Welcome back to Undertaker: Five Decades of the Deadman. Throughout this series, we have taken a celebratory walk through the career of The Undertaker. At WrestleMania XXXVI this Sunday, Mark Calaway will have made it to five straight decades in the ring. Each part of this five-part series has looked at a particular decade of his career. Part one reintroduced us to his short, rookie run in the 1980s – the beginnings of Texas Red and Mean Mark Callous. Part two took a lengthy look at the ’90s; the decade that made “The Deadman”. Last week’s third part walked us through Undertaker’s career in the 2000s – arguably his most impressive and innovative decade so far. This week, we shall be looking at the 2010s – so let’s begin!
Undertaker Returns at SummerSlam 2010
After defeating Shawn Michaels in the epic Streak vs Career match at WrestleMania XXVI, The Undertaker took a break. Years of life on the road had taken its toll and in the very near future, the Deadman would move to part-time. The initial break was short; he was back by May, where he would defeat Rey Mysterio on an episode of SmackDown. In doing so, he would qualify for a title shot at the Fatal Four Way pay-per-view. During this match, Taker suffered an injury – leading to Mysterio going on to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The injury was turned into an angle; with the storyline being Undertaker was assaulted backstage and left in a “vegetative state”. Long-time rival and on-screen brother Kane would accuse Mysterio, whilst life-time babyface Mysterio accused Kane. It made for quite the rivalry.
Kane won the Money in the Bank ladder match at the pay-per-view and cashed in on Mysterio that same night. This would eventually lead to Undertaker returning to confront the two men at SummerSlam 2010. Of course, we got the big reveal: it was Kane all along. He then proceeded to attack The Undertaker, nailing him with a tombstone piledriver. It’s always gotta be Kane. This would be the first time Kane would score more victories over The Undertaker in a rivalry since the 1990s. Of course, this would also prove to be the final chapter in the tale of this decades-long feud.
Kane would defeat The Undertaker at Night of Champions 2010 and then again at Hell in a Cell 2010, with Kane being assisted by on-screen father, Paul Bearer. At Bragging Rights 2010, Kane would be victorious again – this time with help from The Nexus. It has since been confirmed that Undertaker was originally booked to score a victory in the match, but a torn rotator cuff led to plans changing. With the feud coming to an end and yet another injury causing The Undertaker to take time off, it was time to make the move to a part-time schedule.
The Undertaker Moves to Part-Time
Immediately following the defeat to Kane, Undertaker took another hiatus. At 45 years of age and a growing list of injuries taking its toll, a full-time schedule was no longer a possibility. Undertaker has spoken out on his injuries a few times over the past couple of years. Here is one such quote which details the extent of his injuries and why it was necessary to make the jump to part-time when he did. The quote comes from Undertaker’s interview with Fellowship Church’s Senior Pastor Ed Young for the first installment of Wrastlin’: A Series By Ed Young.
“Let’s see, both eye sockets have been crushed. Yeah, both. No, they were separate. They were years apart. I’ve had probably, I’m guessing I’m closing in on 20 orthopedic type of surgeries from wrestling related injuries. Both hips have had a form of hip replacement. Torn biceps, torn pecs, torn tricep, bone spurs… I think I’m a little tougher than I am smart.”
With so many injuries inflicting upon Undertaker’s quality of life, the shift to a lighter schedule was absolutely necessary. Additionally, in 2010, Undertaker re-married. Fellow WWE superstar, Michelle McCool, married the Deadman at a private ceremony near their home in Houston, Texas. Whereas Taker moved to part-time, McCool retired entirely – choosing instead to focus on raising a family. It was time for both to enjoy the family lifestyle which a WWE touring schedule simply would not allow. After the 2011 Royal Rumble, the Deadman would make his return.
WrestleMania Rivalry With Triple H
After weeks of the numbers 2-21-11 being used to tease some kind of announcement, Taker would return on the RAW taking place on that date. When he entered the ring, grabbed the microphone and began to speak. Before he spoke a word, Triple H entered to the sound of Motorhead’s “King of Kings” theme song. Taker had changed his theme; embracing the nickname “The Last Outlaw” whilst entering to Johnny Cash song “Ain’t No Grave”. The two veterans would challenge each other to a match at WrestleMania XXVII – a “No Holds Barred” match. Undertaker would submit Triple H with the Hells Gate finisher, making it 2-0 over “The Game” at WrestleMania (and 19-0 overall).
The Undertaker didn’t return until ten months later to taunt and goad Triple H into a WrestleMania rematch. In reality, it would be The Game’s second rematch. Triple H initially refused – he had began embracing the corporate, COO title. However, when Undertaker mocked Triple H further – accusing him of living in the shadow of long-time ally Shawn Michaels – Triple H accepted.
The match was set. WrestleMania XXVIII would see this trilogy come to an end. The added stipulation of Hell in a Cell – a match specialty for both – made it fitting. Michaels – retired by The Undertaker and best friend of Triple H – added the necessary drama. It was to be the “End of an Era” match. Taker, sporting a short mohawk-style haircut for the first time, won the match. The image of Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker limping to the back together was one which would forever be remembered. It truly was the end of an era.
Undertaker and the Controversial Feud With CM Punk
Aside from a brief appearance at RAW 1000, where he saved Kane from a beat down, Taker would take almost a year off. At an episode of Old School RAW on March 14 2013, Undertaker would open the show and issue a challenge. Big Show, Randy Orton, Sheamus and CM Punk would battle it out. The match would be to determine the challenger to Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania XXIX. CM Punk would win the match, thus igniting what would go down in history as one of the WWE’s more controversial rivalries. Certainly within the “PG Era” of WWE history.
On March 5th 2013, William Moody – the real-life name of Paul Bearer – sadly passed away. Tributes poured in to the on-screen father of Kane, who was also Undertaker’s manager spanning decades. The “bearer” of The Undertaker’s urn – the object which controlled the Deadman during the early days of his WWE tenure. CM Punk stole the object; mocking both it and Paul Bearer over the course of the feud. He would mock Paul Bearer’s iconic, eerily high-pitched voice. Punk would tip the ashes from the urn onto the ground. It was a very morbid feud, but given the short amount of time they had to build the match and Taker’s limited appearances, Punk made their match at WrestleMania XXIX must-see. Taker would arrive at WrestleMania in 2013 looking for a fight and would love 21-0.
Short Feud With The Shield
The following night on RAW, The Undertaker would begin a short feud with The Shield. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns would take on The Undertaker, Kane and Daniel Bryan. They would lost to The Shield on RAW (April 22, 2013). Not long after, Undertaker would submit Dean Ambrose on SmackDown, before finding himself on the receiving end of a Shield triple powerbomb. The Undertaker would be written off TV until the following year. The following year’s WrestleMania was WrestleMania XXX and it would prove to be the most important of his career.
The Beast Conquers “The Streak”
Brock Lesnar is no normal man. A former UFC Heavyweight Champion; an NCAA champion and a naturally gifted freak athlete. His credentials make him a true, mainstream box office attraction. Lesnar had been something of a bane in The Undertaker’s career during his first run (2002-2004) in the WWE (read more in Part 3). In contrast, The Undertaker had constructed a legacy within pro-wrestling; building a WrestleMania streak that no one will ever be able to match. If any wrestler was a realistic enough option to conquer the undefeated streak at WrestleMania, it was Brock Lesnar.
At WrestleMania XXX – after a gruelling 25-minute match featuring a number of close-falls – Lesnar did just that. 75,167 was the number of fans in attendance (according to WWE) that night. Every last one of them were stunned into silence. All that could be heard was Paul Heyman shouting “oh my God!” repeatedly in disbelief. It was truly the most shocking moment in WWE history. Following the match, The Undertaker was hospitalized – accompanied by long-time boss and friend, Vince McMahon. McMahon later revealed on the Steve Austin Podcast that he made the call for Undertaker’s streak to end that night. It will go down in wrestling history as one of the bravest and most polarizing.
Undertaker Returns to Form
No one truly knew whether that would be The Undertaker’s final match until the following year’s WrestleMania. At WrestleMania XXXI, The Deadman returned to winning ways with a victory over Bray Wyatt – who had spent months challenging Undertaker to a WrestleMania match. Though the match was fun and Undertaker looked in significantly better shape than in recent years, the magic was gone. Undertaker would have a further two matches with Brock Lesnar in 2015 – citing his reason as “revenge” for Paul Heyman’s constant taunting of the streak’s end. He scored a controversial win over The Beast at SummerSlam 2015, but was then defeated at Hell in a Cell 2015. The rivalry was finally at an end. However, The Brothers of Destruction would become entrapped in a rivalry with The Wyatt Family, which culminated in a victory for The Brothers at Survivor Series 2015.
The Final Years
The Undertaker’s long-term feuds were now finished. At WrestleMania XXXII, Taker would defeat a returning Shane McMahon. The stipulation was simple. If Shane McMahon were to win, he takes control of RAW and Taker is forced to retire from active competition at WrestleMania. If Taker wins, Shane is gone from WWE programming. Of course, the stipulation turned out to be pointless – Shane was made commissioner of SmackDown Live the following night. At WrestleMania XXXIII, The Deadman would go against “The Big Dog” of WWE. It would be Undertaker versus Reigns. Reigns would defeat Taker at the event – causing Undertaker just his second loss at WrestleMania; the Streak standing at 23-2. In what was perceived as a symbol of retirement, Undertaker left his hat, gloves and coat in the ring.
Undertaker would be gone for a full year – with a single appearance at the 25th anniversary of RAW (January 22, 2018) being his only showing between WrestleMania XXXIII and WrestleMania XXXIV. WrestleMania XXXIV‘s build-up consisted of John Cena begging Undertaker to “do something”. Though Cena’s entire WWE career took place during Undertaker’s, the two rarely crossed paths. This was largely down to Cena being a RAW mainstay and Undertaker being mostly SmackDown exclusive. At WrestleMania XXXIV, they would indeed cross paths once more – with Undertaker defeating Cena in three minutes. If you believed that was The Undertaker’s final farewell, his winning effort against Rusev at WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble event might have surprised you. His perceived retirement after the defeat against Roman Reigns was clearly an afterthough.
This wouldn’t be the final time Undertaker was involved in a match which contradicted a previous outcome. Later that year, The Undertaker and Triple H faced each other in a “Last Time Ever” match at the Super Show-Down event in Australia. Of course, this completely disrespected their “End of an Era” match from WrestleMania XXVIII and paled in comparison. To make matters worse, The Brothers of Destruction took on D-Generation X – a returning Shawn Michaels and Triple H – at Crown Jewel. This, of course, disrespected the outcome to the WrestleMania XXVI match between Michaels and Undertaker. Undertaker then missed WrestleMania XXXV – his first no-show at WrestleMania in 19 years.
End of the 2010s
Undertaker made a couple of appearances in 2019, defeating Goldberg at Super Showdown. He would assist Roman Reigns in his feud against Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre – defeating them at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. The Deadman’s 2010s had come to an end. He had just one championship reign in the decade – a sole World Heavyweight Championship run; which began in 2009 and ended in 2010.
This brings us back to the present day. What does the 2020s have in store for The Undertaker? One must assume it will be his last, but you can never be sure with The Deadman. The Undertaker faces AJ Styles at WrestleMania XXXVI and in accordance with the match, part 5 of this series will be released. We will be taking a look at the Boneyard match, the noticeable change in Undertaker’s character and what the future has in store for The Deadman. Stay tuned.
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