Posted by James Tee
Welcome to the penultimate part of my look at the life and career of The Undertaker. So far, we have looked at his early days starting out in Texas before he started out in WCW. We then looked at the whole of his WWF/E career before stopping at the conclusion of his feud with Randy Orton in 2005. We are now heading towards the end of The Undertaker’s full time WWE career.
PART 8 – 2006 to 2009 – THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP REIGNS
The Undertaker returned to the WWE after Kurt Angle had retained the World Heavyweight Championship against Mark Henry at the 2006 Royal Rumble. Four bolts of lightning hit the ring, causing it to collapse with Angle inside.
Two weeks after, Taker faced Henry on an episode of Smackdown, and appeared to be heading for defeat after MNM intefered on behalf of Henry, before Kurt Angle made the save. At No Way Out, The Deadman was unsuccessful in his challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship, however he would get another opportunity. Two weeks later on Smackdown, he challenged Angle again for the title, and won….
Mark Henry interfered, delivering a huge splash driving The Undertaker through a table. Unsurprisingly, Taker challenged Henry to a match at Wrestlemania 22, with the match being set as a Casket match.
At Saturday Night’s Main Event two weeks before Wrestlemania, The Deadman and Henry were involved in a major brawl, which culminated in Taker Tombstoning Daivari, Henry’s manager on top of a casket.
The match at Wrestlemania was not as memorable as some of the others involving Taker in recent years, but once again, Taker extended his undefeated streak.
A rematch took place on the Smackdown immediately after Wrestlemania, but the match ended as a No Contest when the Great Khali made his debut, assaulting the Deadman.
The Undertaker returned at Judgment Day after Theodore Long delivered a challenge on behalf of The Deadman to Khali. Khali was victorious, and Taker was not seen again until July 4th, when he accepted the Great Khali’s challenge to a Punjabi Prison Match at The Great American Bash.
By the time The Bash came around, The Great Khali had not been cleared medically to complete, and was replaced by The Big Show. To cover this, it was claimed that Khali was being punished for an attack on Taker before the match.
Taker gained the victory in a match that has only been seen once since. The feud between Taker and Khali continued until August 18th, when the pair went head to head in a Last Man Standing match on Smackdown. Taker had already delivered numerous chair shots and a shot with the steel steps before finishing the Indian Giant with a devastating Chokeslam.
After an unsuccessful challenge against King Booker for the World Heavyweight Championship, he entered a feud against the then United States Champion Mr. Kennedy. At the time, Kennedy was seen as one of the future stars of the WWE, confirmed at the following year’s Wrestlemania when he won the Money in the Bank ladder match.
Kennedy had stated that if John Cena came to Smackdown in a proposed trade, then he would like to go to Raw as he had defeated all challengers on the Blue Brand. Theodore Long in turn booked him against a man he had never faced; The Undertaker.
Two weeks before No Mercy, Kennedy tried his best to get out of the match by showing a video montage of The Undertaker’s career. However, Taker stated that he would show Kennedy no mercy, and that he would Rest in Peace. At that moment, the Loudmouth Superstar attempted to strike The Deadman with his microphone, but before he could, the microphone exploded in his hand.
At No Mercy, Kennedy was victorious, however only after Taker had hit Kennedy with the United States Title belt causing him to lose via disqualification. Taker proceeded to Tombstone both Kennedy and referee Charles Robinson.
The feud would continue through November and December. The feud also saw the reunion of the Brothers of Destruction in a Tag match against Kennedy and Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP). At Survivor Series, Taker and Kennedy faced off once again, this time in a first blood match. Kennedy once again emerged victorious after interference from MVP.
A number of Tag matches ended in No-Contests between the four men after Survivor Series, and eventually, the feud between Kennedy and Taker had to end. Whilst Kennedy was in the ring on the December 8th edition of Smackdown, a hearse backed down to the ring, before Taker got out of it, freaking Kennedy out.
At Armageddon 2006, Taker finally defeated Kennedy at a PPV dominated by one of the best ladder matches in WWE history.
Heading into 2007, there was one question that WWE fans were asking…
Could The Undertaker finally win the Royal Rumble?
Taker entered at number thirty, and previously, nobody had entered at number thirty and had gone on to win the Rumble match itself.
Spending just over thirteen minutes in the ring, Taker eliminated old foe The Great Khali and MVP before being down to the final four alongside Edge, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels. Michaels, who at one time had been out of the ring but not eliminated, re-entered the ring and eliminated both Orton and Edge.
The two men exchanged attacks before Taker gained the upper hand with a Chokeslam. However, Michaels came back with a Sweet Chin Music. After both men had gotten back up, Michaels attempted the kick one more time, but missed, allowing Taker to eliminate the HBK and win his first Royal Rumble match.
At the time, there were three World Champions in WWE; Bobby Lashley from ECW, Batista from Smackdown and John Cena from Smackdown.
He chose Batista.
Heading into Wrestlemania, there was doubt that Taker would extend his undefeated streak to 15 and 0. Batista was seen as one of the biggest stars in the WWE, and if he defeated Taker at Wrestlemania, it could have been seen as a passing of the torch in some ways between generations.
With Shawn Michaels taking on John Cena at Wrestlemania, the main event at No Way Out was set between the Raw and Smackdown Main Events. Cena and Michaels emerged victorious after Batista delivered a Spinebuster on Taker, allowing Michaels to hit Sweet Chin Music and Cena to hit an F-U, with Cena pinning Taker.
On the Raw immediately before Wrestlemania, a No Way Out rematch took place, but this time, The Undertaker walked out on Batista. However, after Shawn Michaels hit Cena with SCM, Batista was able to get the pin.
The time for talking was now over, and at Wrestlemania in Detroit, The Undertaker took on Batista with the Streak and World Heavyweight Championship on the line.
For the first time, The Undertaker was World Heavyweight Champion, although his personal life did not match his professional life. It was in 2007 that Calaway divorced his second wife Sara after seven years of marriage which produced two children, Chasey and Gracie. Almost immediately, Calaway was linked to WWE Diva Michelle McCool.
Back on the professional track, and Batista immediately demanded a rematch, which would take place at Backlash. In attempt to end the feud once and for all, the match was made a Last Man Standing match. However, the match ended as a draw after both men couldn’t make the count of ten.
On the May 11th edition of Smackdown, a Steel Cage match was set, once again aiming to settle the feud between Taker and Batista once and for all. After a hellacious match, both men attempted to escape the cage over the top. However, both men hit the floor at the same time, resulting in another draw.
After the match was over, a returning Mark Henry made his way down to the ring and physically destroyed an already exhausted Deadman. Henry walked away from an unconscious Taker, leaving him prone to an attack from Edge, who had recently defeated Mr Kennedy for his Money in the Bank briefcase. The Ultimate Oppourtunist cashed in, and became the World Heavyweight Champion.
After the show had ended, The Undertaker’s druids carried his unconscious body out of the ring and into the back, leading to a four month hiatus away from the ring.
Towards the end of his hiatus, Mark Henry started defeating jobbers, often bragging about his assault on Taker after his matches. Vignettes were soon shown promoting The Undertaker’s return. At Unforgiven, Henry and Taker would face each other one on one for the first time since just after their match at Wrestlemania 22.
The Undertaker won after delivering an amazing Last Ride to Henry. They fought two weeks later on Smackdown with Taker once again winning. The feud was over as quickly as it had began, and Taker moved back into a feud with Batista, who by the time Cyber Sunday came around was World Heavyweight Champion once again.
With Cyber Sunday being the WWE’s only interactive PPV, there had to be an option that could be added to the match. In this case, there would be a special guest referee. The WWE had to choose from JBL, Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unsurprisingly, Austin won with a mammoth 79% of the vote. After Wrestling for over twenty minutes, involving many near falls, Batista got the victory after a second Batista Bomb.
The two battled again at Survivor Series, this time however, inside Hell in A Cell. As The Undertaker attempted to pin Batista, the referee was pulled out of the ring by a cameraman. The cameraman went on to hit Taker with his camera before placing Taker’s head on the steel steps before hitting the back of his head with a steel chair. After that solo con-chair-to, there was only one man who could have been behind the disguise; Edge.
Whilst the referee was going back into the ring, Edge dragged Batista on top of The Deadman. Batista got the pin, and retained his World Title. Due to Edge’s interference, a Triple Threat match was set up for Armageddon between the three men.
The match saw the introduction of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder as Edge’s Edgeheads. The Undertaker had hit Batista with a Tombstone, not before the Edgeheads had appeared, creating confusion at ringside. As Taker was preparing for the pin, Edge struck The Deadman with a chair shot across the spine, following it up with a shot across the skull. Edge quickly pinned Batista and won the World Heavyweight Championship.
At The Royal Rumble of 2008, Taker went from one extreme to another. After winning from number 30 the year before, The Deadman entered at number one at Madison Square Garden. He started the match off with Shawn Michaels in a mini rematch of the final two from 2007. Taker eliminated Santino Marella, The Great Khali and Snitsky before being eliminated after over half an hour by Michaels, who in turn was eliminated by Mr Kennedy six seconds later.
At No Way Out, Taker was part of a number one contenders Elimination Chamber match involving Batista, MVP, Finlay, Big Daddy V and The Great Khali. At the end, there were two men left; Batista and The Undertaker. As Batista attempted to throw Taker head first into the cage, The Undertaker managed to reverse the attempt into a Tombstone.
Taker was number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship and would go on to Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando to take on Edge. In the run up to Wrestlemania, Taker was involved in matches against Edge and ‘La Familia’, a stable consisting of Edge, Ryder and Hawkins, Chavo Guerrero and Vickie Guerrero.
When it came to Wrestlemania, the match followed the classic between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, which saw the end of Flair’s WWE in-ring career. For just shy of twenty five minutes, Edge and Taker had one of the best matches seen in a Wrestlemania main event. One of the most iconic Wrestlemania moments took place at the end of the match. As Edge tapped out to the Hell’s Gate Submission move, the camera showed Edge tapping as the giant Titantron showed 16-0.
Taker was still undefeated.
The feud continued however, and after winning at Backlash once again with the Hell’s Gate, Vickie Guerrero stripped Taker of the World Heavyweight Championship, deeming the submission move to be an illegal hold. With the title vacant, the two faced off again at Judgment Day, with Taker this time victorious due to countout. As the title cannot change hands this way, a winner takes all TLC match was set up for the vacant title at One Night Stand.
If The Undertaker lost at One Night Stand, he would be banished from the WWE. In what can only be described as a battle, both men put themselves through hell in one of the best one on one TLC matches to date. With The Deadman reaching for the title belt, he fell from the top of the ladder through four tables to the floor below. Edge claimed the title and The Undertaker was apparently gone from the WWE for good.
Soon after the TLC match, on June 30th, CM Punk cashed in his MITB contract, defeating Edge and taking away his World Heavyweight Championship.
After Edge had been revealed to be having an affair with Alicia Fox before his ‘wedding’ to Vickie Guerrero, Guerrero revealed that she in turn, whilst angry, rehired The Undertaker and had made a Hell in A Cell match between the two at Summerslam.
The match was another classic, and Taker gained his revenge for his defeat at One Night Stand by Tombstoning Edge and gaining the pinfall. As he walked away from the Cell at the end of the match, he saw The Rated-R Superstar move, and decided that he hadn’t inflicted enough punishment. As a final punishment, Taker chokeslammed Edge off of a ladder through the ring. As Taker looked down into the hole he helped create, flames rose from below the ring, with J.R’s famous line, ‘Edge has gone straight to hell!’
After Summerslam, The Undertaker finished the year with a feud against his one time tag-team partner The Big Show. After attempting to take Vickie Guerrero’s ‘soul’ at Unforgiven, Show appeared, with it at first appearing that Show was helping Taker. However, he betrayed The Deadman leading to a match at No Mercy which was ended after a Knockout Punch from Show to the back of Taker’s head.
In a rematch from No Mercy, the two met again at Cyber Sunday in a Last Man Standing match with Taker this time emerging victorious after using the Hell’s Gate. A third and final match was set for Survivor Series; a Casket match to settle the feud, which Taker again won.
Heading into 2009, Taker once again entered the Royal Rumble with the hope of going on to a third Wrestlemania World Championship match in a row. He once again lasted over half an hour after entering at number 16. He eliminated JTG, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Jericho before being eliminated by The Big Show.
Going into the Road to Wrestlemania, the WWE Universe were none the wiser to who Taker would be facing at the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania. At No Way Out, The Deadman was involved in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, and despite getting to the final, a Pedigree from Triple H meant that Taker would not be champion going into Wrestlemania.
Soon, the challenge to end the streak began between JBL, Vladimir Kozlov and Shawn Michaels. After Michaels defeated JBL, Kozlov defeated Taker, leading to a winner takes all match between Kozlov and Michaels. HBK was victorious, and the match was set; Michaels vs Taker at Wrestlemania 25.
Michaels tried his best to get into the head of The Deadman, reminding Taker that he had never gotten the better of HBK in a singles match.
On April 5th, 2009, The Undertaker took on HBK in The Undertaker’s hometown of Houston, Texas at Wrestlemania 25.
NEXT TIME – THE HBK AND HHH CHRONICLES
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