Undertaker’s Survivor Series Legacy

 

This year’s iteration of WWE’s second longest running Pay Per View will write another chapter in the Undertaker’s Survivor Series legacy, perhaps the Phenom’s last one ever.

Survivor Series has always been an important piece of the Deadman’s career as he made his debut during the event in 1990. Taker joined the ranks of the Million Dollar Team, captained by Ted DiBiase. The pasty faced superstar was led to the ring by Brother Love and was impressive in his debut, pinning Koko B. Ware and Dusty Rhodes before being counted out after voluntarily leaving the ring. He would later carry this moment with him for the whole year and wrestle the WWF World championship away from Hulk Hogan in a controversial finish. With some help from Ric Flair, the Undertaker tombstoned Hogan onto a steel chair to steal the title, cementing his place in the pantheon of greats who have cut their teeth at the annual Thanksgiving day tradition while also necessitating the first ever Tuesday PPV just five days later. Although he lost the title in a rematch rife with controversy, the Deadman quickly showed the nascent WWF universe that he was not a man to be trifled with.

At the 1992 event, the Undertaker tamed the wild Kamala, who was terrified of coffins, in quite appropriately a coffin match. With the help of his urn, Taker was able to defeat the Ugandan Giant and continue his streak of success. The next year’s event would see the Undertaker reveal a patriotic side of himself, as he joined the Steiner Brothers and Lex Luger to take on the Foreign Fanatics. Normally apolitical, the Undertaker revealed to us the inside of his trench coat which was festooned with nationalist pride demonstrated by the bars and stars lining, ingratiating himself to his teammates and patriots everywhere. The Phenom battled Yokozuna on the outside to an eventual double count out, remaining unpinned at the event and beginning a feud that would culminate the next year in a casket match. Luckily for our resident graveyard denizen, Yokozuna, like Kamala before him, had an irrational fear of caskets. Despite interference from King Kong Bundy, Bam Bam Bigelow, IRS and Jeff Jarrett, a second gimmick match win was in the Deadman’s future. Under the watchful eye of the Texas Ranger and special enforcer Chuck Norris, the Undertaker proved himself yet again to be the master of the casket match, weathering the interference and laying his feud with the sumo champion to rest  in 1994.

A year later at the 1995 event, the Undertaker would finally captain a team, the Darkside into four-on-four battle. Flanked by the feared trio of Savio Vega, pig farmer Henry Godwin and Fatu (later known as Rikishi), the Lord of Darkness stood tall as the lone survivor after sending King Mabel packing by sitting up and startling Mabel enough that he ran out and earned himself a countout. The following year would be an eventful one, as Paul Bearer, the Deadman’s longtime manager and confidant would align with Mankind and be true to his name by assuring that the Undertaker was buried alive. Proving to be as mysterious and he is power, the Undertaker recovered from certain doom to seek vengeance on Mankind and the mastermind behind the plot, his former friend Paul Bearer. Bearer would regret his actions as the match stipulated that the portly mortician be held captive in a cage above the ring as his former protege returned to exact a measure of revenge. Despite the betrayal, the Undertaker once again came away victorious at the 1996 fall classic. Notably absent in 1997, he returned a year later as a participant in the Deadly Games tournament to crown a new WWF champion. After months of unrest and collusion with his brother Kane and the unlikely ally of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the WWF title was declared vacant, with a new owner to be crowned at Survivor Series. Although he bested his brother to advance, Kane would earn Taker a disqualification against the Rock, burying the Undertaker’s chance at another championship reign. The 90s ended with yet another absence from the Deadman, as he did not compete at the 1999 event.

With the Attitude Era in full swing, Calloway tweaked his persona and returned as the American Bad Ass, riding his Harley Davidson into the 2000 event, vying for the championship against Kurt Angle and his gaggle of minions. After delivering a last ride to Angle’s brother Eric, Taker became a victim of Kurt’s “integrity” and was rolled up for a frustrating loss. 2001 would see the Undertaker swept up in the “Invasion” angle, teaming with WWF stalwarts The Rock, Triple H, Chris Jericho and Kane to defend the pride of the company against Austin and his insurrectionists. Stone Cold would deliver his patented finisher, allowing Angle to pin the Undertaker for the second year in a row at the Survivor Series. Big Evil would take time away from the ring due to a hand injury, biding his time before revisiting the Deadman person he cultivated all those years ago.

We will pick up next week, with part two of this retrospective on the Undertaker at Survivor Series.