Lord of Darkness: The Undertaker saga
23 years ago, there was darkness cast over the WWF and the professional wrestling world. On November 22nd 1990 during Survivor Series, an intimidating figure made his debut. Over the next 2 decades, this character dominated the WWF/E and professional wrestling world, and became the biggest name in professional wrestling. The fans witnessed in awe this mammoth figure, who terrified the fans and the performers alike. It is famously said that when he makes his way to the ring, there is almost a chill that runs up your spine. Whether it is because you’re left in awe at the presence of this man, or because you’re captivated by him, this individual has garnered respect and fame all over the world. There was a point in the wrestling industry, where his name was synonymous with wrestling. Every young fan knew him, even though he/she didn’t know about the professional wrestling industry. This legend is none other than the ‘Lord of Darkness’, The Undertaker.
When I was a youngster, about 6-years-old, I heard stories and tales about this individual who couldn’t be killed, who rose from death to come back and haunt his opponents. That was how I got into wrestling, and I often credited the Undertaker to be the reason. After all, who wouldn’t want to see supernatural phenomenon happening? And for the next decade and a half, I became the biggest Undertaker fan. Whether it was his presence, his supernatural perception, or just the legend of the man himself, I adulated the performer and the individual. The Undertaker is also the most respected man in the industry, and his unbridled love for professional wrestling is well known through his interviews and his contribution to the industry. Mark Calaway calls the wrestling ring ‘his yard’, and for over 2 decades, he has proven without a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed true.
The legend of the Undertaker began in 1990, but Mark was performing as a professional wrestler since 1984. Mark signed with WCW in 1989, but his biggest break came to him in ’90, when Vince McMahon called him up and put the idea forward of this dark entity that would terrify the wrestling world. Even though Mark was hesitant at first, his debut proved once and for all that his character would be a great success. In this business, you have people who either seek money and fame, or you have those rare individuals who do it for the love of the business. Some of them are born into it, hence they have the passion for the business through their parents, and then there are those who fall in love with the business the first time they witness it. Mark falls into the second category, and when he came to the WWF, his character needed an eerie, tormented manager, and that was when William Moody, aka Paul Bearer was contacted.
Paul Bearer was the perfect manager for the Undertaker. Bearer was a special manager, mainly because he managed a special individual. There could have never been a more suitable manager for a character like the Undertaker. His storyline uncle/step father became a constant, and when you thought about the Undertaker, you immediately thought about Paul Bearer. The mystique of the Undertaker only grew with Bearer carrying an urn, which in storyline gave the Undertaker his power. With all said and done, Bearer and Undertaker rained terror in the WWF, but it was just the beginning of bigger things to come for the duo.
Within his first year, Undertaker became the WWF Champion when he defeated Hulk Hogan, becoming the youngest superstar to win the title back then. In course of time, Taker faced, and defeated various main eventers, cementing his place as a top tier performer in the organization. The Undertaker also performed on the very first episode of Monday Night RAW, and to this day, is the only active performer who took part on the first episode of RAW! The Undertaker also changed with time, as he began wearing purple attire, and then became the Lord of Darkness, preying on ‘innocent souls’. It was at this time that there was a twist in the story of the deadman.
In ’97, during the first ever Hell In A Cell match against Shawn Michaels at Badd Blood, Undertaker’s storyline half brother, Kane made his debut by Tombstoning the Undertaker, thus costing him the match. For the next year, Taker and Kane were involved in an intense feud, during which Paul Bearer once again sided with the Undertaker. During this period, both men were involved in some of the most dangerous matches in the WWF history, including an Inferno match, and also Undertaker was locked in a casket and the casket was set on fire. After this, there was a twist in the tale where both the brothers now worked together to get rid of the others. This was when the ‘Brothers of Destruction’ were born, and raised hell in the WWF.
During ’99, Taker once again underwent a transformation and now had formed a union, a gang of nightcrawlers who called themselves the ‘Ministry of Darkness’. True to the name, Taker began performing Satanic rituals, trapping his opponents on his symbol, and trying to embalm them. It was one of the most dominating stables ever formed in the WWF, and Undertaker became its leader. Later on, he merged the Ministry with Vince’s Corporation, thus becoming the Corporate Ministry.
As it is often seen in professional wrestling, people keep re-inventing themselves to remain relevant and interesting, and Undertaker, being a student of the game, did the same. He became ‘humanized’ when he became a bike – riding bad a**, known as the ‘American Bad A**’, where he started referring to the wrestling ring as his ‘yard’. His ABA gimmick was a hit with the people, and people got to see a more human Undertaker. It was at this time that people started to know that he was the leader of the locker room, because of the enormous amount of respect the other talents have for him. It is rumoured that during HBK-Austin match at WrestleMania, Undertaker taped his wrists and sat at the Gorilla position till Michaels dropped the title to Austin without any shenanigans. The Undertaker became the go to guy for his peers, and most of all, he earned their adulation, something very few people have been successful in doing.
The Undertaker got back to his roots in ’04, being the ‘Deadman’ once again. He once again feuded with storyline half-brother, and the two have been involved in on-off feuds ever since. The Undertaker also holds the biggest, and the most prestigious streak in Sports Entertainment. The Undertaker is 20-0 at WrestleMania, where he never lost! It is often said that it is because of the respect the people in the industry have for the Undertaker. Although there were rumours that Taker offered to lose to the likes of Kane and Kurt Angle to put them over in the organization, they had too much respect for the Undertaker to break his streak. The Undertaker also put over talents without question, something that no other individual in the business was ready to do. He put over guys like Lesnar, whom the other ‘top guys’ didn’t want to lose to.
The Undertaker might not have headlined events like Austin or the Rock, but he has been the very foundation of the business. You have fans of the Rocks and Austins who do not like each other, but there is no one who doesn’t respect the Undertaker. Austin and Rock might have headlined more WrestleManias than the Undertaker, but the Undertaker is a bigger name and a legend than anyone else in the business. He once said that he’d be in the business till some young rookie came by and threw him out, taking his place. That is what respect is all about for the Undertaker. He always put the business ahead of himself, something neither the Austins nor the Rocks can claim. At the end of the day, The Undertaker gave more to the business than the business gave to him. And that is why he’s the leader, and that is why the Undertaker will forever be the very core of the wrestling industry.
Here are some of the quotes made by people in the business about the Undertaker:
J.R: “Everybody claims to be an icon and claims to be something special,and maybe they were in their day. None will Ever surpass the Undertaker in my view.”
Kurt Angle: “He is our leader, and I consider Undertaker the best ever.”
Shawn Michaels: “Wrestling against Undertaker was the best professional experience of my life.”
Triple H: “He is the greatest legend in the history of this business.”
Michael Cole: “The biggest Smackdown and WWE superstar of all time,the legendary Undertaker.”
Mark Henry: “It’s hard not to put The Undertaker in the same breath as Hogan and Rock because not only has he served more years as them, but collectively, I’m sure he’s sold out and made more money than all of them.”