At Judgement Day 2000, The Undertaker returned to WWE from a real-life injury in a biker gimmick called The American Badass. The arena went crazy when Undertaker returned with a new gimmick but soon after, most people lost interest in the character for many reasons while some actually enjoyed it.
The Undertaker’s career spanned over three decades, and he spent less than a year of it as The American Badass. With all things considered, it’s safe to say that this gimmick wasn’t a successful one.
American Badass Wasn’t Undertaker’s Best Incarnation
The Undertaker debuted as a supernatural being at Survivor Series 1990 and remained as The Deadman for almost a decade before switching up his character. During that time, Undertaker rarely had to cut long promos in a “normal” speaking pattern so it was evident that in the days of the American Badass, Taker was still finding his footing on the microphone.
When Undertaker was still working as The Deadman, he spoke less and his words had more weight. But as the American Badass, he just went on and on talking about things when it wasn’t his best quality. People also didn’t enjoy his matches and rivalries at that time because of all the sloppy in-ring work. Most matches weren’t good so people couldn’t really enjoy his work to the fullest.
The Undertaker’s “Rest In Peace” was also one of the legendary theme songs of all time and people weren’t pleased when it was replaced by Kid Rock’s “American Bad Ass” and then Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin”. It was a huge downgrade for Undertaker and that’s another reason why the gimmick just never became everyone’s favorite.
But probably the biggest reason The American Badass didn’t really succeed was that the fans had been seeing The Undertaker as a supernatural being for years and then all of a sudden, he became a biker and everything changed about him.
Everything that the fans liked about him, he stopped doing that. While most fans may not remember but he made his shift to the biker persona gradually. He used to do eye roll-ups and had the same finisher even after becoming the American Badass but then, he changed completely.
Undertaker Needed The New Gimmick To Survive The Attitude Era
Vince McMahon was completely against The American Badass gimmick because The Deadman meant a huge deal to him. But somehow, Undertaker convinced his boss to let him do his thing but Vince still never truly liked that gimmick.
In an interview with Wade Keller, former WWE writer Andrew Goldstein even revealed that people used to avoid talking about The Undertaker during meetings when he was The American Badass because McMahon hated that character.
On the other hand, The Deadman once openly said that he wouldn’t have made it through WWE in the 2000s without The American Badass. He felt his character had become stale and needed a change so he did what he could and looking back at it years later, it was a good decision. He liked the gimmick so much that he didn’t even want to return as The Deadman again but Vince didn’t allow that.
While American Badass Was Bad, Big Evil Was Great
The American Badass wasn’t a massive failure, but it also wasn’t a huge success. It wasn’t until he became Big Evil in 2001 and a heel that fans started to like him once again. His look had changed too and Undertaker now had shorter hair, wore leather pants, and was a sadist. His match against Jeff Hardy for the WWE Undisputed Championship and the rivalry with Brock Lesnar in 2002 were also really great and everyone enjoyed it.
If nothing, the biker gimmick helped The Undertaker stay relevant in WWE because if he had returned as The Deadman, people probably would have lost interest.
The Undertaker dropped The Deadman gimmick once again in 2020 when he returned to face AJ Styles as sort of a hybrid version of all his previous gimmicks. It was the last ride for him and he wanted to make it memorable for everyone. This time around, everyone enjoyed the biker persona because it was a nice change.