker and Diamond Dallas Page never took place. Instead, at the 2001 King of the Ring, The Undertaker and Sara tormented Page by following him with a camera throughout the night.
Everything culminated at the Invasion PPV the next month, the first time a PPV card contained matches that only pitted WWF superstars against WCW and ECW stars. The main event would be a 5 on 5 tag team match pitching the best of each company in the same ring for the first time.
Along with The Undertaker, Team WWF contained Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They were pitted against Booker T, DDP, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz.
As predicted, Taker and Page fought tooth and nail, eventually ending up fighting their way through the crowd. The match ended with Stone Cold Steve Austin turning his back on Team WWF and in turn, joined The Alliance.
Team WWF needed to gain momentum again in the battle against Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s Alliance. This saw Taker once again team with his brother, reforming The Brothers of Destruction. After defeating Sean O’ Haire and Chuck Palumbo on an episode of Smackdown for the WCW Tag Team Championship, Taker once again targeted DDP. This time, at Summerslam, DDP teamed up with Kanyon, eventually coming up short against the brothers inside of a Steel Cage, with the Taker gaining the WWF Tag Titles in the process.
After losing the belts in the September of 2001 to Booker T and Test, Taker and Kane parted ways once again, with Taker moving onto a feud with Booker T. At the time, Booker had been one of the few WCW stars to make a major impression on the WWF audience. After a major feud with Steve Austin, Booker had always been seen as one of the leaders of the Alliance.
Taker had cost Booker T and Test the tag team titles against the Hardy Boyz, and a match was set for No Mercy between the two. Taker defeated Booker T, but the feud was far from over. Heading towards Survivor Series, the need for a conclusion to the feud between WWF and the Alliance was great. It was decided that a classic Survivor Series style elimination tag team match would decide the fate of professional wrestling. If Team WWF won, then Vince would control all three companies. If the Alliance won, then Shane and Stephanie would have control.
By this point, Kurt Angle had turned heel, and on November 8th, 10 days before Survivor Series, The Undertaker defeated Angle and Austin in a handicap match.
The stage was set for the most important match in WWF history. The fate of the company lay in the hands of Kane, Chris Jericho, The Rock, The Big Show and Taker himself. In their way, the team of Booker T, Stone Cold, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and Shane McMahon himself.
Taker was eliminated fourth by Kurt Angle after a Stunner from Austin. This proved irrelevant though after The Rock pinned Austin to win the match and give overall control to Vince and the WWF.
The following month saw a lot of change in the WWF. Titles had been unified at Survivor Series, except for the Hardcore title and World titles. Vengeance 2001 in December is now famous for being the night Chris Jericho was crowned the first ever WWF Undisputed Champion, after defeating The Rock and Stone Cold in the same night.
For Taker, it was a time of huge change. He had made a surprise heel turn the week after Survivor Series, attacking Jim Ross and forcing him to kiss the ass of Vince McMahon. At Vengeance, Big Evil as he was now known, faced Rob Van Dam for the WWF Hardcore Title.
For the first time in his career, Calaway held the Hardcore Championship, and his new heel persona proved to be one of the most successful of his career. Taker held the belt for 58 days, a surprisingly long reign in the days of the 24/7 Hardcore title.
At the Royal Rumble of 2002, Taker was eliminated by Maven, the winner of Tough Enough who was competing in his first Royal Rumble match. In retaliation, Taker climbed back into the ring, eliminated the rookie and in turn, unleashed a vicious beating upon Maven.
On the following episode of Smackdown, The Rock mocked The Undertaker’s elimination, angering Big Evil. Taker in turn cost The People’s Champion the number one contendership for the Undisputed Title. In revenge for his defeat, the following week, The Rock cost Taker his Hardcore Title, giving Maven his first title in WWF.
The actions of both men set up a match at No Way Out between the two. The Undertaker was on his way to victory before Ric Flair interfered on behalf of The Rock, costing Taker the match.
With his new Big Evil persona, it was a given that he would seek revenge against the Nature Boy. After challenging Flair to a match, which Flair in turn declined, Taker took things to a personal level. Taker first attacked Arn Anderson, a former member of The Four Horsemen with Flair before attacking Flair’s own son. Flair finally accepted the challenge, deciding to meet Taker at Wrestlemania 18, only before Taker threatened to attack Flair’s daughter.
Before this feud, Flair had been revealed as the head of a consortium who bought Shane and Stephanie’s stake in WWF before the Invasion. Post Wrestlemania, it would be revealed that Flair would control Raw, and Vince would control Smackdown.
However, before that took place, The Undertaker defeated a bloodied Flair at Wrestlemania in a No-DQ match. This took Taker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania to 10 and 0.
After Wrestlemania, Taker was drafted to Raw, and soon found himself in the title picture once again. At Backlash 2002, The Undertaker defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin to become number one contender for the Undisputed Champion, with Ric Flair acting as Special Guest Referee.
At Wrestlemania, Triple H had defeated Chris Jericho to become Undisputed Champion, and in turn, at Backlash, lost the title to a rejuvenated Hulk Hogan, not before Taker cost The Game the title via interference.
Eleven years after Taker had defeated Hogan to win his first WWF title, Calaway won his first Undisputed Title, at the first PPV to carry the WWE name, only after interference from Vince McMahon, reinforcing Taker’s heel persona.
Over the next few weeks, Big Evil found himself up against some of the best young talent the WWE had to offer. On the May 30th edition of Smackdown, he defeated a future Wrestlemania victim in Randy Orton for the Undisputed Title. After the match, Triple H attacked the champion, claiming that if Taker defended his title against him, he wouldn’t retain it. Later that night, The Deadman cost The Game a match against Test, attacking him after the match with multiple chair shots.
After a Battle Royal and one on one match between Hogan and HHH, HHH was declared the number one contender to Taker’s title at King of the Ring.
Continuing his battles with younger superstars, Taker called out Jeff Hardy, but instead received a beat down from both Hardy brothers. The following week on the final Smackdown before KOTR, Kurt Angle defeated Taker with help from The Game.
This would have no effect on Big Evil though, and at King of the Ring, he defeated Triple H, becoming the first man to retain the Undisputed title since Y2J at No Way Out back in February.
The following night, The Undertaker continued his mini feud with Jeff Hardy by defeating the high flyer. However, after the match, Hardy challenged Taker to a Ladder match the following week on Raw for the Undisputed Championship, a match that Big Evil accepted.
It was that night that Taker returned to being a face after barely escaping with his Championship in one of the best television matches ever seen.
After the match, knowing that he had been in a hellacious battle, The Undertaker raised his opponents hand in a sign of respect. .
However, Big Evil would not keep his title for long, dropping the title to The Rock in a triple threat match also involving Kurt Angle, done to set up a match between The Rock and Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.
Next Time – The End of Big Evil, Return of the Deadman
Many Thanks for reading, and if I don’t write the next part before Monday, then may I wish you all a Happy New Year
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