The Deadman. The Phenom. Mark Calaway has gone by many nicknames over his professional wrestling career, but he will always be known to most simply as The Undertaker. Since his WWE debut nearly 30 years ago, The Undertaker has been a fan favorite and one of the most iconic Superstars to step into the ring...or the cage...or the boiler room...or the cell. Having never been one to back down from a challenge, the list of accomplishments and ground-breaking matches (both figuratively and literally) over The Undertaker's storied career is among many all-time wrestling greats. Even though he didn't carry the gaudy number of championships of other such legends, he remained at the top of his game for the longest time. It wouldn't matter if he was thrown in a casket or buried under a giant mound of dirt. He always came back. After all, you can't kill what won't die...
The Undertaker had seemingly walked away from professional wrestling after losing for only the 2nd time in 25 appearances at WrestleMania. In the year since, he has only made one appearance in the ring, speaking to a crowd at the 25th anniversary show of WWE Monday Night Raw. For the past few years, there has been speculation if Calaway would retire, but for the first time ever, many are under the belief that The Undertaker had retired for good. However, there has been no official announcement from the WWE and fellow Superstar John Cena recently issued a challenge to the Deadman at WrestleMania 34. Whether or not the match happens remains to be seen, but there's always hope that The Undertaker's last match wasn't his actual last.
You see, The Undertaker has had a career arc that has seemingly evolved along with the WWE. While he always wrestled as The Undertaker, Calaway had taken on many personas. This changes typically occurred when his character would suffer a tragic loss, a "death", and he would eventually rise from the dead with a new look. The early stages of his career showed off different variations of his Deadman aesthetic while the later stages of his career followed the tropes of the classic gunslinger. Take a look at the infographic below showing off the evolution of The Undertaker over his years in the WWE!
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Deadman Forever: The Evolution of the Undertaker Transcription
For nearly 30 years of his wrestling career, Mark Calaway wrestled under one of the most recognizable monikers in WWE history: The Undertaker. Since his debut as the character in 1990, Calaway has been an unstoppable force dispatching opponents, winning titles, and putting together an incredible undefeated streak at WrestleMania. the premier wrestling event of the WWE. There have been several incarnations of "The Deadman" over the years, so let's take a ride through some of the transformations.
Having wrestled professionally for six years, Calaway signed with the then-WWF and debuted at Survivor Series in 1990. HIs original costume featured a black overcoat, stetson hat, black leather gloves, and boot spats. The color of his gloves eventually changed to gray. This era ended with The Undertaker being entombed in a casket match during the 1994 Royal Rumble.
After an eight-month hiatus, The Undertaker rose from the dead at Summerslam in 1994 to take on (and defeat) a phony Undertaker who was pretending to be him during his absence. His new look featured similar wrestling attire with purple accessories since the fake Undertaker was wearing the gray. His downfall would not come long after being betrayed by his manager, Paul Bearer.
Phantom of the Opera
The Undertaker suffered a fractured orbital bone after being attacked by King Mabel and Yokozuna. The injury left him unable to perform for a while. In order to make a faster comeback and help prevent re-injury, he returned with a protective facemask. The mask was eventually ripped off by Bret Hart during a pay per view event.
The Lord of Darkness
A month after being buried alive at an "In Your House" event, The Undertaker rose from the dead as the Lord of Darkness. His newest look was made up of all-black leather. He debuted this look by descending from the ceiling with bat wings (that he'd never wear again). During this era, he also displayed powers like causing fires or lightning strikes with the point of a finger.
The Ministry of Darkness
In 199, The Undertaker unveiled an updated, more demonic look and really turned on the theatrics. He employed minions to do his bidding, held sacrificial rituals in the ring, and even appeared in videos with his eyes rolled back and claiming to be answering to a higher power. As a devout Christian, this persona made Calaway uncomfortable and was his least favorite.
After a long hiatus to recover from injuries, The Undertaker returned under a new persona. The scary-looking all-black attire, organ music entrances and caskets were gone and Mark Calaway had reinvented himself as a motorcycle-riding, blue-collar fighter. It's rumored that this character was going to be his new persona had he switched over to WCW wrestling.
After turning heel, The Undertaker wrestled under the Big Evil persona. His look remained relatively the same, though he did cut off his long hair. During this time, his character went back to his "evil" roots. He'd do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted and didn't answer to anyone, until being buried alive once again.
In another triumphant return at WrestleMania XX, The Undertaker appeared to seek vengeance on Kane, who had buried him four months prior. He wore the same black MMA-style in-ring attire, but brought back the long leather trench coat and black hat like he wore in his early years.
The Last Outlaw
For the first time since the early stages of his career, The Undertaker performed with short hair, one of his more significant physical appearance changes over the years. He would also enter the arena wearing a much more gaudy coat with a hood and black spikes. Around this time, he began appearing only around and at WrestleMania each year.
During this stage of his career, The Undertaker was a true legend. His appearances in the ring were few and far between. He continued to wrestle with the same in-ring attire, but his big coat with spikes was ditched for sleeveless leather and a hood. During this time, his undefeated streak at WrestleMania came to an end as he lost a match to Brock Lesnar.
The Last Stand
The Undertaker's persona as a modern-day Western gunslinger had come to fruition with one last devastating loss at Wrestlemania XXXIII at the hand of Roman Reigns. After the match, Calaway left his hat, coat, and gloves in the center of the ring, waved goodbye to the crowd and left. It was his "ride off into the sunset" moment.
During the 25th anniversary show for Monday Night Raw, he showed up in his Gunslinger attire to deliver a cryptic message. He was still without his hat, coat, and gloves that he left at Wrestlemania, signifying that he might be done for good. However, the WWE has yet to officially announce The Undertaker's retirement, leaving the door open for one final return.
Which era of The Undertaker was your favorite? Do you think The Undertaker will answer John Cena's WrestleMania challenge or did he already experience his "last stand" after last year's loss to Roman Reigns? We'd love to see him make yet another iconic ring entrance and deliver just one more Tombstone Piledriver. In the meantime, we're so fired up for WrestleMania that we're loading up on WWE gear and practicing our WWE Superstar impersonations.
Infographic designed by Cody Petersen