Posted by James Tee
Welcome to Part Seven of The Undertaker biography. I hope everyone is enjoying it so far, and may I take time to wish you all a Happy New Year. This time, we will be looking at his transformation from Big Evil to The Deadman once again.
PART SEVEN – THE END OF BIG EVIL
After losing The Undisputed Championship to The Rock at Vengeance, he moved permanently to Smackdown, the brand that would be his official home until the present day. Moving towards Summerslam, with the world’s eyes on Brock vs Rock, The Undertaker moved into a feud with The Un-Americans, a classic anti-American faction containg Test, Christian, Lance Storm and William Regal. This culminated with a singles match against Test, defeating the Canadian in next to no time, with Taker celebrating with the American flag at the end of the match.
Brock Lesnar became the youngest WWE Champion of all time (Randy Orton is the youngest World Heavyweight Champion) at Summerslam, and immediately, The Undertaker challenged the rookie for his title.
The match ended in a double disqualification leading to a rematch inside Hell in a Cell at No Mercy in October 2002. Lesnar however successfully defended his title after hitting Big Evil with the F-5, with Taker wrestling that night with a legitimate broken hand.
The following week on Smackdown, Taker came out and showed his respect for Lesnar for his performance inside the cell.
However, The Big Show came out soon after and threw Taker off the stage, taking him off Television until the New Year, and setting up a feud for his return. His return at the 2003 Royal Rumble was the main shock of the event, entering the Rumble match as the thirtieth entrant. He eliminated a young John Cena, Jamal (who would later wrestle as Umaga), Maven and Kane as he made it to the final two. However, a first Rumble win would not fall the Undertaker’s way as he was eliminated by Brock Lesnar, not before an assist from Batista, who Taker also eliminated and avoided a steel chair shot from, before Lesnar took advantage of the situation.
Post Royal Rumble, Taker continued his feud with The Big Show which appeared to have culminated in a match at No Way Out, with Big Evil defeating the giant with a triangle choke hold. The feud would continue as A-Train (Tensai) attacked Taker after the match, before Nathan Jones made the save.
Taker would proceed to ‘train’ Jones, an Australian who had previously worked in movies and for the short lived World Wrestling All-Stars run by TNA’s Jeremy Borash. The two would team together at Wrestlemania 19 in Seattle against Big Show and A-Train. However, before the match even begun, Jones was attacked backstage, leaving Big Evil to take on the two behemoths in a handicap match. Towards the end of the match, where it appeared Taker’s undefeated streak would come to an end, Jones came down to the ring, taking out Show before Taker delivered a Tombstone to A-Train, taking him to eleven and zero at the showcase of the immortals.
The rest of 2003 was really much of a non-event for Calaway, although he did challenge for the WWE Championship on two occasions. The first time, on September the 4th on an edition of Smackdown, he challenged Kurt Angle, but the match ended as a no-contest after interference by Brock Lesnar. The second match, a Biker Chain match took place at No Mercy against Brock Lesnar, but again, Taker came up short, this time due to interference from Mr McMahon.
Due to the interference, a Buried Alive match was set for Survivor Series.
With Taker appearing to be close to burying the chairman, his brother Kane interfered, helping Vince bury his brother alive. Was The Undertaker gone from the WWE forever?
THE RETURN OF THE DEADMAN
It all started at the Royal Rumble, where Kane as he usually did, was dominating the Rumble match. Then, in the middle of the match, the old bells of The Deadman tolled, distracting Kane enough for Booker T to eliminate him. For weeks, Kane was tormented, including being soaked by rain on the stage, two burning crosses being lowered from the rafters and the ring rising whilst Kane was in it.
Finally, a match was set for Wrestlemania 20 at Madison Square Garden between the two brothers.
As the druids came out, followed by Paul Bearer, fans of the classic Undertaker Deadman gimmick were nothing but impressed to hear the gongs once again. And once Taker had taken his streak to twelve and zero after his second Wrestlemania victory against Kane, The Undertaker moved into a feud with Booker T which culminated in just one match at Judgment Day, which Taker won.
A few weeks later, The Undertaker’s controller, Paul Bearer, was kidnapped by The Dudley Boyz, who in turn were working for Paul Heyman, a constant thorn in Taker’s side since his days with Brock Lesnar. Heyman took control of the urn, and in turn, control of Taker. Firstly, he attacked both John Cena and Rob Van Dam, leading then Smackdown General Manager Kurt Angle to make a match between Cena and Taker, which Taker won after hitting Cena with his own chain before delivering a devastating Tombstone.
At The Great American Bash, a handicap match was set between The Undertaker and The Dudleys. If Taker didn’t lay down and lose to the Dudley’s, then Paul Bearer would be encased in a concrete coffin.
Taker won the match, and stopped Heyman from burying his mentor. However, the Deadman buried Bearer in concrete, claiming that he was a liability, and he no longer required his services.
The Phenom completed 2004 with an unsuccessful challenge for JBL’s WWE Championship, which led to an unsuccessful attempt to make Heidenreich a fully-fledged main eventer. At the Royal Rumble of 2005, Taker defeated Heidenreich in a Casket Match, with Heidenreich barely being seen as a serious character again.
Taker moved onto, in my opinion, his best ever Wrestlemania feud, and probably the only time in modern memory where people where genuinely not sure if Taker’s undefeated Wrestlemania streak would continue.
Randy Orton had made himself a main event star as The Legend Killer, a man who would defeat and disrespect legends, and in turn, had won the World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam 2004, defeating the late Chris Benoit. However, this led to his departure from Evolution and a short lived face turn before he teamed with his father.
For the first time, The Undertaker’s undefeated streak was used as a storyline, and I as a fourteen year old wrestling fan at the time believed that Orton may defeat Taker.
The match is an absolute classic, with amazing near falls and great storytelling. Even with the interference from Bob Orton, who attacked Taker with the cast on his arm, Taker got the victory with a devastating Tombstone. It really made people believe that Orton was a future main eventer, and that Taker was a legend in all of professional wrestling.
For the rest of 2005, Orton and Taker engaged in a classic feud, which appeared to have climaxed at Summerslam, when Orton gained revenge for his Wrestlemania defeat by gaining a victory over Taker. However, instead of cooling off, the feud intensified, with both Orton and The Deadman taunting each other with caskets. At No Mercy, Taker lost a casket match to Orton after help from Bob Orton, with the father and son setting fire to the casket. When the casket was opened, Taker had gone.
At Survivor Series, Taker returned, emerging from a burning coffin, before returning to Smackdown in December to continue his haunting of Orton. At Armageddon that year, the two concluded their feud inside Hell in A Cell.
Next Time – 2006 to 2009 – World Heavyweight Championship Reigns
Many Thanks for reading
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