Back From The Dead: The Miraculous Healing Powers of The Undertaker

08_Buried-Alive_0002

Jamie Lithgow

A lot has been said about The Undertaker; his Wrestlemania win streak, his remarkable longevity, his timeless gimmick, that ridiculous eyeliner. So naturally I’m not going to look at any of that stuff. Instead, today I am going to tackle the elephant in the room – no, not The Big Show – I am talking about The Deadman’s uncanny ability to live, die and come back from the dead…. multiple times…

The Undertaker famously made his WWE debut at the 1990 Survivor Series. For the first year and a bit he was pushed as a monster heel; feuding with The Ultimate Warrior and a large plastic bag before capturing the WWE Title from Hulk Hogan at the 1991 edition of the Survivor Series. Taker would go on to turn babyface in time for Wrestlemania VIII, allowing him to face his on/off buddy Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. Post-Wrestlemania Undertaker was booked against a precession of ‘monsters’ – Kamala, Giant Gonzalez, Papa Shango, Yokozuna etc. – which yielded some of the dullest wrestling matches this side of a Randy Orton compilation.

Caskets fitted with cameras - I wonder why they didn't catch on?

Death #1 – Death by selfie

You see, during his first few years in ‘The Fed’, The Deadman was presented as just that; dead. Quite why an Undertaker would himself be dead is beyond me – it’s not like lumberjacks are actually trees themselves… or are they…? Anyway, the point is Taker’s mortality was always brought into question. Often heel commentators, like Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, would tell us that Taker was “not human” while babyface commentators, like Vince McMahon, took a more ambiguous stance by not dismissing these kinds of remarks as utter bollocks.

Heading into the 1994 Royal Rumble The Undertaker was a bit like WWE’s answer to Schrödinger’s cat – i.e. both alive and dead. However, by the end of his WWE Title match with Champion Yokozuna, we would have an answer to that particular conundrum. You see, this was a casket match.

WWE’s only previous casket match had seen Taker defeat Kamala at the 1992 Survivor Series – The Deadman fucking loves a Survivor Series, by the way – Luckily for The Ugandan Giant, his handler Kim Chee was on hand to pry open the casket with a crowbar in the backstage area before the effects of oxygen deprivation could kick in. Back to the ’94 bout and Yoko, with the help of ten other baddies, managed to lock The Undertaker inside the casket, thus winning the match. As the bad guys wheeled The Deadman’s beautifully crafted dead person box to the back, some spooky stuff happened. The Undertaker appeared on the big screen, apparently lying in the casket. He talked about his spirit living on before claiming that he would return after being reborn. He then appeared to ascend to heaven – or the upper deck of Providence Civic Centre at least.

Death #2 - Fell down a hole

Death #2 – Fell down a hole

So, a guy that was already dead dies, but claims that he will return? That’s about the meat of it, and return he did! The Undertaker made his long awaited return at Summerslam of that year to face….. erm….. The Undertaker. As for being reborn, well if you consider a few tattoos and switching from grey to purple gloves a rebirth then yes, The Undertaker was reborn.

By virtue of the fact that he was “reborn” we have to say that, as of Summerslam ’94, The Undertaker was alive…

Fast-forward to October 1996 and In Your House 11: Buried Alive. Undertaker had been feuding with Mankind, with the newcomer more than holding his own. This rivalry ultimately led to a ‘Buried Alive’ match. However, Taker encountered a similar problem as at the 1994 Royal Rumble – i.e. loads of bad guys wanted to kill him. So, although he did technically win the match, it was The Undertaker who ended up being buried alive. The following month our man “returned from the grave” to face Mankind at – you guessed it – the Survivor Series.

So, Taker was buried alive and made his “return from the grave” a month later? Hmmm, sounds to me like he died… again…

Death #3 - Steve, just use the digger mate

Death #3 – Steve, just use the digger mate…

Onward to December 1998 and In Your House 26: Rock Bottom. The now evil Undertaker lost a Buried Alive match to Stone Cold Steve Austin. As the show went off the air The Deadman was buried deep in the soil, but did he die? Well, he returned to TV a few weeks later in a segment where he slit his own wrists and had Dennis ‘Mideon’ Knight drink the blood. Taker was pretty evil beforehand, but this was certainly a change of pace from dimming the arena lights. Sounds like another rebirth to me…

Taker would manage a full five years of being alive, until his next death at – I think you’ve figured it out by now – the 2003 Survivor Series. Once again his demise came in a Buried Alive match, this time against Mr. McMahon. Yes, you read that correctly. However, in keeping with most Vinny Mac matches, a large man did all the hard work for him. The large man on this occasion was The Undertaker’s brother; Kane. So, The Undertaker’s younger brother killed The American Badass. Thank you Kane, thank you…

Death #4 - Sadly no room for his bike too

Death #4 – And take your motorbike with you

With The American Badass now buried six feet deep, the spooky scary Undertaker was free to rise from the dead and exact revenge on Kane. Having regained his supernatural powers and black hair, The Undertaker duly defeated Kane at Wrestlemania XX.

Impressively it would be over six years before The Undertaker would succumb to another bout of death, and surprisingly it did not happen at the Survivor Series. Bragging Rights 2010 was the event and – like a man who hadn’t already learned his lesson – the match which ended Taker’s longest ever streak without dying was of course; a Buried Alive match. Once again Kane did the honours, but this time he was actually booked in the match. However, in true ‘killing The Undertaker’ style, a group of mid-card bad guys were enlisted to lend a hand. Remember The Nexus? Well, it was them…

Death #5 - Fell down another hole

Death #5 – Fell down another hole

It is somewhat hard to tell if Taker died here or not. On one hand, he was more or less the same upon his return and no mention was made of his “demise” or “return from the grave”. On the other hand, dude was buried alive…

One would have thought that upon his return The Undertaker would have sought revenge on Kane and the various members of The Nexus? Nope. Instead he began a feud with Triple H which resulted in a match at Wrestlemania XXVII. From this point to now The Undertaker has largely just competed at Wrestlemania; an event at which he has yet to die – although he did kill The Big Bossman once….

So there you have it; a man who entered the WWE Universe already dead has so far managed to die and be reborn five times. While The Undertaker’s streak – even with the Lesnar defeat – will continue to be lauded by his fans and his peers, The Deadman’s inability to stay out of coffins and deep holes will forever be the death of him.

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4 thoughts on “Back From The Dead: The Miraculous Healing Powers of The Undertaker

  1. Pingback: Back From The Dead Part II: Wrestlers No-Selling Death | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. Pingback: Back From The Dead Part III: Wrestlers No-Selling Death, Again | Ring the Damn Bell

  3. Pingback: Icons of Wrestling #29 – Adam Bomb | Ring the Damn Bell

  4. Pingback: The Way We Was: In Your House 11 – Buried Alive | Ring the Damn Bell

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