With Undertaker gearing up for his annual WrestleMania appearance, we look at some of his more out there supernatural opponents.
Wrestling is a strange sort of fiction when you look at it. By being sports-based, it means that it has established rules. Between that and the feeling that it’s supposed to make even the slightest attempt to pretend it’s real, we expect things to be grounded. Having actual magic and super powers is something that sticks out like a sore thumb and it’s hard to make it work.
Yet for over 25 years, the Undertaker has been doing exactly that. Ever since showing up at the 1990 Survivor Series, Undertaker has been portrayed as something more than human. He’s been able to shoot lightning bolts, teleport, possess people, show them their own corpse, come back from the dead numerous times, and even fly. Yet his ill-defined backstory doesn’t really explain why he spends his time beating people up for the sake of holding a stylized leather and gold belt.
One common trope in superhero stories is that if one superhuman thing exists, so must another. Unless it’s Dr. Manhattan or something. WWE has had a lot of supernatural wrestlers step into the ring and many have crossed paths with the Undertaker. Others were specifically crafted to do so and didn’t even get far before the guys in charge decided to pull the plug.
With Undertaker making his presence known around the WWE yet again (and at this point, we always worry it could be the last time), let’s have a look at some of his more out-there opponents.
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
The Undertaker’s first few months in the company were based around crushing jobbers and mowing through popular midcarders. His first actual feud was with the Ultimate Warrior, fresh off of eliminating Randy Savage from the WWF. While Hogan’s tendency to become suddenly invincible could be explained away as general toughness, adrenaline, and dedication to the fans, Warrior was a player 2 version of Hogan who believed himself to be some kind of alien godling superhero. Given his ridiculous powers in WCW years later, I suppose there was something to that.
Warrior and Undertaker were perfect enemies and their conflict was especially necessary for Warrior, given that his previous title run floundered due to lack of compelling opponents. The two started their feud when Undertaker ambushed Warrior on the set of the Funeral Parlor interview segment and locked him in an airtight casket. The two proceeded to wrestle across the country in house shows, leading to a series of “Bodybag Matches,” which was like the prototype for the Casket Match.
There was never any on-air blow-off to the rivalry. Warrior’s preparation to understand Undertaker led to a wacky set of vignettes where Jake “The Snake” Roberts mentored him to the ways of darkness before betraying him and teaming with Undertaker. Warrior took a break from that feud to instead work with Hogan against Sergeant Slaughter at SummerSlam ’91, which was his last match for a while.
By the time Warrior came back, Undertaker had turned face, so there was no need for their feud to continue. Instead, the two ended up teaming together to face Papa Shango and the Berserker across the house show circuit, giving us a series of sweet team-up promos where Warrior admitted to their old hatred, but with willingness to let the past be the past.
Papa Shango, the cryptic voodoo priest, was all about using magic and freaky mind games on his opponents, something Undertaker would pick up on later. Outside of the tag matches, Undertaker and Papa Shango faced each other for the Coliseum Home Video release Invasion of the Body Slammers. In the match, Papa Shango unleashed a blast of sparks from his mystical staff right into Undertaker’s face while the ref wasn’t looking. It looked pretty rad. The super-soft chair shot to the back that followed? Not so much.
Since Papa Shango’s answer to having the advantage was “slowly drop elbows on him every thirty seconds,” it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Undertaker got up and kicked his ass. Undertaker took him out with a chokeslam due to Papa Shango being a bit too big to Tombstone. They would feud again a few years later when Shango was Kama, but that match was arguably worse.
Damien Demento’s deal was that he was this barbarian-looking guy who spoke to a higher power constantly. Whether he was tapped into something otherworldly or just a total weirdo with mental problems was never really established since his career never went anywhere and he didn’t even get pushed into any kind of meaningful feud. He’s almost like a low-rent heel version of the Ultimate Warrior in a way.
Was Giant Gonzalez supposed to be supernatural? I suppose so. His hairy, naked bodysuit was never called out on TV as being an outfit, so I guess he really was supposed to be some kind of sasquatch person. Gonzalez debuted during the 1993 Royal Rumble match, where he stepped in unannounced and beat the hell out of the Undertaker. Nobody had ever manhandled Undertaker like that up to this point and few in history would ever compare.
[related article: A Look at the Undertaker’s WrestleMania Record]
Nearly 8-feet, Gonzalez was possibly the worst wrestler WWE has ever employed, coming off as an even less graceful Great Khali. He and Undertaker had an atrocious match at WrestleMania IX and then a blow-off match at SummerSlam ’93. WWE doesn’t like to mention Gonzalez’s role in the Streak due to how he only lost due to disqualification because he decided to use – of all foreign objects – a rag of chloroform.
Wrestling is weird, yo.
Whether you call him Fake Undertaker, Underfaker, or whatever, the Brian Lee Undertaker feud is one of the strangest rivalries in Undertaker’s career. In an outright bizarre match, Undertaker was “killed” when Yokozuna and almost the entire heel side of the locker room practically lynched him, crammed him into a casket, and poured out the contents of the urn. Undertaker proceeded to appear on the Titantron from within the casket, where he said that he would one day return. Then he flew away.
I’m not making any of this up.
Paul Bearer moped around about not being able to find any sign of him anywhere, but “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase claimed he would bring the Undertaker back. After all, he was the one who initially brought him to the WWF back in 1990. Nice continuity. He introduced a new Undertaker, who looked enough like the original to fool many, but had a more sinister demeanor. Rather than taking souls for the sake of some magic urn filled with unexplained ashes, he was taking souls for the sake of money itself. Yes, he was driven by greed, which I guess made his form of murder worse.
The Undertaker vs. Undertaker match was signed for SummerSlam ’94 and Leslie Nielson was hired to figure out just how that was possible. Said investigation featured Undertaker delivering a Domino’s pizza. The good Undertaker endured a Tombstone, but then came back from it and finished off his doppelganger with three Tombstones. The fake Undertaker was wheeled away in a casket and when opened minutes later, there was no sign. Plans to keep the feud going were nixed and Brian Lee was later repackaged.
It’s easy to forget that back when Mankind first showed up, he was supposed to be, well, not quite like the Undertaker, but he felt like something of his world. He was this inexplicable, invincible freak who always had Undertaker’s number and would constantly destroy him. It was kind of frightening in a way. For years, they put Undertaker against guys either his own size or bigger in an attempt to make him look even slightly vulnerable, but then he was constantly taken down by someone smaller than him. Oddly, it was always believable.
This was before they went out of their way to mention he was Mick Foley’s persona and humanized him. Back then, Mankind was in some way supernatural. The best example is the time Undertaker took on Goldust in a Casket Match and Mankind teleported into the casket to attack Undertaker at the end.
Then again, once they started going into his history as Cactus Jack and Dude Love, Mankind’s more magical side was peeled away and swept under the rug. By that time, Undertaker had gotten his wins back tenfold and Mankind was no longer as scary.
Ah, Kane. The Undertaker’s #1 spooky rival. During the time when Paul Bearer turned on Undertaker, Undertaker went through his two henchmen Mankind and Vader, leading to the final end boss Kane. Bearer started talking about Undertaker’s long-lost little brother and how Undertaker burned him alive when they were kids.
Then it came out that Kane was alive. The Big Red Machine made his debut by tearing off the door of the Hell in the Cell, setting off his soon-to-be-trademark pyro, and then beating the hell out of the Undertaker.
From there, the two feuded on and off for years. Sometimes they would be at each other’s throats. Sometimes they would team up as the Brothers of Destruction. After well over a decade, Kane secretly put Undertaker into a coma, became the detective in his own whodunit (with the amazing line about how he’d prosecute and persecute anyone who had anything to do with it), and then revealed that his entire WWE career was this long con to beat the Undertaker and steal his powers. Or something. Regardless, Kane was actually successful and dominated their final feud, which ended Undertaker’s career as a full-time wrestler.
The two teamed up sometime later with Daniel Bryan to fight the Shield, but I don’t know where that lands in Kane’s master plan.
Yeah, let’s get into comics while we’re at it. Back in the late-90s, Chaos Comics released some WWF stories based on Austin, Rock, Mankind, Chyna, and Undertaker. While the others were one-shots and miniseries, Undertaker actually had an ongoing and it was completely bonkers. The short of it is that Undertaker was some kind of truant officer of Hell and a lot of his in-ring opponents were literal demons in disguise that he would kill and send back to Hell via delivering Tombstones. His main two villains were Paul Bearer – who was portrayed as a literal rapist, by the way – and the Embalmer, a powerful, mask-wearing demon in the guise of a major businessman.
When it came time for the final battle, Undertaker had to fight him while being powered up by two magic books (Embalmer had the third) and the blood of Paul Bearer, Kane, and Kane’s never-before-mentioned half-sister Jezebel. Undertaker shoved a knife into Ebalmer’s heart, pulled out the third book, had ultimate power for like two seconds before Embalmer released a vortex that scrambled the books as well as Undertaker’s allies.
Man. When’s the last time you ever heard someone talk about Celebrity Deathmatch? The old MTV claymation show shockingly lasted a total of six seasons.
Yeah, I know. Wild.
In the second season, a Halloween episode featured a subplot where announcer Nick Diamond’s son was possessed by a demon calling itself Captain Doody (a clever reference to “Captain Howdy” from Exorcist). Since pro wrestlers always tend to be hanging around that show, the final fight of the night was Undertaker vs. Captain Doody.
There we had the Undertaker vs. a little boy inhabited by a demon. The two fought back and forth until Undertaker dropped him with an inverted Tombstone. Captain Doody was driven out of the body and found a new home in a nearby hotdog vendor, but Nicky Jr. was safe and that’s all anyone cared about.
The highlight was Captain Doody explaining his true demonic name, then annoying Undertaker by saying, “And I know your real name. MARK.”
Mordecai never actually fought Undertaker, but he was certainly meant to. Mordecai was brought in during 2004 as the anti-Undertaker and they couldn’t have been more blatant than this. Instead of black clothes and hair, it was all white. Instead of being all about the underworld, he was all about Heaven. Instead of being out to punish the villains, he was about punishing the heroes. Mordecai was groomed to not only feud with Undertaker, but to potentially be the next generation of the gimmick if everything went well.
Instead, he had a couple matches, faded away, and was repackaged a couple years later as Kevin Thorne.
Yes, that’s right. Booker T is on the list. Back in 2004, Booker got in a feud with Undertaker based on Booker’s feeling that he was the true star of Smackdown. Undertaker took exception to this and a match was signed for Judgment Day. Realizing that he was nothing more than an eccentric dude who says weird stuff, Booker T decided to face Undertaker by fighting fire with fire. Or dirt, I guess.
Booker visited a fortuneteller, who told him about how Undertaker was coming for him and gave him directions on how to overcome this challenge. Booker was instructed to go to a graveyard and steal a handful of dirt from a grave with no name on it. To show off that the fortune teller wasn’t fooling, a zombie hand came out the grave. Booker took some dirt, put it in a pouch, and ran off.
Booker treated the pouch like it was the ultimate power and no longer feared Undertaker. In their match, Booker kept taking breaks to hold the pouch against his chest for strength, for all the good it did him. He later threw the dirt in Undertaker’s eyes, which blinded him for a bit, but Undertaker recovered and eventually won the match.
Despite being prominent in the Attitude Era, Gangrel stayed out of the Undertaker’s way. The vampire warrior only fought by his side as a member of the Ministry of Darkness, which then became the Corporate Ministry. Gangrel was never really in a position to take on the Undertaker during that time, nor was he high enough on the ladder to be considered a threat.
Years later, in 2004, JBL’s title reign was being threatened by the Undertaker, so he hired old Ministry members Gangrel and Viscera to help him beat Undertaker down. This was followed by a rather enjoyable handicap match where Undertaker took on Gangrel and Viscera at the same time, using Viscera’s size against him and then focusing on Gangrel. After eating a Tombstone, Gangrel was pretty much done with his comeback.
The Boogeyman was a freakier version of Papa Shango who never did much due to being pretty old and not very good in the ring. He and Undertaker never fought in the flesh because they were both faces and Boogeyman was never really treated as a main eventer. He was just a really entertaining master of nightmares who ate worms and facial growths.
In the world of video games? Well, that’s a horse of a different color. In Smackdown vs. Raw 2009, Undertaker’s Road to WrestleMania mode featured a really bizarre feud with the Boogeyman. Boogeyman put together a stable called Nu School, which included Finlay and Santino. Using his magical staff and stealing the urn, Boogeyman was able to enslave Kane’s soul and set him against Undertaker. Undertaker eventually got his urn back and turned Santino and Finlay into zombie henchmen. Then he broke Boogeyman’s staff and met him in the ring at WrestleMania in the main event.
Yes, Boogeyman main evented WrestleMania. Go figure.
After winning, Undertaker chokeslammed Boogeyman into a casket, summoned a lightning bolt, and made it vanish because this angle wasn’t strange enough.
There’s a good chance you’re wondering who Hade Vansen is and I don’t blame you. At the end of 2008, in the middle of an episode of Smackdown, the feed suddenly changed to a promo of some sinister dude in an alley, talking about darkness and followers and what have you. He was totally targeting the Undertaker and hinted that he wanted to steal his powers for his own sinister use. Then…nothing. He was fired a week or so later.
As the story goes, Vansen was planned to do this feud with the Undertaker where he’d regularly attack him with a series of “X-Men-like mutants,” leading to a big Undertaker vs. Vansen match at WrestleMania 25. Vince McMahon then got wind of this and shut it down. Instead we got Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and we’re better for it.
THE SHADOW KING AND FRIENDS
Oh, man. WWE Heroes. Where do I even begin? The short-lived comic series by Keith Champagne and Andy Smith was ultimately an exercise in fellating Triple H. The story was about the Shadow King, who is the biblical Abel, only it turns out Abel was evil and Cain (the Firstborn) was totally in the right by killing him. Then the two brothers were constantly reborn again and again throughout history and now the Firstborn is secretly competing in the WWE. It’s no surprise who, considering the Shadow King looks exactly like Triple H with half his face burned.
The Shadow King, his overly-strong priest Josiah, and their troops took over WrestleMania during a match between Triple H and Undertaker with hopes of drawing out the Firstborn. Then Edge, Chris Jericho, and Shawn Michaels revealed themselves as moles for the Shadow King who were each powered by giant demon ghosts growing out of their backs called Shades. Despite all of this craziness, Undertaker’s role as the one powerful magic guy in regular WWE canon was kind of ignored and he’s even suggested to be a big phony.
Undertaker was marginalized for the initial six-issue miniseries because it was all about Triple H being this badass hero at the expense of everyone else (sound familiar?). They followed up with a two-issue Undertaker/Rey Mysterio team-up where they fought an army of cheetah men, zombies, and the Shadow King’s equally-evil bride. Undertaker ended up tearing her heart out and caused her fortress to crumble. The series then ended on a cliffhanger. Sadly, the promised follow-up story about John Cena as a time-traveling gladiator would never be told.
And then there was Bray Wyatt. Just like the Undertaker, Wyatt was treated as magical, though ill-explained. The best take was something he’d say to fans when they ask him about his previous gimmick of Husky Harris: “He needed me and I needed a vessel.” Yes, Bray Wyatt was apparently Satan and he had possessed the Tank with a Ferrari Engine from NXT Season 2.
Wyatt was kind of a cross between Jake Roberts, Mankind, Waylon Mercy, and even Hade Vansen, having first shown up in the developmental-based NXT in 2012. Wyatt played up being a creepy monster in the shell of a man and for years, people had compared him to the Undertaker. Wyatt had shown his own set of crazy powers like teleportation, possessing children, and summoning ghosts. Finally, the other shoe dropped and he started calling out the Undertaker for a match at WrestleMania 31.
The build to their WrestleMania match was completely odd, partially due to the inability to have Undertaker show up on TV to promote it. Instead, you had stuff like a rocking chair being set on fire via lightning. In the end, Undertaker made a brief return at the big PPV and beat Wyatt in a match that many felt ruined what little momentum Wyatt had left.
Wyatt would show himself again, this time accompanied by the Wyatt Family. Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman kidnapped the Undertaker and Kane and supposedly stole their powers. Due to some lazy writing and a time crunch, Undertaker and Kane simply just showed up again with zero explanation and beat them all up at Survivor Series.
Undertaker appears to be on his last legs, so I suppose we won’t be getting that Woken Matt Hardy feud any time soon. Man, think of how weird that would be.