Looking Back At The Undertaker’s Story in WWE
Growing up I was always a WCW fan. As a result, I missed a lot of Undertaker’s run between 1990-1996 and wouldn’t go through it until years later. When I first came across the Undertaker, Paul Bearer was taunting Taker with a secret about his family’s death. We’ll dive into that in a bit. One thing that always confused me was Undertaker’s powers.
Now, 12-year-old me loved this stuff. I was a fan of comics, manga, and fantasy novels so The Undertaker immediately appealed to me. He was a comic book character come to life—one of the darker ones that started to become cool in the early 90s. However, as a fan of all that stuff, the origins of his powers and even where he came from was a mystery that continued to bother me.
Origins of The Undertaker
So, here we have this 6’10* giant of a man appearing on WWE television in November 1990. At first, he didn’t have any powers that would make you go “Ooh…ahh!” outside of turning on the arena lights. Oh, and he was indestructible but who isn’t against jobbers, right? Hell, the Road Warriors and Nikita Koloff were indestructible for a period.
At first Brother Love was his manager then Paul Bearer took over with the urn. This urn was said to be the source of his power but we never found out where he got it. Maybe it was one of the things left after Kane burned down their funeral parlor or something. It might have the ashes of Undertaker’s parents in it. Who knows?
As we all remember, the urn was a cheat item. Sure, Paul Bearer could hit someone with it but he could also revitalize Taker when needed or control him. Not unusual, really. There have been heel managers who had things that did the same or had control over mystical powers.
I mean Kevin Sullivan summoned The Purple Haze out of the ocean.
By the time I started watching WWE, Undertaker had modernized his look. He was also talking more and his stories became more convoluted. The whole thing with Kane and Paul Bearer is as if public access had a soap opera written by 90s teens.
“OK, Kane killed their parents in fire–”
“Because arson is badass.”
“Yes. Undertaker took the blame and was raised by Paul. Kane was put in an asylum.”
“The Deadman is breaking away from being controlled, Paul gets a goon in Mankind and has Kane released!”
I said that Jack Tunney was the worst commissioner but Slaughter allowed two psychopaths into the promotion within a year of each other. He’s pacing Tunney in the bad official department.
We see that Kane has the power of fire and still loves arson. WWE brought this man into the promotion. Between 1990 and 1997, Taker had a power upgrade and he can shoot lightning. What the hell? RAW is WAR is about to break out into a battle of superpowers and Slaughter’s worried about the gang wars in the company between Green and Black Attack and some Pink and Black goons from Calgary.
There won’t even be a Warzone once these two—featuring Mankind—are done!
Let me calm down. The point is, The Undertaker is Raiden, this story is a mess, and WWE was doing a bad job at stopping gang violence.
So, The Undertaker’s Story…
As a teenager I didn’t look too hard at any of this but watching it years later is an experience. We live in a time where writing in comics, TV, and film is more layered. Things tend to be better explained to avoid retconning things in the future.
The Undertaker’s story in the 90s was like X-Men in the 60s or the original Star Wars trilogy. Extremely fun at the time but looking at it years later it’s like “Wow, the backstory is so important. Because there are holes in the original stuff.”
By the 2000s, Undertaker had this stripped-down but still effective aging gunslinger gimmick. The battles with old foes during a time of lawlessness had worn him down. There are new threats more dangerous than those a decade earlier. This old dog needs new tricks and old standbys. When the last decade came around, every gunfight could’ve been his last.
Surely, WWE’s creative staff during the post-Hogan/New Generation/Attitude Era couldn’t predict that all this stuff in The Undertaker’s backstory would be up for dissection. That his history in WWE would be cemented but the story of the character was just…questionable as hell.
It’s probably one of the reasons that gimmicks like Mordecai, Kevin Thorn, and The Boogeyman never really took off. We were at a different time and those gimmicks were ones of a time far earlier when people didn’t ask for more meat to their stories.
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