My dad, God rest his soul had five favorite wrestlers: Roddy Piper, Mick Foley, The Road Warriors and The Undertaker. He liked Piper because he hated Hogan and said whatever on his mind (My dad: original SMARK), Foley because he was one crazy tough SOB, The Road Warriors because of his Chicago roots (I know they were from Minnesota and he knew but still) and The Undertaker because it reminded him of Michael Myers when he sat up, plus it was a badass gimmick.
Well, that’s about the LAST good thing we’re talking about in this article, because we’re talking about The UnderFaker angle!
This article has some relevance, continuing my theme of celebrating anniversaries: Hulkamania, WrestleMania, Hogan going to WCW and now this.
Heading into 1994, The Undertaker wasn’t in the best shape physically. His back was hurting and not from carrying Giant Gonzales but the man was in real pain. Taker had taken to wearing a back brace to ease the pain, but it was heading to a point in-which he needed time off. It should be noted that he was in such pain that it would require him to take extensive time off. In his Timeline 1994 interview (Which I highly recommend), Sean Waltman implied that Taker was in such bad shape that by today’s standards, nobody would be allowed to work in that type of condition. Now, this is a man whom a year later would duct tape a flak jacket to his chest because he broke his ribs for a good period of time and came back a month later from having his face destroyed by Mabel. So the company needed a way to take The Undertaker off television and it had to be done in a way that didn’t make him look weak.
They had to kill him.
At the 1994 Royal Rumble, the Undertaker and Yokozuna feud was set to be blown off in a casket match. While it might seem lame, they built it up quite well by selling that Yokozuna was afraid of caskets. Taker had the match won, but then the following people ran in: Crush, Tenryu, Kabuki, The Headshrinkers, Diesel, Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, and Bam Bam Bigelow. They all beat the crap out of The Undertaker, opened up the urn, and locked him in the casket. Think about it like this, they never did this for Hogan; they never booked half the heels on the roster to attack him in a match so that he could be kept strong. As they rolled him to the back, green smoke billowed out and The Undertaker cut a promo from in the casket saying that he bill reborn before exploding and rising up to the heavens. Today, it looks completely stupid but young Robert it’s a holy crap this is awesome moment. Fun fact: Marty Jannetty played The Undertaker. There is a joke about Jannetty being the Jannetty of the two Undertakers’, but I’m above that.
So, you’d think that they’d have a kick-ass angle planned for his return. Maybe have reports on WWE TV that Kabuki and Tenryu were attacked by a man in black in Japan. Then have random stories about the men behind the attack being attacked by the same mysterious man in black throughout the months that follow. Then on a Raw with just a few men left (Jarrett, a Heashrinker, Bigelow), they gather in the ring and talk about how they’re not afraid of The Undertaker and that is when the lights go out. The lights come back, and WHAM! The Undertaker is standing in the ring. Taker wipes out the first two leaving him and Bigelow and you got yourself a SummerSlam match. Taker beats Bigelow, setting up the inevitable grudge match between Taker and Yoko.
*Microphone gets intercepted by Vince McMahon.*
Vince: WE CAN’T HAVE THAT DAMMIT.
Instead we got the start of the fake Undertaker angle, or UnderFaker. After WrestleMania, vignettes started to appear on WWE television about random people spotting the Undertaker out in public, which is quite funny now considering how Mark Calaway’s obsession with keeping in character for the last decade. Ted DiBiase shows up on television claiming that he has found The Undertaker and the he is now in control of The Undertaker, despite Bearer’s claims that it wasn’t true. In-fact, Bearer had been searching for the spirit of The Undertaker all this time, but he had failed to find it. Well, he should have looked at the WrestleMania Fan Fest since The Undertaker was signing autographs that day. This was a great continuity nod since DiBiase had brought Taker into the company, so credit to whoever decided to go with DiBiase in this role. The Underfaker made his debut and promptly fooled nobody.
For one, “The Undertaker” was about four inches shorter, and had less mass than the real Undertaker. While Taker was never a big guy, he was built rather well for his size rather than the new Undertaker who looked a bit light for his size. I do have to give Brian Lee credit; he studied the original Taker well and had most of the mannerisms and movements down well. It’s similar to how John Reynolds wore metallic rigging under his pants to play Torgo in Manos: The Hands of Fate, putting effort in for a crap venture. It should be noted that this was the start of a year-long feud between The Undertaker and The Million Dollar Corporation. I’m all for long-term feuds but man this was only bad but it was boring with some classic stinker matches. Taker vs Faker, IRS, Tatanka, Bundy, and Kama (At least their IYH dark match, the casket match isn’t so bad). It should be noted that we never got a major Undertaker vs Bigelow match or feud despite that being the best option.
A problem arose when Domino’s Pizza, which was sponsoring Summerslam leaked the Undertaker’s return against the not Undertaker by sending flyers for Summerslam advertising the Taker vs Taker match. Before it was announced I should add. They also brought in Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin to find the Undertaker and while people have hated these bits, they’re not totally awful. The first few are classic Drebin with wordplay, but they went downhill when they did them at Summerslam. According to Jim Ross, Nielsen had fun and wasn’t like most celebrities who treat a wrestling appearance akin to a prostate exam conducted by Freddy Krueger.
Until I talked about it, today.
Sorry bringing up traumatic memories.