Heel Turn: Anatomy of the Deadman’s Return: Why Undertaker Returned to Take on Lesnar By Joe Messineo
What started out as a building rivalry between two of the biggest names in the WWE, ended in what I can only describe as the collective gasp heard ’round the world. When Lesnar ended Undertaker’s reign at Wrestlemania last year, it set the tone for possibly the greatest rivalry to come – and brought a stadium of nearly 80,000 people to a stunned silence. What makes it even better is that The Deadman doesn’t make it a habit of wrestling often, and The Beast is only available when he wants to be. This means you’re not going to see them battle back and forth each week, tiring out the same old storyline to until you’re just wishing it was over.
A Sordid History
While new fans to WWE are only aware of the immediate history between the two characters, the truth is they – and their feud – goes back to 2002. While they served as a tag team briefly, they ultimately turned on each other. Some presume it was The Beast who turned on Undertaker, using him as a stepping stone in the industry, while others think The Phenom refused to let The Beast take his place and it caused discord. It got so personal that at one point, Mark Calaway attended one of Lesnar’s UFC matches. While both were in and out of the WWE in the following decade, the rivalry was renewed in 2012 upon Lesnar’s return.
Eat, Sleep, Break the Streak
In the months and weeks leading up to Wrestlemania 30, Undertaker continuously faced challenges and taunting about losing his streak. After Lesnar smashed Undertaker’s reign at Wrestlemania with a combination of three F-5s and a Kimura lock that ultimately led to a pin, the feud was renewed all over again. Fast forward to 2015 when The Deadman takes offense at Lesnar’s boasting that he costs The Beast a title match at Battleground in a rare appearance.
He then shuts up Lesnar amid protests from Heyman at SummerSlam where he won, but didn’t win at the same time. The battle was raging, as any avid WWE fan expects with Undertaker taking a spill through the commentary table, and turning around to chokeslam Lesnar. While Undertaker clearly tapped out, the ref supposedly didn’t see the action and lamented the timekeeper for ringing the bell without his say-so. While Lesnar and Heyman are prematurely celebrating, The Phenom goes for the low blow and eventually puts The Beast in his acclaimed Hell’s Gate for the win – avenge complete!
Or is it? This feud is likely far from over. It might just take another match at Wrestlemania for Undertaker to take back what’s rightfully is.