Mark Calaway [1], best known as the professional wrestler and WWE Superstar the Undertaker was born in Houston, Texas on 24, March 1965 [2] into the family of his mother and father, Frank and Catherine Calaway and four brothers. Growing up in Houston, he attended Waltrip High School where he played for the school basketball team and graduated in 1983. With his sights set on becoming a pro basketball player in his teenage years, Mark went to Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas on a basketball scholarship. He later went on to attend Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth where he studied Sports Management and played in the university basketball team. However, being a Texas native, Mark had grown up watching wrestling on TV and became familiar with the famous Von Erich wrestling family. Calaway decided to pursue his wrestling interest, but just before the new basketball season was about to start, his coach asked him to make a bigger, more dedicated commitment to the team and quit wrestling, but Mark, who felt forced to choose between the two, dropped what his coach said could have been a promising professional basketball career to continue with his wrestling training. Mark also went on to get a part-time job as a bouncer at a bar in Arlington, Texas, and decided to leave college. He isn’t proud that he didn’t get his degree but he had made his choice to pursue a career in wrestling.

Calaway’s first wrestling training session was with a wrestler called Buzz Sawyer in 1984. Young, keen and naïve, the 19-year-old Calaway gave Sawyer some of his hard-earned cash for some wrestling training, but after only their first training session, where all Buzz taught Calaway was how to hook-up, Buzz skipped down with Calaway’s ‘payment.’ So, Mark started attending the world famous Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas where WCCW (World Class Championship Wrestling) was run by Fritz Von Erich. Mark made his wrestling debut in the summer of 1984, at the time still training, working part-time and juggling his studies as a full-time student. William Moody, working then as manager Percy Pringle who has worked with talents such as Steve Williams (Steve Austin), Gentleman Chris Adams, Mick Foley (Cactus Jack) and Jim Hellwig (Ultimate Warrior) amongst others, noticed the young 6’8? Calaway had huge potential talent. Pringle briefly managed Calaway as the masked Texas Red in his first professional match at the Dallas Sportatorium against Bruiser Brody. Ironically, unbeknown to Pringle and Calaway, they would be reunited and make it big together as the Undertaker and Paul Bearer in WWE in years to come. During his days in WCCW, Mark also had the rather memorable experience of wrestling in South Africa and Texas Red also made it to the finals of a Texas Tag Team Championship tournament with Ted Arcidi.

Between 1984 and 1987, Calaway had been wrestling pretty much on a part-time basis, but by 1988, he was wrestling full-time. Calaway also went on to receive some much appreciated wrestling training from one of the most famous masked wrestlers in the business, “The Spoiler” Don Jardine who taught him to perfect walking the top rope. Mark, who ditched the mask he donned as Texas Red also wrestled as The Commando in CIW (Central Illinois Wrestling) as he began to branch out on the independent circuit to try and further his career. The biggest move in Calaway’s career so far came in early 1989 when he joined the USWA as the Master of Pain. Managed by “Dirty” Dutch Mantell, Downtown Bruno and Ronnie Gossett, the Master of Pain soon became a monster heel and enjoyed a brief stint as USWA Unified Heavyweight Champion by defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler for the title in April 1989. Later that year, he was sent to USWA Texas where he donned a mask once again as The Punisher, being managed by Gen. Skandor Akbar. The Punisher won the USWA Texas Heavyweight Championship by defeating Eric Embry for the title in October 1989, but, two weeks later, The Punisher lost the title to Kerry Von Erich. Soon after, Calaway would be moving on once again.

Calaway thought he had hit the big time at the age of 24 when he was offered a one year contract to join the NWA in late 1989 (which later became WCW). Wrestling in arguably the next biggest wrestling promotion in line to the WWF, Calaway debuted in the NWA as Mean Mark Callous, replacing an injured Sid Vicious to team up with Dangerous Danny Spivey as the Skyscrapers. The NWA/WCW could have held many big things for Mark Calaway, but things didn’t turn out as expected.

Before Mean Mark Callous joined the Skyscrapers, Dan Spivey and his injured former partner, Sid Vicious, had already been involved in an on-going feud with Animal and Hawk, the Road Warriors. Managed by Theodore Long, Callous and Spivey’s feud as the Skyscrapers with the Road Warriors continued on through into 1990, with the two teams meeting at Clash of the Champions X where the Road Warriors won by DQ. Soon after, Spivey decided to call it a day and walked out on the Skyscrapers and WCW, actually still known back then in its last days as the NWA. Callous, along with “The Masked Skyscraper” (Mike Enos) were defeated by the Road Warriors in a Chicago Street Fight at WrestleWar 1990. Unfortunately for Mark, Dan Spivey’s departure had left him without a long-term tag team partner and so the Skyscrapers became defunct, with Mean Mark continuing the rest of his stint in WCW in singles competition. Briefly managed by Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman), Callous was pretty successful in defeating Johnny Ace at Capital Combat 1990 and Brian Pillman at Clash of the Champions XI. Calaway also participated in a tour of Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling as the Punisher Dice Morgan during his time in WCW. Callous’s biggest shot at fame and gold in WCW came in the form of a US Title Match against the reigning US Champion, Lex Luger at 1990?s Great American Bash. However, Mark was defeated and Luger retained the Title.

As 1990 drew on, it was becoming clear that Mean Mark was obviously not going to receive any major push in WCW, even after his match against US Champion Lex Luger. Sadly, they didn’t seem to think he was worthy or capable of main event status. So, after just one year, WCW didn’t renew Calaway’s contract. On his way out, Mark was told he would not amount to anything in the wrestling business, but how wrong were they.

Mark went to see Vince McMahon at the WWF. At first, the Federation didn’t have a job for the big man, but then, just weeks later, Vince called Mark, saying, “Hi, is that the Undertaker?” At first Mark was confused but all was soon explained and Mark happily went along with the gimmick and his shot at fame in the WWF.

Survivor Series night, Hartford, Connecticut, 1990. It was the night that the face of the WWF was changed forever. Heading into the event there was a great buzz in the wrestling world as to who Ted DiBiase would name as the final member of his Million Dollar Team, so far consisting of himself, the Honkey Tonk Man and Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine. They were set to take on the team of Dusty Rhodes, Bret ‘ Hitman’ Hart, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and Koko B. Ware. Whoever DiBiase’s mystery partner was he would need to be something special to combat their adversaries. However, nobody could have been prepared for the force that was about to be unleashed on the WWF. With every other man already in the ring, DiBiase took a microphone and introduced the mystery partner, “Accompanied by his manager Brother Love, weighing 328lbs, from Death Valley, I give you…the Undertaker.” And with that the ominous sounds of Chopin’s “Funeral March” filled the building and from the back emerged a huge menacing figure dressed in a long black coat and hat, with thick rubber coroners’ gloves over his hands. This imposing newcomer methodically marched his way to the ring, removing his coat and hat to reveal a cold glare that would strike fear into the hearts of everyone whom it met for the next decade and a half. Nobody knew what to make. He was sombre and unflinching. Rhodes’ team seemed to be facing the living dead itself.
Despite his terrifyingly stoic manner, once the bell rung this imposing red-headed giant went on the attack with shocking quickness and ferocity. Almost immediately Koko B. Ware was eliminated from the contest by the move that would become the most feared in the WWF, the Tombstone Piledriver. Neidhart, Hart and Rhodes didn’t fare any better as the future Phenom would dominate each of them. Hart received the first Chokeslam ever from the Undertaker, Neidhart was manhandled with ease and Rhodes found himself eliminated soon after. The Undertaker could have won the match single-handedly had he chosen to, but the prospect of beating on a legend like Rhodes was too good an opportunity for the Dead Man to pass up on and he left the ring, continuing his vicious attack all the way up the aisle and backstage. Undertaker was counted out and eliminated, but that didn’t matter. He had proven his point, he had etched in everybody’s minds one of the most memorable and dominant debuts in the history of the business. And the entire World Wrestling Federation needed to take note. For the Undertaker’s Decade (and more) of Destruction had begun. Those who did not fear him already following Survivor Series would soon learn to.

As 1991 kicked off the Undertaker’s list of victims grew. Everyone who came up against the Pale Destroyer found themselves dominated and beaten. However the Undertaker was also realising that his manager, Brother Love, was not the man he wanted in his corner. He needed somebody with the same connection to death and the dark side as him. So during one of his talk show segments, Brother Love decided that he would sell the Undertaker’s contract to a man who once worked in the Undertaker’s father’s Funeral home, the macabre Paul Bearer. Paul had only made his debut after just weeks of officially being given a contract by Vince McMahon. The character was a combination of his wrestling manager and mortuary science experience. Ironically, Paul Bearer, in his days as Percy Pringle, had managed Mark Calaway in his earlier stint as Texas Red, but it was out of this dark meeting between the Undertaker and Paul Bearer characters that a long-term partnership would be born, it was the beginning of The Funeral Parlour show on WWF TV, the beginning of a successful working partnership in becoming a dominant force in WWE, and a real life friendship between two men on and off-screen. Paul Bearer, real name, William Moody, has said one of the reasons why the birth of this partnership was so important was that through the Undertaker, “Mark Calaway was receiving the proverbial torch that was being passed to him by Hulkamania. Yet, I was charged with the duty of making certain that the fire remained lit.”
Bearer carried with him a golden Funeral Urn, which he began claiming was the source of the Undertaker’s seemingly unearthly power. If ever the Undertaker was in trouble, Bearer raised the Urn and almost instantly the Dead Man would rise up.

In early April, Paul Bearer led the Undertaker into Wrestlemania VII, the Dead Man’s very first Wrestlemania appearance, against a legendary WWF figure, ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka. Jimmy Snuka at the time was considered the Phenom of the WWF, but things were about to change. Few people, least of all Snuka, were prepared for the short, sharp burst of brutality in which the Undertaker would put Snuka away in. The Superfly never stood a chance as Undertaker mauled him, hitting a vicious flying clothesline and a powerful suplex from the ring apron before burying Snuka with a Tombstone Piledriver. The entire WWF was shocked at just how quickly the Undertaker had dominated and defeated this legend, Snuka never stood a chance. However at the time nobody realised that a legacy of dominance at Wrestlemania was just beginning, one that would grow to be untouchable.

Not satisfied with the statement he’d made against Snuka, over the summer the Undertaker and Paul Bearer set their sights on another legendary WWF figure at the time; the Ultimate Warrior. During his Funeral Parlour talk show, Paul Bearer invited Warrior out onto the set, claiming he had a gift for him. When the Warrior made his way out, the “gift” turned out to be a custom made coffin with the Warrior’s logo adorning it. This infuriated the Warrior, who grabbed hold of Bearer and began roughhousing him. However as if from nowhere, the Undertaker appeared on the set and viciously attacked the Ultimate one. In what remains to this day one of the scariest incidents in wrestling, the Undertaker then dumped the Warrior inside the coffin and locked him inside. Officials desperately struggled to pry open the box before Warrior suffocated inside and were eventually successful in doing so. But Undertaker’s message had again been received loud and clear.

Because of this, the Ultimate Warrior challenged the Undertaker to a series of bodybag matches, where the winner placed his opponent inside a bodybag. To any who expected the Warrior to rid the WWF of this
terrifying force that continued to dominate it, they were in for a shock. Undertaker put the Warrior through more pain than he’d ever been dished out before and after the feud was over, the Warrior wasn’t seen again in the WWF until the following year. However for the Undertaker, there was still a much bigger target that he had his evil eye fixed on.

The WWF Champion and the biggest name in the industry then, maybe ever, was Hulk Hogan. Hogan was also a friend of the Ultimate Warrior’s and he took exception to the way he had been abused by Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Hogan was the guest during an edition of Bearer’s funeral parlour, where just as he had with the Warrior, Bearer presented Hogan with a custom made coffin that had the Hulkamania logo printed on it. Hogan became distracted by the sudden appearance of Ric Flair, his bitter enemy and the man claiming to be the REAL World Champion. A confrontation between the two men became very heated, but suddenly from out of a coffin that was part of Bearer’s set, emerged the Undertaker. Undertaker grabbed hold of his Urn and nailed Hogan in the back of the head with it, knocking him down and out. Undertaker then wrapped his thick grey gloved hand around Hogan’s throat and began choking the life out of him. Hulk’s friends ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage rushed to his aid to fight Undertaker off with chairs, but their shots simply bounced off him like they were nothing. When the Undertaker had taken his leave, Hogan was helped backstage for medical treatment. It seemed after this incident that a confrontation between the two men was inevitable, and indeed Hogan would have to put his WWF Championship on the line against the Dead Man that November at the 1991 Survivor Series.

The event arrived and despite clearly being in for the fight of his life, most expected Hulkamania to be able to overcome its Gravest Challenge, just as it had everyone who had come before it. However this time was different. This time Hulkamania was going down. The match was shockingly one sided, Hogan found himself unable to gain the upper hand on his stoic challenger but Undertaker beat on the Immortal one in a way that nobody had ever been able to. Hulkamaniacs watched on in horror as their hero was subjected to the full ferocity of the Man From The Dark Side. However, just when it appeared darkness would engulf Hulkamania forever, there was at last a sign of hope. Hogan ‘Hulked Up’ and finally managed to get the advantage on the Undertaker, rocking him with clotheslines before finally putting him down with a slam. Ric Flair came to ringside but Hogan floored him with a right hand. Hogan then set up for the finish as he nailed Taker with a Big Boot and hit the ropes for the Leg Drop. However Paul Bearer grabbed his ankle and at the same time, Undertaker sat up and rose to his feet. Taker then scooped Hogan up and, as Flair placed a chair on the canvas, mercilessly Tombstoned him right onto a steel chair. One…two…three!
There was a new WWF Heavyweight Champion! Hulkamania had fallen and from its ashes, the Undertaker rose to claim his first WWF Championship. It seemed that it was the start of a long and dominant run on top for the Dead Man as Champion…but it was not to be.

Because of the outcome of the match, a rematch was set up six days later at an emergency PPV. Undertaker again controlled Hogan for almost the whole contest and again, Ric Flair made his way to the ring. However this time Flair’s interference would be the Undertaker’s undoing. As Flair held a chair on the apron, Hogan was able to counteract and drive Taker’s head into the object, before throwing a handful of ashes from the Urn into the Dead Man’s eyes and rolling him up for the three count. Hogan was the Champion again. This would be the first in an alarming trend of screw job finishes for the Undertaker over the years.

For the whole of 1991, the Undertaker was a feared and hated superstar. However, the early stages of 1992 would bring about an enormous change.

Having been somewhat humbled with the loss of the WWF Title that many thought would be his for years to come at the end of the previous year, the Undertaker headed into 1992 with every intention of winning it back, entering into the 1992 Royal Rumble. Despite a dominant showing, Taker came up short of winning it when he was thrown from the ring by Hulk Hogan. It was a disappointment for the Dead Man, but now the WWF Championship would have to wait because Taker would soon have other things to contend with.
For several months the Man From The Dark Side had been mentored by the sinister and devious Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. Jake, a WWE veteran, had taken Undertaker under his wing and during this period he taught him the value of psychological warfare, an art at which Undertaker is now a master. Roberts showed Taker how to get inside his opponents’ minds and because of this, Undertaker assisted Roberts in his ongoing war with the Macho Man Randy Savage. However during one such attack on the Macho Man, Roberts almost took things too far even for the Undertaker. Savage’s wife, Miss Elizabeth was a completely innocent bystander, but that didn’t matter to the despicable Roberts. After blindsiding Savage, he attempted to take Elizabeth’s head off with a steel chair. Before he could however, the Undertaker grabbed hold of the weapon and ripped it from his clutches.

This one act officially signified what was only a matter of time, the Undertaker’s turn into a huge fan favourite. He had already developed a cult-like following, but now the masses embraced the Dead Man and couldn’t get enough of him. This didn’t sit well with Jake Roberts at all. He showed up during Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlour to confront the Pale Destroyer about it. A furious Roberts asked the Undertaker, “Just who’s side are you on?” He was taken aback and shocked by Undertaker’s chilling reply of, “Not yours!” Feeling almost betrayed, Roberts lashed out, trapping Undertaker’s hand inside a coffin. With the Undertaker trapped, Roberts viciously DDT’d Paul Bearer and then proceeded to repeatedly beat the Dead Man with a steel chair. But no matter how many times he struck him, the Undertaker still rose up from it.

At Wrestlemania VIII, the Undertaker took on his former mentor in a one on one match looking to get some revenge for the Funeral Parlour attack. Roberts was looking to put the Undertaker away, but he was totally unprepared for the Dead Man’s deadly methodical onslaught. When Roberts finally did gain the upper hand it did him little good as the Undertaker was unstoppable. Shockingly, the Phenom sat up from two DDT’s, and nobody had ever got up from one before. From here the Dead Man callously Tombstoned Roberts right on the arena floor before rolling his lifeless form back into the ring for the victory. Much the same way he had the year before, the Undertaker had dominated another WWE legend on the grandest stage of all, and he had shown Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts what the Dark Side was all about! Roberts wasn’t seen in the WWF again for years.

The Undertaker’s next challenge came in the form of the enormous Ugandan Giant Kamala. Because of his dominance against the Federation’s top dogs, Undertaker had become a target for wrestlers looking to make a name for themselves and Kamala’s managers Kim Chi and Harvey Wippleman sent Kamala after him in hopes of doing just that. There was just one problem; Kamale was terrified of the Undertaker! The two fought in a one on one match at SummerSlam 1992. Putting his new-found fondness for mind games into practice, the Undertaker entered the arena on top of a long black hearse, causing the already anxious Kamala yet more grief. After a mostly one sided match on Taker’s behalf, it looked like the Dead Man was about to put the Ugandan Giant away with a Chokeslam, when Kim Chi entered the ring and hit him with a weapon. Undertaker won the match by disqualification but afterwards Kamala brutally attacked him. Laying Undertaker out, Kamala repeatedly splashed the Dead Man on the mat before heading to the back, leaving Undertaker lay flat out in the middle of the ring. Or so he thought. At once the Dead Man sat up again and menacingly stalked a terrified Kamala out of the arena.

The issue between Undertaker and Kamala was clearly far from over so another match was made between the two men at the 1992 Survivor Series. However this time it would be a match that would be the Undertaker’s specialty over the years, a casket match! Kamala was scared to death of the Undertaker and his caskets, and that was all the opening the Dead Man needed. Footage would be shown of the Undertaker constructing a special custom-made Coffin especially to put Kamala inside. Then when the object was complete, he would have it wheeled down to the ring whenever Kamala had a match. One time Wippleman and Kim Chi decided they’d had enough and instructed Kamala to destroy the box, but when he opened it up the Undertaker rose from inside it, causing the Ugandan Giant to run for his life through the crowd.
Survivor Series arrived and there looked to be little hope for the Ugandan Giant to survive. The Undertaker dominated the majority of their match and scared Kamala further by absorbing everything he threw his way, including use of the steel steps and a chair, and still coming at him largely unfazed. In the closing moments Undertaker’s Urn ended up in the ring and Harvey Wippleman told Kamala to use it as a weapon, but once Kamala picked the Urn up, he started freaking out and dropped it. At this point Undertaker picked it up and knocked Kamala out cold with it. Now he was finished as Taker rolled his unconscious form into the wooden box and slammed on the lid. Not quite through yet, the Dead Man proceeded to nail the coffin shut before wheeling it off to an unknown location.

So far everybody who had come across the Undertaker had felt his wrath and had never been the same after meeting him in the ring. But as Undertaker’s legend grew, so did people’s hunger to make a name for themselves at his expense. This would continue on into the next year.

Taker spent a pretty uneventful 1993 feuding with the 7’6? 435 lbs Giant Gonzalez, after he had attacked and eliminated him in the 1993 Royal Rumble. Taker beat the giant at WrestleMania IX by disqualification. The Phenom entered the Palace that night with a large black crow, the bird of death symbolising Gonzalez’s fate. Getting frustrated at his apparent inability to beat Taker, Gonzalez used an ether soaked rag to render the Phenom unconscious, however, as he was being taken backstage, The Man From The Dark Side sat up and stormed back to the ring, where he beat Gonzalez into retreat.
In the following months, Gonzalez attacked Paul Bearer and stole the Urn away from him, meaning the Undertaker would be without it when he faced Gonzalez at SummerSlam in a “Rest In Peace” match, a match where the loser would have to leave the WWF. With the absence of his manager Paul Bearer and the Urn in Gonzalez’s and his manager Harvey Wippleman’s possession, the Undertaker made his entrance to the ring alone. The Undertaker put on a great fight even without his manager and friend by his side and minus the power of the Urn. However, towards the end of the match, as the Phenom and the Giant continued to battle it out, a gong struck and Paul Bearer made his way to the ring with a wreath. With Harvey Wippleman knocked down, Bearer capitalised and recaptured the Urn. Holding the Urn up to the Undertaker, the Phenom gained offence with some hard shots and clotheslines. With Paul Bearer’s presence at ringside and the Urn safely back in his possession, The Man From The Dark Side got the huge giant down to one knee and managed to hit with a flying a clothesline from the top rope, defeat Gonzalez and drive him from the WWF. With Gonzalez finally laid to rest and with 1993 drawing to an end, the Undertaker would stumble upon a new enemy.

At the 1993 Survivor Series, Taker was involved in a traditional Survivor Series Eight Man Tag Team Elimination Match. The team of “The All Americans”, the Undertaker, Lex Luger and The Steiner Brothers were set to face “The Foreign Fanatics”, Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, Crush and Quebecer Jacques. During the match, the 500+ pounds Yokozuna pulled out all the stops to try and beat the Undertaker. Yoko hit a belly to belly and Taker sat up, Yoko hit a legdrop and Taker just sat up, Yoko hit the Banzai Drop but Taker still sat up! The Undertaker gained momentum with a flying clothesline, sending Yokozuna to the outside. Undertaker was rammed head first into the steel steps but it had no effect! Taker simply stood upright with his eyes rolled back and stared a hole through the shocked Yokozuna. Both men continued to fight amongst themselves and were eventually counted out. The Phenom’s amazing pain threshold meant that Yokozuna’s unsuccessful offence was nothing compared to the fear that the Undertaker had put into Yoko’s eyes. As 1993 ended, it would seem that Yokozuna’s actions at the Survivor Series meant he had unfortunately just booked himself an early funeral date with the Undertaker, but what exactly would the Undertaker’s apparent feud with Yokozuna and the year of 1994 have in store for the Reaper?

As the year 1994 began, the Undertaker had once again set his sights firmly on the WWF Heavyweight Championship, held at the time by the monstrous 500+ pound Yokozuna. Like many before him, Yokozuna was terrified of the Undertaker, stemming from an incident back at the 1993 Survivor Series when the Dead Man had taken Yoko’s infamous Banzai Drop, a move that had ended careers, and still sat up unfazed to stalk after the WWF Champion. Sensing Yokozuna’s fear, the Man From The Dark Side pursued his prey relentlessly. A WWF Championship match was made between the two monsters at the 1994 Royal Rumble. As if the WWF Champion wasn’t worried enough about having to defend the belt against the dreaded Undertaker, at the request of the Phenom the match was made a Casket match.

Heading into the event the Undertaker utilized the same psychological warfare that had been so effective against Kamala over a year earlier by constructing a special double-wide, double-deep casket especially to place Yokozuna inside. And just as it had with the Ugandan Giant, Taker’s message was received loud and clear. For the first time in his career Yokozuna was scared stiff of participating in a match. With all the momentum heading into the event squarely in his corner, the Undertaker was the easy favourite to take back his WWF Championship and lay Yokozuna to rest.

Royal Rumble 1994 arrived and as the Undertaker made his slow, chilling walk to the ring that night, flanked by Paul Bearer who was pushing the custom-made casket to ringside, there was an ominous atmosphere in the air. Something momentous was about to occur. The match began and Yokozuna found himself unable to gain the advantage, and was subjected to Undertaker’s methodical punishment. Outside Yoko managed to gain a small advantage by throwing salt into Taker’s face and temporarily blinding him, but it would not last long. Undertaker revived himself and devastated the big man with a huge Chokeslam, before knocking him unconscious with a massive running DDT. It seemed Yokozuna was doomed, and his Championship run was over. The Undertaker rolled Yoko’s giant frame into the casket and then moved towards it to shut the lid. But then something went terribly wrong.

From nowhere, Crush appeared and attacked Taker. The Phenom managed to rebound and fight him off but more and more attackers arrived on the scene. Undertaker was fighting for his life but it seemed that every time he took care of one, more adversaries arrived to beat on him. With odds of ten on one the inevitable happened and Undertaker was beaten down and placed in the casket. All hope seemed lost until Paul Bearer raised the Urn high, and the Phenom suddenly sprang to life, fighting away all his enemies. The Phenom continued to fight with all he had and hold his own, despite the horrendous numbers advantage of his enemies. Maybe hope was not lost; maybe the Undertaker would prevail after all.
Or maybe not. In a seemingly calculated move, Yokozuna snatched the Urn away from Paul Bearer and opened it up. Green mist poured from inside the relic and as it did, the Undertaker slumped to the ground, unconscious. Taker was subjected to a further beating from each man and then Yokozuna kicked the lifeless body of the Undertaker into the box. The lid was slammed shut and Yokozuna was the winner, and still the WWF Champion.

But it wasn’t over yet. As the casket was being wheeled away the arena plunged into darkness and smoke started pouring from the box. The image of the Undertaker appeared on the titan-tron, where he vowed that he would never Rest In Peace and promised that the world would soon witness his rebirth. At that point, in one of the strangest incidents in WWE history, the form of the Undertaker raised to the top of the building and disappeared into the darkness.

For months and months, nobody saw or heard anything from the Dead Man. Even Paul Bearer had not seen his protegee since the Royal Rumble. Many thought that the Phenom would never be seen again. But early into the summer people began reporting having seen him. Undertaker sightings were occurring so frequently that the WWF could not ignore them. Even the ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase, the man who had originally brought Taker to the WWF, claimed to have spoken with the Dead Man. Paul Bearer didn’t believe a word. He hadn’t heard from the Phenom, so there was no way DiBiase had. However, never being one to shut up, DiBiase put up. On an edition of Shawn Michaels’ Heartbreak Hotel interview segment, the Undertaker emerged at the side of the Million Dollar Man. Had the Dead Man turned his back on Paul Bearer and joined forces with Ted DiBiase?

Not necessarily. Paul Bearer suspected that this creation that was aligned with DiBiase was not the same man he’d spent the past three and a half years with. Bearer’s suspicions were confirmed when he attempted to get “Undertaker” back and was instead attacked by the impostor. After this incident, Bearer claimed that his Undertaker, the real deal, would return soon to destroy DiBiase’s creation. At SummerSlam 1994, Paul Bearer made his way to the ring to face DiBiase and his “Undertaker”, along with several hooded druids bringing a casket with them. As the crowd watched on with baited breath, Bearer produced a giant Urn from inside the box, one that he removed the top from to reveal an intense white light coming from inside it. Bearer symbolically shone the beacon around the building and it soon plunged into darkness, the ominous music echoed through the building and soon, standing cloaked in blue mist, was the one and only, the real Phenom, the Undertaker!

The Man From The Dark Side was back. Attired in purple rather than the old grey, the returning Phenom soon wiped out any doubt as to which Undertaker was the real one when he quickly disposed of his impostor. Ted DiBiase could only watch on in horror as the Undertaker delivered three Tombstone Piledrivers to his clone to win the match, then watch Taker dump the lifeless form of his supposed “Undertaker” inside the casket, never to be seen again. The Creatures of the Night worldwide rejoiced at the triumphant return of their hero. The Undertaker was well and truly back.

Even though he had eliminated the pretender, a deep-rooted anger still burned inside him. There was much that remained unresolved. Undertaker needed retribution against the man who had sent him into exile for eight months. He needed to face Yokozuna again. At Survivor Series 1994, these two giants met again in another casket match. There were no Championships on the line this time; this was strictly about payback for the Dead Man.

In order to insure that there wasn’t a repeat of the shocking Royal Rumble incident, Federation officials placed martial artist Chuck Norris outside the ring as an enforcer to prevent any outside interference.

Time hadn’t dwindled Yokozuna’s fear of the casket, or the Undertaker, as he was just as terrified as ever. The Undertaker, bigger and badder than the last time they had fought, took advantage of this and aggressively took the fight to the behemoth. In a desperate situation, Yokozuna was forced to take the offence and he did just that, but after a short while the Phenom simply overwhelmed him. Despite this, things looked blink when as they did at the Rumble, several of Yoko’s allies made their way to ringside. However, they were headed off by Chuck Norris and a thrust kick to Jeff Jarrett was enough to keep them at bay. However, while this was going on, IRS (Irwin R. Shyster) stormed the ring from through the crowd and blindsided the Phenom. IRS rendered Taker seemingly motionless with a sleeper hold and laid him out in the casket. This looked to be the end. History looked set to repeat itself.
But not on this night. The Undertaker dragged Yoko into the box with him, totally freaking him out and allowing Taker to climb out. From here Yoko was pretty much at the Phenom’s mercy, and he showed none. Taker sent a groggy Yoko crashing into the box with a Big Boot, then grabbed his manager Mr. Fuji’s Japanese flag, which he promptly snapped in half and dumped into the box with the unconscious behemoth before slamming the lid shut!

Undertaker’s return, and his retribution was now complete! The Phenom’s legend continued to grow and Yokozuna would now Rest In Peace!

As the year came to an end the Undertaker still had some unresolved issues though, namely with the man who hired the impersonator to discredit his name, Ted DiBiase and his Million Dollar Corporation. The Dead Man looked to make 1995 the year where he settled those scores.

The Million Dollar Man was still feeling the humiliation of having his fake Undertaker annihilated and driven out of the WWE at SummerSlam 1994 by the formidable and unstoppable genuine specimen. The Undertaker, too, hadn’t forgotten the stunt that DiBiase had tried to pull on him and the world almost half a year ago. As 1995 began, the Million Dollar Man sought to take his revenge by unleashing all of his cronies, The Million Dollar Corporation, on the Deadman. Irwin R. Schyster was the first soul to fall victim to the Reaper as he was thrashed at the Royal Rumble 1995. Even so, ‘Taker was not lucky enough to get his hands on the despicable DiBiase, with the Million Dollar Man sending in the 6-foot-4 near 450 pounds King Kong Bundy to stop The Man From The Darkside. As the two giants stared eye to eye, IRS attacked Paul Bearer and managed to make a getaway from the arena with DiBiase, escaping with the Urn. When the Undertaker and King Kong Bundy faced-off at WrestleMania XI, the Undertaker showcased his WrestleMania immortality once again, defeating the legendary Bundy and recapturing the Urn, sending a clear message to Ted DiBiase that revenge was sweet and the battle was won, but the war had just begun.
“The Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama was the next member of the Million Dollar Corporation to mess around with the Deadman. Once again, the Undertaker’s prized possession, the Urn was stolen, but this time melted down into a gold chain. Kama continued to become a thorn in the Deadman’s side, interfering in his matches and costing him victories. Most notably he cost the Undertaker from advancing to the semi-finals of the King of the Ring tournament when he interfered in the quarter-final match between ‘Taker and Mabel. However, Kama was about to get his comeuppance. Two dark and mysterious gothic people began appearing in the crowd at ringside, eerily pale-faced and dressed in black, they had a gift for the Supreme Fighting Machine in the form of a black reef, the Creatures of the Night, as they were dubbed, were sending a message of death to Kama for his unforgivable sins. A clearly scared Kama snatched the reef and destroyed it in the ring, but the deadly realisation of the fate that you cannot destroy that which does not wish to perish would soon dawn on him.

Kama had stupidly sealed his own fate by doing the Million Dollar Man’s dirty work and playing a deadly game with the one Phenom’s path you simply do not cross. The Undertaker defeated Kama in an untelevised Casket Match at the first-ever In Your House Pay-Per-View, but with the millions of Creatures of the Night not getting to witness the event, the two men clashed once again in high profile fashion in a Casket Match at SummerSlam 1995, where the feud culminated in Kama being destroyed by the Deadman and shut in the casket.

leding into the latter half of 1995, the Undertaker defeated the powerhouse the British Bulldog in singles action on RAW. However, two weeks later on RAW, during a six-man tag match with the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Diesel taking on Yokozuna, Owen Hart and British Bulldog, the Undertaker was suddenly viciously attacked by an interfering 500lbs King Mabel who took out the Deadman together with the help of the 600lbs Yokozuna. The two monstrous men smashed the Undertaker’s face in, with Mabel delivering two huge leg drops to the face of the Phenom, leaving him a battered mess in the ring. The Undertaker mysteriously disappeared for just over a month after the brutal attack, but you could guarantee that he would return to reap vengeance on Mabel.

The Undertaker made his revengeful return at the Survivor Series 1995, wearing a grey mask on his face to protect his broken orbital socket bone, the mask doing just as much to protect his face as it did to seemingly intimidate his opponents. Despite his facial injury, it was clear that the Undertaker was neither physically or psychologically thwarted as he delivered a great performance, pummelling every member of his team’s opponents and eliminating Jerry “The King” Lawler, Isaac Yankem and Hunter Hearst Helmsley one-by-one, before a singled out Mabel realised what was going on and made a run for it, getting himself counted out. Similarly to the already buried Kama, a not-so-clever Mabel continued to infuriate the Deadman by later laying his hands on the melted down chain, which Kama had made from the stolen Urn. The Undertaker sent a message to Mabel on RAW by defeating his Men on a Mission (M.O.M) tag team partner, Mo before the two giants eventually clashed one-on-one at the In Your House 5 Pay-Per-View, where the Undertaker wiped his hands clean of yet another foolish foe by defeating Mabel and sealing his fate shut in a Casket Match and repossessing the melted Urn.

At the end of In Your House 5, Gorilla Monsoon announced that the Undertaker was now the No. 1 Contender for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble 1996. With a new year about to arrive and WWE Title shot on the cards, things were looking promising for The Man From The Darkside. However, former WWE Champion, Diesel was not so pleased by the news and claimed he would bury the Deadman to get a title shot. So, with one giant disposed of in the form on Mabel, the Undertaker had been awarded the colossus opportunity of a WWE Title shot, but it would seem that he would have to take down yet another giant who was prepared to get in the way of the Undertaker becoming the WWE Champion. What no one could predict was that an unhappy and angry Diesel wouldn’t be the only nemesis who would obstruct the Undertaker’s path in 1996, in fact, the Undertaker’s worst enemy was yet to come.

With a title shot against Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble, things looked as though they were going to get off to a great start for the Deadman. However, by the time the Rumble came around, it looked like Diesel was about to live up to his promise. The last man to be eliminated from the ring in the Rumble match, Diesel had returned to the ring to congratulate and embrace his friend and winner, Shawn Michaels. As we were set for the WWE Championship main event, the Undertaker made his way to the ring to encounter Big Daddy Cool who stood in his way in the aisle. The two came to blows before the Undertaker was even able to begin his match with the Hitman. Looking as intimidating as ever, still wearing his grey mask, the WWE Championship match eventually got underway. After a good long battle which saw many momentum switches and even the Undertaker being unmasked, the Undertaker hit Bret Hart with the Tombstone and went for the pin, the Undertaker now had a WWE Championship victory in his clutches, the referee counted 1…2… and just at that moment, Diesel pulled the referee out of the ring! Bret Hart was disqualified due to Diesel’s interference, meaning although the Undertaker won the match via DQ, he didn’t win the WWE Title. In costing the Phenom dearly, Diesel had just signed his own death warrant and the Undertaker would lie in wait to execute his revenge plan.

At the In Your House 6 pay-per-view the following month, Diesel took on Bret Hart in a Steel Cage Match in what he felt was his “rightfully earned” WWE Championship title shot. Just as momentum was in Diesel’s hands and it looked like we were going to have a new WWE Champion going into WrestleMania, the Undertaker suddenly burst through the canvas, shockingly appearing like the devil from the depths of hell. With nowhere to escape to within that locked cage and the Undertaker’s sights set on destroying him, the Reaper grabbed hold of Diesel’s legs and slowly pulled him underneath the ring like a serpent swallows its prey, eerie white smoke evaporated from the hole and Bret Hart was able to get the win and retain the title. Even so, the Undertaker hadn’t quite finished with Diesel just yet.

During one of Diesel’s matches on Raw, Paul Bearer made his way to the ring with a casket. In a twisted but clever mind game by the Undertaker and his mentor, when the casket was opened, Diesel saw himself, dead, lying in the coffin and Big Daddy Cool was clearly freaked out. With WrestleMania XII just around the corner, the huge stage was set for these two 7-foot 300-pound giants to square off against each other in a grudge match to settle the score. In a match that saw a flurry of moves and offence by both men, Diesel ended up hitting two Jackknife Powerbombs on the Undertaker but the Deadman simply just stood up and made a comeback. The Phenom hit Diesel with a Chokeslam and then a Tombstone Piledriver to win the match.

The following night on Raw, Undertaker was involved in a match against Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw. Unlike no other Monday night, this night was about to redefine the Undertaker’s career and unleash something maniacal like the Phenom had never experienced before. From what seemed to be out of nowhere and with no cause, the Undertaker was attack by a deranged masked monster named, Mankind. For these two men, this was the start of a long, vicious and unforgettable feud which will go down as one of the most bitter and memorable rivalries in WWE history. Mankind soon aligned himself with weird and freakish friend Goldust and together the two played their mind games and their two man army pursuit against the Undertaker. At In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, the Undertaker was set to face Goldust in a Casket Match for the Intercontinental Championship. In a match that went back and forth, the Undertaker eventually hit the Tombstone and attempted to put Goldust into the casket. However, Mankind popped up out of the casket and locked on the Mandible Claw on the Undertaker, shutting him in the casket, with Goldust gaining the victory.

Mankind and the Undertaker would finally face each other for the first time in an official match at the King of the Ring 1996. Mankind seemed to have the advantage for the most part, especially in the early stages of the match, however, when the deranged human being began to bring weapons into the match, he ended up being on the receiving end of most of them, with the Undertaker delivering two sickening chair shots to his nemesis. With the two men battling in the ring and momentum seeming to be in ‘Taker’s favour, he grabbed Mankind by the throat only to have the Mandible Claw sneakily locked onto him. With the Phenom struggling to escape the clutches of the Claw, Paul Bearer stepped in and tried to help his Undertaker, but accidentally hit him in the head. Mankind continued to keep the hold locked in until the Undertaker eventually passed out and the deranged one from the depths of the boiler room was awarded the one and only victory over the Undertaker by KO.

In another match with his other deranged enemy, the Undertaker battled Goldust at In Your House 9: International Incident. The match began with lots of stalling and with it looking like Goldust was going to back away out of the match without even facing the Deadman. The Undertaker came to the outside and the two men brawled before eventually making their way to the ring. The Undertaker gained offence and hit the Tombstone to go for the pin, but the win was to come by disqualification. In a scene which was repetitive of In Your House 6, Mankind came up from beneath the ring and pulled the Undertaker underneath. We then saw the Undertaker disappear before eventually coming up through the ring on the other side. The Undertaker and Mankind then started brawling up the entrance way and to the backstage area.

At SummerSlam 1996, the Undertaker battled Mankind in a first ever Boiler Room Brawl with the winner being the man who emerged from the boiler room to obtain the urn from Paul Bearer in the ring. The Undertaker entered the depths of the dark, damp boiler room and searched for his nemesis, before being snuck up upon and hit by Mankind with a pipe. In a brutal match which involved pipes, poles, hot steam, boxes, ladders, fire extinguishers, metal chains and Lord knows what else, the match eventually gets to the ring. On the way, battling through the backstage area passed the locker rooms, Mankind throws a pot of hot coffee over the Deadman, with ‘Taker hitting Mankind with a hard clothesline and a 2×4 in retaliation. At ringside, Mankind gets thrown into a TV, Undertaker is thrown into the steel steps and piledriven onto the concrete floor, the two fight on the apron and Mankind is tossed onto the concrete! ‘Taker gets in the ring, drops to one knee and asks Paul Bearer for the urn, but Bearer won’t give it to him, the fans are confused as to what it going on! Mankind climbs into the ring, locks on the Mandible Claw on Taker and Bearer begins to laugh! Mankind holds up Taker, allowing Bearer to slap and kick him. The final blow comes as a desperate and beaten Undertaker crawls to his long time manager, friend and mentor, but Bearer cracks the urn across the Deadman’s skull and then hands it to Mankind. In a sad, shocking and twisted turn of events, the ultimate beating and betrayal on the Undertaker has taken place as Paul Bearer aligns himself with Mankind and turns his back on the Phenom.

To make it clear that Mankind and Paul Bearer would not destroy the Undertaker so easily, whilst Paul Bearer and Mankind were rejoicing in their defeat over the Deadman at SummerSlam, the Undertaker returned on Raw, with druids carrying the Deadman to the ring. In the run up to the next PPV, In Your House 10: Mind Games, the Undertaker still had a score to settle with his old enemy Goldust, who was now somewhat fighting for Mankind’s attention and allegiance since joining forces with Paul Bearer. In a sign to Mankind and Bearer, the Undertaker was victorious over Goldust at In Your House 10, winning cleanly and putting a clear exclamation mark on this feud. The Undertaker’s sights were now completely set on disposing of Mankind and Paul Bearer.

In another first ever event pioneered by the Undertaker and Mankind, the two would battle it out at in a Buried Alive Match at In Your House 11, aptly named, Buried Alive. The winner of the match would be the person to do just that to their opponent, bury them….alive! The match started out in the ring and then progressed to the entrance way towards a specially constructed grave site, with a mound of dirt, shovels and a tombstone around it. After a back and forth brawl to and from the grave, the two enemies made their way to the grave for the final time where the Undertaker was able to Chokeslam Mankind into the grave. He then began shovelling dirt onto Mankind, with the referee calling for the bell and ‘Taker being announced winner of the match. The Undertaker continued to shovel dirt onto Mankind until a masked man appeared from the back and cracked ‘Taker across the back with a shovel. The masked attacker was later revealed to be The Executioner, hired by Paul Bearer to join forces with himself and The Deranged One. The Executioner then preceded to help dig Mankind out of the grave and the two then threw the Undertaker into the hole. As they began to bury the Undertaker, several more Superstars came from the back and aided in burying the Undertaker under a weight of dirt. With the hole filled with dirt and the Undertaker’s body unable to be seen, the wrestlers began to vacate the grave area, with their mission to bury the Undertaker alive seemingly successful. As the pay-per-view ended, the Undertaker’s music began playing and fans were in shock and upset that the Undertaker had just been buried alive! However, suddenly, a lightning bolt struck the grave and thunder crackled, with that said, a purple glove emerged from the grave by the tombstone, the Undertaker was very much alive and without a doubt The Man From The Darkside would find a way to escape and find another way to reap his revenge on Paul Bearer and Mankind once again.

We learned that at the Survivor Series, Mankind would meet the Undertaker again, but this time Paul Bearer would be suspended 20-feet in the air in a cage. If the Undertaker won, the cage would be lowered and he would finally get his hands on Paul Bearer. The Undertaker made an awaited and spectacular return, descending from the rafters in full black leather attire and bat-like wings. The Undertaker had huge offence throughout most of the match and Mankind took a beating at the hands of the Deadman. As Mankind reached into his tights for a foreign object and attacked him with it, the Undertaker managed to get Mankind into a Tombstone position and deliver the piledriver to get the win. As stipulated, the cage was lowered, but before ‘Taker could get his vengeful hands on his betrayer, The Executioner came out and attacked the Undertaker whilst Paul Bearer got out of the cage and made a swift exit backstage, unscathed.

With the year almost over and Mankind defeated, the Undertaker just had two scores to settle. He had yet to get his hands on Paul Bearer, but it seemed the Fat Man could wait, it was The Executioner who the Undertaker would next dispose of in an “Armageddon Rules” match at December’s pay-per-view, In Your House 12: It’s Time. Momentarily, the Undertaker took it to The Executioner quickly, but Mankind came out to help and attack the Undertaker. The Deadman battled both men and the brawl began to escalate out into the aisle. The men finally ended up at the stage entrance area where Mankind was thrown through the “In Your House” logo window of the set and then through the door! The Undertaker and Executioner brang it back to the ring but Mankind jumps Taker from behind. Security come in, they mace Mankind and put him in a straightjacket. The Undertaker and The Executioner take the fight to the outside, where The Executioner gets thrown into one of auditorium fountains. The Undertaker makes his way back to the ring where he beats on Mankind in the straightjacket and The Executioner returns to the ring only to receive a Tombstone, with water pouring out of his boots. He is unable to answer to the 10 count and so the Undertaker is victorious.

It had been a manic year for the Undertaker, defeating the multiple enemies in Diesel, Goldust, Mankind and The Executioner, Taker had proved he could overcome the odds even in the toughest of opponents and situations. With that said, what would 1997 be like for the Deadman? Would things get better or worse? Would the Undertaker get another WWE Title opportunity, was the score with Mankind and Paul Bearer completely settled? All would be revealed, perhaps more importantly, what was unbeknown to everyone at this time is that there would be a dark secret from the Undertaker’s past which would come back to haunt him.

Now with a full head of steam coming off of huge wins over Mankind and the Executioner, the Undertaker was now on a mission to reclaim the WWF Championship. However he had to take on an enormous obstacle before he could get there. Just prior to In Your House 12: It’s Time in December 1996, the Undertaker had already signed for a match with the 458 pound Vader at the Royal Rumble in January 1997, so he was beginning the year on a very challenging level. Throughout January, ‘Taker had his hands full with Vader interfering in several of his matches including a bout with the fake Diesel on an episode of “Sunday Morning Superstars”, as well as a match with Crush on RAW where Vader helped Faarooq’s Nation Of Domination beat down the Deadman, and with the faction holding him down, Vader ascended the second rope and blasted ‘Taker with two Vader Bomb splashes, setting the stage for their big encounter the following week.

In front of a jam-packed Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Undertaker made possibly one of his longest and chilling entrances to date, as he strod down the long aisle with a look of determination in his eyes, he wanted to show Vader what happens when you mess with a dead guy. Vader, at first seemingly intimidated by not having his former manager Jim Cornette at ringside, got the advantage early by using his sizable girth to knock Undertaker for a loop. He also showed he had scouted ‘Taker’s “Old School” top rope move by dropping him across the top rope, but ‘Taker eventually hit the move correctly. After Vader hit a thunderous powerbomb on ‘Taker, the Phenom escaped the pin attempt by throwing Vader off and sitting up. He began unloading on the monster from the Rocky Mountains with thunderous rights and lefts, and hit a flying clothesline and a Chokeslam. Suddenly Paul Bearer, who had still managed to escape unscathed since his shocking betrayal at SummerSlam 1996, strolled to ringside to get a closer look at the action. As soon as ‘Taker noticed Bearer, he clothelined Vader to the outside, then flipped himself over the top rope on the other side and leveled his former manager with a stiff right, finally getting his hands on the rotund Benedict Arnold. With Bearer pleding for forgiveness, Undertaker threw him in the ring and wrapped his hand around Bearer’s throat. Vader returned and distracted the Deadman, but was knocked once again to the arena floor. ‘Taker followed him out and placed his neck on the steel barrier and then attempted to spring off the ring steps onto Vader. But just before impact, Bearer pulled Vader out of dodge, and Undertaker ended up impaling himself full force on the railing. Bearer added insult to injury by smashing his urn across his former protégé’s head from the apron. Vader pounced on the nearly unconscious ‘Taker, nailing him with a Vader bomb to win a shocking upset. It was later announced that Bearer had signed Vader as his new protégé. Later in the night, both Undertaker and Vader competed in the Royal Rumble match itself to earn an opportunity to face the WWF Champion at WrestleMania 13. However Stone Cold Steve Austin managed to screw up everyone’s night in this match. After Austin had been eliminated by Bret Hart, the Rattlesnake saw that neither of the two referees had noticed he had been thrown over the top rope as they were busy with a Mankind/Terry Funk brawl at ringside. He snuck back into the ring and pushed out both Undertaker and Vader as they fought near the ropes, and then eliminated Bret for the shocking win. Bret was livid and screamed at the officials and Vince McMahon to reverse the decision, but to no avail, Austin’s name would go down as the winner of the Rumble. But while Bret was fuming over his lost title shot, Undertaker was plotting more plans for revenge, as he had been screwed more times that night than anyone else, and proclaimed that a black cloud would now hover over the World Wrestling Federation.

The following night on RAW, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon declared that Austin’s title shot at WrestleMania 13 would not happen thanks to his cheating at the Royal Rumble. He announced a match to take place at In Your House 13 in February entitled “Final Four” which was a variation of a Fatal Four-Way Match except there would be no countouts or DQs and a wrestler could be eliminated by either pinfall, submission or being thrown over the top rope like in the Rumble. Seeing that Undertaker, Vader and Bret Hart had all been eliminated illegally by Stone Cold, all three of them would compete with Austin to win the opportunity to face the champion at WrestleMania. Then on a special edition of RAW dubbed “Thursday RAW Thursday”, WWF Champion Shawn Michaels was forced to forfeit the title belt due to a knee injury he suffered and would not be able to face Sycho Sid that night. Therefore it was declared the winner of the Final Four match that coming Sunday would leave with the Championship right then and there.

Emotions were high and adrenaline was pumping as the match at In Your House 13: Final Four began and the four Superstars duked it out against each other, with Undertaker trying to get some revenge on Vader for his loss at the Royal Rumble and Hart trying to make Austin pay for his many months of torment at the hands of the Texas Rattlesnake. After a grueling 30 minutes in which Undertaker busted Vader open by kicking the steel steps into the big man’s face, Austin was finally eliminated fairly by Hart and the referees saw it. Vader was next to go after ‘Taker nailed him with a low blow while he was trying for a Vader Bomb. It was now down to ‘Taker and Bret. Austin returned to ringside and prevented Undertaker from delivering a Tombstone Piledriver to Hart, and while the Phenom was dealing with Austin, the Excellence Of Execution blindsided ‘Taker and clotheslined him over the top rope, winning the Final Four Match to become the WWF Champion. Undertaker had been screwed yet again! The next night on RAW Austin cost Bret the title by smashing him with a chair, leding to Sycho Sid winning the belt from him. Immediately after the match, Undertaker appeared in the ring and stared down the new Champion. It was announced afterwards that since Undertaker was the final man eliminated in the Final Four match, that he would be awarded the WrestleMania 13 title shot against Sid, which didn’t sit well with Hart. In fact, a few weeks later on RAW, Hart was awarded a rematch with Sid inside the confines of a steel cage, and he dominated the match. But determined to keep his title match at WrestleMania, Undertaker bolted to the ring when Bret was about to escape the cage and slammed the door in the Hit Man’s face, allowing Sid to climb up and over to retain the belt. In the aftermath, Bret went ballistic in the ring, shoving down Vince McMahon and then proceeded to obliterate the USA Network censors by screaming out a series of profanities in frustration. He then literally flew out of the ring and lay a beating on Undertaker who had returned to ringside. Sid returned and then Stone Cold returned and the night ended with all four men going at each other inside and outside the ring, setting the stage for the Super Bowl of sports-entertainment the following Sunday.

At WrestleMania 13, both Undertaker and Sycho Sid requested to Gorilla Monsoon that their title match be a no-holds barred match, and Monsoon granted their wish. Undertaker entered the ring first, and he was dressed in his old-school western black and grey attire that he first wore when he entered the Federation, so it was quite symbolic seeing he first won the WWF title in that same gear. As ‘Taker and Sid went face to face at the opening bell, Bret Hart entered the ring and complained that he should be the Champion and not Sid, as well he told ‘Taker that he no longer respected him after he cost Hart the belt the previous week. Sid couldn’t take anymore and gave Hart a vicious Powerbomb for his trouble. The bell rang and Undertaker and Sid went at it on the grandest stage of them all, with Sid getting an early advantage working on ‘Taker’s lower back. The Man from the Dark Side fought back with all he had and tried to finish Sid with a Tombstone, but the Champion reversed the move and delivered it on ‘Taker instead, and folded his arms over his chest for the pin! Refusing to be defeated by his own move, the Phenom got the shoulder up at two and three quarters. As the action spilled out of the ring, Bret returned to ringside and smashed Sid across the back with a steel chair, leding Undertaker to run his opponent’s spine into the ring post and delivered a Chokeslam inside the ring. Sid recovered though, and was about to finish ‘Taker off with a Powerbomb, but Hart again returned to the ring and distracted Sid, dropping his throat across the top rope, which gave Undertaker the perfect opportunity to nail the big man with a devastating Tombstone Piledriver and win the WWF Championship finally for the second time in his career. The Creatures of the Night rejoiced with the Phenom as he took his rightful place on top of the World Wrestling Federation. This, no doubt, was a night to remember for the man who was told by WCW he would never amount to anything in the wrestling business. Now the “dark daze” of the WWF had begun.
The next night on RAW, Vince McMahon congratulated the Undertaker on his victory and announced that for his first title defence at In Your House 14: Revenge Of The Taker, he would be facing his long-time arch nemesis, Mankind, one more time. Paul Bearer came to ringside and asked his former protégé if he could join with him once again, citing that once he left Undertaker at SummerSlam ’96, that became the only time he won the title, so Bearer thought he had held ‘Taker back from winning the Championship all these years, and now thought they could be unstoppable as a force once again now that ‘Taker held the title. He asked the Deadman to think about it for a week. Mankind, meanwhile was so distraught at having his “Uncle Paul” leave him so abruptly that he went on a rampage on Shotgun Saturday Night and applied the Mandible Claw to WWF official Gerald Brisco. On the next episode of RAW, Paul Bearer and Undertaker stood in the ring face to face. At first ‘Taker seemed to agree to allow Bearer back by his side, even handing him the WWF title belt, but then he blasted Bearer with a huge right hand. Bearer rolled out of the ring and backed away from the Deadman who stalked him on the outside. Just as the new Champion was about to level Paul with the Urn like what had been done to him many times over the last eight months, Mankind crawled out from under the ring and blindsided the Phenom. ‘Taker turned around and was blasted right in the face with a huge fireball from the Deranged One! It was a set-up the whole time! Mankind and Bearer embraced as Undertaker held his burned face and flopped around all over the ringside area in excruciating pain. Finally he blindly fell over the ring barrier and stumbled out of the arena, obviously in desperate need of a burn specialist.

Mankind and Paul Bearer’s joy would once again be short lived, as the Undertaker showed up at their title match at In Your House 14: Revenge Of The ‘Taker and dismantled his arch nemesis by nailing him with chairs, the ring steps and ramming his head into the ring barriers several times. Mankind fought back with a loaded water pitcher and the Urn, and even exposed Undertaker’s burned flesh under the big white bandage on his forehead (which looked pretty darn gross, by the way) and tried to weaken him by attacking the damaged area. Undertaker would have none of that, however, and made his first attempt at a dropkick by kicking the steel steps into the face of the Deranged One. One Chokeslam and Tombstone later, Undertaker picked up another victory over Mankind. After the match, Paul Bearer was beaten down and then given a taste of his own medicine by having his face burnt to a crisp at the hands of his former protégé with Mankind’s flammable material that the Boiler Room Dweller brought into the ring. At last, the Undertaker had exacted his revenge on Paul Bearer.

The Undertaker was unstoppable as Champion, and he defended the belt on RAW and at the upcoming pay-per-view events against all comers. He thwarted Mankind’s attempt to burn him again with a blow torch, defeated Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and the British Bulldog in separate matches and sent a clear message to every WWF Superstar that he would not be denied of his Championship run. Stone Cold Steve Austin became the next challenger for the title at In Your House 15: A Cold Day In Hell, but his arch-rivals the Hart Foundation would follow him into this bout, in fact they took up ringside seats during Austin’s match with ‘Taker at the event. This was the first time Stone Cold and the Undertaker would fight in a series of pay-per-view matches together, and this match was electric, each competitor zoning in on each other’s legs and going back and forth throughout. ‘Taker would eventually hit his Chokeslam on the Rattlesnake, but Austin quickly fired back with the Stone Cold Stunner and covered the Champion. However as the referee counted, Hart Foundation member Brian Pillman rang the bell, interrupting the process. Undertaker used the distraction to recover and lift Austin for the Tombstone, but the Bionic Redneck reversed it. Not to be denied, the Phenom reversed it one more time and delivered the crunching manoeuvre, scoring the win. The Hart Foundation immediately stormed the ring and beat down the Undertaker relentlessly. Austin saw a wheelchair-bound Bret Hart sitting by himself in the front row and jumped him, stealing his crutch away and using it to clear the ring of the other members, before hitting the Undertaker once more with a Stone Cold Stunner in frustration.

The following night would begin to spell long-term trouble for the reigning Champion, as Paul Bearer returned to RAW with his face all bandaged up from his severe burns and immediately plotted his revenge against his former protégé. Bearer claimed that he knew of a very dark secret from the Undertaker’s past that could forever ruin his career and, in an act of blackmail, threatened to tell it to the world if the Phenom didn’t accept Paul back as his manager. A week later, Undertaker looked to Chokeslam the fat advisor but then let go and shockingly fell to one knee and bowed to Paul Bearer like he used to do before. The Creatures of the Night weren’t sure what to think at first, but they eventually chose to stick by their hero despite Bearer forcing ‘Taker to do his bidding. Because ‘Taker was WWF Champion, this partnership meant lots of money to Paul, so he was milking this for all it was worth. Meanwhile ‘Taker was simply trying to keep that dark secret under wraps. A returning Sycho Sid tried to talk some sense into the Phenom, but instead decided to take a rematch for the title, which he was unsuccessful in. By this time, King Of The Ring 1997 was coming around and Nation Of Domination leder Faarooq was Undertaker’s next challenger. At the event, Faarooq seemed to hold a small inner concern for Undertaker’s personal life, but his actions in the ring that night seemed to tell otherwise, as he gave it everything he had against the Man from the Dark Side. Paul Bearer was periodically screaming orders to Undertaker to put Faarooq away and it was getting sickening by the end of the match. Luckily, Faarooq became distracted by his own personal issues with the Nation, as Savio Vega and Crush began arguing at ringside. Faarooq tried to restore peace to the situation, but was snatched by the Undertaker and driven into the mat with the Tombstone Piledriver. ‘Taker then fought off the rest of the Nation as they poured into the ring, Chokeslamming both Savio and Crush. As the melee dispersed, Paul Bearer demanded that Undertaker Chokeslam Faarooq not once, not twice, but three times. Knowing he had done enough already, Undertaker reluctantly executed the three devastating manoeuvres. Suddenly Ahmed Johnson came to the ring and tried to reason with the Deadman, before laying him out with his Pearl River Plunge sit-down powerbomb to the outrage of the Creatures of the Night, thus positioning himself for a future title shot. Even so, Bearer screamed at his protegee to get to his feet, which ‘Taker did after a minute and stalked Bearer to the locker room.

Paul Bearer’s presence at ringside had become more of a hindrance than a help. The Phenom had realized that this dark secret he was hiding by having the rotund manager blackmail him into having him around was going to have to be told in order to perhaps save his career and his Championship run in a strange sort of way. Even though the effects would send shockwaves throughout the WWF. So finally, on an edition of RAW, Paul Bearer went to the ring and told his side of the story, telling about a lovely family that owned a funeral home 20 years ago, with the father being the mortician and the mother being the receptionist, and they had two little kids, one being a “little red-headed punk” which was the Undertaker himself, and a younger sweeter kid named Kane. Paul himself was associated with ‘Taker’s family as he was an apprentice to his father in the funeral home, learning everything he knew from him. But one night when Paul came home from school, he found that the funeral home had burned to the ground and the family was killed inside. He then saw Undertaker by himself hiding in the bushes and accused him of starting the fire and killing his own family, which there in the ring he began to scream those same accusations. Thunder rolled throughout the arena and then the Phenom himself appeared on the titan-tron to tell his side of the story. In a speech that had many onlookers heartbroken, he stated that the same day the funeral home burned, he and Kane were playing with matches and were punished by his father for doing it. After ‘Taker had been sent to do his chores, he saw Kane leaving with the same flammable fluids as before, thus ‘Taker believed that his brother had started the fire and killed himself and his parents, leaving ‘Taker to live a life consumed with the subject of death to feel more comfortable about the situation, and swore that Paul Bearer would be struck down for putting him through this torture of sharing this story with the world.

Later, it was announced that since Ahmed Johnson could no longer challenge Undertaker for the WWF Championship due to a knee injury, Vader who already held a victory over the Phenom that year would now be the No. 1 Contender to take him on at In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. During a confrontation between the two, Paul Bearer grabbed the microphone and again accused ‘Taker of killing his family as a child and then psyched him out by revealing that ‘Taker’s brother Kane was actually still alive and had been in constant contact with Bearer all these years, getting himself ready to face his brother who he held a deep hatred for now that he was apparently physically scarred from the fire. Undertaker denied Bearer’s claims and indeed went on to face Vader for the second time that year one on one, only this time it was for the WWF title. Vader wanted to repeat his Royal Rumble victory and got off to an early advantage, hurling his opponent knees-first into the ring steps and doing much other damage, with Bearer cheap-shotting the Champion every now and then. However, fate wasn’t on Vader’s side this evening as Undertaker eventually fought back and Chokeslammed the monster from the Rocky Mountains off the turnbuckles as he ascended them for a moonsault. Looking daggers at his former manager on the outside, Undertaker Chokeslammed Vader in the centre of the ring and then nailed him with a vicious Tombstone Piledriver to finally even the score between the two.

Paul Bearer continued his threat to reveal Kane to the world by providing proof samples of clothing and such burnt articles, but no one chose to believe him and stuck by the Undertaker’s side of the story. But now the Champion was beginning to get caught up in another controversial side of the WWF. Bret “Hit Man” Hart and the Hart Foundation, fresh off a huge victory together on their home turf at In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede, decided to go for all the marbles and Bret issued a challenge to the Deadman to meet for the Championship at SummerSlam 1997: Hart & Soul. In an in-ring interview, Bret pledged due to his anti-American stance that if he failed to win the WWF title from the Undertaker, he would never again wrestle in the United States. Apparently he later stated that he only meant that as a figure of speech, but WWF officials entered that into his SummerSlam contract, enraging the Hit Man. As if that weren’t bad enough, when Shawn Michaels asked to be a part of SummerSlam in some form, he was granted the task of being the special guest referee for Bret and ‘Taker’s match, sending the Excellence of Execution into a fit of ballistics that resulted in severe disciplinary action just before the event, nearly earning Bret a pink slip from the Federation in the process. Due to the great possibility that Michaels would show favouritism towards Undertaker in their match and help to send Bret packing, a clause was put in Michaels’ contract saying that he had to call it down the middle or else he would be the one who would never be allowed to wrestle on American turf again.

On a hot night at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey, Bret Hart strolled to the ring with the Canadian flag over his shoulder and asked that “O Canada” be played. Shawn Michaels strutted to the ring next wearing a referee’s shirt and with his pyro going off. Finally the lights went out and the Undertaker made his chilling entrance to the ring. Right from the get-go, Bret and Undertaker went at it tooth and nail, back and forth with Michaels always being in a good position to administer counts and discipline both competitors, but as the match progressed it became clear that Bret and Shawn wanted to punch each other out so bad and began to bicker a lot. The Champion held an early advantage until Bret began to work on ‘Taker’s legs in order to get him ready for his finisher, the Sharpshooter. Paul Bearer came down to ringside to get a closer look at the action but was swiftly taken out by the Phenom and then escorted away by officials. Then Bret’s Foundation partners Owen Hart and Brian Pillman appeared and provided a distraction for Michaels, as when he was sending the two back to the locker room he failed to see Undertaker Chokeslam Hart and cover him for the pin, thus enraging the Phenom who demanded that Shawn keep his eyes on the match. Bret and the Undertaker dished out everything in their arsenals to each other, including Bret hitting a Superplex off the top turnbuckle on the Champion and Undertaker delivering a flying clothesline and then another Chokeslam from outside back to inside. Bret applied the Sharpshooter in the centre of the ring on the Deadman and looked to have the match won there, but low and behold, the Deadman became the first man to ever break the submission hold as he kicked Bret off clear to the outside. Frustrated, Bret applied the same hold around the ring post, but that didn’t work either and got kicked off again. However Bret fell on top of Michaels and sidelined the Heartbreak Kid for several minutes. Now mad, Hart resorted to a steel chair and clobbered Undertaker with it. A groggy Michaels climbed back in but only registered a two count. It was here that Michaels noticed the chair lying on the apron and confronted the Hit Man about it, but Bret spat right in Shawn’s face and provoked him to swing the chair. Bret ducked however and the Undertaker took a second shot to the head in just under a minute. Hart covered the Deadman, and realizing he now had no choice but to count the fall or not wrestle again in the US, Michaels reluctantly counted the Undertaker’s shoulders to the mat and awarded the Championship to Bret. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments for the Creatures of the Night everywhere as well as the American fans, as Shawn Michaels screwed the Undertaker – unintentionally – out of the WWF Title.

The fans seemed to turn on Shawn Michaels after this episode even though HBK was put in a no-win situation, and Undertaker promised to make him pay for costing him the Championship. Michaels didn’t take too lightly to this and hired Ravishing Rick Rude as a bodyguard for both him and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, who Michaels began siding with to form the group D-Generation X along with Rude and Chyna. During a tag team match on RAW where Undertaker and Mankind were fighting Helmsley and Michaels, Rude distracted the Deadman and set him up for Michaels to blast him – intentionally this time – right in the face with another chair, busting ‘Taker open for the first time in his WWF career. After this, it was announced that at In Your House 17: Ground Zero, Michaels and the Undertaker would go one-on-one for the first time ever despite both men being in the Federation for seven years at least and never crossing paths until then. Their match basically went out of control right from the start, as Undertaker nailed the referee before the bell rang, and Shawn tried to escape but was ordered back to the ring by Commissioner Slaughter, and ‘Taker hurled the ref on top of HBK. The two men brawled throughout the arena for several minutes before finally beginning the match in the ring after a second referee was dispatched to the ring. Undertaker pounded on Michaels relentlessly, and Michaels grabbed a chair but it was snatched away by the Phenom. The referee tried to pry it away, but ended up being hit by it after HBK dropkicked his opponent into the ref. The match went out the window from there, as Rick Rude handed Shawn a pair of brass knuckles so he could blast Undertaker with them. Helmsley and Chyna appeared with a third referee who registered a two count for Michaels. Michaels slugged this official and then further assaulted the second official so he wouldn’t see what he and Helmsley and Chyna would do to Undertaker, attacking him viciously and throwing him into the steel steps. Undertaker managed to snap to attention and grabbed Shawn’s brass knuckles and nailed him and Triple H with the object. After the second ref slowly counted to two for Undertaker, the Deadman Chokeslammed him to Hell, leding a fourth official to run to the ring and finally disqualifying both men. But Helmsley knocked this official out and he and Michaels continued the war on ‘Taker. The situation got so out of hand that a handful of WWF officials and referees tried to restore order and were beaten down by the combatants. Finally a huge group of about 25 WWF Superstars had to rush to the ring and separate both Shawn and Undertaker, but not before the Phenom made a huge legendary dive over the top rope onto Michaels and at least 10 other wrestlers. It was just mayhem and nothing at all was settled in this encounter, as Michaels and Triple H and Chyna retreated up the ramp, leaving the Undertaker to stew in the ring.

The Undertaker’s attitude had gotten so foul that he lay several beat downs on anybody who crossed him in the weeks after this event. In fact, at the One Night Only pay-per-view in the UK, his attitude cost him in his rematch for the WWF title against Bret Hart, where after a hard-fought match like at SummerSlam, Bret’s head became entangled in the ropes, choking him like a vice. The Deadman refused to relent on Hart, forcing the referee to disqualify him. But if he could win this next battle, he would get another title opportunity.

The following month at In Your House 18: Badd Blood, the Undertaker met Shawn Michaels once again in a new kind of matchup called “Hell In A Cell”. Workers from all over the country were brought in to construct a huge steel structure made of metal bars and chain links. This wasn’t your ordinary steel cage, it was 20 feet high, had a roof on it and was designed to keep the combatants in and everyone else out, namely Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude. As the Undertaker made his way to the ring that night, he could feel something in his bones that there was going to be history made this night and that someone would not walk out of this cell, as it was appropriately called. Michaels had to face the Deadman all by himself now, and right from the beginning of the match after the cell was lowered on both Superstars, Undertaker dominated the match, whipping Michaels all over the ring and outside the ring where he relentlessly threw Michaels into the steel mesh of the cell several times. Michaels mounted a brief comeback and cracked a chair over ‘Taker’s back. As he charged him though, ‘Taker back flipped him over the top rope and right onto a cameraman at ringside, knocking him out. An angry HBK pounded on the defenceless technician, forcing Commissioner Slaughter to have the cell door opened in order to get medical attention for the hurt cameraman. Seeing an opportunity, Shawn hit Undertaker with his Sweet Chin Music superkick, knocking the Deadman down…but sat up after three seconds, prompting a desperate Michaels to flee through the now open door of the cell. Undertaker caught him though and drove his face several times into the steel mesh, cutting the Heartbreak Kid wide open. Hoping to escape the ‘Taker’s wrath, Shawn climbed to the top of the cell, but his opponent followed him up there as well, where ‘Taker press-slammed Michaels on the roof and then pushed him over the edge, stomping his hands before Shawn fell over 10 feet right through the Spanish announcers’ table. Undertaker was enjoying every second of this punishment and looked to have Michaels completely destroyed, as he dragged him back into the cell and clotheslined him down, then placed him on the top turnbuckle and Chokeslammed him off down to the canvas. Then came the ultimate revenge…Undertaker grabbed another chair and cracked Shawn over the head, and by now he had lost a lost of blood and lay unconscious on the mat. The Phenom signalled it was time to finish Michaels once and for all with the Tombstone. But then…all of a sudden the lights went out in the arena and a dreary organ music played. Dim red lights appeared in the ring, making for a scary sight. What was even scarier was the big fiery explosion that went off in the entrance aisle and then came forth a huge seven foot giant, dressed in a bizarre red and black costume with his face covered by a mask. Paul Bearer accompanied this man to the ring, and it became obvious that this guy was concrete proof that he was the Undertaker’s long lost brother Kane! The monster grabbed hold of the steel door of the cell and ripped it clean off its hinges, nailing the referee before entering the ring and staring ‘Taker right in the face. The Deadman stood there, stunned, unable to think or move. This was the first time in 20 years that he had seen his brother, who he long thought to be dead from that funeral home fire. Kane slowly raised his arms and then shot them down, making the corners of the ring explode in flames. Kane then kicked his older brother in the stomach and then proceeded to give him his own Tombstone Piledriver, and a rather excruciating version of it, too! As Kane and Paul Bearer left the ring, Shawn Michaels literally crawled out of a pool of his own blood and covered ‘Taker. The groggy referee crawled towards the centre of the ring and slowly administered the three count, ending the Phenom’s chances to get his title back. The creatures of the night looked on in disbelief, as the whole purpose of the Hell In A Cell match had been completely lost. Once again, Paul Bearer was back in the picture, and he royally screwed the Undertaker that night, only this time, it was the beginning of a long and ugly war between him and his resurrected younger brother Kane.

In the weeks following Badd Blood, Kane began a rampage by destroying Superstar after Superstar. Paul Bearer claimed that what Kane was doing was all the Undertaker’s fault, because Bearer wanted ‘Taker to face his brother in a one-on-one match, but the man from the Dark Side refused, vowing never to do battle with his own flesh and blood. So once a week on RAW, Kane single-handedly destroyed the Hardy Boyz, Flash Funk, Ahmed Johnson, Crush, Dude Love, the Headbangers, Scott Taylor, Hawk, and others would follow into 1998. At In Your House 19: D-Generation X, Kane confronted Undertaker again in the ring after Kane got his brother disqualified by Chokeslamming his opponent, Jeff Jarrett. Kane punched ‘Taker right in the face, but ‘Taker refused to fight back. A week later on RAW, Kane slapped Undertaker when Paul Bearer challenged the Phenom once again to face his brother, and ‘Taker simply walked out of the ring. On the Christmas episode of RAW the following week when Undertaker was competing against Rocky Maivia, Kane and Bearer once again confronted the Deadman, and Paul chided that their dead parents were spending the holidays with the maggots and the worms. When ‘Taker grabbed Paul by the throat, Kane attacked his brother. Suddenly ‘Taker grabbed Kane by the throat and looked to have a chance to fight back, but he hesitated and then Kane just tore him apart, punching and kicking and choking him in the corner while Paul taunted the Deadman and the Creatures of the Night. Finally Kane backed off, but the damage had been done. ‘Taker’s Christmas had been ruined.

The year had been one of the best and the most challenging for the Undertaker, having had his second and longest run as WWF Champion, but having to deal with Paul Bearer all year was getting to be almost too much for the Phenom to handle. In addition, Kane was alive and well, but had brutal revenge on his mind. Would Undertaker be able to withstand much more of all of this, and would he get another title opportunity? The answer was yes, as we found out at the end of the year Undertaker would face Shawn Michaels one more time, but for the Championship as Michaels “defeated” Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997 in Montreal. Would Undertaker reclaim the title that Shawn robbed him of at SummerSlam? 1998 would hold those answers, along with a higher personality that would challenge ‘Taker in the coming months.

At the start of 1998 the Undertaker’s life was a living hell. Kane and Paul Bearer pursued him relentlessly, and continued to fill out Bearer’s promise that Kane would destroy each WWF superstar in turn until the Undertaker agreed to face him. But the Man From the Dark Side stood firm that he would not fight his brother.

Undertaker also still had unfinished business with Shawn Michaels and the WWF Championship. Taker and HBK would meet at the Royal Rumble in a casket match.

A few weeks before the Royal Rumble it seemed that Taker and Kane had put their differences aside and joined forces, when Kane saved Taker from a D-X attack, but it was merely a scheme on Bearer’s part.
At the Rumble it looked as if the Undertaker would be the new Champion after Tombstoning Michaels into the casket, but then the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas rushed to the ring and attacked the Deadman. Moments later Kane arrived and cleared the ring, but then he proceeded to attack his brother, Chokeslamming him into the casket. Michaels shut the lid and remained the Champion. Kane wasn’t done though, he and Paul Bearer locked Undertaker inside, poured gasoline all over it and then lit the casket on fire! However, when the fire was extinguished and the casket was broken open, the Phenom wasn’t there. He returned weeks later to finally step up to the challenge of facing his brother at WrestleMania XIV.

This was one of the toughest battles of the Deadman’s storied career but in the end he somehow managed to triumph over his evil brother, even though it took three Tombstones to do it. A post-match attack from Kane let the Phenom know that this feud was far from over. In the weeks after Wrestlemania, it was shockingly revealed that Paul Bearer was actually Kane’s father, and had had an affair with Undertaker’s mother. This sent the Phenom into a rage.

Since the Wrestlemania match solved nothing the two men fought again at Unforgiven, in the first ever Inferno match. With just as much ferocity as they had displayed the month before, Undertaker and Kane again tore into each other. Eventually Taker hurled Kane out of the ring and then took him out with a plancha straight over the flames. After beating up Paul Bearer Taker soon caused Kane’s arm to go back into the flames, setting it on fire. The Undertaker was the winner.

Next Undertaker’s seemingly never-ending feud with Mankind heated up again and the two would meet at King of the Ring in a Hell in a Cell match. When this match ended the Undertaker had hurled Mick Foley off the top of the Cell, Chokeslammed him through the roof and then twice slammed him onto thousands of thumbtacks before finally winning with a Tombstone. But the Deadman wasn’t done for the night. In the main event, Kane took on Steve Austin for the WWF Championship in a first blood match. It was the Undertaker who was the deciding factor here, when he entered the ring and smashed a steel chair into Austin’s face, causing him to bleed and giving Kane the WWF Championship. Undertaker said he did it because he didn’t want Kane to have to live up to his side of the bargain if he lost and be set on fire, however Austin regained it the next night.

Vince McMahon set up a match for opposed enemies the Undertaker and Austin to partner up against mutual enemies Mankind and Kane for the Tag Team Title at Fully Loaded. However, in the build up to the PPV, it seemed the Undertaker and Kane might be in cahoots. Taker and Austin won the match but neither teams functioned well and Taker left with both Tag Team Title belts after gaining the win, furthering the bad feeling between Austin and Taker. However their reign was short as Mankind and Kane regained the belts after Taker seemed to let Kane pin him.

Soon afterwards it became painfully clear that Kane and the Undertaker were together, when they destroyed Paul Bearer and Mankind. They planned to do the same to Steve Austin when the Undertaker faced him for the WWF Title at SummerSlam. On this night the Deadman opted to go it alone, wanting to prove that he was the better man. In the end though Stone Cold managed to retain the Championship with a Stunner. After losing the match, Kane came out to stand side by side with his defeated brother indicating the brothers were in cahoots.

This led to the WWE Title Triple Threat at the Breakdown PPV in which McMahon wanted to screw Austin out of the WWE Title. Both Taker and Kane pinned Austin following a double Chokeslam, so it was down to McMahon to decide who would be given the belt. However, because Austin had attacked McMahon, he accused the brothers of not living up to their side of the bargain. After giving the brothers the middle finger, McMahon received another beating, this time from Taker and Kane. The Undertaker and Kane faced each other for the WWE Title at Judgment Day with Austin as the special referee.

The Brothers of Destruction put their alliance aside on this night and fought it out with each other. At one point they both turned on Austin and laid a beating on him. Then Paul Bearer made his way down to the ring and begged his son Kane to allow him to hit the Undertaker with a steel chair. Kane agreed but it was Kane who Bearer whacked with the object. Undertaker soon nailed Kane with a shot of his own, signifying that Taker and Bearer were back together. However the Deadman would not claim the Championship on this night because Austin soon laid him out with the chair too, and then counted down both men. The title remained vacant. The belt was put into a tournament at Survivor Series. Undertaker beat Kane in the semi-finals thanks to Paul Bearer, but Kane later cost Taker his semi-final match against Rocky Maivia by getting him disqualified.

During these series of events Undertaker had undergone a transformation claiming he would unleash his Ministry of Darkness on the WWF. Undertaker’s first target was Stone Cold Steve Austin for costing him the WWF Title. Taker paid him back during a match with the Rock by hitting him in the head with a shovel. The next week the sadistic Deadman abducted Austin and took him to Paul Bearer’s funeral home, where he attempted to embalm Austin alive! Thankfully this didn’t happen; Kane showed up and attacked his brother, allowing Austin to escape. Hoping to end the feud and end Austin, Vince McMahon placed him in a Buried Alive match against the Undertaker at Rock Bottom. The Undertaker promised to make Austin burn in hell and on the Raw before the event, strapped him to a giant Undertaker symbol in an ominous prelude of things to come.

At Rock Bottom both men went to all lengths to attempt to bury the other one, but neither was successful. At one point Stone Cold chased Paul Bearer to the back, allowing Undertaker to lay in wait with a shovel. However, this is when Kane appeared from nowhere and attacked his brother, dumping him in the grave following a Tombstone. Now Austin arrived and buried the Undertaker, with the aid of a JCB.
For now at least, the evil of the Undertaker had been buried, but the Lord Of Darkness would soon return, darker than ever.

In early January the Undertaker returned to the WWF a changed man. Weeks prior Dennis Knight had been abducted by Faarooq and Bradshaw, who were now calling themselves the Acolytes. They spoke of taking Knight to “Him”. A few weeks later “He” was revealed to be the Undertaker, attired in a demonic, druid-like cloak and hood. In a bizarre ritual the Lord Of Darkness initiated him into his service and re-christened him Mideon. At the Royal Rumble, the Deadman’s next target was the 500lb Mabel, who he had his minions attack and abduct as well. The next night Mabel showed up with the Deadman, reborn as Viscera. Soon afterwards the Brood consisting of Gangrel, Edge and Christian, were also recruited to the Undertaker’s dark cause. The Ministry of Darkness was complete, now the Undertaker was ready to begin his unholy mission.

That mission was to take control of the WWF. Undertaker warned that one by one, Vince McMahon’s corporation would fall, and that the WWF would then be his! Vince was taking no chances and hoped that by placing the Phenom in the second Inferno match against his brother Kane, that Kane would be able to put the Deadman away. However the Undertaker was again victorious, setting Kane’s foot alight. After the match the Undertaker ominously presented the WWF owner with a burning teddy bear, the sight of which reduced him to tears.

Undertaker claimed that he and the Ministry answered to a higher power, and that this was his bidding. During his messages, Taker would continue to make references to “her” and claim he owned the key to Vince’s heart and soul. At one point he even went to Mr McMahon’s house, leaving a burning Undertaker symbol outside it for “her” to find. Desperate, Vince hoped that his corporate enforcer the Big Boss Man would be able to end Taker’s reign of terror at Wrestlemania XV, in a Hell in a Cell match. However, Undertaker was again dominant and victorious, sending an ominous message to Vince by placing a noose around Boss Man’s neck and hanging him from the Cell!

After Wrestlemania, we learned that this mysterious woman who the Undertaker kept making references to was Vince’s daughter Stephanie. In a terrifying night for the McMahon family, the Ministry took Stephanie captive at their Dark Lord’s bidding. Later in the night Ken Shamrock found her crying and trembling in a boiler room, with an Undertaker symbol on her forehead. In retribution for Shamrock interfering in his plans, the Undertaker abducted his sister Ryan and strapped her to his symbol, “sacrificing” her. The next week, she too was discovered crying in a boiler room. This whole situation was starting to get worrying for the Undertaker’s fans. He was displaying an evil side they had never seen from him before, and they didn’t like it. He was going too far!

At Backlash, McMahon hoped that an enraged Shamrock would snap the Deadman’s ankle. However, the Undertaker was more than prepared and won a tremendous battle with a Tombstone, and then had Bradshaw administer further punishment to Shamrock after the match.

However, the Undertaker was far from through for the night. As the PPV came to a close, the Ministry closed in on a limo with Stephanie McMahon inside. The limo started to leave but Steph pleded with the driver to wait for Vince. Then the window rolled down, revealing the driver to be the Undertaker! He and a screaming Stephanie then disappeared into the night.

The next night the Lord Of Darkness led Vince on a wild goose chase away from the arena, while he had Stephanie brought to the ring strapped to his symbol. It soon became clear that the Deadman intended to marry Stephanie, and thereby have Vince in his power, and the WWF under his control. Things didn’t go the way Undertaker intended though, as a chair wielding Stone Cold Steve Austin came to her rescue and re-united her with her Father.

Undertaker was livid with Austin for ruining his plan, but the plot was about to thicken. It was revealed that Undertaker had an accomplice in this plan all along; none other than Shane McMahon! The Deadman merged his Ministry of Darkness with Shane’s Corporation to form the Corporate Ministry and they began a reign of terror that led to a group of WWF superstars forming a counter-faction named the Union. For a time, this was even led by Vince McMahon. With the boss’ son backing him, the Undertaker was a bigger threat to Steve Austin and his WWF Title than ever before, and a Title match was set up between the two of them at Over The Edge.

At the PPV it was a double special guest referee match with Shane as Taker’s referee and Vince as Austin’s referee. Undertaker won the match and his third WWE Title win with the help of a quick 1-2-3 count from Shane McMahon. After the PPV, the Undertaker promised to serve up Austin to his Greater Power, and after a beat down from the Corporate Ministry, he did just that. The Greater Power revealed himself to Austin, who looked as if he’d seen a ghost. The next week the Undertaker promised the Greater Power would reveal himself to the world, and he did just that. As the crowd looked on with anticipation, the figure lifted his hood to reveal…Vince McMahon! Vince had been behind the plot all along. Having his own daughter abducted, all just to “teach Stone Cold a lesson”.

As well as this, the Undertaker had his hands full in the form of the number one contender for his Championship, the Rock. Rock earned the right to face the Deadman at King of the Ring by beating both he and Triple H in a handicap match. However, at King of the Ring, the soon-to-be-Game interfered in the match and laid Rock out with a Pedigree, allowing Undertaker to Tombstone his way to retaining the title.

The next night in a shocking victory, Stone Cold actually defeated the Undertaker and took the WWF Title from him. This led to Taker assaulting and busting open the Rattlesnake, which in turn, led to a First Blood match between the two men at Fully Loaded. This match had more on the line than perhaps any other Title match; if Undertaker won then Austin could never be Champion again, but if Austin won then Vince would have to leave the WWF!

On the night it seemed Undertaker was the heavy favourite, having assaulted Austin earlier and split his head wide open. However Stone Cold later got some revenge, doing the same to the Deadman. By the time the match rolled around both men were in danger of bleeding from the slightest thing. In the end it looked like Undertaker had the match in the bag until X-Pac appeared from nowhere and kicked a chair back in his face in retribution from an earlier Taker attack. From here Austin smashed Taker with a camera to cut him open and win the match.

After Fully Loaded the Undertaker seemed to disband the Ministry, apart from Mideon and Viscera, and looked for bigger and badder associates to watch his back. That came in the form of the 7ft 500lb Big Show, with whom he formed an unholy alliance. One of the most dominating tag-teams to ever exist, the most evil man in wrestling and the biggest man in wrestling. It certainly was an Unholy Alliance. They feuded with Taker’s brother Kane and Taker’s enemy X-Pac for the Tag-team titles leding up to the SummerSlam PPV in a match which they won.

During the time of the Unholy Alliance, the Undertaker started to phase out a little “Deadman” from the character portrayed on television and wore denim and a bandana when he wasn’t in ring attire. After SummerSlam, Taker and the Big Show started to feud with the newly-formed Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection for the titles and defeated them in a tag-team buried alive match on SmackDown! with a little help
from Triple H.

During the course of this era Taker’s injuries were starting to show and he was limping through most of his matches. Dedicated, he didn’t stop as he was putting the fans first. In a turn of events the Unholy Alliance lost the tag-team titles on a later Raw event when Taker walked out on the Big Show after Paul Bearer came down to ringside and delivered a message to Taker. The next week, Big Show demanded an explanation, he called out the Undertaker but got Paul Bearer instead, Big Show proceeded to beat Bearer down until Taker came down to the ring. He grabbed Show by the throat and whispered something into his ear, the Big Show stopped immediately and looked as if he had just filled his underwear.
In the Undertaker’s last appearance of 1999, he refused to wrestle a casket match against Triple H, claiming that not even Vince McMahon would tell him what to do. Vince told him that if he didn’t compete then he would be removed from the upcoming six man WWF Title match at Unforgiven, but Undertaker responded by saying, “Maybe I won’t be competing in anything around here!”
With that the Phenom left behind an incredible nine year legacy, without even looking back.
It was eight long months before he was heard from again, and then a new day dawned…

The Undertaker was famously away from WWE action for a long 8 months from September 1999 to May 2000. His departure was staged as a ‘middle finger walk-out’ during a late September SmackDown! taping. He was in fact granted 3 months time-off to rest and recover from nagging injuries, including a groin strain, sore hips and sore knees. He was scheduled to return at the Armageddon pay-per-view in December 1999 but he didn’t even feel 75% ready, so his return was delayed until the Royal Rumble in January 2000. However, just days before his scheduled Royal Rumble comeback, Undertaker tore his pectoral muscle whilst working-out. Amongst all of this Undertaker had considered leaving the WWF due to his injuries and wondered whether his body could hold up any longer but decided not to quit in the midst of self-doubt.

Around May 2000, subtle but creepy signs began making their way onto television, prophesising a return. The messages promised “His Judgment Day Is Coming!” Since the next pay per view was Judgment Day, nobody thought much of this. And the event was indeed a day of judgment; in the main event the Rock and Triple H went through hell in an hour-long Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship. In the closing moments of the match, after guest referee Shawn Michaels had been knocked down outside the ring, Triple H’s friends the McMahon-Helmsley Faction stormed the ring and began beating down the Rock. It seemed Rock’s Championship run was doomed, until three little girls appeared on the titan-tron, eerily chanting. Voices said, “Are You Scared?” “He’s Here!” and suddenly from out of the back, mounted on a roaring black motorcycle, burst the Undertaker! But this was like no Undertaker we’d ever seen before; attired in street gear with a long leather coat and a bandanna and glasses, the Taker made a beeline for the ring. The shocked McMahon sent all his troops after him but Undertaker went wild on them all, dishing out Chokeslams left and right. Vince himself was knocked out by a right hand from the Phenom, and then Stephanie McMahon-Helsmley soon found herself with the Taker’s giant hand wrapped around her throat. Triple H came to her rescue but he received a Chokeslam for his troubles, and was then promptly blasted with a Tombstone Piledriver. The Undertaker’s message had been received, loud and clear; he was back and ready to rule his Yard once more.

The McMahon’s had their hands full now, with the vengeful Rock, and the returning Undertaker, who was living up to his new moniker of “American Bad Ass” on every opportunity. The Phenom even tried to mow Vince down with his motorcycle on one such occasion.

In the process of this, Triple H had been awarded the victory at Judgment Day when HBK saw Taker lay him out, so The Game was once again the WWF Champion. however, HHH was a marked man as Rock, Taker and the returning Kane all wanted him and his Title. At King of the Ring, Triple H teamed with Vince and Shane McMahon to put the Championship on the line against the Rock, Kane and the Undertaker. Taker was as destructive as ever, totally destroying Shane McMahon by Chokeslamming him from the top rope through the ringside announce table. At the end of the night, the Rock had regained the Title by pinning Vince, but Taker had made the biggest impact.

In the weeks that followed Taker and Kane put aside their differences in hopes of winning Tag Team gold. It was clear that the Champions Edge and Christian were no match for the Brothers of Destruction, as each occasion their paths crossed left them laying unconscious in the ring, usually courtesy of the Taker’s devastating new finisher, the Last Ride Powerbomb. However Taker and Kane did not win the Titles thanks to Kurt Angle, who attacked Taker and ended the match on a disqualification.

Kurt was the unluckiest guy in the world, he’d unintentionally pissed off the Undertaker, a man he was terrified of, and he just seemed to keep making things worse. After a victory on an edition of
SmackDown!, Kurt was ecstatic, flinging food and milk from a table in celebration. Little did he realise that he’d just flung it all over Undertaker’s motorcycle! The next week Kurt tried to apologise in the form of a scooter, to which Taker responded by hurling it off the stage. Angle had dug himself a hole and it just kept getting deeper; he interfered with a match between the Undertaker and Triple H, attempting to hit the Game with a sledgehammer, but Triple H avoided the blow and it was the Undertaker who Angle laid out with the weapon. Now the American Bad Ass was furious, spending the whole time until the PPV trying to get his hands on Angle, who seemed to further lose his mind by pouring paint stripper all over one of Taker’s bikes. At Fully Loaded the Undertaker arrived for the match still fuming because Angle had attacked his knee with a wrench earlier, but now it was payback time. Taker hurled Kurt around like a rag doll before putting him away with the Last Ride for the win.

After Fully Loaded, a brief feud with the Big Show ended with Taker launching the big man off the stage, but a bitter old rivalry was again about to rear its head. During a match with Chris Benoit, the Undertaker was in big trouble as Benoit had hit him with a chair and had him locked in the Crippler Crossface. This was when Kane arrived and chased Benoit off, but then he shockingly grabbed Taker by the throat and Chokeslammed him twice, the second one going right THROUGH the ring! An angry and hurt Undertaker confronted Kane the on the next show, but he was bloodied and beaten by his brother.
The two brothers fought at SummerSlam, in a match where the bell never even rung. The American Bad Ass was determined to get even, and in the end he actually tore Kane’s mask from his face, causing him to run to the back shielding his face from view.

Next Taker refocused on the WWF Title, and was placed in a Fatal Four-way at Unforgiven, along with Chris Benoit, Kane and the Champion the Rock. Taker rolled into the event with all the momentum in the world, having pinned the Rock in a one on one match on the previous Raw. All four men gave it everything they had in hopes of leaving with the Title, but in the end the Rock was able to pin Benoit and retain the title as Kane and Taker beat the hell out of each other outside the ring.

The Deadman was then forced to take almost two months off to have gallbladder surgery, during which time Kurt Angle defeated the Rock for the WWF Title, but when he returned his focus was still squarely on the Title. Taker won another fatal four way to become the number one contender, outlasting Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Kane. Taker and Angle met with the Title on the line at Survivor Series. It seemed nothing would stop the Deadman from winning back the Title, especially when he planted Angle with the Last Ride. However something was wrong, the man he was pinning wasn’t Kurt Angle. As everyone looked on confused, the real Angle rolled Taker up from behind and won the match. Undertaker had been screwed!

The duplicate Angle was actually Kurt’s brother Eric, but both paid for their transgressions when the American Bad Ass Chokeslammed Eric and then Chokeslammed Kurt off the stage! Carnage like this had become the norm in the WWF, and Commissioner Mick Foley decided that the six people volleying for the WWF Title; Rock, Austin, Triple H, Rikishi, Angle and Undertaker, would fight it out at Armageddon, in a Hell in a Cell match! The match was violent and brutal. All six men bled, but only one actually enjoyed it. This was the Undertaker’s element, where he made people famous! And he fully intended on doing just that. As he and Rikishi fought it out on top of the Cell, the Deadman gripped the big Samoan by the throat and hurled him off the Cell! Rikishi crash landed in the back of a truck that had been brought to the ring, and he didn’t move. He was hurt bad. Although he didn’t win the match, the Undertaker didn’t care. He had lived up to his promise. He had made Rikishi famous!



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