There Was A Time In WWE History Where Fans Hated The Undertaker
Despite being one of the beloved stars in WWE history, one period of The Undertaker's career was initially hated by fans.
Mark Calaway, more popularly known as The Undertaker, is widely regarded as one of the most beloved superstars of all time. He is a certified role model for the current generation of superstars, as well as those who aspire to step into a wrestling ring one day as his longevity and commitment are peerless.
Calaway debuted for the company all the way back in 1990 and from that point onward, until his retirement in 2020, Undertaker was a featured attraction and consistently at the mountain top, ingrained into the very fabric of the program.
Even during his later years, despite making only making a handful of appearances per year, his gigantic presence loomed over the company as Calaway had transcended the business.
After wrestling under the WWE banner for over 30 years, Calaway laid the Undertaker character to rest and bowed out of the wrestling ring.
Undertaker Retired Only Recently After A Career That Spanned Three Decades
The retirement was somewhat hampered by the confines of the ThunderDome as the pandemic raged across the world but fans present in the virtual arena gave Calaway the reception that he had deserved, as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
The current crop of fans will remember him as of the most cherished superstars of all time as even against fellow legends such as Goldberg, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H, Undertaker was hailed as the favorite of the crowd, and every hit that connected on him was drowned out by thunderous boos from the crowd. The Undertaker could do no wrong but once upon a time, Mark Calaway was one of the most hated wrestlers on the planet.
The notion sounds ridiculous but before the Streak and a slew of great matches with the likes of Batista, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels, Undertaker was seen by many as a past-his-prime big guy prying away the spotlight from the younger and more deserving talent during the bulk of the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era.
Calaway debuted back in 1990 and his persona was the one exception among the sea of cartoonish and often whimsical personalities of the early and mid-1990s. The impervious Deadman evoked fear and awe from those watching but as the Attitude era rolled out and WWE made the decision to ground the product, in reality, Mark Calaway made the decision to retire the Undertaker and he debuted with a more humanized personality — a biker who rode down the ramp on a motorcycle and held a fondness towards Kid Rock music.
At that point, the Undertaker relied on his character and mannerisms to remain over with the crowd as his matches left a lot to be desired. This was before The Streak at WrestleMania gained prominence. To this point, all Undertaker had to his credit were stinkers against the likes of Giant Gonzalez, Yokozuna, and of course, “Underfaker” at SummerSlam 1994
The one exception was a five-star classic against Shawn Michaels at Bad Blood 1997, but that one anomaly was drowned out in the sea of mediocrity and pushed even deeper below after a dreadful match against The Big Boss Man at WrestleMania 15.
Fans had grown accustomed to Undertaker acting and performing in a certain way and while the routine was repetitive, the sheer charisma of the character was able to mask the minor defects. However, with the iconic Deadman persona stripped away and replaced by a more human character, fans regarded the transition as jarring and many did not accept Calaway as just another ordinary performer on the roster.
The debut at Judgment Day 2000 was iconic, but the novelty wore off quickly and the new character did not sit well with many viewers. Without the character to fall back on, Undertaker was just another wrestler on a roster and a severely compromised one at that.
Around that time, Undertaker was wrestling with a number of injuries and had noticeably gained weight, leading to a decline in his in-ring work. The Undertaker failed to produce any noteworthy matches and the hatred only intensified during the Invasion storyline. Said storyline was basically WCW burying season and Calaway did his fair share, burying the likes of DDP and Mike Awesome. The big stinker in this era was the dreadful tag-team match against KroniK at Unforgiven 2001.
Wrestling Fans Loathed Undertaker For His In-Ring Work And New Character
The online wrestling community absolutely detested The Undertaker at that point. Irate fans had coined the nickname of “American Fatass” and demanded that he retire as he had nothing to offer. This dislike was echoed by pundits as Undertaker was voted the “Most Overrated” and “Least Favorite Wrestler” by Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2001. Moreover, he was also considered as “The Most Abysmal Wrestler” by PowerSlam Magazine in the same year.
Thankfully, around 2003, Undertaker started silencing his critics, as his feuds with the likes of Brock Lesnar and John Cena drew positive reception and his in-ring work progressed. In 2004, he returned with his iconic persona and by 2007, Undertaker was regarded as a living legend. The guy even carried Great Khali to watchable matches, enough said.
Undertaker has had quite a road to get to where he is currently. Rumors of his retirement were swirling around even in the early 2000s but Calaway retired after putting the criticism to rest.