As I’ve talked about in previous articles, the main event scene in 1991 was pretty sparse with heels. We were still a few months away from Ric Flair’s blow-up with Jim Herd (Do not get me started on that), so the company needed to act fast. First, a heel turn by Jake Roberts was set in motion; a great thing since Roberts was hitting the ceiling on what he could do as a face.
After WrestleMania VII, The Undertaker would be placed in a feud with the number two face in the company, the Ultimate Warrior. The events were set in motion on a segment called The Funeral Parlor, Bearer’s talk show segment. Bearer called out any superstar on the roster to come on his show. The Ultimate Warrior accepted and came on the show and in that segment; the rocket ship was effectively placed on the ass of the Undertaker and the push began.
[adinserter block=”1″]Warrior came on, as new commentator Randy Savage openly talked about his bitterness towards Warrior ending his career. Bearer showed off his new casket, a double-XL casket adorned with Warrior logos, made just for the Warrior. Warrior got physical with Bearer and the Undertaker came out of one of the caskets propped up. This always added intrigue to the segment would the Undertaker attack and which casket would he come out of? Taker would beat Warrior down as Savage openly cheered for what we were seeing. This was unique since Warrior rarely got his ass kicked this badly on television, and it got Taker over as a huge threat.
With Warrior down and out, Taker stuffed him into the custom casket, and you know what made this segment? Savage. Savage went from openly cheering for the Undertaker, calling for Undertaker to put him in the casket. After they placed Warrior in the casket and locked it up, Savage changed his tune and began rooting for the people to open it up. Savage pretty much did an about face during the whole segment and it added to the tension of them trying to break Warrior out. If you can get past the creepiness of watching it today, I recommend that you give it a watch. Great segment and McMahon/Piper/Savage played their roles perfectly.
Warrior and Undertaker would engage in a series of matches on the house show circuit, with the occasional body bag match being thrown in. The concept was simple; the winner would place the loser in a body bag. They had a big blow-off at MSG, Warrior won the match and there was a cool visual after the match. The Undertaker doing the Michael Myers sit-up in the body bag was frigging awesome. On television, Warrior had enlisted Jake Roberts to help him figure out the secret to the Undertaker’s darkness.
Yes, the segments were pure WrestleCrap with Warrior being buried alive, placed in a casket, and facing Jake’s snake in a room full of snakes. The last one was pretty laughable, but the payoff was worth it. Warrior gets bit, breaks through the door and crashes to the floor. Warrior’s hands grasped onto a black boot as a familiar theme began to play. The camera panned up to the Undertaker in what was a pants-crapping moment to me as a kid. Roberts uttered these immortal words to Warrior as he reached out to Jake:
“Yeah, reach out to a snake. Never trust a snake.”
With that, the alliance between The Undertaker and Jake Roberts was forged. Now, this should have led to a Jake Roberts/Ultimate Warrior feud, but as we all know that did not happen. Instead, Taker and Roberts would crash the Randy Savage/Elizabeth wedding reception in all its glorious cheesiness by hiding a snake in a gift. As a kid, I wondered why Hogan and Warrior weren’t there, and was reminded that Savage pissed those guys off for about two straight years. I did however go bonkers when I saw SID with a wooden chair run both guys off.
Then it happened.
I presume every wrestling fan has that moment when they go from being a casual watcher to being hooked. SID and Jake Roberts were set to lead Survivor Series teams and SID was going against El Diablo who had blonde hair, wore a mask and gi. Sid came out and if you don’t know by now, I’m a huge Sid mark. I’ll defend the big lug till the day I die for that matter. The match was set to begin when The Undertaker came out, Paul Bearer with him as always. Bearer had no urn, but a briefcase as he summoned El Diablo outside. Bearer gave him the briefcase as Undertaker began to take off his coat and hat.
HOLY SH%T, IT IS HAPPENING thought two year old me; I was going nuts at the thought of Sid against The Undertaker. Hell, my dad wanted to see this happen. The crowd was going nuts; I was losing it as everybody wanted to see this fight go down. It was like seeing Godzilla face Undead Zombie Godzilla as both men stared each-other down. Then, El Diablo came out and it was Jake Roberts all along under the mask. They beat the crap out of Sid and Jim Duggan of all people saved the day. This is another one of those great segments you should check out.
The alliance between both men would continue, but The Undertaker was suddenly announced as the new number one contender to face Hulk Hogan. Hulkamania had faced monsters, bitter friends, terrible actors, Iraqi sympathizers, but now he was facing death itself. It was an interesting twist since Hogan’s popularity was starting to wane, and they built it you didn’t know if Hulk was actually leaving with the belt. Everybody assumed that Hogan was on his way to face Flair at WrestleMania VIII. It was being marketed as The Gravest Challenge and of course we needed a Funeral Parlor segment.
This one would have the same set-up with the custom made casket and then Ric Flair showed up. I do believe this was the first major TV confrontation between the two, and Flair cut a great promo calling out Hogan, putting a twist on Hogan’s famous “Whatcha Gonna Do?” spiel. As Hogan responded, WHAM the Undertaker attacked him with the urn as him and Flair teamed up on Hogan. The best moment was Piper and Savage leaving the booth with chairs and them trying to hit Taker with the chairs. It was great television and added to the build-up as Hogan was cutting serious and tremendous promos in the build-up. It made you feel like Hulkamania was truly facing death itself.
As a kid, a two year old Hulkamaniac, I was pumped to see this match at my grandparents on Thanksgiving night. There was a certain atmosphere to the match that I just loved that makes me consistently re-watch the match. It’s not a classic, but the crowd was pumped and I think it was the first match that I disagreed with my dad about. He was adamant that The Undertaker was going to crush Hogan mostly just to mess with me.
[adinserter block=”2″]I just loved Hogan doing his routine and Taker just staring him down throughout the whole thing. Then, just when I thought that Hogan was going to vanquish Undertaker, they pulled the rug right out from underneath me. Tombstone on the chair thanks to Flair and the crowd popped hard when it happened. Of course it wasn’t meant to be, but we got three pretty good promos, Piper cutting a crazy promo comparing the result to David Duke being president, a classic screaming Flair promo and a Taker promo to end the show. The image of Taker closing the casket and his theme playing scared the absolute hell out of me as kid.
As we all know, it wasn’t meant to last, but that’s for another article
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
[amazon_link id=”B00HRYH7G2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ] Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD[/amazon_link]
[amazon_link id=”B00JHH1YAW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE The Paul Heyman Story[/amazon_link]