It’s time for my Sunday column in a blog.
There is nothing in pro wrestling that beats a good old fashion return. Many factors go into a great return: shock, fans have no idea it was coming, and surprising actions after the return is made.
The Undertaker has made some of the most remarkable returns in the history of the WWE. By the same token, no one has ever had this many opportunities to make this many returns. I think this is an appropriate time to look back at some of his best returns over his long and illustrious career.
5.) Survivor Series 2005: Undertaker returns for The Legend Killer
This return resulted in a burning casket placed in front of the entrance way. A bolt of lightning hits it and sets it on fire. Taker knocks down the door, his music hits, and down the entrance way he comes. You don’t get more dramatic than this. Was it a little over the top? Sure, but what Undertaker return isn’t. Undertaker was entrenched in a feud with Randy Orton at the time and this return set up a Hell in the Cell match later that year, which Undertaker won. The purpose of Taker’s return was to avenge an attack by Orton. The Legend Killer trapped Undertaker in a casket and set it on fire. Of course, when the casket opened, he was missing. The great thing about the return at Survivor Series was how Taker completely destroyed everyone in the ring.
It was also a special night for Undertaker as every Survivor Series marks the anniversary of his debut in the WWE. On this night, it was his 15th year in the company and he returned with a vengeance. He also returned with more facial hair than ever before during his career.
4.) Summerslam 1994: Undertaker vs. Underfaker
Undertaker was brutally attacked by a bunch of wrestlers at the Royal Rumble after beating Yokozuna in a casket match. Undertaker’s spirit appeared on the titan tron and vowed to return and not rest in peace. His spirit then ascended into the heavens in a really cool trick. Click here to watch it. Then, The Million Dollar Man started to appear with Taker later that year. However, it was Brian Lee playing the role as Taker and fans dubbed him the Underfaker. Paul Bearer appeared with the real Undertaker at Summerslam donning the purple gloves as he beat the Underfaker.
This angle culminated in a horrible match at Summerslam. However, fans still love to talk about this angle, which shows its staying power in the minds of wrestling fans. Even people who no longer watch wrestling still remember this angle more than most. I guess when your 8-years-old and you see two Undertaker’s it really blows your mind.
3.) March 1998: The road to Wrestlemania 14
Kane debut after much hype by Paul Bearer at Badd Blood in 1997. Kane cost Undertaker the WWE Title in the very first Hell in the Cell match with Shawn Michaels. Kane and Bearer continued to give Undertaker beat downs and challenge him to fights, but Taker refused since he promised his dead parents he would never fight his half-brother. Kane attacked Taker at the Royal Rumble as he was once again challenging HBK for the title. They stuffed Taker into the casket and set it on fire. However, Taker had vanished before they got it open. Yes, this is the blue print for the Orton feud seven years later.
Then, on Raw Taker made his return, once again, in a casket that gets hits with lightning. Taker goes on to give one of his best promos and accepts a match with Kane. They meet at Wrestlemania 14 and Taker wins after multiple Tombstones.
2.) Judgment Day 2000: The American Bad Ass debuts
This is by far maybe the most memorable Taker return even though it’s not #1. This return was set up in 1999 when Taker, a part of the Corporate Ministry, refused to face Triple H in a casket match. He walks out of the WWE and returns at Judgment Day, except he returns without his gimmick. The American Bad Ass who rides motorcycles and does whatever he wants was the new Taker. You have to give credit, Taker dropped the most successful gimmick in wrestling and went in a direction no one ever thought he would ever attempt to do. His new gimmick worked and worked well.
His return at Judgment Day was insane as not many expected it. The crowd reaction at first was not crazy, but that’s because no one saw him jet into the arena on the bike. The fans went bonkers when he hit the ring and started to take out the McMahon-Helmsley faction. By the way, his entrance was very creepy with the little girls dancing and jumping rope. When he first returned I thought he was still the Deadman because his new theme still had a tolling of the bell and Taker even rolled his eyes at the show. But it was evident he was heading to a change in character. On a personal note, it was a sad day in my childhood when this happened. That’s why the next return is #1.
1.) Wrestlemania XX – It all begins again
Finally, Taker returns to his Deadman character at Madison Square Garden to once again avenge and attack by Kane. I was in the building so it was extra special for me. The weeks leading up to the return were hyped perfectly with cryptic messages on the titan tron. Yet, every fan knew that the Deadman was making a return.
The arena erupted at Wrestlemania XX when Paul Bearer walked out. Actually, most fans were at ease when they saw Bearer because they knew for sure the biker Undertaker would not come rolling down the entrance ramp. Some fans were upset that the Deadman still had some remnants of the American Bad Ass. But any true Undertaker fan knows that the man behind the gimmick doesn’t believe in ever going back. Instead, he is always evolving his character to stay current.
It really didn’t matter to me or most fans. Hearing the old music and seeing the trench coat and hat was more than enough.