Mark Calaway debuted as The Undertaker at WWF's 1990 edition of the Survivor Series. Though the seeming dumbed-down idiocy of an "Undertaker" who used a "Tombstone Piledriver" and had a talk show called the "Funeral Parlor"could have made even the most ardent fan stray from professional wrestling in the past 25 years, it's actually been the Undertaker that has kept us so engrossed. Mainly, because he's so unique, and for the purposes of this list, genuinely scary. The Undertaker is the one character in pro wrestling that proves that great work can overcome terrible booking. From being a freakshow in pancake makeup to a demonic cult leader, motorcycle gang leader, literally the devil incarnate or a Texas outlaw, the connective tie has always been that he's able to make his character somehow personal. The fear associated with hearing the gong, seeing the smoke (or fire), druids, cult members, revving motorcycle, whatever, is that the dead man is coming for something deep within your soul. Thus, the ten genuinely scary moments are just that - genuine. They're moments that connect because well (even when supernatural), they still give us an actual and palpable level of fear.
10. The Undertaker Dies - Royal Rumble 1994
By 1994 standards, The Undertaker versus Yokozuna in a Casket Match, was definitely a PPV-worthy money match for the WWF. Yoko was 500+ pounds and moved like someone half his size. At this point, Taker was still in the in-ring awkward "moves like Michael Myers, but is an athlete like Michael Jordan" era of his career. Promising that Yoko would be "buried alive" in a "double wide" and "double deep" casket certainly provided the intrigue. However, when Crush, The Great Kabuki, Genichiro Tenryu and Bam Bam Bigelow sauntered down the aisle and interfered in the no-DQ match, the level of intrigue was heightened. The match was now five-on-one, and wasn't so much an unfair wrestling match, but felt like a man fighting for his life. Then, when Mr. Fuji stole The Undertaker's urn from Paul Bearer and passed it to Yokozuna, the match reached another level of interest. NOBODY had ever touched the urn before, and it was probably (outside of certain moves) the most protected thing in the company at that time. Yoko opens the urn, smoke poured out and like clockwork, The Undertaker weakened. This was now definitely more than a wrestling match, now bearing similarity to a morality play or Superman film. Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, The Headshrinkers (Samu and Fatu) and Diesel hit the ring, and as ten men beat the Undertaker and rolled him into the casket, it was a legitimately chilling moment. Now, to turn to Wikipedia for the incredible conclusion: "They locked the casket and pushed it down the aisle until smoke started coming out of the casket. The Undertaker appeared on the video screen at the end of the aisle, vowing to return. The casket was shown exploding on the screen, although the casket in the arena did not explode.After the explosion was shown, a person resembling The Undertaker was seen rising up to the ceiling of the Civic Center." In an era before absurdity, pyrotechnics and extreme themes were routinely handled in the World Wrestling Federation, the Undertaker dying and basically ascending to heaven was both captivating and completely frightening. Taker saying he was "coming back" basically meant that he was the pro wrestling equivalent of Jesus Christ. That's not just spiritually heavy but an absolutely scary notion to consider having mixed into pro wrestling viewing.
Besides having been an independent professional wrestling manager for a decade, Marcus Dowling is a Washington, DC-based writer who has contributed to a plethora of online and print magazines and newspapers writing about music and popular culture over the past 15 years.