The Last Ride for the Deadman?
For many years now, I, like many fans have been wondering when it will be our last time seeing the Undertaker. Ever since his WrestleMania streak was beaten by Brock Lesnar, followed by his loss to Roman Reigns and face off in the Rumble with Goldberg, we have been left with little to go on. After all, he did leave his hat and gloves in the ring, has left us with cryptic promos that make us even more uncertain of a return, and most recently has been challenged by John Cena to a match at WrestleMania 34. We have yet to receive an answer to the challenge.
John’s Challenge was blunt and brutal. He tore into the man, Mark Calaway, not his gimmick. For the first time in a long time I felt a fire in John Cena’s voice, he had a real passion to make this match happen, and wasn’t fussed about what he had to say to make it happen.
On this week’s edition of Raw, we saw John Cena demand an answer from the ‘Deadman’ regarding the WrestleMania Challenge. Cena continued to belittle and taunt the Undertaker, saying he was hiding because he was too embarrassed to show up and thought he was too old. He would then go on to build the Dallas crowd into a frenzy over the potential match. As Cena noted, the answer to his challenge was ….. nothing. Silence.
An angry John then told the ‘Phenom’ that he was disrespecting Cena and the fans by not even responding, owing it to them and himself to show up at ‘Mania. Calling him a coward, John explained that the fans had made ‘Taker into a god-like figure, yet he was not god, not even a real man.
This got the attention of Kane, who entered the ring seemingly to give Cena his answer. All John got for his troubles was a chokeslam to hell, we were left none the wiser.
I really hope the Undertaker accepts. The two haven’t faced off since 2006, both men have grown even more experienced since then, making this one of the must-see matches of the WrestleMania card.
IF he accepts. I can’t imagine we would have had it teased as much as it has been if it wasn’t going to take place. Yet with less than a month now until the biggest show of the year for WWE and the only build we have so far is the challenge laid down by Cena.
The Return of the American Badass
I don’t think it makes sense for the ‘Deadman’ gimmick to return, given how they have tried to wrap the character up. Plus with how brutal John’s delivery of his promo was, I’m hoping more than anything that Mark Calaway returns on his motorbike, with either his ‘American Badass’ or ‘Big Evil’ personas.
We first saw the ‘official’ debut of the Undertaker’s biker gimmick back in May of 2000, when he came to the aid of The Rock, who was on the receiving end of a beating from Triple H and D-Generation X.
Vignettes showing a ring of creepy children, saying even creepier things, had already foreshadowed the Undertaker’s return. When the silhouette of a lone biker joined the images along with the sound of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’, none of us knew just how much of a fun ride we had in store due to a simple character overhaul.
Then Undertaker was back and even more badass than before, fending off the entire McMahon-Helmsley faction, attempting to run over Vince and chasing them all backstage. This distraction and the fact that it was now a one on one affair allowed the Rock to gain the upper hand against Triple H.
This character had been teased as early as June 1998 when the Undertaker stormed through the backstage area in full biker attire, which I’m sure at the time seemed rather strange given his usual ring wear.
After this during 1999, the Undertaker would go on to team with the Big Show, also aided by Mideon and Viscera. The tag team, known as the ‘Unholy Alliance’. They won the Tag Team Championships but were forced to drop the titles after the Undertaker injured himself. Big show would be forced to compete on both of their behalf’s by the Undertaker and even won the title back on his own before losing them a second time. During this period the Undertaker would spend his backstage segments in biker clothes, while wearing his better known all-black attire when he would come to the ring.
It has been said by Kevin Nash in an interview that the Undertaker was strategically changing his gimmick in order to jump ship to WCW, as the Undertaker character could never turn up on the rival show, but biker Mark Callaway could. This changed apparently when Vince started paying large guarantees to his top stars.
Still, Undertaker was injured and due to return. The biker gimmick was given the green light, signaling a fresh run for the deadman. While in this gimmick he totally abandoned all aspects of the original ‘Lord of Darkness’ gimmick, adopting a more authentic, no-nonsense approach. As the ‘American Badass’ he would show respect to other top stars but also let everyone know he ran the locker room. Later in the run, after the Alliance was defeated, as ‘Big Evil’ he was very much a good heel, best portrayed by his beating of David Flair to punish his father, Ric Flair.
While in the biker gimmick, as a face, we also saw the ‘Deadman Inc/Brothers of Destruction’ phase’, where Undertaker and Kane would team. They won the tag titles numerous times, even capturing the WCW Tag Team Championships during the Invasion angle.
He had excellent feuds with Flair, Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Diamon Dallas Page, The Rock, The Big Show, Vince McMahon and even the Tough Enough winner Maven, who had eliminated the Undertaker from the Royal Rumble sparking their feud.
Eventually, he would return to his ‘Lord of Darkness’ gimmick in 2004, marking the last time we would see the biker version of the Undertaker.
I thought we saw some of his best feuds with this character. That is not to take anything away from his original gimmick, however, a change was needed, a breath of fresh air. ‘American Badass’ was that.
Now, this could go a few different ways.
Undertaker could return in Deadman attire and face Cena, to a thunderous reaction. It’s Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Kid Rock plays the American Badass into the arena to face Cena, also to (louder) thunderous reaction.
Or the ‘Big Evil’ Undertaker shows up at WrestleMania. We all saw John Cena’s comments. If you listen to the lyrics of the Undertaker’s ‘You’re Gonna Pay’ theme, you will understand why I think it makes the most sense for this version of Mark Callaway to show up.
There is also the question of Cena staying in his usual ‘Hustle, Loyalty, Respect’ character despite his harsh words, or possibly becoming a more heelish John, like many have wanted to see for years. The ‘Ruthless Aggression’ John Cena, the ‘Thuganomics’ John Cena.
They haven’t faced each other for over ten years. There is a lot of history there to build off of and although it would normally make sense to have two of the biggest names in WrestleMania history stick to their original characters, I believe they need to pull out all of the stops, the Deadman was retired. The American Badass was not. My main reason for wanting this is because of how real Cena’s words were, and how these two larger than life characters could tear it down without the use of their usual gimmicks, with emotion and storytelling.
If we got ‘heel’ Cena vs Big Evil, I think this could end up as one of, if not THE biggest talking point of the night.