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Smackdown December 2005 Issue

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Deadman's Legacy

Survival of the Deadman
Brian Solomon - SmackDown! Magazine December 2005

The Undertaker's Survivor Series Legacy

He is one of the most awe-inspiring stories in WWE history, a journey fraught with danger at every turn, that has seen him duel with the forces of darkness, battle for honor and accolades, and do the impossible on a regular basis. Undertaker has had one of the longest, most successful careers ever witnessed, and it can all be traced back to the Survivor Series. The Deadman made his WWE debut at the event some 15 years ago, and to some extent, his destiny has been linked to it ever since. As he approaches his 12th Survivor Series appearance on November 27 in Detroit, we look back at Undertaker's storied accomplishments at WWE's own fall classic.

1990: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
"Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase had his work cut out for him. He and the tag team of the Honky Tonk Man & Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (a.k.a Rhythm & Blues) were set to take on The Hart Foundation, Koko B. Ware and "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes in a classic Survivor Series elimination match. All he had up his sleeve was a mystery partner. It seemed like an afterthought, but all these years later, that mystery partner is what everyone remembers most from the evening-because it turned out to be none other than Undertaker, then managed by Brother Love. The gruesome newcomer silenced the crowd as he carved a path of destruction on his first night in WWE. Koko become the first victim of the Tombstone, and was pinned less than two minutes into the match. Not long after, Dusty followed. 'Taker was so hell-bent on destruction, in fact, that he accidentally got himself counted out. Nevertheless, his team won when DiBase emerged as the sole survivor.

1991: AN IMMORTAL BECOMES MORTAL
It was called Hulk Hogan's "Gravest Challenge." The WWE Champion found himself defending his title against a man who in one year had become the talk of fans everywhere. Undertaker seemed to feel no pain, and had yet to be pinned. Still, fans a way to overcome the grim challenger. But with a little help from a chair-wielding Ric Flair, Undertaker Tombstoned the Hulkster fall defeat in WWE, and taking his coveted title. The victory marked Undertaker's first of four reigns as WWE Champion.

1992: DEADMAN VS WILDMAN
Since the summer, Undertaker had been warring with the mighty Ugandan giant Kamala. A decisive victory had yet to be achieved. Once 'Taker learned of Kamala's terrible fear of caskets, however, the tide began to turn. Undertaker and Paul Bearer pressured Kamala and his manager Harvey Whippleman to sign for WWE's first-ever Casket Match. The Deadman was in his element, and the mortified Kamala could hardly keep his composure during the match, let alone put up much of a fight. Undertaker pinned the headhunter, then rolled his carcass into the casket that waited at ringside. It was the first of many such matches for the Man from the Dark Side.

1993: LIVE FREE OR DIE
It was the first time Undertaker had taken part in a Survivor Series elimination match since his first appearance, and it wasn't even supposed to happen. The All-American team of Lex Luger, Tatanka & The Steiner Brothers were all set to take on the very un-American grouping of WWE Champion Yokozuna, Jacques Rougeau, Crush & Ludvig Borga. But when Borga took out Tatanka in a match leading up to the event, All-American team leader Luger had to think fast. He recruited the Undertaker to the cause, a decision which lead to victory. And even though Undertaker may not have been the first Superstar that comes to mind when it comes to patriotism, he proved that night that he may be a creature of the night, but he's still an American as well.

1994: THE HARDER THEY FALL
Yokozuna thought he had rid WWE of the Undertaker forever, but like so many before and since, he was gravely mistaken in that assumption. Yoko's dubious Casket Match victory over 'Taker at the 1994 Royal Rumble was only a respite. Once the Undertaker had time to once again gather his powers, he returned to WWE with a vengeance, and before long, he was gunning for the former sumo grand champion. Their rematch turned out to be Undertaker's second Casket Match at Survivor Series. And just like the first one, it ended with 'Taker dumping his opponent in a casket-in this case a custom-made double-wide casket the Deadman had constructed just for the occasion.

1995: THE DARK SIDE REIGNS
Once again part of an elimination team, this time Undertaker was the cap tin. His "Dark Side" teammates consisted of popular Latino competitor Savio Vega, hog farmer Henry Godwinn, and Fatu (years before he became known as Rikishi). Their opponents were "The Royals" led, of course, by Jerry "The King" Lawler, who was joined by WWE newcomer Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (a.k.a Triple H), King Mabel (a.k.a. Viscera) and Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS. Proving their superiority beyond a shadow of a doubt, Undertaker's team survived in its entirety, and eliminated the entire opposing side in under 15 minutes.

1996: THE FALL OF MANKIND
Perhaps no other opponent in Undertaker's career tested him as much as Mick "Mankind" Foley. As SummerSlam '96, Mankind stole Undertaker's longtime manager Paul Bearer. This time, 'Taker was out for blood. For the rematch at Madison Square Garden, he descended to the ring in the guise of a bat-quite literally a creature of darkness. Due to a special stipulation, Bearer had to be suspended above the ring in a cage, so there was nothing he could do to stop the Deadman from decimating his new protégé. The win put an end to 'Taker's war with Foley-for a time.

1998: A BITTERSWEET EVENING
For the first time in a decade, the WWE Championship was up for grabs in a one-night single elimination tournament, and Undertaker was part of it. At the time, he had reinvented himself as the diabolical leader of the Ministry of Darkness. Both he and his half-brother Kane had received a bye into the quarterfinals, where they met in a rematch of WrestleMania XIV. As he did some months before, 'Taker got the satisfaction of defeating the Big Red Monster, bringing himself one step closer to the title. However, disappointment was to follow when Undertaker was dealt his first Survivor Series loss courtesy of The Rock, who beat him in the semifinals, and went on to win the tournament.

2001: THE ULTIMATE CONFLICT
In 2001, WWE fell under attack from an Alliance formed by the united forces of both WCW and ECW. It was a time when fans wondered which company would survive the battle. When the war came to a head at Survivor Series, WWE gathered together its strongest forces, which of course included Undertaker, along with The Rock, Chris Jericho, Big Show and Kane. Representing the Alliance were WCW mainstay Booker T, ECW megastar Rob Van Dam, WCW owner Shane McMahon, and defectors Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The losing faction would be forced out, and so the stakes were higher than ever. In the end, Angle turned out to be a mole for WWE, turning at just the time to assure that Undertaker and his teammates would win the day, ensuring that WWE would survive.

2003: BURIED ALIVE
After years competing under the employ of Vince McMahon, Undertaker finally raised the ire of the boss in 2003, and before long found himself in an in-ring war with McMahon. The culmination was a Buried Alive Match, which, like the Casket Match, was an obvious specialty of the Deadman. But the unthinkable occurred thanks to the interference of 'Taker's old archenemy, Kane. Vince was able to get the better of Undertaker in his own match, and he and Kane succeeded in burying the Phenom under six feet of dirt. Yet even then, 'Taker was not destroyed, and emerged reborn some months later at WrestleMania XX.

2004: NO FRIEND TO THE PHENOM
Heidenrich may be interested in making friends, but his actions toward Undertaker last year were anything but friendly. At No Mercy, he nearly accomplished the ultimate demise of the Deadman when he tried to run him down with a car during 'Taker's match against WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield. Heidenreich prevented 'Taker from regaining the gold that night, and needless to say, there would be hell to pay. Undertaker stepped in the ring to settle the score at Survivor Series, where Heidenrich became another victim of the Tombstone, and Undertaker logged his tenth Survivor Series victory.

credit Smackdown Magazine December 2005 issue