Aside from WrestleMania, no event is so closely associated with the Undertaker than the Survivor Series. It is where he debuted, where he won his first World Wrestling Federation Championship, and where many suspect he may end his career. This Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment celebrates 25 years of the Phenom. A career almost as long as Survivor Series itself.
The Dead Man has created many memorable moments during the November tradition, so it should come as no surprise that members of the Last Word On Sports Wrestling team all have different opinions on which Undertaker moment from Survivor Series was the best. We decided to gather Aaron Wrotkowski, Jeff Dehaan, and Adam Contant to share which of the Phenom’s appearances have remained the most memorable for them.
Survivor Series 1990
Survivor Series Elimination Match
The Undertaker, Ted Dibiase, Rhythm and Blues vs Dusty Rhodes, Koko B Ware, the Hart Foundation
When I think of The Undertaker at Survivor Series, I always gravitate to his debut in 1990 in the match that pitted The Million $ Team vs. The Dream Team. It’s a traditional Survivor Series match that I always remember fondly. The match as a whole was alright, however the final five minutes was a showcase of pure wrestling excellence.
The other reason I remember this match so fondly was the aforementioned debut. I was completely taken aback by The Undertaker. I was loyal to the WWF at the tender age of 11 so I hadn’t seen this guy anywhere before. He was such an imposing figure, towering over everyone in the ring, both friend and foe. I remember thinking how cool he looked, the unique attire, the dark under his eyes, the expressionless face that never changed, whether he was on offense or defense, the latter of which didn’t happen too much in this match.
The match itself, when it comes to The Deadman, was a worthwhile debut. He started the match looking imposing against the opposing team, quickly dispatching Koko B. Ware with a Tombstone, which Gorilla Monsoon knew the name of despite only just being introduced to The Undertaker, but breaking kayfabe aside, Taker was dominant. Fans were even treated to an early version of his rope walk in which he didn’t grasp his opponent’s hand but instead did it free form. If I had one complaint about this match it would be that The Undertaker was counted out despite not seemingly being the legal man. I suppose there could have been a tag that wasn’t caught on camera, but it looked more like someone missed a cue and the future Phenom was counted out even though he wasn’t the legal man.
When it comes to the Survivor Series, and more specifically The Undertaker, this is a match that left quite an impression on me and it is a match that I will never forget.
Survivor Series 1994
The Undertaker vs Yokozuna
As a Canadian kid, the Undertaker lived in two places: WWF Action Zone and on Coliseum video. My family would never agree to ordering a Pay Per View on Viewer’s Choice Canada so if I wanted to watch wrestling prior to getting TSN and Monday Night Raw in 1997, I had to watch on Saturday mornings or what I could get my local video store. The Undertaker was at one point the only wrestler I followed. One of the first rentals was Royal Rumble 1994, in which The Undertaker was buried in a casket by Yokozuna and his cronies and was lifted up high in the arena, promising that he would not rest in peace.
I waited excitedly in early 1995 for my video store to get Survivor Series 1994, and when it did? It left a lasting impression. I remember The Bad Guys taking on the Teamsters, with the official break-up of Shawn Michaels and Diesel. I remember The Royal Family taking on Clowns R Us, and still remember the name of every little wrestler. I remember the Bob Backlund WWF World title win, in a match that felt like it took a century to be over with. I remember Guts and Glory losing to the Million Dollar Team, in what might have been the end of Lex Luger’s top card push.
But the main event, the revenge match where Undertaker would take on Yokozuna? I remember that more than anything. I remember “Double J” Jeff Jarrett nearly stealing the show. I remember the Undertaker breaking the flag of Japan over his knee (which really bothered me as a kid who loved Nintendo and all of the videogames made in Japan) and I remember Chuck Norris, yes, Chuck Norris protecting The Undertaker from Jarrett and company. I mean, now that I think about it, everything about 2000s Shawn Michaels basically was the Chuck Norris we got at Survivor Series.
It was an absolutely ridiculous match I’ll never forget. Where were you when Chuck Norris superkicked Jeff Jarrett in San Antonio, Texas to protect The Undertaker in defeating Yokozuna?
Survivor Series 2003
Buried Alive Match
The Undertaker vs Vince McMahon
Looking back, Survivor Series 2003 as a whole was a pretty compelling show. It’s one of my favorite Survivor Series of all time, and a big part of that has to do with this memorable match pitting the American Badass against the principle owner of WWE, Vince McMahon in a Buried Alive contest. On paper that seems like the worst possible match you could ever schedule, and honestly, from a technical standpoint, it is a bit of a mess.
So why on earth would I dedicate myself to writing about a match that was kind of forgettable? Well, because this is all about moments, and this match created two of the most memorable in not only WWE history, but the history of the Undertaker as well.
Vince McMahon had cost the Undertaker the chance to become WWE Champion again against Brock Lesnar, and now Big Evil was looking to make the boss pay for his sins. In fact, there was lots of divinity talk leading up to this match, with Vince claiming to have been blessed by a higher power (hopefully not himself again). Adding to the religious overtones was the rather regular comparisons of the Phenom to a demon or the devil incarnate.
All of the iconography would end up being quite ironic, as within seconds of the bell ringing and the Undertaker throwing the first punch, Vince McMahon would end up looking like Jim Caviezel in the Passion of the Christ. The owner of WWE bled like a stuck pig, shedding buckets of blood all over the ring and ringside. I still get squeamish watching this match, if only because when I see Mr. McMahon tumble in the dirt, all I can think about is the infections he might have gotten.
In a surprising twist, the Phenom’s brother Kane had one of his trademark changes of heart and attacked the Dead Man, finally burying him underneath a mountain of dirt. This was the moment worth remembering. I chose this match because it marked the end of an era for the Undertaker. The end of the American Badass. Ironically, the biker that WWE fans had spent the last three years getting to know had become a Dead Man, never to return.
25 Years of the Undertaker
The Undertaker doesn’t have another 25 years of Survivor Series moments left in him, but that’s ok, because what he has provided to fans is enough to last for a lifetime. In those 25 years he has had one of the most memorable debuts in company history, won a World Championship, innovated the casket match, helped eliminate a rival wrestling company, beat his boss to a bloody pulp, made a triumphant return, and many more.
The Undertaker has a story that much like his character and popularity, will never die. It is ironic that a quarter of a century ago the man who would become the Phenom would debut at Survivor Series, as he has become the ultimate survivor. Not only in his physical manifestations, but in his legacy. This Sunday could be an incredible full circle moment for the Undertaker if it is indeed the end of the road for the demon of Death Valley. No matter what happens after the Brothers of Destruction face the Wyatt Family, the memories he has created will live forever.