The Undertaker is one of the longest lasting and most successful gimmicks in wrestling history. But for a short time he ditched the sombre gimmick in favour of a biker character. In this latest ‘A Moment In Time‘, Craig looks at when The Undertaker returned to our screens after a spell out as The American Bad Ass.
The Undertaker has almost unparalleled levels of longevity in terms of his gimmick. Debuting during the cartoon era of WWE wrestling at the beginning of the nineties, his character has managed to last longer than many would have expected.
His over the top shtick remained a crucial part of the WWE’s product even during the Attitude Era where the personas of the top stars were more often than not the extension of their real life character, rather than something as gimmick heavy as The Undertaker.
In September of 1999, after a period where his character was more gimmicky than ever as leader of The Ministry, The Undertaker was storyline removed from screens due to being unwilling to face Triple H in a casket match at Unforgiven. In reality, he took time off to heal a groin injury but while out of action he managed to tear his pectoral muscle keeping him on the treatment table until May 2000.
Much had changed his his absence from our screens but nothing to the extent that The Undertaker’s character had. In place of the Mortician attire, morbid movements and faith in the supernatural, The Undertaker returned on a motorbike with rock music playing as he made his way to the ring .
It had nothing to do with him believing that The Undertaker character had outlived its stay, more that it had lost some of its spark.
So, after a spell as a heel, when The Undertaker rode to the rescue of The Rock attacking The McMahon-Helmsley faction everything changed.
A hero of the WWE fanbase had returned with a startling new direction. Gone was the funeral music, black ghoulish attire and theatrics and in its place was a biker that came to the ring to the sound of rock music.
It’s a gimmick that, in the eyes of many, fitted more with the company at the time. The Attitude Era had caused the WWE to move on from the cartoon and over the top characters of old. In their place more serious characters and The Undertaker had started to believe his ghoulish character had become tired.
Although wrestling had moved on from where it had been even just a few years before, the American Bad Ass character didn’t have anything like the longevity, or the success, that the Deadman gimmick had and wasn’t long until he reverted back to his old character.
By the time Wrestlemania XX came around, The Undertaker that we recognise best had returned to our screens and once again had Paul Bearer in tow.
Even The Undertaker himself had thought his gimmick had run its course and needed freshening up. Yet here we are, some fifteen years own the line, and The Undertaker is still as popular as he ever was and is still such a pivotal part of WWE – thanks to his annual Wrestlemania appearances.
You can read all previous ‘A Moment In Time’ pieces here.