The Great Streak of The Phenom is Only Part of a Great Story
Born Mark William Calaway, but best known as The Undertaker, he would become one of the best workers in World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment and amass possibly the greatest streak in the business. While his 21 straight victories at WWE’s premier annual event, Wrestlemania, will be what most will remember; that is only a fraction of what The Undertaker accomplished during his illustrious career.
Calaway began his wrestling career Fritz Von Erich’s Dallas promotion of World Class Championship Wrestling in 1984 as Texas Red, losing his first match to Bruiser Brody. After four years with the company, he joined the Continental Wrestling Association– which became United States Wrestling Association when Jerry Jarrett bought both CWA and WCCW, merging the two companies. While in USWA, Calaway wrestled under several gimmicks; primarily The Master of Pain and The Punisher– where he won the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship.
In 1989, Calaway joined World Championship Wrestling as a villain named “Mean” Mark Callous– a name given to him by Terry Funk. He defeated The Road Warriors as a part of the Skyscrapers tag team at Clash of the Champions X. In June 1990, Calaway was defeated by Lex Luger for the NWA U.S. Heavyweight Title and WCW decided not to renew his contract.
In 1990, Calaway was signed by WWF/E where was originally given the moniker of Kane the Undertaker. During a WWF Superstars taping on November 19, 1990, he made his WWE debut. His official on-screen came at Survivor Series on November 22, 1990, as the mystery partner for Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Team. Within a minute, Undertaker hit Koko B. Ware with his now-famous Tombstone Piledriver and also eliminated Dusty Rhodes before getting himself counted out. Though his name was supposed to be Kane the Undertaker, announcers were only referring to him as The Undertaker– which led the company to never acknowledge the Kane part of his name.
Undertaker made his Wrestlemania debut at Wrestlemania VII, quickly defeating Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. He then began a feuds with The Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Sid Justice, Sgt. Slaughter, and Hulk Hogan– defeating Hogan for WWF title at Survivor Series. His win over Hogan made him the youngest WWF champion before Yokozuna broke the record at Wrestlemania IX.
Undertaker then turned “face” and began a rivalry with former partner Jake “the Snake” Roberts, beating him at Wrestlemania VIII– win number two of his Wrestlemania streak. He then faced the Giant Gonzalez at Wrestlemania IX, where he scored his only Wrestlemania win by disqualification after Gonzalez used chloroform on the Undertaker.
Gonzalez was being managed by Harry Whippleman, who also had begun to manage Kamala and Yokozuna– among other stars. Undertaker then took on Yokozuna at the 1994 Royal Rumble where Yokozuna locked ‘Taker in a casket with the help of other Whippleman wrestlers. He appeared on the Jumbotron from inside the casket as his “spirit,” claiming that he would return. He didn’t appear for seven months, in reality due to a back injury he had suffered.
Undertaker returned to defeat a fake Undertaker at Summerslam before defeating Yokozuna in Casket Match rematch at Survivor Series. He then spent the rest of the time feuding with members of Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, taking on King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania XI.
The Undertaker then defeated Diesel at Wrestlemania XII before beginning a historic feud with Mankind. During the first-ever Boiler Room Brawl, Undertaker was betrayed by his manager Paul Bearer– hitting him with his urn. This led to a Buried Alive match, beating Mankind by chokeslamming him into the open grave, but interference by The Executioner and others allowed Mankind to bury Undertaker alive.
He again faced Mankind at Survivor Series with Paul Bearer locked in a cage 20 feet above the ring– stipulation was that Undertaker would get his hands on Bearer if he won. He then went to defeat Mankind but was unable to get to Bearer after interference by The Executioner allowed Bearer to escape.
This led to a couple of rivalries that took place over the few months. First, Bearer claimed he had been raising Undertaker’s half-brother Kane– who Taker had allegedly burned down in the family funeral home. Second, after being inadvertently hit by a chair by guest-referee Shawn Michaels costing him the WWE title to Bret Hart, he began a feud with Michaels.
After a double count-out at Ground Zero: In Your House, Michaels and Undertaker faced each other in the first Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood: In Your House. During the match, his story half-brother Kane entered the cell and beat down Undertaker before hitting him with a Tombstone Piledriver. This led to Kane, through Paul Bearer, challenging Undertaker to a match– with Taker continually saying. When it looked like Kane had allied himself with Taker, before interfering at Royal Rumble in the Taker-Michaels Casket match. Kane locked Taker in the coffin and set it on fire, giving Michaels the victory. Upon subduing the fire, the casket was found to be empty.
Undertaker returned to face Kane at Wrestlemania XIV, keeping his streak alive. After several matches teaming with Stone Cold Steve Austin against Kane and Mankind, Undertaker turned “heel” once again as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness faction. The Ministry began a feud with Vince McMahon’s Corporation faction that led a Hell in a Cell match versus Big Boss Man, another Taker victory.
During a feud with Austin, when he defeated him for his third WWE title, it was revealed that McMahon was the “Higher Power” he was following. The Corporation and Ministry then merged to form the Corporate Ministry. That only lasted a small amount time, ending after losing to Stone Cold at King of the Ring and First Blood.
In early 2000, Undertaker returned with his “American Badass” gimmick– entering to the ring in a Harley motorcycle. He had shortened his long hair and had a complete new biker look during this time. After losing to Kurt Angle at Survivor Series for the WWE title, Undertaker took part in a Six-man Hell in a Cell match. He kept his promise of “making someone famous” by chokeslamming Rikishi from the top of the cell onto the bed of a truck.
After a brief run teaming with his brother Kane, Undertaker addded to his streak by defeating Triple H at Wrestlemania X-Seven. He then began a rivalry with Diamond Dallas Page. This followed with a Wrestlemania X-8 No Disqualification match with Ric Flair– after Undertaker assaulted Flair’s son David and threatened to do the same to his daughter.
Undertaker then defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin for the number one contender spot for the WWE Undisputed Championship. He then defeated Hulk Hogan for his fourth title– after he helped Hogan defeat Triple H for the title. Taker eventually returned to face status after defeated Jeff Hardy in a ladder match on an episode of Raw and raising Hardy’s hand as a sign of respect– having come so close to beating Undertaker.
After Undertaker’s feud with Brock Lesnar, he began a feud with the Big Show. During this feud, A-Train became involved by assisting Show. Nate Jones came to Taker’s assistance, but had little wrestling experience. Taker began to train Jones for a tag team match against Big Show and A-Train, but Jones was removed from the Wrestlemania XIX match. Undertaker was still able to win the now Handicap match– with some assistance from Jones.
At Wrestlemania XX, Undertaker returned to the Deadman look– with slight changes– to defeat Kane for a second time. After losing by disqualification to John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the title, Undertaker took on Randy Orton at Wrestlemania XXI. Orton– who at the time had his “legend killer” gimmick– claimed he would end Taker’s Wrestlemania streak. Instead, Taker improved the streak to 13-0.
Undertaker then defeated Mark Henry in a Casket match at Wrestlemania 22. Undertaker then won his first ever Royal Rumble match, becoming the first wrestler to enter at number 30 and win the match. He defeated won another world title when he beat Batista at Wrestlemania 23– his first World Heavyweight Championship, formerly WCW title.
He then defeated Edge with his Hell’s Gate submission hold for his second World Heavyweight title and 16th straight Wrestlemania win at Wrestlemania XXIV. Undertaker would then begin taking short breaks before coming back for short feuds through 2010.
In 2009 and 2010, Undertaker took part in a pair of epic matches with Shawn Michaels to extend his winning streak at Wrestlemania. The second match was pitted Undertaker’s streak against Michaels’ career. After Taker won that match, Michaels officially retired from wrestler.
Undertaker returned after the 2011 Royal Rumble in February. Before he could speak, Triple H entered the ring and without either man saying a word they agreed to face off at Wrestlemania by acknowledging the Wrestlemania sign hanging in the arena rafters. While Undertaker won the match, he was so exhausted that he was taken backstage in a stretcher and kept overnight in a hospital for observation.
He returned the next year to challenge Triple H to Wrestlemania rematch. Triple H refused at first, but eventually agreed to a Hell in a Cell match. In a twist, Shawn Michaels returned as the special guest referee in the match. After a grueling almost hour-long match, Undertaker eventually came out victorious. After it was over, all three men embraced and raised each other’s hands at the top of the ramp.
Undertaker would return to add his 21st victory, defeating CM Punk at Wrestlemania XXIX. After taking another year off, Undertaker would come back to challenge Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX. Lesnar would prove to be successful and pinned Undertaker after landing his trademark F-5 finishing move. Undertaker suffered a concussion during the match, and hasn’t made any appearances since. After the loss, shock was felt throughout the WWE Universe as the fans fell silent in complete disbelief. The announce team of Michael Cole, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Jerry “The King” Lawler even seemed to show complete shock at the result of the match– being mostly silent and uttering must a few words at the end of the match.
Following the loss, many have speculated that this was indeed his retirement match– wrestling tradition is that one never wins their last match, they lose and put somebody else over in the process. Maybe it was the end of his career or simply time to end the streak, but it is certain that the Undertaker has built a lasting legacy that very few can ever. He has a streak that will never be duplicated or surpassed by any other superstar that will come about in our lifetimes or even beyond our lives.