The backstory of the Undertaker sounds like a story you would hear from a drunken postal worker in the waning hours of a family reunion. All of it is ridiculously unbelievable, but you keep nodding your head because, hell, that guy thinks it is all true.
First of all, he’s dead. A magical funeral urn kept him going, rejuvenating his life force and making him practically impervious to pain. He had a clan of druids for a while. His finishing move is called the Tombstone Piledriver.
If you let a nine-year-old kid watch a bunch of horror movies, drink gallons of soda, and told them to create a role-playing game character, they would come up with the Undertaker.
And yet, somehow, it works. The Undertaker is one of the most enduring characters in wrestling history. He might be the fighting equivalent of The Tall Man from Phantasm, but Undertaker is also one tough son of a bitch. Is he evil? That’s arguable. But he has done some stuff in the ring that could be called wicked, if not downright demonic.
The Destruction of Dennis Knight – The Undertaker introduced his demonic faction, the Dark Ministry, to RAW in 1999. Guys in black hooded cloaks stood solemnly on the stage as the voice of Taker intoned a speech that Pinhead would have thought was too stentorian. On a slab, under the watchful eye of Bradshaw, lay Dennis Knight. Knight was better known as one of the Godwinns, a hillbilly tag team that was more like the Kudzu Cutters than the Bushwackers. “I hope this is not some sort of sacrifice!” said Jerry Lawler on commentary. In a high ritual spookshow, Taker sliced his own wrist and dribbled the blood into a silver goblet. He raised Knight’s head and poured the blood down his throat. Twice, the Undertaker recited the Charm of Making (if you’ve seen John Boorman’s Excalibur, you know what I’m talking about), but he dropped the middle part of the incantation. I guess that makes it the Charm of Preparing. Taker then renamed the wrestler Mideon and carved a symbol into his chest with a shiny fake dagger. The whole thing is super serious, which means it’s kind of hilarious.
The Kidnapping of Stephanie McMahon – It’s a nice day for a black wedding! In true El Guapo fashion, when Taker wanted a woman, he took a woman. At the end of the 1999 Backlash, the Undertaker kidnapped the boss’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon. His ransom terms were huge. He promised to return Stephanie if Vince gave him ownership of the company. But when Vince went to deliver the paperwork, Taker was nowhere to be found. His evil plan was to marry Steph against her will and make her his Dark Queen or something like that. Strapped to a crucifix like think in the shape of Undertaker’s trademarked symbol, Stephanie did her best Linnea Quigley and screamed like a crazy person. The Undertaker would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling Steve Austin. Those wedding vows from Paul Bearer, though, are amazing. I wish I had used those in my marriage ceremony.
The Crucifixion of Steve Austin – The December 7. 1998 RAW was the go-home show for In Your House: Rock Bottom. Taker and Austin were scheduled for a Buried Alive match at the pay-per-view. After kranging Steve Austin on the head with the ring bell, Taker carried the Texas Rattlesnake up the ramp where his Ministry was waiting. They laid Austin down on the ubiquitous Taker symbol and lashed his arms to it. Paul Bearer urged them on with screams of “Tie him on there!” Then, the symbol was raised in the air as Austin stared at Taker in his Jesus Christ pose. Was it sacrilegious? Maybe. It was certainly unforgettable. Okay, it was pretty fucked up and not something you see clips of on those WWE Greatest Hits shows.
The Rapid Descent of Mick Foley – Everyone talks about how crazy it is that Mick Foley went off the top of the cage in that famous Hell in a Cell match. But let’s not forget that it was the Undertaker who threw him off that cage. And even though that one moment has gone down in history, Foley got back up and continued the match. He even threw thumbtacks into the ring. But it was Undertaker who won that match, not Foley. It was Undertaker who was competing that night with a broken foot. And while the match helped cement Foley’s reputation as a crazy man who would do anything to put butts in seats, it also reinforced the idea that Undertaker was a sadistic son of a bitch with no regard for anyone else’s life.
The Rise of the American Badass – And then one night, the Undertaker came in riding a motorcycle. He still rolled his eyes back and did the same finishing moves. He seemed like the Undertaker, but what happened? Where the hell was the Deadman, the Lord of Darkness? Why was he suddenly cool instead of cold? Of all the frightening things Undertaker had done, the scariest was his reincarnation as a biker dude. No, I take that back. The scariest thing he ever did was use entrance themes by Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock.