It’s hard to believe that the dead man has been digging holes and resting souls in the WWE for 30 years now. It was at the Survivor Series 1990 that Taker made his debut as a member of the Million Dollar Team tombstoning his way through the Dream Team with ease. This established the Undertaker as a force to be reckoned with right out of the gate and he never looked back for three decades.
Over those 30 years, the Undertaker has done everything that there is to do in the wrestling business. He has become the backstage leader and the one man that every wrestler looks up to and aspires to be. The Undertaker has led by example and been the only wrestler to never, until very recently, break kayfabe even when the industry had moved in a direction that this was acceptable.
The Undertaker and the Survivor Series have been nearly synonymous with each other since he made his debut 30 years ago. Taker has been able to make some great memories at the annual Thanksgiving tradition and below we will take a look at the 10 Most Memorable/Notable moments from the dead man’s Survivor Series legacy.
Note: There is no particular order in which I put these moments in so don’t go getting all upset about my ordering.
10: 1995 Survivor Series – Undertaker Wrestles His Brother
1995 wasn’t a banner for the WWE and the Survivor Series didn’t help their cause. Outside of a better than average WWE championship match between Bret Hart and Diesel, there wasn’t a match that really stands out. So why you ask do I include this on a list of memorable Undertaker moments? Well because when the Undertaker captained his Darkside team against Jerry Lawler’s Royals this would mark the first time that he went up against Issac Yankem DDS. For those of you who can remember this far back the man playing the evil dentist would eventually become Kane, the Undertakers baby brother.
The match was a squash and there was nothing else of note. It was just interesting to see that one of the more important characters/storylines in the Undertakers career began as a squash at Survivor Series.
9: 1992 Survivor Series – Undertaker v Kamala (First Ever Coffin Match)
Taker had been working a program with Kamala during the better half of 1992, which culminated in this coffin match. Leading up to the contest it was clear that Kamala was terrified of being put in a casket, which would become a reoccurring theme in every casket/coffin match going forward. The match was exactly what you would expect from Taker circa 92 and Kamala whenever he was in the ring. It moved along at an iceberg like pace, but the psychology of Taker terrifying Kamala with the coffin did make the contest watchable.
This is still a memorable moment as it is the first appearance of the Undertakers gimmick match, the match that the Undertaker introduced to the wrestling world. The casket match personified exactly what the Undertaker was as a character and will forever be tied to the deadman and we got to witness its inception at Survivor Series.
8: 2001 Survivor Series – Team Alliance v Team WWF (Winner Take All)
In what may go down as the biggest flop angle in WWE history the WCW/ECW wrestlers took on Team WWF in a winner take all elimination match. When Vince McMahon bought WCW there was excitement from wrestling fans that all their dream matches may finally come to reality. Alas, due to money, and you know Vince McMahon, this never really came to fruition.
It was still an important match in that we were able to watch the WWE beat WCW on our television screens. Vince has won the war but he, and we for that matter, wanted to see that played out for his/our enjoyment.
How the Undertaker factors into this are that he was a huge part of Team WWF during the entirety of the Invasion storyline. He continued to be one of Vince’s best weapons during the invasion and he played a big part in this elimination match. He may have not finished off the night but he was clearly one of the leaders of Team WWF at the time.
7: Survivor Series 1990 – The Gobbledy Gooker
When the Survivor Series 1990 first went to air we were witness to an odd sight of a giant egg sitting just off to the side from the ringside entrance. We were perplexed at the sight of this egg and could only wonder what would emerge from its shell. Then we got to see a turkey? , a bird of some sort, poor Hector Guerrero, jump out of the shell and proceed to dance around the ringside area. It was a sight to behold and not one that many fans could wrap their heads around.
The interesting Undertaker fact about this odd occurrence is that, if rumours are to be believed, there was talk leading into the show that the Undertaker would be the one coming out of the egg to make his grand debut. How the WWE would pull this off with or make any sense of an undertaker coming out of an egg is beyond me. This may be one of the many reasons why I am not currently working for the WWE. Regardless, it is still a notable moment in the Undertakers career that could have gone terribly terribly wrong.
6: Survivor Series 1994 – Yokozuna v The Undertaker (Casket Match)
At the Royal Rumble of that year, the Undertaker and Yokozuna had competed in another casket match where several heels from the locker room jumped the Undertaker and helped Yokozuna to win the match and retain his WWE Championship. The beating was so bad that the Undertaker ascended to the heavens and was not to be heard of again until Summerslam of that year.
As soon as the Undertaker returned in August it was only a matter of time before he and the sumo wrestler from Japan would get back in the ring and at the Survivor Series, we got to see that with a casket rematch. They used the Yoko is scared of the casket angle for most of the match so it was rather disappointing to see them rehash an angle while the gimmick match was still young. However, they did manage to bring in the joke machine Chuck Norris to be the ringside law and order should anyone try to interfere.
It was a great way to secure the Undertaker the victory and blow off one of the better feuds of the Undertakers early career.
5: Survivor Series 1996 – The Undertaker v Mankind
The Undertaker has been an unstoppable force for the majority of his career up until this point. For close to six years the deadman had run through any opponent that was put before and if he did lose it became of some chicanery from the heel side of the ring. Then he ran into the psycho from parts unknown, Mankind.
Mankind was different from any other opponent that the Undertaker had faced before. He seemingly did not feel pain and was able to get the best of the Undertaker in almost every match that they squared off in. This led to an all-important Boiler Room Brawl at Summerslam where we saw Paul Bearer turn his back on the Undertaker and lead Mankind to victory. This continued interference from Paul Bearer led to him being suspended above a cage for their Survivor Series tilt. Bearer played the scared heel to perfection during this contest using his high pitched whine to annoy the pants on anyone in attendance at Madison Square Garden.
The match itself was a good one, not that anyone expected any different from these two competitors, and ended with Undertaker securing the victory and a chance to get Paul Bearer in the ring. Alas, we had to have Terry Gordy, sorry the Executioner, come in and make the save for Mr. Bearer
4: Survivor Series 1991 – The Undertaker v Hulk Hogan (Undertaker Wins the WWE Championship)
The Undertaker had only been in the company for a year by this point and had been running through the WWE locker room. While he was an unstoppable force it was interesting to see him going up against Hulk Hogan because there is no way he could win the WWE title, could he? Well, point of fact they did put the strap on the Undertaker. Of course since it was Hulk Hogan that meant that there was inference galore from Ric Flair and Paul Bearer but a title win is a title win.
Now the belt was taken off the Undertaker less than a few days later, leading to the fantastic Royal Rumble 1992 match, but it does show the faith that the company had in the man from Death Valley that they were willing to put the title on him so soon after his debut. Remember this is back in a time when a championship isn’t hot potato around like it is in this day in age.
While it took many years for the Undertaker to reach the top of the mountain again it has to be mentioned that the first world championship that was put around the deadmans waist happened at the Survivor Series.
3: Survivor Series 2003 – The Undertaker v Vince McMahon (Buried Alive Match)
Vince McMahon had cost the Undertaker the WWE championship at No Mercy the previous month so naturally, it was going to lead to a match between the two sometime in the near future, and that near future was a month later at Survivor Series. The promo leading up to the contest where Undertaker got to choose their gimmick match was a fantastic one and is a must-see by anyone who hasn’t watched it. Vince McMahon’s reaction to Undertakers choice is fantastic and proves that even at his age the man still has it.
The match was your usual squash match for the most part and the result was never in doubt until Kane interfered and helped the boss bury the Undertaker alive. What is notable about this contest is that this, until Wrestlemania of this year, was the last appearance of the American Badass character that Undertaker had been running with since 2000. It is always a strange thing for me to think that the Undertaker only used this gimmick for 3 years, which seems like a lot more time.
Regardless of the time, the American Badass was a popular character that allowed us to see a different side of the Undertaker and that character was buried at the Survivor Series.
2: Survivor Series 1990 – The Undertaker Makes His Debut
A list involving the Undertaker at Survivor Series couldn’t be complete without mentioning his debut at Survivor Series 1990. The Million Dollar Man has been bragging about having a mystery partner and when the 6 ’10 Undertaker walked through the curtain many fans didn’t know what to make of the man from Death Valley. It was a character that no one had seen before and since he was a physically imposing man a character that was scary. When he comes to ringside you can see that children were visibly upset at the sight of the man in black.
Once in the ring, the Undertaker eliminated both Koko B. Ware, with a cringe-worthy tombstone and Dusty Rhodes before getting himself counted out. It was a promising start from the young performer but there is no way that anyone could have imagined the longevity that he would get from such a strange gimmick. Luckily, the Undertaker was able to be creative with his character and go on to become one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
1: Survivor Series 2005 – The Undertaker Returns Through a Casket of Fire
At Wrestlemania 21 ‘The Legend Killer’ Randy Orton tried his luck at breaking the Phenom’s legendary undefeated streak. It was a fantastic match and worth a watch but it more importantly was the beginning of a fantastic feud between the two men that would last for the rest of the year.
Randy Orton and the Undertaker would trade wins back and forth over the summer which led to a handicap Casket match between father and son Orton and the deadman. What happened during the match was not as important as the aftermath where Orton trapped the Undertaker in the casket and then proceeded to light it on fire. It was a great visual and was potentially meant to signify that Randy Orton has finally got the best of the Undertaker.
Flash forward to Survivor Series of that year and Randy Orton had just won the men’s elimination match for Team Smackdown and was on the shoulders of the locker room when that all familiar gong sounded out in the arena. The look of fear on Randy Orton’s face is priceless as the Phenom burst through a flaming casket to make his return and get his revenge on Randy Orton.
The Undertaker was not even involved in a match at this particular pay per view but he was still able to make a huge impact with stunning visuals. That was what personified the Undertaker character and it was on full display at Survivor Series 2005.