To start the year off the American Badass reunited with his brother Kane. This obviously meant big trouble for anybody who stood in their way. This was no more apparent than at the Royal Rumble, which saw the Brothers of Destruction dominate the battle royal. Unfortunately neither managaed to win the bout, and so they set their sights on the tag team division. The duo defeated Haku and Rikishi in a brutal First Blood Match and met Edge and Christian and the Champions the Dudley Boyz in a Tag Team Table Match for the belts at No Way Out. ‘Taker and Kane dictated the pace the entire match, and it was only interference from Rikishi and Haku that prevented them from leaving with the belts. The two big men would pay for their interference in the following weeks.
Fresh off a huge victory over Steve Austin at No Way Out, Triple H made the statement that he had beaten everybody that there was to beat. However, that wasn’t true. He had never beaten the Undertaker. The Phenom, well aware of this, promised the Game that if he tried him, he’d make him famous! Triple H seemingly offended, attacked the Deadman backstage the following week, pushing his motorcycle onto his leg. This attack prompted the American Badass to retaliate, however it ended up getting ‘Taker arrested. Despite the law getting invovled in the previous weeks, this didn’t stop Triple H levelling the Deadman with a sledgehammer to the head, which he required multiple stitches for. The Game’s last act before the PPV was wrecking the Undertaker’s motorcycle and hurling it off the stage. Big mistake. By the time WrestleMania rolled around, the Phenom was hell bent on revenge. In probably the most emotionally charged match on the card, the Undertaker and Triple H wrestled a show stealer. From Tombstones to sledgehammers, when it was all said and done, only one man was victorious. And with a thunderous Last Ride that man was the Undertaer. The Badass was now 9-0 and WrestleMania, certainly proving to Triple H that the yard was still very much his.
In the following month, the WWF Champion Steve Austin and the Intercontinental Champion Triple H made a shocking alliance and wreaked havoc on the WWF. But once again Triple H’s mouth landed him in trouble, when he claimed he and Austin were the most dominant force in the industry. The Undertaker and Kane arrived to dispute this statement, sending the ‘Two Man Power Trip’ running for their lives. The next week, despite Triple H and Austin’s interference, Undertaker and Kane became the Tag Team Champions when they defeated Edge and Christian. A titanic showdown took place at Backlash between the two huge teams, with all the gold on the line. In the end though Austin and Triple H emerged the new Tag Champions when Triple H used a sledgehammer on Kane.
Now the Deadman had his sights set on Austin and his WWF Championship. After the Power Trip injured Kane, ‘Taker went on a rampage, hurling Austin through a plate glass window and then attacking him in an ambulance that was to take him to the hospital. Realising that he was losing the war to the Deadman, Austin upped the ante, in a big way! On the Raw before Judgement Day, where Undertaker and Austin would meet for the Title, ‘Taker was told by police officers that his wife Sara had been involved in a car accident. However, he rushed home to discover that it was all an elaborate set up. Stone Cold blamed Triple H for this, but later revealed to an enraged Undertaker that he was behind the sick plot all along.
At Judgment Day the American Bad Ass was set on making Austin pay, and taking his Championship. In a bloody and brutal match, it looked as if ‘Taker was destined to walk out with the Championship, until Triple H and his sledgehammer struck again, allowing Austin to pin the Deadman and retain the Title.
In the following weeks however, Austin and Triple H were the last things on the mind of the Undertaker. Videos continued to be anonymously sent to Raw and SmackDown!, that featured Undertaker’s wife Sara. Somebody was lurking outside their home, secretly filming her. Naturally the Undertaker flipped, and left a trail of beaten bodies in his path as he attempted to find the culprit. The stalker would continually taunt ‘Taker though, as he seemed to be able to get at Sara no matter where she was. The finally, the mysterious stalker revealed himself to the world, unmasking to reveal…Diamond Dallas Page! DDP was the stalker! Apparently he wanted to be famous, so he’d decided to target the Undertaker, and do so in a way that nobody had before.
At King of the Ring DDP learned that fame had a price, when both the Undertaker and Sara confronted him, and the American Bad Ass beat the hell out of him.
In the weeks that followed, Page would continually go after Sara, who accompanied her husband to arenas and to ringside so ‘Taker could be sure to protect her. On one occasion he even delivered the Diamond Cutter to her. During this time the Alliance was formed; a power-hungry group of WCW and ECW wrestlers led by Shane and Stephanie McMahon. Despite the invasion, the Undertaker’s main focus was still on DDP. So much so that he abandoned the WWF vs. WCW/ECW
Inaugural Brawl at Invasion, rather than letting DDP escape again. The feud carried on through the summer, during which time Page and Chris Kanyon became the WWF Tag Team Champions, and Undertaker and Kane became the WCW Tag Champions.
The whole sick game between ‘Taker and DDP would come to an end at SummerSlam, when the two teams would face off in a steel cage match. On this night payback truly was a b*tch! With Sara cheering on, the Brothers of Destruction allowed Kanyon to leave so they could take turns in brutalising DDP. In the end ‘Taker finished him off with a Last Ride, finally making him Famous! As if to put the exclamation point on the whole situation, the next night Undertaker attacked Page and then Sara actually pinned him in a match!
As the first unified Tag Team Champions in over 40 years, Undertaker and Kane seemed on a roll, until the Dudley Boyz defeated them for the WWF Tag Titles thanks to interference from Kronik. ‘Taker and Kane got their payback at Unforgiven when they defeated Kronik to retain the WCW Tag straps, but they were soon cheated out of them too when Booker T and Test defeated them, with a great deal of assistance from Shane McMahon. This didn’t slow down ‘Taker’s singles momentum though, as he went on to defeat Booker T in one on one action at No Mercy.
Vince McMahon had now decided that he’d had enough of the Alliance, and so he and his children agreed to a winner-take-all match at Survivor Series. Team WWF; the Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and the Big Show, would take on Team Alliance; Stone Cold, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle. Angle was originally supposed to be a member of Team WWF but he had shockingly betrayed them and joined the Alliance. Each team gave it their all in hopes of final victory, and Chris Jericho’s jealousy almost put an end to the WWF when he attacked the Rock. This angered the Undertaker, who chased Jericho out of the arena. In the end Angle turned on Austin and the WWF emerged as the final victor.
The Undertaker was angry at Mr. McMahon following Survivor Series for going to Kurt Angle for help and not him, his most loyal employee over the last 11 years. Vince tried to make it up to ‘Taker by placing him in a match against Angle, but during the match McMahon actually tried to attack Undertaker with a chair. The furious Deadman claimed that all he wanted was respect, before leaving.
The next week, the power mad Vince was attempting to humiliate Jim Ross in his hometown by making his kiss his ass! But the fun seemed to be over when the Undertaker arrived on the scene. The American Bad Ass appeared to be in a particularly vile mood and J.R.
instinctively crawled to safety behind him. Shockingly though, Ross was anything but safe as Undertaker turned on him and blasted him with a right hand. In a despicable act, ‘Taker then forced Ross’s face right into McMahon’s backside.
Tired of the lack of respect he felt the locker room was showing him, the Undertaker, complete with a new short haircut, set out to punish anyone who failed to show him that respect. His first target was the Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam, who ‘Taker would meet for the Title at Vengeance. Twice before the event, the Deadman had viciously assaulted RVD, and on this night he was just as aggressive. After a tough contest that went throughout the arena, the Undertaker Chokeslammed Van Dam off the stage and through a table. Big Evil followed this up with a pin for the win and was now the new Hardcore Champion! Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler best described the situation when he said the thought of the Undertaker as Hardcore Champion was scary.
In the last few weeks of 2001, the Undertaker would prove the King exactly right, dishing out devastating beatings to the likes of Spike Dudley, the Hardy Boyz and even Lita didn’t escape his wrath! Heading into 2002, the Deadman was intent on making sure everybody showed him the proper respect.
Heading into the annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view, the new Hardcore Champion the Undertaker was a favourite going into match. At the pay-per-view itself, Big Evil cleaned house, eliminating everyone in sight including the Hardy Boyz who he was feuding with prior to the event. With no one left in the ring ‘Taker was awaiting the next entrant. This happened to be a very unlucky Maven, a rookie from the Tough Enough series and with the Undertaker solely focussed on him, since no one else was left in the ring, he gave the boy a series beating. However, this was interrupted as the Hardy Boyz and Lita this time got back into the ring to attack the Undertaker. The Red Devil eventually removed all three of them from the ring and began mouthing off at them, this distraction allowed Maven to dropkick ‘Taker over the top rope and eliminate him in one of the biggest Royal Rumble shockers ever. The Undertaker looked to be in a state of shock, as he walked back up the steel stairs and back into the ring to extract some revenge from Maven. He took the rookie throughout the arena and at one point smashed his head through a popcorn machine making him unable to continue in the Rumble match.
As a result of the altercation at the pay-per-view, Maven was granted a shot at the Undertaker’s Hardcore title. Shockingly he managed to defeat the Deadman due to interference from the Rock who he had renewed his long-term rivalry with in the previous weeks. Out of an act of revenge Undertaker Chokeslammed the Rock onto the hood of his car and followed it up with a Tombstone! This further caused hatred between the two and led to a match up at No Way Out, with The Rock pinning the Deadman due to Ric Flair’s involvement.
With WrestleMania X8 drawing near and ‘Taker was determined to get his revenge on Flair at the event. Ric declined, saying he wasn’t a wrestler anymore, but the Deadman vowed to change his mind. By that the Undertaker meant hurting Flair’s friends and family, targeting David Flair and Arn Anderson. This got Flair’s attention and he finally agreeed to a match up at WrestleMania, which was rather cleverly made No DQ. It was a bloody and brutal match and despite interference from Arn, the Undertaker managed to seal the victory with a Tombstone making him 10-0 at WrestleMania.
On March 25, 2002 the WWE was to going to do something they had never done before and that was create a draft roster. Vince McMahon and Ric Flair each picked superstars for their show and with Flair being the owner of Raw he drafted the Undertaker as his number one pick, the man that had beat him to a bloody pulp at WrestleMania. Everyone including the Undertaker was shocked by this decision.
Undertaker got back into the title hunt challenging Triple H to a match for the Undisputed Title at Backlash. However he was denied this title shot and was told he had to earn the No. Contender’s spot. And so that’s exactly what he did by defeating Rob Van Dam to be given the chance to face Steve Austin for the spot at Backlash. The Undertaker managed to pull the victory off by pinning Austin after a steel chair shot but what the special guest referee Ric Flair didn’t see was that Austin’s foot was on the rope, which techincally should have broken the pin count. Howevever, the decision wasn’t reversed and Undertaker was now the No. 1 Contender for the Undipsuted Title. Later in the night Undertaker interfered in the Triple H vs. Hulk Hogan match for the Title, attacking the Game allowing Hogan to get the Leg Drop for the win. The match was set, Hogan would face the Undertaker for the Undisputed Title at the next PPV.
An old rivalry had just been revived, almost 12 years ago the Undertaker defeated Hogan to become the WWF Champion and at that years Judgment Day he had that chance once again. Big Evil and Hogan played mind games with each other going into the PPV, with Hogan destroying ‘Taker’s motorcycle and the Deadman attaching Hogan to his own motorcycle, driving him into a pile of steel pipes. At the pay-per-view, Undertaker and Hogan had a back and forth match until the difference maker Mr. McMahon came down to the ring eventually distracting referee and Hogan enough for ‘Taker to hit him with a steel chair across the back, followed by a Chokeslam for the win and becoming a four time WWE Champion and for the first time the WWE Undisputed Champion.
Triple H wanted to a chance to become the Champion again, after all it was ‘Taker that cost him the Title at Backlash. Undertaker was a little hesistant about facing the Game, but they both signed the contract making the match-up for King Of The Ring. A cunning Big Evil managed to defeat Triple H at the pay-per-view following a low blow and a roll-up pin, even with the Rock getting involved. The presence of the Rock indicated that he was also hungry for the Title as would be evident in the next couple of weeks.
The Big Evil character was essentially smart and cunning, not willing to take a risk unless necessary, that meant avoiding confrontaion some of the time, but that started to change…The Undertaker truely became a fighting Champion defending his Title against anyone who dared challenge him. He faced Jeff Hardy in his first ever ladder match where he got taking to the limit, so much so that after the match ‘Taker raised Jeff’s arm as a sign of respect. Was this also indicating ‘Taker felt he was finally getting the respect he deserved from everyone else? Time would tell. In one of his most controversial matches, Undertaker defended the Title against Kurt Angle on SmackDown!. During the match Big Evil went for the Last Ride but Angle locked in a triangle choke causing ‘Taker to lower Kurt to the mat but at the same time Angle’s shoulders where on the canvas being counted. As the 3-count went down ‘Taker tapped out! Finally after a dispute between the referees the match was declared a draw and the Undertaker retained the Title as a result.
The Rock and Undertaker were still not even and the Deadman wanted a match with him at the up and coming PPV Vengeance, one-on-one. However due to the Champion wrestling Kurt to a draw in their Title match, Angle was added to the mix to make it a Triple Threat. On that night you saw all three men using each other’s finishing with plenty of near falls, but eventually the Rock was victorious pinning Kurt after a Rock Bottom just before the Undertaker could make the save, thus losing the WWE Title without even being pinned. This didn’t make the Undertaker become bitter and evil instead he had a change of heart, no longer was he out to beat respect into people but instead to show other’s the meaning of respect. The Undertaker showed the Un-American’s what a proud American could do to them, in particular Test by defeating him at SummerSlam.
As 2002 continued, the Undertaker got back into the Title hunt, both he and Triple H had the same intentions of facing Brock Lesnar, the WWE Champion for the Title, as a result a No. 1 Contender’s match was set up between the two on Raw, which Triple H won due to interference from Lesnar. However the result was meaningless as Lesnar jumped to SmackDown! making the WWE Title exclusive to the Blue Brand. This didn’t matter to the Phenom as he followed Lesnar straight over to SmackDown!, defeating Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit in a Triple Threat match on his first night there, earning a shot at Lesnar’s Title at Unforgiven. Leading into Unforgiven both Lesnar and his manager Paul Heyman decided to make this feud personal by involving the Undertaker’s wife Sara, who was pregnant at the time. This only increased the Undertaker’s rage at the pay-per-view, which was by no means a good thing. The match resulted in a double DQ as the match turned into a slug-fest with the referee getting attacked several times. As far as both men were concerned the night wasn’t over though, they continued to brawl to the outside of the ring and up to the ramp where ‘Taker grabbed Lesnar and threw him straight through the Unforgiven sign, signalling this feud had only just begun.
If involving ‘Taker’s wife wasn’t enough, Lesnar and Heyman introduced a new women onto the scene named Tracy. This woman claimed she had been having an affair with the Undertaker and only just found out that ‘Taker’s wife Sara was pregnant. Undertaker denied ever knowing this women, until eventually he confessed he did have a relationship with her but that was way before he even met Sara. Undertaker wasn’t going to let the mind games tget to him, Heyman and Lesnar realised that, so Brock decided to get physical and break the Undertaker’s hand with a propane tank leaving the Phenom thriving in pain. As a result the Undertaker had to wear a cast over his hand. Lesnar didn’t foresee ‘Taker using it to his advantage, as the Phenom now had a new weapon at his disposal, in which he beat down the duo and anyone getting in his way. With all this going on, Undertaker’s rematch against Lesnar was at No Mercy, however Undertaker was allowed to choose the type of match. He chose one of his specialities…Hell In A Cell! At No Mercy the Undertaker was at a distinct disadvantage going in with a broken hand, but by using the cast as the weapon he evened the odds. The match itself was one of the Phenom’s most brutal, the Undertaker lost a huge amount of blood from a series of stair shots, finally laying victim to the F5. Lesnar was the better man that night and Undertaker knew it.
The following week on SmackDown! Big Evil was more than willing to admit Lesnar beat him cleanly at No Mercy, even Lesnar admitted he didn’t want to make is personal as he looked back at Heyman, suggesting it was all his idea involving Tracy. These two superstars settled their differences and Lesnar left the ring, putting an end to their heated rivalry. The Undertaker wasn’t finished speaking though, he went on to say how his body wouldn’t hold up forever and maybe it was time to…What was he going to say? Retire? We’ll never know, because before he could finish the Big Show came down to the ring looking perplexed by what the Undertaker had said. He claimed that he had been the one busting ‘Taker up all over the place not Lesnar, and he’d been shown no respect, and even went on to call the Undertaker a broken down has-been. ‘Taker just smiled and said that maybe true, but he’d much rather be a broken down has-been, than a Giant, that never was. ‘Taker turn away from the Big Show and made his way up the ramp, but the 500 pounder was walking close behind, ‘Taker turn round catious of the giant, but Show insured him he meant know harm. ‘Taker made his way to the stag as Show went backstage, the Undertaker raised his arms showing his appreciation to the crowd, but that was short-lived as the Big Show came up from behind and body slammed the Undertaker off the stage. Big Evil was seriously injured as the EMT’s rushed in to help the Undertaker. It would be a couple of months before we saw the Undertaker again.
As the Royal Rumble was drawing near promos aired chronicling the Undertaker’s career from the days of the Deadman to Big Evil. This created suspicion amongst fans that Undertaker would indeed return at the Royal Rumble appearing for the first time on WWE television since the Big Show’s attack on SmackDown!.
Sure enough the Undertaker did return as the 30th entrant of the Rumble eliminating everyone in sight, including his brother Kane. The final men were Undertaker and Brock Lesnar who settled their differences the year before. The two men went at it but Batista unhappy that the Deadman previously eliminated him came back into the ring with a steel chair, Big Evil again threw Batista out the ring, however Lesnar seized his opportunity and eliminated the Undertaker while he was distracted. Lesnar was the Royal Rumble winner, but ‘Taker got back into the ring to congratulate Lesnar and to let him know he wanted a title shot if and when Lesnar was Champion.
Now the Undertaker was back, revenge was on his mind. Big Show threw him off the stage and nearly ended his career, ‘Taker wasn’t going to forget that. Paul Heyman, Big Show’s manager, claimed he wasn’t at SmackDown!every time the Undertaker called him out. Instead he said that Big Show was sorry for what happened, and that he had a present for the Deadman. In fact each week leading up to No Way Out, Heyman gave the Undertaker a present on Big Show’s behalf. The first present turned out to be Brian Kendrick as a singing telegram, this ended with Spanky being given The Last Ride. The next week a crate was placed in the ring, and inside was a man from ‘Taker’s past, none other than Brother Love, ‘Taker wasn’t in the loving mood and Tombstoned his former manager. The week after there was another crate in the ring, this time it was Chris Kayon dress as Boy George. This resulted in the beat down of Kayon’s life. The final week before No Way Out two crates were placed in the ring. The first crate housed a little puppy that ‘Taker didn’t find cute or funny, as ‘Taker went to open the second crate Big Show came from behind. Catching Big Evil by surprise he attacked the Deadman and then fled the ring, only angering the Undertaker.
At No Way Out Undertaker was more than ready to take Big Show to school, he may have been a 7 foot tall 500 pound Giant but ‘Taker had ways to combat that, making Show pass out with a triangle hold to win the match, even with interference from A-Train.
On SmackDown! Heyman sent the Big Show and A-Train to attack ‘Taker in the ring, thankfully Nathan Jones and ex-convict from Australia made the save for ‘Taker. It seemed that Jones and the Undertaker were friends, with a teacher and student relationship. A-Train and Show were still at odds with these two and it was decided that at WrestleMania XIX, Nathan Jones and the Undertaker would face the Big Show and A-Train in a Tag Team Match.
Prior to WrestleMania, Jones was attacked backstage by A-Train and Show, meaning he was unable to compete, making it a Handicap Match. Undertaker being 10-0 at this point didn’t threat and rolled on down to the ring with Limp Bizkit performing Rollin’ live, one of the Undertaker’s previous entrance themes. Throughout the match’Taker dominated using his speed and strength to take the duo on. As the momentum switched in Big Show and A-Train’s favour, Nathan Jones came down to ringside to take down Show with an impressive roundhouse kick and with the Undertaker proceeded to double team A-Train. This culminated in the Undertaker planting A-Train with a huge Tombstone and the 1-2-3, making ‘Taker 11-0 at WrestleMania.
Stephanie McMahon had set up a tournament on SmackDown! with the winner facing the WWE Champion for the Title. Undertaker was entered in the contest and in the first round had to face Rey Mysterio. In an exciting match, Undertaker being the veteran, countered Rey’s West Coast Pop into The Last Ride thus winning the match and advancing into the semi-finals. After the match ‘Taker got back into the ring seemingly ready to attack Rey, however he helped him up and shook his hand as a sign of respect.
Heading into the semi-finals the Undertaker’s opponent was John Cena. The new comer and self proclaimed “Doctor of Thuganomics” had an attitude problem and didn’t help himself by disrespecting the Undertaker prior to their match. During the semi-final match up the FBI interfered with Nunzio hitting the Deadman with a steel chair and costing him the match and his chances of winning the tournament. Undertaker took just over a month off at this time for surgery on his elbow and to heel up some other injuries.
Soon enough the Undertaker returned to save Brock Lesnar from an attack by the FBI. Obviously ‘Taker had his own reasons for returning now, and that was to get some payback for the FBI costing him his tournament match. This led onto to a feud between the Undertaker and the FBI on SmackDown! for the good part of a month. The Deadman took each one of them down every week, showing that the trio were no match for him.
Reopening his feud with John Cena, Big Evil was determined to beat some respect into him. Due to the Undertaker’s real-life father becoming sick this caused him to take some time off of TV, but still making an occasional short appearance to let Cena know he was coming for him at the up and coming PPV Vengeance.
Just four days before Vengeance the Undertaker’s father passed away, but ‘Taker still made the PPV ready to kick some ass, truly showing that the man is loyal to his fans and company. Cena had the momentum nearing the end of the match, giving the Undertaker an FU, however the Deamdan kicked out much to Cena’s surprise. This resulted in the cocky youngest mounting the turnbuckle punching ‘Taker several times. The Deadman used this to his advantage countering it into The Last Ride for the win.
In a rematch on SmackDown! Cena defeated the Undertaker, thanks to the help of the A-Train. But he didn’t leave it there, during a match with the Big Show, A-Train interfered hitting ‘Taker across the ribs with a 2×4, causing ‘Taker to lose via count out. This led to a match at SummerSlam in which Undertaker won. After deposing of the A-Train, his manager Sable got into the ring attempting to seduce the Undertaker. The Phenom was no fool and grabbed her by the throat ready for Stephanie McMahon to take her down.
Closing the door on the feud with A-Train, Undertaker was given a chance to become the WWE Champion for the 5th time. He was put into a Triple Threat No. 1 Contender’s match on SmackDown! August 28th against Brock Lesnar and Big Show. The Deadman won the match and the following week was to face the Champion Kurt Angle for the WWE Title.
Going into the match Undertaker said that he was more ready than ever before, mentally and physically and come September 4th he proved that in an excellent match against Kurt Angle. Undertaker went hold for hold with Kurt Angle culminating in the Undertaker hitting The Last Ride for the win, but Lesnar came down to the ring and hit both ‘Taker and Angle with the chair. T match ended with ‘Taker winning by DQ and Angle retaining the Title.
In the following weeks Brock Lesnar would regain the WWE title from Kurt Angle. The Undertaker not forgetting that Brock Lesnar cost him the title a few weeks back was made Lesnar’s first Title contender. At No Mercy it was decided that the Undertaker would face Lesnar in a Biker Chain Match. The object of the match was to grab the chain that was hung from a pole and use it on your opponent. At No Mercy the odds were stacked against the Phenom. The first incident came as ‘Taker
attempted to get the chain held above the turnbuckle, however the lights went out. ‘Taker unable to see, climbed back down and like every watching was wondering what the hell was going on. This seemed odd and even more so when the FBI interfered in the match. ‘Taker took all three on and proceeded to get the chain. It was then revealed that Mr. McMahon was behind it all, when he came from under the ring and pushed the Undertaker off the turnbuckle and onto the ropes, Lesnar capitalizing scored the victory and retained the title. McMahon had screwed the Undertaker.
Paul Heyman, General Manager of SmackDown! made ‘Taker a generous offer on October, 23rd. If the Undertaker could defeat Brock Lesnar and Big show in a Handicap Match he could choose anybody to face, in any kind of match at anytime. Undertaker managed to score the victory, however Heyman kept on adding stipulations to the match finally making it a No Count Out, No DQ, 2-out-of-3 Falls, Handicap Match. Even against these odds the Undertaker still won the match. McMahon was livid that ‘Taker was victorious and had Lesnar and Show attack the Deadman as he made his way down to a beaten Undertaker. McMahon was sure that the Undetaker would choose to face Brock Lesnar for the Title and so he held the microphone up to ‘Taker’s face and told him to say what he had chosen. Vince couldn’t have been more wrong and to everyone’s surprise he didin’t choose a match with the Champion, instead he chose to have a Buried Alive Match at Survivor Series against the man who cost him the title at No Mercy, the man who treated his family like garbage and the man who thought he could do anything he wanted…Vincent Kennedy McMahon!
Paul Heyman decided to keep the Undertaker off of SmackDown! until Survivor Series was over. This didn’t stop Undertaker letting McMahon know what he would do him with chilling promos in a cemetery. Vince didn’t seemed bothered by this, he had a higher power that would save him in his match with the Undertaker. Was this true, or Vince actually going mad with fear?
At Survivor Series, Undertaker had the advantage from the start, pummelling the owner of the company until he was unable to stand. Vince never stood a chance and hadn’t got any offence in. ‘Taker took McMahon over to the grave but Vince put up a struggle knocking ‘Taker into the grave. The Deadman soon got back out and knocked Vince six feet under. The Undertaker then went over to the pay loader to tip the dirt into the grave. Before he could do this a huge explosion of pyro went off, temporarily blinding the Deadman and out from behind the loader came his half-brother Kane. The Big Red Machine proceeded to beat down the Deadman into the grave as Vince mounted the pay loader. Kane removed Undertaker’s bandana symbolising the end of an era as the dirt pored into the grave burying Big Evil alive!
The last anyone saw of the Undertaker was at Survivor Series the previous year after being buried under 6 feet of dirt. That was all about change and the first of many signs of the Undertaker’s return began at the Royal Rumble. During the Rumble match itself Kane, who had buried his brother, was dominating the ring. The count down began for the 13th entrant, 5-4-3-2-1, but instead of another entrant, the lights went out and a gong echoed throughout the arena sending the crowd into a frenzy. Kane astonished by what he just heard took his eye off the ball allowing Booker T to eliminate him from the Rumble. Following that incident the Phenom was still no where to be seen, but he continued to play mind games with Kane on Raw each week. The lights would go out and the bells toll. One week he would have the ring lift from the ground, another week rain poured from the top of arena and even ‘Taker’s symbols lowered from the ceiling to burn in flames. Kane actually feared the Deadman although he claimed he didn’t. It was announced that the Dead Would Rise…Again at WrestleMania XX and Kane vs. Undertaker was scheduled for the event, although Kane didn’t believe the Undertaker would show up. How could he, he was dead? Come the night of WrestleMania XX the whole arena was in anticipation for the return of the Deadman, rumours fled that he was returning as the Man From The Dark Side, a side of himself he hadn’t portrayed for over 4 years. All was about to be revealed as Kane entered the ring looking back at the arena stage with the look of fear on his face. The lights then went out, the crowd gasped in excitement, and then a familiar voice screamed over the speakers “Oh Yessss!”. Paul Bearer, Undertaker’s long time manager and conscience had returned! Holding the urn he was followed by Druids, flames in hand. Bearer made his way to ringside, facing Kane to utter the words “My son, you’re no son of mine”, before turning his back on him. The lights went out a second time, the crowd again gasped, as the first gong sounded the arena erupted, a second gong sounded again a cheer was heard echoing, the Undertaker’s music played and then out came the man himself. Dressed in a long black trench coat with a Stetson hat, the Deadman had returned. He made his way through the Druids holding the flames, greeted Bearer and mounted the stairs through the mist, finally to raise the lights as he rolled his eyes into the back of his head. As the Phenom stepped into the ring Kane still unable to accept the fact ‘Taker was really their approached with caution, before touching him as to make sure ‘Taker was real! As soon as he did touch ‘Taker, the Deadman let out an attack of left and right hands to begin the match. It was back and fourth action all the way. Shorter than their WrestleMania 14 encounter but with the same result, a Tombstone and the 1-2-3. The Dead had risen again.
The next week on SmackDown! Undertaker made his return to the show, after Heyman foolisly said there wasn’t a man ALIVE who could stop his reign as GM, of course Undertaker was from a living being. The Phenom made his way to the ring occuppied by Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Paul Heyman. Undertaker still had unfinished business with Heyman who put him in a Handicap match just before his Survivor Series encounter with McMahon. Revenge was on ‘Taker’s mind and with the the help of Mysterio and Guerrero they pushed Heyman into ‘Taker’s grip for the Tombstone.
Being that Kane and ‘Taker remained on separate shows following the Draft Lottery, their feud for now was over. Booker T who just moved over to SmackDown! was now on the scene, claiming he was the biggest star on SmackDown!, even bigger than the Undertaker! This didn’t sit well with the Phenom who put Booker back in his place with a series of mind games leading into their match at Judgement Day. Not even the Bookman could stop the Undertaker, who defeated him with a Tombstone Piledriver. Booker T requested a rematch and ‘Taker accepted, but there was no winner as Heyman interrupted to inform the Undertaker that the Dudley Boyz, managed by Heyman, had abducted Paul Bearer and stolen the Urn. Heyman saw this as away to exploit the Undertaker and achieve his vision of himself and the Dudleyz aligning with the Phenom to form and unstoppable force. As long as Heyman had Bearer the Undertaker was under his control. This was proven when ‘Taker attacked RVD and John Cena in a tag team match and delivered a Tombstone to the Doctor of Thuganomics. Cena requested a match the following week, but the Deadman resorted to cheating and used Cena’s own chain against him to score the victory. Undertaker was scheduled to face the Dudleyz in a handicap match at the Great American Bash. Heyman said that he had to do the right thing and if he didn’t Paul Bearer would be buried under 2 tonnes of cement. This made the encounter a Concrete Crypt match. Nobody knew what the right thing was until the night of the Bash. It appeared Heyman wanted the Undertaker to lay down for the Dudleyz so they could pin him and win the match. The Deadman did lie down but had no intention of being pinned and began to beat on the Dudleyz. Heyman warned ‘Taker not to attack them with threats of burying Bearer as he poured more and more cement into the chamber. ‘Taker hesitated but continued the match defeating the Dudleyz. As Heyman went to release the remaining cement, Undertaker sent a lightening bolt down to strike him and he fled the scene. The Deadman made his way to the chamber, looked over at Bearer and ushered the words “Paul I have no other choice. Rest…in…Peace! ” and then pulled the lever burying Paul Bearer alive. Undertaker had eliminated his weakness.
It seemed the Undertaker had one distraction after another, but finally he managed to set his sites on the WWE title once again. Newly crowned WWE Champion JBL proud of the fact there was no one suitable to face him at SummerSlam thought he’d have an easy ride and not defend the title
at the PPV, but the Undertaker made himself JBL’s challenger much to the Champion’s dislike. The following week JBL tried mocking the Undertaker, by bringing a midget Undertaker to the ring and attempting to Tombstone him, but the REAL 6’10 Undertaker made his way to the ring. The Original Deadman attacked JBL, until he was rescued by his Secretary of Defence Orlando Jordon. The midget ‘Taker wasn’t going to get away though and receive a ChokeSlam from Hell! At SummerSlam the Undertaker had the odds stacked against him as Orlando Jordon countless time interfered without the referee noticing, it finally resulted in the Undertaker getting DQ’d as he hit JBL with the Title. Undertaker unsatisfied with the result beat JBL to the outside and hoisted him onto his own limo to Chokeslam the Champion right through it! Undertaker was not through with JBL and his hunt for the title continued. At No Mercy ‘Taker was given a rematch and this time it would be a Last Ride match in which the opponent had to be stuffed inside the hearse and driven out of the arena. It wasn’t going to be an easy ride to the PPV as JBL brought in Gangrel and Viscera from ‘Taker’s former Ministry of Darkness. The attempt to take down the Deadman failed as the Phenom took both of them out. The following week Orlando was hung from ‘Taker’s Symbol leaving JBL all on his own at No Mercy, so we was led to believe. Come No Mercy Undertaker dominated the match, Tombstoning JBL onto the steel steps and Chokeslamming him through the announce table. Undertaker had the match won as he dragged JBL’s bloody carcase towards the hearse. As ‘Taker opened the door to the hearse waiting inside was the psychotic Heidenreich. He held a cloth soaked in ether over the Phenom’s mouth rendering him unconscious and put him inside the hearse. As the vehicle was driving out of the arena the Phenom sat right up and booted the door to the hearse open attacking JBL and Heidenreich, however the numbers were too great and a Clothesline From Hell allowed the two to put him back into the hearse and JBL to win the match. What happened after the match was most important. The Deadman was being driven outside the arena in the hearse and then Heyman got out of the driver’s seat indicating he was the driver all along. Heidenreich seen at the other end of the parking lot got inside a vehicle and drove it straight into the hearse, resulting in a huge explosion. Could this have killed the Undertaker yet again?
The answer was no…the Undertaker was not in the hearse when it was opened by the jaws of life. The Deadman would soon make his appearance known, signing a contract for a match at Survivor Series with Heidenreich. Although the blonde behemoth put up a fight it finished with the Tombstone and the Undertaker defeating Heidenreich. Now Heidenreich was out the picture, Undertaker could get back to hunting for the Title. JBL still managing to hold onto the gold had a long list of opponents he’d beaten to retain it by now. On SmackDown! Booker T, then Eddie Guerrero and then finally the Phenom, the Undertaker decided to interrupt JBL who was giving a victory speech, much to the Champion’s annoyance. All of these men wanted another chance to win the gold. General Manager Teddy Long saw this as an opportunity to make it a Fatal Four Way at Armageddon, of course the challengers were pleased. At Armageddon the Undertaker had JBL set for the Tombstone with Guerrero and Booker T down, that was until Heidenreich showed up and attacked the Deadman, choking him out with a Cobra Clutch. The Phenom sat up from this attack, ready to start from where he left off in the match but Heidenreich again interfered dragging ‘Taker out of the ring allowing JBL to hit the Clothesline From Hell on Booker T for the win. Heidenreich had severely angered The Lord of Darkness yet again.
A match between Heidenreich and the Undertaker was set up on SmackDown! in the Iraq, however Heidenreich left the ring, allowing ‘Taker to win by count out. The following week Heidenreich bragged about costing the Deadman the Title twice and that he spared the Undertaker last week. Big Evil appeared on the screen and interrupted him, leading to the Phenom’s Druids bringing a casket out to the ring and placing it ringside. Heidenreich hesitant to open the casket finally did and out the Undertaker shot up from it, sending Heidenreich to cower on the opposite side of the ring. Were we about to see the return of the Casket Match, only next year would we know?
Heading into 2005 we would see the return of one of the Undertaker’s classic matches, something immediately associated with the Man from the Dark Side, the Casket Match. At the Royal Rumble Undertaker had the intention of putting Heidenreich to rest once and for all. Heidenreich was terrified of the site of a casket and not even Heyman could contain his client’s fear. Come the Royal Rumble a confident Undertaker dominated most of the match until Snitsky came to the aid of Heidenreich and both men attacked the Undertaker. Things were not looking good for the Deadman until Snitsky and Heidenreich made the mistake of opening the casket, from where Undertaker’s half brother Kane arose. He took both of the big men down and fought Snitsky out of the ring and into the crowd. Meanwhile Undertaker got back his strength and continued to beat down Heidenreich and sealed his fait shut inside the casket.
In what appeared to be the end of the feud with Heidenreich, Undertaker took part in a No. 1 Contender’s Tournament for a chance to face the WWE Champion at WrestleMania 21. His first opponent was Renee’ Dupree, which made this match the French Phenom vs. The True Phenom. Undertaker had the match under control until Kurt Angle’s hence men Luther Reigns and Mark Jindrak interfered with the aim of eliminating the Undertaker from the tournament so Angle didn’t have to face him in the semi-finals. They succeeded as the Deadman and Dupree were both counted out leading to a no contest and neither man advancing in the tournament. Reigns and Jindrak had just made themselves a new enemy in the form of a demonic Undertaker. Luther stepped up to the plate and claimed he didn’t fear the Deadman and in fact accepted a match with the Undertaker at No Way Out. Reigns did his best to beat the Phenom but he was unsuccessful with the Undertaker claiming the victory.
As WrestleMania 21 drew near people were looking to make an impact none more so than the “Legend Killer” Randy Orton. Being that at WrestleMania Raw superstars could face SmackDown! superstars, cross-promotional matches were taking place and so Orton seized this opportunity to challenge the Deadman to a match, confident he could end the Undertaker’s winning streak. Orton seemed to show the utmost respect for his opponent until he slapped the Phenom across the face. This angered the Undertaker and unleashed the beast inside of him, he wasn’t going to wrestle Orton, he was going to destroy him at WrestleMania. Bob Orton, Randy’s father pleaded with the Deadman but it was no use, that one slap sealed his son’s fate. But Bob wasn’t there to plead anyway, he was merely a distraction so Randy could deliver the RKO to the Phenom, which ‘Taker could not get up from. The question was could this move cost the Undertaker his WrestleMania legacy? The question was answered at WrestleMania when the Phenom did kick out the RKO and kept to his word ensuring that Randy Orton Rest In Peace pinning him 1,2,3 following a huge Tombstone and making him 13-0 at WrestleMania.
Undertaker took some time off following Mania due to nagging injuries and to be there for the birth of his second child with his wife Sara. Meanwhile on Raw Orton had sustained a shoulder injury as a result of the Tombstone and required surgery (this was not the real cause of the injury). There clearly was unfinished business between the two superstars and that was revealed when Orton cost a returning Undertaker a match against JBL. This also meant Orton was the latest draft pick for SmackDown!. The following week Orton claimed that the Undertaker would have to wait to face him and that he’d have to do it on his terms, Undertaker corrected the Legend Killer by telling him Death waits for no one. Orton again took some time off, still not cleared to wrestle, Undertaker turned his attention to Muhammad Hassan who bad mouthed the Phenom stating the Day of the Deadman was over. Things heated up when the two participated in a 6-man Elimination Match later that night. The Undertaker got disqualified for hitting Hassan with a steel chair costing himself and Hassan a No. 1 Contender’s spot for the World Title as they battled to the backstage area. Daivari was used as the sacrafice the following week when he was pitted against the Deadman in a one-on-one match. ‘Taker made short work of Daivari but after the match Hassan got down on his knees as five masked men attacked the Phenom. ‘Taker tried to hold them off but one of the men choked the Undertaker out with piano wire, Hassan proceeded to the ring to apply the Camal Clutch adding insult to injury. The henchmen then carried Daivari above their shoulders and left the ring. Hassan decided not to appear on SmackDown! until he defeated the Undertaker at the Great American Bash, which was made a No. 1 Contender’s Match for the Heavyweight Title. At the Great American Bash, Hassan did show up and so did the Phenom who quickly defeated Hassan with a Chokeslam. Predictably Hassan’s henchmen who accompanied him to the ring attacked the Deadman, however the Phenom wouldn’t be caught out twice and took all five of them down, as well as Daivari. ‘Taker then followed a cowering Hassan up the aisle to the stage area where he gave him his Last Ride literally through the stage and onto the concrete floor. Hassan was severly injured and was taken out of action permanently. By defeating Hassan the Undertaker was now the No. 1 Contender, however due to the controversial finish in the World Heavyweight Title match between JBL and Batista a match was made on SmackDown! pitting the Deadman against the Wrestling God for the title shot. Due to a returning Randy Orton’s interference the Legend Killer cost the Deadman the match and his title opportunity. The following week Randy Orton made the challenge to the Deadman for a match at a SummerSlam, of course the Undertaker accepted.
At SummerSlam the two put on a high quality match much like there WrestleMania encounter but with one big difference, Randy Orton won with the RKO when Bob Orton dressed as fan distracted Big Evil. An angry Deadman sat up shortly after looking straight at the two Orton’s who would regret what they had just done. After the defeat at SummerSlam the Ortons intended to highlight the fact Randy Orton defeated the Legendery Undertaker by presenting the Phenom with a $1,416 cheque for his retirement fund. However, all didn’t go to plan when Undertaker sent a bolt of lightning down on the cheque setting it on fire. This caused both Orton’s to run backstage afraid for their own safety. A rubber match was scheduled the following week, with the Ortons attempting to play mind games with the ‘Taker by bringing a casket down to the ring with a replica Undertaker model inside! Undertaker was phased by this and it allowed Orton to get the advantage in the match but things soon turned around and the Undertaker scored the victory. For some reason the Ortons seemed to forget the fact Undertaker defeated young Randy Orton the week before, but still went ahead with holding a funeral for the Deadman. Orton opened the casket placed in the ring to reveal the replica Undertaker model and went on to address the fans. Whilst this was going on the eyes of the replica model moved revealing it was the real Undertaker…everyone new this now apart from Bob and Randy Orton. The Legend Killer made his way to the casket to get a closer look at the model, but before Orton could get any closer the Phenom had his hand around his throat and stepped outside the casket and threw Randy back into it. The casket became the center piece of the Undertaker and Randy Orton’s feud and so at No Mercy it was to be, for the first ever time, a Handicap Casket Match. The Phenom had the advantage going into the match but when it came down to a two on one environment, Undertaker was out-numbered and resulted in him being knocked out with a steal chair inside the casket. The lid was closed and ‘Taker was locked inside. The Orton’s dragged the casket up the ramp where Randy began to chop through it with an axe and then covered it in gasoline, finally setting it a light with the Undertaker inside! Almost identical to the incident at the Royal Rumble 1998. The casket was later opened but the Undertaker was no where to be found.
Signs of the Undertaker’s return began airing on TV, and it was eventually announced he would make his return at the Survivor Series. Many waited in anticaption for the Phenom’s arrival at the PPV and in the last closing minutes, that all too familiar Gong sounded throughout the arena as Orton celebrated with the SmackDown! roster in the ring. Everyone but Orton was unaware that the Phenom was about to be unleashed on those in the ring. Then the Druids made their way to the entrance way carrying with them a casket which they propped up. A bolt of ligthening struck the casket setting it ablaze, after a moments pause the door was kicked off and from it emerged the Undertaker, seemingly rising from the ashes. ‘Taker had yet again changed, sporting a body suit consisting of a vest and tights and a fully grown a beard. The Undertaker walked slowly down the entrance way, looking at a terrified “Legend Killer” inside the squared circle. The Phenom entered the ring over the top rope, where the foolish SmackDown! roster launched an attack on him. Big Evil began throwing lefts and rights, and giving those unlucky souls Chokeslams and a Tombstone Piledriver to an unfortunate William Regal. Randy managed to escape whilst this anarcy was underway, but after the roster had been put to rest the Phenom let Orton know the end was near for him. The following night on the SmackDown! Special the Undertaker made his presence known by saving Rey Mysterio from the unstoppable team of Kane and the Big Show. At first Show didn’t think the Undertaker was even there, but little brother Kane knew all to well that the Undertaker was behind them. Kane left the ring but Big Show had no problem facing ‘Taker, eventually the Big Red Monster decided to return and help Show out but the Phenom managed to take them both on. Orton entered the ring and stopped ‘Taker in his tracks with an RKO. ‘Taker managed to get up from this but Randy continued to assault him with a tyre iron outside the ring, leaving him sprawled over Eddie’s lowrider. Orton then backed the car through the SmackDown! dome and into some electrical equipment causing the car to set on fire, burning the Undertaker alive yet again! It wasn’t long before the Phenom let Randy know he was alive as his voice was heard in the arena telling Orton he would face him inside Hell in a Cell at Armageddon. Randy wasn’t happy to say the least and week after week, ‘Taker’s mind games were getting to him so much, Randy actually announced his retirement. This caused the Phenom to come to the ring, but the whole thing was a trap and allowed Orton to beat down the Undertaker the week before the pay-per-view. It didn’t do much good, because inside the Cell Undertaker defeated Randy Orton in a bloody match Tombstoning both him and his father. Undertaker then mounted the Cell with his Urn, doing the classic bow to celebrate his victory and highlight the fact he is still the only Phenom in the WWE.
Almost a month had past until we next saw the Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. At the very last moment the Phenom appeared in a horse drawn carriage seemingly challenging the World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle. The Deadman then sent a series of lightning bolts to the ring collapsing it on impact and seriously frightening the Champion. The following week the match had been made, the Wrestling Machine Kurt Angle would face the Phenom the Undertaker at No Way Out. ‘Taker had a few choice words for Angle, who returned the favour by confronting the Deadman, however the Dark Lord got the last laugh by disappearing into the darkness before Kurt’s very eyes, leaving the Champion bewildered. One main factor in the rivalry between the two was respect, but that didn’t stop them from trying to outdo one another and prove they were the better man. This was no more evident than when they teamed up to face MNM and Mark Henry on SmackDown!. Shockingly in an immense show of strength Big Evil managed to Tombstone the near 400 pound Mark Henry, clearly showing Kurt what he should be afraid of at No Way Out. And so, after the past few weeks it came down to that one match. The Undertaker yet again tried to capture the World Heavyweight Title as he took on one of his better opponents over the years in Kurt Angle. This match showcased two athletes giving it their all and putting on one of the best matches in both men’s careers. The finish saw Angle bridging for a quick pin catching the Deadman off guard, however ‘Taker picked Kurt up, pushed him into the turnbuckle and told him he had his number…this was not over.
True to his word, the Udertaker was granted a rematch two weeks after No Way Out to decide who the Champion would be leading into WrestleMania 22. Again the two put on a top performance, but as always the Undertaker had the match won with a Tombstone, until the “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry interferred, costing ‘Taker the Championship via disqualification. If that wasn’t enough he set ‘Taker up on the announce table and splashed him straight through it leaving the Phenom reeling in pain. Henry now thought he’d taken out the Undertaker for good, and could go on and pursue the World Heavyweight Champion, but the following week the Deadman made it clear he’d pay for what he’d done and ominously announced that he and Henry would face each other at WrestleMania in a Casket Match. After a week to think about it, Henry told the world he wasn’t scared of the Deadman and that he wasn’t scared of caskets. He asked to meet the Undertaker face to face at the revived Saturday Night’s Main Event. The Man from the Darkside showed up at the event with the Druids bringing a double-deep, double-wide casket to the ring. Once the Undertaker entered the squared circle, without hesisation he layed into Mark Henry with a series of punches, Henry made a small comeback, but the Undertaker got the advantage back by whipping him into the steel steps and then knocking him over the crowd barrier. A helpless Daivari was then Chokeslammed onto the cakset and driven headfirst into it with a Tombstone Piledriver, as the Undertaker demonically kneeled over him. In the following weeks, Henry tried to convince the world he would defeat the Phenom at WrestleMania, but it wasn’t to be. In Chicago, Illinois ‘Taker dominated “The Worlds Strongest Man”, showcasing his classic suicide dive over the top rope and sealing Henry inside the casket.
In typical WWE fashion, a WrestleMania rematch between ‘Taker and Henry was made on the next SmackDown! However the match ended in a no contenst when The Great Khali led to the ring by Daivari interferred and attacked the Deadman. The Undertaker could not come back from the assault, and the Giant symbolically stood over the Phenom raising his arms. Rumours were heard that the Undertaker was afraid of this Giant. As the weeks went by the longer ‘Taker didn’t show, the more people questioned, however Teddy Long finally announced that the Undertaker had requested a match again Khali at Judgment Day. The Phenom true to his word showed up at the pay-per-view, ready to take down the man that had seemingly embarrassed him. However in a shocking turn of events Khali pinned the Undertaker in a relatively short match, some would consider a squash. Again the Undertaker disappeared from TV, meanwhile on SmackDown! the The Great Khali challenged the Phenom to a Punjabi Prison Match. Eventually ‘Taker made his presence known once again, as smoke bellowed out from a casket that Daivari had brought down to the ring, the lights dimmed and the Phenom’s voice echoed throughout the arena, accepting Khali’s challenge. After what seemed and exceptionally long time, the Undertaker showed up to SmackDown! Positioned in the ring, the Deadman stood his ground awaiting Khali, who was present at the entrance ramped. However, Daivari pulled him back, telling the giant to wait until their match at the Great American Bash, this was probably a wise decision…for Khali’s sake.
The feud took a new direction at Saturday Night’s Main Event. Khali and Daivari were running their mouth about the Undertaker until the Big Show made his way to the ring. Show was simply there to give Khali his blessing, telling him he was the new Phenom. It wasn’t long before the Undertaker made his way to the ring, where a two on one situation ensued. Eventually the two giants got the better of ‘Taker leaving him laid out in the ring. Backstage the Big Show challenged the Deadman to a title match the following Tuesday on ECW, surely he realised what he was getting himself into? Never to back down from a challenge the Undertaker appeared on ECW television for the first time ever, be it under the WWE umbrella, to take on the ECW Champion, the Big Show. The match itself was back and forth, but Khali predictably showed up and attacked the Phenom, causing ‘Taker to win via DQ. The two giants then Double Chokeslammed him through the announce table yet again leaving him laying. It seemed Big Show was becoming increasingly involved in this battle between Khali and ‘Taker and at The Great American Bash, the two ambushed the Deadman backstage. As a result Teddy Long changed the match to Big Show vs. the Undertaker literally minutes before it was to take place. (The real reason for the switch was that Khali had elevated liver enzymes. That, or they knew the match would be absolutely horrible with him in it). ‘Taker managed to pull off the win after a entertaining and bloody match, with a cross body onto Show bursting through the bamboo cage. Khali showed up after ‘Taker’s victory, presumably indicating this rivalry was not over. That proved to be true when Khali showed up during ‘Taker’s match against King Booker. The Deadman wanting to end this once and for all challenged Khali to a Last Man Standing Match at SummerSlam. However the following week Daivari declined the Undertaker’s offer. The Phenom not satisfied, stormed to the ring taking out Khali and his manager. Teddy Long then decided to make the match the following week on SmackDown! instead (because they didn’t want to risk exposing Khali on live TV at SummerSlam) in which the Undertaker destroyed the Giant leaving him a bloody mess.
Undertaker wasn’t seen on television for a while following his win over Khali. That was until, an unsuspecting Mr. Kennedy was thrust into a program with the Deadman after threatening to leave SmackDown!, claiming he beat everyone there was to beat on the show. The Undertaker played his usual mind games leading up to their match at No Mercy. At the event itself the Deadman got himself disqualified after hitting Kennedy with the US Title that the youngster brought into the ring in the first place. Frustrated with Kennedy and the referees’ decision, Undertaker Tombstoned both men, before leaving the ring and a trail of bodies behind him. One may have thought that the feud was over, that Kennedy secure in the fact he had a win over ‘Taker, be it a DQ, would let things be. That wasn’t to be however. Still furious at the Undertaker for preventing him from leaving SmackDown!, Kennedy continuously interfered in the Phenom’s matches. If that wasn’t enough Kennedy formed an alliance with the newcomer MVP, and started getting in Kane’s business. As a result Teddy Long did the inevitable and made a tag match between the Undertaker and Kane against Kenndy and MVP. This was the first time in over 5 years that the Brother’s of Destruction would team together making it a momentous occasion. In typical BOD fashion they decimated the young up-and-comers, in three matches, since the original match was restarted twice due Kennedy and MVP trying to take the easy way out. After the win ‘Taker got down on one knee as the arena was showered in a purple light, Kane stood behind his older brother setting the ring posts alight turning the arena a dark red colour.
Reports hit WWE.com that Mr. Kennedy had issued a challenge to the Deadman for a match at Survivor Series. Everyone awaited SmackDown! to see what the Undertaker’s response would be. Unfortunately, Big Evil didn’t get a chance to accept or decline the invitation, because on entering the ring he was attacked by Kennedy with his infamous micrphone, leaving the Deadman a bloody mess. The theme of blood played a prominent role in this feud as a First Blood Match was made for the Survivor Series. At the event itself, the Undertaker lost to Kennedy due to interference from MVP via an accidental chair shot to the Phenom. Unfortunately for Kennedy, the following week on SmackDown! Teddy Long announced that he would yet again face the Undertaker in a Last Ride Match at Armageddon. A long black hearse filled the entrance ramp on the night of Armageddon. In a bloody and brutal match that saw the Undertaker flung from twenty foot scaffolding, the Phenom still prevailed Tombstombing Kennedy’s head straight onto the roof of the hearse. ‘Taker then dragged the young man’s carcase into the back of the hearse and drove it out of the arena for the win.
2006 was somewhat of an eventful year for the Undertaker, he had a variety of mainstream feuds and had one of the best matches of his career with Kurt Angle at No Way Out. However, 2007 looks to top all of that. Beginning the year, Teddy Long arranged a “SmackDown Sprint” tournament, the winner would be the guy who won his match in the quickest time, earning them a World Heavyweight Title shot against Batista at the Royal Rumble. Undertaker’s match was the last of tournament, 5:07 minutes was the time to beat, held by his recent nemesis Mr. Kennedy. Surely the Phenom could defeat his opponent, the Miz, in under five minutes? Unfortunately not, as Kennedy interferred in the match, dragging the Miz out of the ring causing the Deadman to fall short of a pinfall victory by one second.
Due to the controversy in ‘Taker’s match the previous week on SmackDown, Long set up a match between him and Kennedy. If ‘Taker won, he’d be added to the Batista/Kennedy match at the Royal Rumble, making it a Triple Threat. Obviously Kennedy wasn’t too pleased about this. Luckily for him, Batista was at ringside overseeing the match, and played right into his hands by interfering and attacking the up-and-comer, costing the Phenom the match. The Dark Lord sent a piercing stare in the Champion’s direction…The Phenom was not happy. The following week whilst Kennedy and Batista were in the ring exchanging words the lights went out, and the next moment the Deadman was in the squared circle. Big Boot! Kennedy side steps, and it hits Batista. Was it an accident? Don’t suppose the Undertaker much cared…Later in the show, with the Royal Rumble just two days away at this point, an ‘Over The Top Rope’ challenge was set up, featuring Chris Benoit, The Miz, King Booker, Finlay, Kane & MVP. With Kane being eliminated early on, the other six men battled it out…That was until the Phenom showed up, throwing every man over the top rope to seemingly win the match. A bold statement for someone who was indeed going to be in the Royal Rumble match that Sunday.
At the Royal Rumble it came down to two men, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. In what was undoubtedly a classic moment, these two legends began to steal the show. With many close eliminations, HBK went for a Superkick to knock ‘Taker over the top rope, however the Deadman caught Shawn’s leg and lifted him over for the elimination. Undertaker had just won his first ever Royal Rumble. ‘Taker stood tall and turned his attention towards the WrestleMania 23 logo hanging ominously over the arena as fireworks exploded all around.
As we had become accustomed to, the Royal Rumble winner could choose to face any of the three Heavyweight Champions. Undertaker drew this out over a couple of weeks, showing up on both Raw and ECW to stare down both the WWE Champion John Cena and the ECW Champion Bobby Lashley respectively. On SmackDown, Batista fed up of waiting, wanted to know the Undertaker’s answer right away. John Cena made his way to the ring with the same intentions. The Undertaker arrived shortly afterwards, and stared down both men. Before anything could be said Shawn Michaels hit the ring, challenging the Undertaker to put his title shot on the line against him like everyone wanted. Again the moment was interrupted, this time by Mr. McMahon. Vince said he didn’t care what the fans wanted, and instead booked a tag team match at No Way Out pitting Shawn Michaels and John Cena against Batista and the Undertaker. The following week on Raw, it was announced Undertaker would make finally choose his WrestleMania opponent. All three Champions stood in the ring, awaiting the Undertaker’s decision. The Phenom paced down the line of potential competitors, looking at each individual, he turned suddenly towards Batista, and gave him the cut throat gesture, clearly choosing the Animal as his WrestleMania opponent. Following this Michaels, Edge, Orton and McMahon all showed up, but not once did Undertaker take his eyes off of Batista. After everyone had left the ring, except for Batista and the Undertaker, the two came face to face. Batista lifted his title into the air, an arrogant gesture and a big mistake as the Phenom grabbed him by the throat and Chokeslammed him to the mat.
Following the Chokeslam on Raw, Batista surprisingly played it cool, he wasn’t angry, but he made it clear he’d get payback eventually. This led to some series trust issues between the two men heading into their tag team match at No Way Out. However they managed to coexist for the bout and looked to have the match won against Michaels and Cena, however while the Undertaker’s back was turned, the Animal spun him around and hoisted him up for a spinebuster allowing the opposition to get the win.
Batista made no attempt to apologize for what he did at No Way Out. It was payback afterall for the Chokeslam on Raw a few weeks ago. He still respected ‘Taker and was aware of all his accomplishments, but he promised he’d walk out of WrestleMania still World Heavyweight Champion. Undertaker’s retort was seen the following week, shrouded in darkness, the Phenom was in a graveyard (not since 2003 had we seen him here) and uttered the words “Without death, there cannot be life…so all things must die”. He then proceeded to shovel dirt into a grave telling Batista his reign as Champion would Rest In Peace! From this point on, things broke down, the Undertaker and Batista took every opportunity, to attack each other in an attempt to get the advatnage going into WrestleMania. This culminated in a heavily promoted interview the week prior to their Championship match. Security filled the ring, acting as a barrier between the two opponents. This was soon penetrated and the Deadman and the Animal broke into a brawl. Security tried to part them several times but it was no good, these guys wanted to fight and that they did. Batista eventually haulted the proceedings with a Spinebuster to ‘Taker, however as the Animal left the ring, the Phenom sat up looking back at the Champion.
The day had arrived, this was only Undertaker’s second Heavyweight title match at WrestleMania, the previous being 10 years ago at number 13, defeating Sycho Sid. The Phenom had never lost at the event, achieving an unprecedented 14-0 winning streak. This made the match even more important, it was Title vs. Streak and Undertaker had no intention of losing. Both men were more determined than ever before to win, putting on an excellent match. The Champion appeared to have it won several times following a Powerlsam through the announce table and later on a Batista Bomb in the middle of the ring. However none of this kept the Phenom down, and he triumphed with a Tombstone Piledriver, drilling the Animanl’s head into the mat and pinning him one-two-three. The Undertaker had just become 15-0 and WrestleMania and the new World Heavyweight Champion. (It is his first World Heavyweight Title win). Undertaker took hold of his title, got down on one knee as the lights turned a shade of purple and did his classic bow reminiscent of his title first victory at WrestleMania 13. Undertaker was once again the man. Who can possibly take that belt from this Phenom?
Batista immediately wanted a rematch. It was decided that the two men would face each other in a Last Man Standing Match at Backlash. This would be the Undertaker’s first title defence as the newly crowned Champion. In what was an excellent match, that arguably topped their WrestleMania encounter, the Phenom and the Animal beat the hell out of each other. Eventually the two men worked their way up to the stage, where Batista speared the Deadman, sending both of them flying into some electrical equipment. Both superstars were out for the 10 count, making the the match a draw, meaning the Champion retained.
Undertaker had succesfully held onto his title at Backlash. However Theodore Long announced that the Deadman would yet again defend his championship against the Animal in a Steel Cage Match the following week on SmackDown. In yet another brutual encounter, ‘Taker and Batista fell to the ground at the same time (after they edited the footage that is), making the match another draw, hence Undertaker retained the title…Out of nowhere, Mark Henry came down to the ring and attacked a bloodied Undertaker until he was nearly unconcious. At this moment smoke erupted from the entrance way, followed by Edges’ all too familar entrance theme. Mr. Money in the Bank with brief case in hand, had just cashed in his cheque. Undertaker vs. Edge was now a reality. The Phenom wasn’t even able to stand, leading Edge to try and cover the Deadman for the win twice, unsuccessfully. A look of desperation covered Edges’ face. The R-Rated Superstar retreated to a corner of the ring, waiting for the Undertaker to get to his feet. The Phenom sat up, back on his feet – back from the Dead, Edge unable to contain his excitement charged towards ‘Taker, spearing him back to the canvas and covering him to win the World Heavyweight Title. Not satisified with taking his belt, Edge smashed the briefcase over the Phenom’s head, laying the beaten warrior out for good. Undertaker had just lost his title, he lay a bloodied mess in the ring. The lights went out and a purple haze filled the arena. The Undertakers’ Druids appeared from the entrance way, they had come to collect their Phenom. Mounting him on their arms, ‘Taker was carried away back into the darkness from whence he came. In reality Undertaker had torn his right biceps muscle, which required immediate surgey, the reaosn he drop the title so soon after winning it.
In the month of August, after numerous victories over nameless faces, Mark Henry wanted some real competition. He would continuely refer the crowd to footage of him bloodying the Undertaker, until eventually the video changed. No longer did it just show ‘Taker being destoryed by the Silverback, it now featured a journey to the desert – Death Valley – the Undertaker’s home. Each week a little more of the story was revealed, culminating in the Phenom rising from the dead, ready to face Mark Henry at Unforgiven. As promised the Deadman made his return in the main event of the PPV (fully recovered from his biceps injury). ‘Taker and Henry had a slow and methodical match, concluding with ‘Taker Last Riding his opponent from the top rope straight into the canvas for the win. After the victory Undertaker motioned for the World Heavyweight Title, signaling that he wanted his belt back.
The Phenom didn’t wait long before making his contendership known. After Finlay hit Mysterio over the head with his shillelagh in their #1 Contender’s match, the lights went out an the Undertaker appeared in the ring staring down the current Champion Batista who stood at ringside. Following this confrontation Undertaker was granted a match for the championship at Cyber Sunday with the added stipulation of the fans getting to vote for the Special Guest Referee (the choices included JBL, Steve Austin and Mick Foley). Batista’s loss to the Undertaker at WrestleMania lead many to believe he was intimidated of the Deadman. Batista made every attempt to deny this claim, and speared the Phenom on SmackDown to prove the naysayers wrong. At Cyber Sunday Steve Austin was voted the Special Guest Referee, and the Animal defeated the Undertaker cleanly to retain the Word Heavyweight Title.
This was by means the end of the Undertaker’s quest for the title. The following week on SmackDown Batista himself said that they had each won one match and as a result the Champion asked the Deadman if he wanted a rematch. The Phenom naturally accepted with a silent gesture, and as Batista left the ring the Undertaker stopped him and echoed those all too familiar words “Hell in a Cell!”. ‘Taker made it clear on the next edition of SmackDown that nobody had been in more Hell in a Cell matches then he had, and that at Survivor Series Batista would not survive this encounter. At the event itself these two men beat the living hell out of each other, with copious amounts of blood being spilt. ‘Taker Tombstoned Batista’s head into the canvas, but the Animal kicked out of the cover! In desperation the Undertaker then Tombstoned Batista onto the ring steps, following it with a cover, but before the referee could make the three count he was pulled from the ring by the man who stole the title from the Undertkaer earlier that year – Edge. Disguised as a camrera man the R-Rated superstar entered the ring and attacked the Undertaker, performing a con-chair-to on the Phenom’s skull and then anticipating that ‘Taker would sit up he swung a chair at his head. He had screwed the Deadman over in a title situation for the second time that year.
It all became clear the following Friday on SmackDown, Vickie Guerrero was in cahoots with Edge, in fact they were lovers now, which lead to her rewarding the R-Rated Superstar a title shot against Batista the following week. This didn’t sit well with the Undertaker who appeared out of no where causing Edge to flee from the ring leaving Vickie behind. Undertaker grabbed her by the throat and then scooped her up for the Tombstone Piledriver. Undertaker made his presence known in the Batista/Edge match, causing it to end in a no contest, additionally Teddy Long returned to SmackDown and announced that Undertaker would face Edge and Batista for the World Heavyweight Title at Armageddon. With Vickie backing Edge the odds were against the Phenom heading into the PPV, and this continued during the triple threat match itself. Edge used every trick in the book from ringing the bell early to using an imposter Edge, until he eventually hit the Undertaker round the head with a steel chair and got the win to become the new Heavyweight Champion.
At the start of the new year the Undertaker had another opportunity to capture the World Heavyweight Title in the Beat The Clock tournament, but yet again his chances were thwarted, when Matt Striker refused to count the pin. As a result ‘Taker switched his attention to the Royal Rumble. In a rare moment he addressed the fans directly, acknowledging that he doesn’t usually have much to say but in this case he wanted to warn the 29 other superstars that they would Rest In Peace. The following week Undertaker debuted his new choke hold, the Death Sentence (Gogoplata) on Big Daddy V, drawing blood. The Deadman was ready for the Rumble. In New York city, in an ironic twist of events the final two men in the Royal Rumble last year, the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, entered #1 and #2, respectively this year. The two men battled throughout the first half of the Royal Rumble, until Michaels got a measure of revenge for last years’ elimination by Superkicking the Deadman over the top rope. Shortly afterwards, Shawn was eliminated with the Undertaker stalking him to the back.
With the Royal Rumble behind him, the Phenom had another opportunity to face the Champion at WrestleMania in a #1 Contender’s Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out. The Deadman was joined by Batista, Big Daddy V, The Great Khali, MVP and Finlay in this barbaric structure. The first two men to start off the match were in fact the last two left, the Undertaker and Batista. Eventually the Undertaker hooked Batista up on his shoulders and then dropped his head to the mat for the Tombstone Piledriver to get the win. Undertaker was going to WrestleMania.
The Phenom was now the #1 contender for the World Heavyweight Title, currently held by Edge. As with every opponent of the Undertaker’s, Edge was adamant he would defeat the Deadman at WrestleMania, ending his undefeated streak. There was a lot of history between these two men, only last year the R-Rated Superstar cashed in his Money In The Bank contract on a beaten and bloodied Undertaker to steal his World title, and then at the Survivor Series he cost him his title shot in Hell in a Cell. This time Edge was joined by La Familia, consisting of Vickie & Chavo Guerrero, Bam Neely, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. The numbers were certainly on Edge’s side and he used this to his advantage. After ‘Taker’s match against Chavo on SmackDown, Edge and and the family hit the ring and attacked the Undertaker with a steel chair, performing a conchairto to his head to lay the Phenom unconcious. The following week Edge and the family held a ceremony for the burial of the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, complete with a casket in the ring. As the ceremony proceeded the Undertaker’s entrance music hit distracting Edge and company, allowing the Phenom to rise from the casket unnoticed. The Deadman Chokeslammed the Champion into the casket and took down Hawkins and Ryder. No one plays mind games like the Demon from Death Valley. However, come WrestleMania 24 all the theatrics stopped. This was about one thing, the Undertaker claming his sixth World title. And he did, defeating Edge in a stellar match to become the new World Heavyweight Champion and 16-0 at WrestleMania.
Edge was not happy to say the least following his loss at WrestleMania. Yet, he had the GM in his pocket and as a result Vickie decided to make Undertaker’s month as gruelling as possible. To being with she put him in a match against his half-brother Kane. There was no winner however, as the family hit the ring and attacked both men. That soon changed when Undertaker and Kane hit stereo Tombstone Piledrivers on Edge and Chavo respectively. The following week Vickie yet again put Undertaker against a formidable opponent, in the deceptively tough Festus. The Phenom locked in the Death Sentence for the win. Four days later he was back in action teaming with Kane to defeat The Miz and John Morrison in tag team action on ECW. Back on SmackDown he wrestled Batista to a Double Countout, and then the two proceeded to attack Edge, Hawkins and Ryder who were sitting in the front row. The subsequent week Undertaker defeated Batista in a No DQ rematch following interference from Shawn Michaels. All the while Edge and Vickie had a relaxing month being pampered by masseurs. Maybe all the matches were good training for ‘Taker, because he defeated Edge with the Death Sentence to retain the World Heavyweight Title at Backlash.
In a huge turn events, Vickie stripped the Undertaker of the Title on SmackDown, because she claimed the Death Sentence that was used to win the match against Edge was an illegal choke hold. The Great Khali was sent to collect ‘Taker’s belt, but the Deadman fought him off and locked in the choke hold. This allowed Hawkins and Ryder to make the steal and return the belt to Guerrero. And so at Judgement Day Undertaker faced Edge for the vacant World Heavyweight Title. Despite the ‘Taker winning the match via Count Out, Vickie ruled the Title could not change hands under that condition, meaning there was still no Heavyweight Champion.
Things went from bad to worse heading into One Night Stand. Vickie decided to have Undertaker face Edge one last time in a TLC Match, with the stipulation, that if the Deadman loses he is banished from the entire WWE. On that night Undertaker had the odds stacked against him. TLC was Edge’s speciality match and La Familia made their presence known. This allowed Edge to take advantage of the situation and push ‘Taker off of the ladder to the outside through two stacks of tables. The Undertaker lay on the floor, while Edge mounted his ladder to capture the Championship. More importantly, the Undertaker had lost the match, he was now banished from the company forever. The Phenom rose from the remains of broken wood and metal and made his way down the entrance ramp, he gave one last look at the fans, and then made his way to the back. Could this really be the last time we’d ever see of the Phenom?
No. A couple of months after Undertaker had been banished, Vickie had found out Edge was having an affair with the wedding planner. The GM was naturally irate and in attempt to exact some revenge she reinstated the Undertaker! (Undertaker was apparently resting an injured knee in reality) She also informed Edge that the Phenom would be meeting him at SummerSlam in a Hell in a Cell. Edge was beside himself, he was nothing without La Familia and Vickie by his side. He was not the Edge of old…That was until Mick Foley brought out the more violent and even psychotic side of Edge was a penetrating speech. This fight was now evenly matched. Or, almost. Although Edge dominated a significant amount of what was an excellent Hell in a Cell match, the Undertaker delivered a thunderous Tombstone for the win. But the Deadman wasn’t finished there, he had his own revenge to exact. He made his way back to the ring and hoisted Edge up onto a ladder, he then Chokeslammed the R-Rated Superstar straight through the ring! The Undertaker got down on both knees and raised his arms to set the hole left by Edge alight sending him straight to Hell.
The following Friday on SmackDown Vickie invited the Undertaker to the ring so she could apologize to him. However, he wasn’t interested in an apology. After all she was the one who stripped him of the title. She was the one who banned his choke hold. She was the one who banished him from the WWE. ‘Taker’s only interest was taking her soul!
Undertaker was hell bent on making Vickie pay for what she had done and at Unforgiven he was coming for her. Vickie didn’t back down and demanded the Undertaker apologize to her…however that clearly was not going to happen. At the pay-per-view, Big Show, who was also having trouble with the General Manager, was in the ring with Vickie, when all of a sudden the lights went out and the Undertaker methodically made his way to the ring. To ensure Vickie didn’t escape, Big Show held Guerrero against the ropes. As the Phenom stood in front of Vickie, Big Show knocked ‘Taker to the floor. The Big Show had formed an alliance with Vickie Guerrero.
Vickie made it clear to Big Show that if he could get the Undertaker to apologize to her he would be awarded a heavyweight title shot. This wasn’t going to be easy though, as ‘Taker’s mind games were just about to begin. The following week, Chavo and Vickie decided to mock the Undertaker, but as the show went off air Chavo was seen being choked by a hand, we could only assume belonged to the Undertaker. The following week, the Guerreros and Big Show stood in the ring awaiting an apology, but the lights went out, and the next moment Chavo had been transported backstage where he was being choked out once again by the Man from the Darkside. Big show charged to the backstage area, but this was a mistake as the lights went out in the arena a second time. Once they came back on Undertaker was stood behind Vickie. No amount of begging and screaming prevented the Deadman from Tombstoning her to the canvas. Big Show got the last laugh at No Mercy, when he struck the Undertaker’s head against an exposed turnbuckle, allowing him to gain the advantage. He hit the Deadman with 3 punches to the back of head causing the referee to stop the match and award the Giant the win.
Undertaker wasn’t the type to let things slide, and he attacked Show during his match against Triple H on SmackDown the following week. Big Show got his revenge on the subsequent show by attacking the Deadman during his match against Triple H! Their continued rivalry meant a match was set up at Cyber Sunday, with fans voting for the match stipulation. The choices included a Knockout Match, I Quit Match or Last Man Standing Match. The latter won with 49% and the Undertaker managed to pull out the victory, knocking the Big Show down for a 10 count.
Undertaker defeated Chavo in a Casket Match on the following SmackDown and then JBL on Raw via a count out. He encountered Vladimir Kozlov for the first time in November, however the Russian superstar defeated ‘Taker via DQ when Jeff Hardy interfered and attacked both men. As Hardy left the ring, the Phenom sat straight up, staring a hole through the Charismatic Enigma. Jeff requested that he wrestle the Phenom in an Extreme Rules Match the following week. And that he did, in a very good encounter, but due to interference from the Big Show, Jeff got the win. However Undertaker would be able to get even at Survivor Series, as he would meet the 400 pounder in a Casket Match. Again the mind games began as ‘Taker read Show his “last rites” on SmackDown. This proved to be effective as he defeated the giant at the pay-per-view after a back and forth match by pushing him straight into the casket. It appeared that Big Show was a glutton for punishment, as two weeks later he met the Undertaker in a Steel Cage match. Again, the Deadman defeated Show via his newly named Hell’s Gate submission manoeuvre to end the year.
Undertaker remained off of TV towards the end of December, possibly heeling some nagging injuries, although he did appear at several non-televised events and in dark matches. He made his return to TV on the first SmackDown of January by Chokeslamming a cocky Shelton Bejamin and making it known he was in the Royal Rumble match. The subsequent week he defeated the “Gold Standard” in an entertaining match via the Tombstone.
At the Rumble itself the Undertaker entered at #16 and made it to the last four, however Big Show, who he had just eliminated pulled his feet off the apron to take the Phenom out of the match. Of course the Deadman was fuming and chased the Giant through the crowd. Interestingly, Undertaker also approached Shawn Michaels earlier in the night to utter the following words, “Sometimes it’s Hell getting to Heaven”. What did he mean?
Any indication of a feud between HBK and ‘Taker was put to one side as everyone turned their attention to the Championship Elimination Chamber Matches at No Way Out. On the SmackDown side of things ‘Taker qualified by defeating Mark Henry, and he was to be joined by Vladimir Kozlov, Big Show, Jeff Hardy, Triple H and the WWE Champion Edge. At No Way Out, the SmackDown Chamber match came down to two men. The Undertaker and Triple H. What followed was 10 minutes of excellence. ‘Taker managed to execute the Tombstone, but the Game put his foot on the rope to break the pin. Eventually Triple H recovered and locked in the Pedigree, but ‘Taker kicked out. Unfortunately, ‘Taker fell victim to a second pedigree shortly afterwards and the 1-2-3 to crown Triple H as the new WWE Champion.
The following night on Raw JBL declared it was his destiny to defeat the Undertaker and end his undefeated streak at WrestleMania. However, a recently emancipated Shawn Michaels disagreed and said he should be the one to take on the Phenom at the grandest stage of them all. In order to decide who would challenge the Undertaker, HBK and JBL agreed to face each other the next week on Raw. Predictably HBK defeated the self-made millionaire, but that wasn’t the end of it, he needed to defeat Kozlov who also wanted a shot at the Deadman. Unsurprisingly, Shawn was again triumphant and was finally granted a match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania. History had just been made, and what was about to ensue was one of the Undertaker’s most classic rivalries.
The following week on SmackDown the Undertaker accepted Shawn’s challenge, however he was also interrupted by a highlight reel of HBK footage. Mind games perhaps? The following Monday the two men teamed up to face JBL and Kozlov, but Shawn stole the pin and then ran to the back. As ‘Taker stopped at the top of the ramp he turned to look back at the ring, but as he turned his head forward again Shawn had reappeared and Superkicked the Phenom to the floor. The mind games had begun! Undertaker made it clear to Shawn he would feel his wrath but confessed he had never beaten his opponent one-on-one before. Again, the Deadman’s promo was interrupted by Shawn Michaels who was appeared on the titan-tron, seemingly in a graveyard. He spoke of the Undertaker’s streak and the opponents he defeated, but his point clear, he was the exception, he would make the Undertaker Rest In Peace, he would make him 16-1. The Undertaker was furious at this insult – Shawn was using ‘Taker’s mind games against him. To make matters worse, Shawn appeared on SmackDown dressed in white, his clothes mimicking the Undertaker’s. He quoted from scripture and claimed that light would destroy the darkness, but Undertaker had other intentions and came up through the ring and grabbed Shawn by the throat. HBK jumped over the top rope and managed to escape, taunting the Undertaker at the top of the ramp. The subsequent week on Raw, Shawn claimed his light outshone the Undertaker’s darkside, but the lights went out and the Phenom appeared in the ring. However Shawn was nowhere to be found. The Undertaker approached a casket that was present in the ring and cautiously opened thelid. Nothing. Shawn wasn’t in there. But as ‘Taker turned around Shawn came from under the casket and Superkicked the Demon From Death Valley straight to the mat. Shawn had got to the Undertaker like no one else ever had.
At WrestleMania the mind games were over. Shawn had done all he could to put the Undertaker off his game, however it was apparent that he hadn’t succeeded. What ensued was an absolute classic, which saw two warriors going at it with everything they had. At one point the Undertaker launched over the top rope with his Suicide Dive, but Michaels moved and threw the camera man in the way. However that wasn’t the problem, Undertaker had leapt the ropes at an awkward angle and nearly broke his neck on landing! Thankfully, he was okay, and played up the drama, narrowly making it back to the ring before the ten count – much to Shawn’s discern. ‘Taker eventually recovered, nailing the Showstopper with a Tombstone and went for the cover. 1-2….no Michaels kicked out! The Undertaker was shocked, with an expression on his face that will be remembered for ever more. The match continued. Shawn mounted the top rope and launch backwards into the Undertaker. He was caught. The Undertaker locked in the Tombstone, sending HBK’s head straight to the mat. 1-2-3. The Deadman was 17-0 and had just had one of the greatest matches, if not the greatest match, in WWE history.
The Undertaker showed up on SmackDown two weeks later to take on Shelton Benjamin and went on to defeat him. He then appeared on the newly launched WWE Superstars to face Matt Hardy. The match ended in a DQ due to interference by Jeff, giving ‘Taker the win. The subsequent SmackDown ‘Taker faced the Big Show who was about to leave for Raw due to the draft lottery. The Undertaker was weakened from his WrestleMania match and his neck was a target (it was not a real injury). The Big Show chokeslammed the Deadman and punched him in the back of the neck, causing the referee to end the match and award Big Show the win via knockout for the second time in 7 months, thus now being three times in total ‘Taker had ever lost a match via KO. However somehow, ‘Taker struggled back to his feet and, rather shaky, he again challenged Big Show to get it on. Despite his equilibrium being off, ‘Taker caught Show off guard and punched him out of the ring, proving he would not allow someone to get the best of him if he was still breathing.
Undertaker took the summer off after this to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and refresh himself. But he would return to WWE in August at SummerSlam ’09 to begin perhaps one of his better chapters in his late career. CM Punk had just defeated Jeff Hardy to win the World Heavyweight Championship in a TLC match. Punk stood over Jeff in triumph, holding the title over his head. Suddenly the lights flickered slightly and Punk looked around for a second, but then continued smirking at the crowd, nothing was going to take away his proud moment in the spotlight….then again….Dong! That familiar gong rang throughout the arena which then went dark for a second. When the lights came back on, Punk looked around frantically, trying to see where the inevitable was, but found nothing. Satisfied it was a false alarm, he looked down at Jeff again….big mistake! Jeff was gone, and the Undertaker was laying there in his place. His eyes shot open, he sat up and grabbed the straightedge superstar by the throat, chokeslamming him to Hell. Once again, ‘Taker let the world (and Punk) know that he was in hot pursuit of his World Heavyweight Championship belt once more.
The next upcoming Pay-Per-View was the first in a new series of themed events, called Breaking Point ’09. Most of the main matches would be submission matches, designed to test the pain thresholds of the WWE Superstars. CM Punk dominated as champion, actually retiring Jeff Hardy in their rematch on SmackDown in a steel cage match and then tried to cripple Matt Hardy when he tried to get revenge for his brother. But before Punk could send Hardy crashing into a ring post with a chair around his neck, the lights went out and then Undertaker was standing at ringside where he once again chokeslammed Punk, this time through the announce table. The following week, Undertaker, dressed in a familiar costume — a new version of his Lord Of Darkness leather overvest from 1996-1998, which he had worn over a year earlier at WrestleMania XXIV and would now alternate with his coat and hat – came to the ring and proclaimed that CM Punk’s breaking point would be realized when he would be trapped in Hell’s Gate. Punk interrupted by saying that he had no breaking points, and proclaimed that for years Undertaker had been preying on the minds of the WWE Universe to help them escape reality, and promised to “save” everyone’s soul as “the only straight-edge champion” in WWE history. But instead of wanting to save the Deadman’s soul, the straightedge superstar only wanted one thing from him…to make ‘Taker tap out to the Anaconda Vice. ‘Taker sent a reply later that night during Punk’s match by appearing at the top of the ramp holding the champion’s title up high, a sign of what was to eventually come. At Breaking Point, the whole submission match became mired in controversy. After a relatively short anti-climatic match, Undertaker caught Punk in the Hell’s Gate submission hold, and Punk tapped out immediately, beginning Taker’s seventh reign as champion…..or so we thought. General Manager Theodore Long came out to the stage and, in a shocking act, reinforced the ban on the Hell’s Gate brought in suspiciously by Vickie Guerrero over a year earlier, and ordered the match restarted. Undertaker was obviously unhappy and caught off guard, as not even a minute later was caught in the Anaconda Vice. Taker was getting ready to power out of the hold when another shocking act occurred…referee Scott Armstrong called for the bell and declared Punk the winner, despite Undertaker not submitting. To top it off, the event was held in Montreal, where screwjobs were the norm in WWE.
The fans were outraged by this turn of events and wondered why Teddy Long had suddenly turned on the man he loved to promote lots in previous years. Many rumours flew about that Vince McMahon may have actually been the one behind it, seeing as he had recently started cracking down on Long and even putting the GM on probation for no good reason. He would even question Long’s audacity to cross the Undertaker like that, but you could tell something was askew, especially when Teddy admitted the whole thing was preplanned and the reason he did what he did was to avoid losing his job. Alas, we never found out, as Vince soon disappeared from the SmackDown picture. Nevertheless Punk took this opportunity to boast week after week that he was the first one to ever make the Undertaker tap out, which was obviously a lie but the history books show that CM Punk defeated Undertaker in a Submission Match, despite all the controversy associated with it. To get even with Long, Undertaker kidnapped him by commandeering his limo and driving him out for apparently a wild ride to hell after telling him “Buckle up, Teddy!” The next week, CM Punk came out to confront the Phenom and rub his “victory” in his face. But what came out instead was a casket. Punk grabbed a chair and swatted the casket several times, assuming it was ‘Taker inside. But when he opened the lid, he found a tied up and battered Teddy Long who declared that there was no longer a ban on the Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate and was 100% legal. Plus the straightedge superstar would have to defend the World Title against the Deadman inside Hell In A Cell in October at the newest pay-per-view, aptly called Hell In A Cell ’09. In addition, later that very night on SmackDown Punk and Undertaker squared off in a non-title match, where Punk dodged yet another bullet by luring ‘Taker to the outside and getting him counted out just by stalling long enough. At Hell In A Cell though, there was no place for Punk to run or hide, as the Phenom dominated him inside the demonic structure which has been home to many of his past victims. Punk held his own in the cell, but Undertaker was able to chokeslam and Tombstone Piledrive him to finally win the World Heavyweight Title for the seventh time legitimately.
That week on SmackDown, Undertaker declared the World Title as his “Holy Grail” and that he would be facing three challengers at the next new pay-per-view, titled Bragging Rights ‘09, where Raw and SmackDown would battle each other for superiority. ‘Taker would defend against CM Punk, Rey Mysterio and Batista in a Fatal 4-Way match. But before the event arrived, there was one more big hurdle to clear for the Deadman. Punk decided to use his rematch clause on the SmackDown before Bragging Rights, and specifically requested it be another Submission match, and for Scott Armstrong to be the referee just like at Breaking Point, and for Teddy Long to be at ringside. Both were apprehensive about it, but Vince McMahon once again entered the fray and seemed to change their minds forcibly, including referencing Armstrong’s father, Bullet Bob Armstrong as a possible candidate for the next Hall Of Fame class, so this further fuelled the rumours that the Chairman was behind the whole scheme all the time, but again was never brought to conclusion. Punk came to the ring with Long and Armstrong by his side, and this was one of the rare times an Undertaker opponent was laughing when the Phenom made his entrance, as Punk knew the fix was in, and that he was practically guaranteed to leave SmackDown as the champion again. Undertaker kept a watchful eye on the situation, glancing menacingly on occasion at the general manager and the referee. The end came when the straightedge superstar asked Long to hand him a chair to use – no disqualification after all. Long, fearing that Vince was watching, reluctantly handed the chair to Armstrong to as to not be caught with the smoking gun. Punk snatched the chair away and attempted to ram it into Undertaker, but the Deadman kicked the chair right into his face. At that moment, Undertaker realized the chair had come from Armstrong, so he chokeslammed the referee and then turned to Long and gave him the cut-throat symbol. Punk grabbed the chair and blasted the Phenom with it, and then locked in the Anaconda Vice. Long waved desperately for another ref to come down, but by the time another one ran to the ring, ‘Taker had escaped the hold and had the Hell’s Gate (now legal) locked in deep on Punk. The straightedge superstar had no choice but to tap out. The plan had backfired.
Two days later was the Fatal 4-Way match at Bragging Rights’09 with Undertaker defending against CM Punk, Rey Mysterio and Batista. It was a very fast-paced match that saw many near-falls, but broken up by one of the two remaining competitors. ‘Taker had vowed to finally take Punk’s soul, plus he was crossing paths with Batista once again, and he had not faced Mysterio in the ring ever since way back in 2003 when ‘Taker was still Big Evil the biker. So he had to watch himself and the other three so as to not lose his title without being pinned like he did in 2002. As it turned out, the friendship that the Animal and the Master of the 619 had with each other was shattered during this match, as when Batista had ‘Taker pinned following a Batista Bomb, Mysterio pulled the Animal off, saving the match for himself as it was every man for himself. Irate, Batista shouted to Rey, “You’re supposed to be my friend!!” before shoving him out of the ring and then turning around right into a chokeslam from Undertaker. After Punk and Mysterio tried getting involved again, Rey was caught in mid-air by Batista and thrown right into Punk on the outside. Batista turned around and was Tombstoned by ‘Taker, scoring the win and retaining his title. As a side note, these two victories for the Deadman at this Pay-Per-View and Hell In A Cell seemed to finally break the bad luck streak that Undertaker had experienced almost every October since 1995 (except 2001). As the Deadman walked back up the ramp with his belt, things completely broke down between Rey and the Animal, as Batista showed his true colours by brutally attacking Rey and leaving him unconscious, thus turning heel and becoming more determined than ever to win back the title.
On the same night, during the Raw Vs. Smackdown Bragging Rights Elimination Match, the Big Show, who was part of the Raw roster, turned on his team to allow his Jeri-Show partner Chris Jericho, who was a SmackDown superstar and co-Unified Tag Team Champion with Show, to win the match for SmackDown. It was revealed the next night on Raw that Big Show had struck a deal with Teddy Long that if he betrayed his team, he would become No.1 Contender for Undertaker’s title. Chris Jericho also inserted himself into the same position by defeating Kane on SmackDown, thus making a Triple-Threat Match for Survivor Series ’09 with ‘Taker vs. Show vs. Jericho. The next week on SmackDown ‘Taker did a promo in the ring declaring that two of the only things that brought joy to his dark heart was teaming with his brother Kane, and doing battle against his brother Kane. But since Jericho took that opportunity away from the champion, his soul and health would become his, not to mention Show had only won the right to be terminated by the hand of the Deadman. Jericho then interrupted, getting right in ‘Taker’s face, declaring that ‘Taker had been brainwashing the WWE Universe and that the Phenom was just a man, and that Jericho was the new phenom in WWE. What he got in response was a hand around the throat, and when Jericho tried to fight back, got booted out of the ring. So the next week in the UK, Undertaker and Chris Jericho faced off for the first time ever in WWE in a non-title match. After a good solid match, “the best in the world at what he does” locked in the Walls Of Jericho on Undertaker, but the much larger champion was able to turn back over and defeat Jericho with the Hell’s Gate. Suddenly the Big Show emerged from the back, distracting ‘Taker and allowing Jericho to blindside him. Show entered the ring and delivered a chokeslam and a 481 pound legdrop to the Deadman, and then locked on a camel clutch with Jericho executing the Walls Of Jericho at the same time. Luckily Kane appeared and came to his brother’s aid. As Jeri-Show retreated up the ramp and Undertaker and Kane stood tall in the ring, Vince McMahon caught the whole thing on a monitor backstage and set up a tag team match with Teddy Long for the following Friday, the reunion of the Brothers Of Destruction against the Unified Tag Team Champions, Jeri-Show.
Undertaker was also involved the following Monday night on Raw from Madison Square Garden in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match, teaming with WWE Champion John Cena against Jeri-Show against D-Generation X. A quick 10-minute skirmish ended with everybody hitting their finishers on everyone until Cena was able to snatch Triple H in the Attitude Adjustment and seal the victory for him and ‘Taker. As the WWE Champion’s hand was being raised, the World Heavyweight Champion suddenly snuck up on Cena and Tombstoned his own partner, leaving Cena motionless in the centre of the ring. What did this mean? Would Cena let this slide? As they were both on separate shows, he would have to for now.
For the first time in a couple of years, Kane and the Undertaker, the Brothers Of Destruction, reunited once again to face Chris Jericho and Big Show in tag team action on SmackDown, two days before Survivor Series ’09. On this occasion, the brothers came out together with combined entrance music and pyro mixed together as ring announcer Tony Chimel introduced them as an actual tag team with combined weight and everything, usually they would enter separately. Apparently this time, the champion and the Big Red Monster wanted to show unity and intimidation by entering as a unit. It was a good tag match, but it ended in a no-contest for the four men, who eventually brought the action to the outside where Kane and Undertaker attempted to chokeslam the World’s Largest Athlete through the announce table, but Jericho broke it up. He was thrown in the ring where Kane gave him a chokeslam for his trouble. As Undertaker went for the Tombstone, Show pulled Kane to the outside, KO-ing him with a knockout punch and then chokeslamming ‘Taker. As Show went to help Jericho up, he was suddenly blasted with a Codebreaker from his own partner, who then scurried over to the timekeeper’s table, snatched Undertaker’s World title belt and ran to the back with it, proving that the Unified Tag Team Champions were only fighting for themselves in the Triple Threat Match coming up.
Two days later at Survivor Series, that very match took place. Despite their past issues, Jeri-Show worked well together brutalizing the Undertaker, but the Deadman found ways to isolate one from the other and deliver his own punishment. Eventually Jericho locked in the Walls Of Jericho, but that’s when Big Show turned on his partner and chokeslammed him. As he tried to do the same to ‘Taker, the Phenom countered into a DDT. Jericho, being the opportunist he is, tried to steal the cover but Show powered out, throwing Jericho several feet into the air and to the outside. Show and ‘Taker exchanged blows in the centre of the ring and tried chokeslamming each other. Jericho suddenly stampeded into the ring with the World Heavyweight belt to knock ‘Taker out with it, but the champion ducked and Show got nailed. Undertaker went for the Last Ride on Jericho, but he forgot Jericho still had the belt in his hand, and got hammered with it. Jericho then tried Tombstoning Undertaker, but as the Phenom reversed it, Show came in and blasted the Deadman with a knockout punch, and then shockingly KO-ed Jericho as well. Undertaker crawled to his feet as Big Show looked to finally finish him off with a chokeslam. But thinking quickly, the champion countered, pulling Show down right into Hell’s Gate, leaving the World’s Largest Athlete no choice but to tap out. For the second Survivor Series in a row, Undertaker had defeated Big Show (with Jericho on the side), and had once again retained his World Heavyweight Championship on the very stage that he had made his debut almost two decades ago.
That same night, Batista thoroughly destroyed his former friend Rey Mysterio, and that following Friday on SmackDown after beating Kane to become No. 1 Contender, declared that the World Title and the Undertaker were his at the upcoming new Pay-Per-View in December called WWE TLC: Tables/Ladders/Chairs ’09, where those three weapons would be used in every match. Renewing his long-time rivalry with the Deadman, the Animal stalked the champion at every opportunity. When Undertaker and Chris Jericho faced off once more on SmackDown, Batista got involved, battering ‘Taker with a steel chair, making their match at TLC a first-ever Chairs Match. Batista made some very derogatory comments toward ‘Taker, even insinuating that he had looked into his eyes and seen nothing but fear, which of course was false. Undertaker did not take lightly to these comments and took a stroll out to the ring to call the Animal out. But as he got halfway down the aisle, Batista came up from behind and nailed the champion with another chair in the middle of his legendary entrance. Truly showing that he had changed into a real monster, the number one contender tore the Deadman apart, whipping him into the stairs, and then proceeding to beat him mercilessly with the chair and the World Title belt, before Batista spinebustered his rival onto the chair and stood over him with the belt held high. The Phenom got the last laugh though by appearing in Rey Mysterio’s place when Batista was about to crush Rey’s throat in a chair. Raining down blows to the Animal, Undertaker picked up that very chair to attack but his rival rolled out of the ring and retreated up the ramp.
At TLC, the two finally got it on. But this Chairs Match was a little different from previous stipulation matches, as Michael Cole pointed out at the start, chairs were legal but countouts and disqualifications still existed in case any other weapon was to be used. Undertaker and Batista fought a tooth and nail match using chairs at every turn to get the advantage over the other. As Undertaker went for a Tombstone after sitting up from a spinebuster and a spear, Batista slid down, pushed ‘Taker into the referee so his vision was obstructed as the Animal nailed the Deadman with a low blow, and seconds later crushed the champion with a final chair shot to win the World Heavyweight Title in a shocking upset….or so we thought. As Batista grabbed the belt and started the walk back to the dressing room, Teddy Long came out to set things right. He declared that yes, chairs were legal, but a blatant foul such as the low blow was not legal, therefore the SmackDown General Manager demanded the match be restarted. This seemed to be a reversal of fortune for ‘Taker after so many years of getting screwed, and especially after Long’s actions at Breaking Point it was nice to finally see Undertaker have the rules reversed in his favour for a change. A livid Animal charged back into the ring with a chair in hand, but ‘Taker, now back on his feet, kicked the chair into Batista’s face and then followed it up with a chair to the back and then Tombstoned the Animal to pick up the win and barely retain his title. The creatures of the night breathed a huge sigh of relief after that one.
Batista would continue to be a thorn in Undertaker’s side for awhile afterwards, interfering in ‘Taker’s World Title Match with Rey Mysterio on SmackDown on Christmas night, but Rey managed to turn the tables on both the big men, delivering a pair of 619s to each man before retreating up the ramp. With this act, Mysterio would become a major obstacle in Taker’s way coming up into the following year.
All in all, 2009 was a great year for the Undertaker, winning the World Heavyweight Title and hanging onto it for more than a month unlike his previous two reigns with that title, plus having the best match of his career at WrestleMania with Shawn Michaels. However Michaels, at the end of the year, began challenging the Undertaker to meet him at next year’s WrestleMania, as he still strongly believed he could beat the Deadman on the Grandest Stage Of Them All. 2010 would reveal the final answer to that, and many more.
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