In the business of professional wrestling, one wrong move or word can derail your entire career. On the contrary, one good match or endorsement could earn you opportunities that you may not have been afforded before. It's a fickle business. You often hear of Vince McMahon (although nowadays you hear Triple H's name more frequently) 'burying' talents. It's not always the head of the snake that's got the final say in whether a Superstar gets buried or pushed though.
Someone as respected and with as long a tenure as The Undertaker in WWE will undoubtedly and perhaps quite rightfully have a lot of sway in which Superstars make it in the company and which ones don't. Getting to face The Undertaker is an honor in itself, so you'd think that merely being in the ring with The Deadman is a sign that you're being put over and pushed to the moon. Alas, that is not always the case.
You may not see Taker in a suit conducting WWE business but during his time with the company, he has made and broken many Superstars' careers. Here are eight in particular that he helped stall or bring a curtain down on altogether, and seven that he had an unquestionable hand in elevating.
15 Buried: Rob Van Dam
At the end of 2001, the invasion of The Alliance, a combination of Superstars from WCW and ECW, had come to an end. WWE had won the final battle in the war and sent their enemies packing. The defeated stars from rival brands would obviously slowly make their way back in to the fold as they were now under WWE contracts, and one of them who never actually 'left' was Rob Van Dam.
Due to him having the Hardcore Title, he was immune from being 'fired'. Well, long time WWE employee, The Undertaker decided at this point that he wasn't getting enough respect. One of the first targets he decided to demand that respect from? You got it, RVD. The Deadman beat Van Dam in a match at the final pay-per-view of 2001, Vengeance. Plus he took his Hardcore Title to boot!
14 Put Over: Maven
In the early 2000s, when reality TV talent shows were at the height of their fame, WWE jumped on the bandwagon launching their own show Tough Enough. The show had a male and female winner, with Maven being the first male winner. Maven didn't have a memorable career and the highlight of it by far was his feud with The Undertaker.
During the 2002 Royal Rumble, Maven delivered a dropkick to The Deadman, eliminating him from the match. That would be enough of a push for any young rookie, but Maven got even more. Soon after, he got a shot at Taker's Hardcore championship, and won! Granted he had a helping hand from The Rock and Al Snow but still, pretty big deal.
13 Buried: Muhammad Hassan
Back in the Ruthless Aggression Era, WWE aired out some pretty terrible ideas. The worst of those ideas may have been the terrorism angle surrounding wrestler Muhammad Hassan. WWE had Hassan play on the fact that people were racist for assuming he was a terrorist, then had some big men in ski masks attack The Undertaker just days before the London bombings in 2005. Poor taste and poor timing on WWE's part.
Immediately following the real terrorist attack, the network requested for Hassan to not appear on WWE TV, so Undertaker obliged and made sure we had seen the last of Muhammad. It's a shame for Hassan who had talent and may have gone on to compete for the World Title, unfortunately for him, his timing and WWE's portrayal of him could not have been any worse.
12 Put Over: The Great Khali
WWE and The Undertaker must look back and kick themselves when it comes to The Great Khali. Clearly both parties saw the sheer size of him and couldn't see past that. Khali arrived on SmackDown in the mid 2000s and went straight for The Deadman. Instead of having him give Taker a good match, WWE had Khali destroy him. It was basically a squash match.
At Judgement Day 2006, the pair squared off and Khali won the match with a kick to Undertaker's head. It was the way that Khali won the match that still resonates with me to this day, in a bad way. Khali pinned Taker by simply placing his foot on The Phenom's chest. You'll struggle to find someone beating Taker so resoundingly in his almost 30-year career.
11 Buried: Giant Gonzalez
Believe it or not, not all of the instances on this list are from the middle of the last decade. All the way back at WrestleMania IX, long before The Streak was ever mentioned, The Undertaker did battle with one of the tallest men to ever step foot in a WWE ring, Giant Gonzalez. With The Deadman's height registering at almost seven feet, it takes someone pretty big to make him look small and Gonzalez did exactly that.
Even all the way back then, The Phenom couldn't be beaten at WrestleMania. Giant Gonzalez had to resort to dirty tactics to bring down The Undertaker and he wasn't exactly sneaky about it. Gonzalez used a chloroform soaked rag and pressed it against the nose and mouth of his opponent, knocking him out. The match was obviously thrown out and Undertaker got one of his lesser known WrestleMania wins via disqualification. A giant shouldn't have to resort to such tactics.
10 Put Over: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker's careers are a lot more intertwined than some may realize. Yes, The Beast Incarnate was the one who ended the streak at WrestleMania XXX and that alone would warrant his place on this list, but the pair's storied rivalry started during Brock's first run with WWE. Less than a year after his debut, having already won the WWE championship, Taker and Lesnar stepped inside Hell in a Cell and Brock emerged victorious following a bloody brawl. That wasn't all.
The following year, a few months before Lesnar would leave WWE after WrestleMania XX, Taker and Brock met again in a Biker Chain match. And Lesnar won again! Clearly, Undertaker saw potential in The Beast from day one and what the two have done during Brock's second stint has only solidified that.
9 Buried: Chris Jericho
Back in 1999, Chris Jericho made one of the most memorable WWE debuts of all time. Y2J made the move from WCW and his first act of business in the company was to interrupt The Rock. What happened to Jericho the following week is rarely discussed, and actually explains why the push he was seemingly about to achieve after one day as a WWE Superstar came to an abrupt end.
On his second ever Raw, Jericho interrupted The Undertaker who was cutting a promo about him and Big Show surviving in the desert to prepare for their SummerSlam match. It was very strange and very boring, which is why Chris described Taker as the 'personification of boredom' during his retort. Being a new WCW guy, Jericho already didn't have many fans in the locker room, and this comment made things infinitely worse for him for quite a while.
8 Put Over: Vladimir Kozlov
Judging by the way Vladimir Kozlov was booked during the majority of his time in WWE, big things were expected of him. Expectations were probably at their highest when Kozlov managed not one, but two victories against The Undertaker in the space of a little over three months. Granted the first one was by disqualification thanks to interference from Jeff Hardy, the second however was not.
In February of 2009, Kozlov pinned The Undertaker clean in the middle of the ring, defeating The Deadman. That was the final victory in a long undefeated streak for him as he would lose to Shawn Michaels the following week. If he had beaten HBK, he would have earned the chance to take on Taker again at that year's WrestleMania.
7 Buried: Right to Censor
In April of 2001, The Undertaker was set to team up with his brother Kane to take on Stone Cold and Triple H, also known as The Power Trip at the time. Austin had aligned himself with Vince McMahon and The Game and together they were dead set on taking the Tag Titles from The Brothers of Destruction.
Just days before their match, Vince put Taker in a four on one handicap match against all the male members of Right to Censor on SmackDown to soften him up. Vince's plan did not work. Steven Richards watched on as his team beat down The Deadman only to swoop in once most of the work had already been done. Richards' teammates decided they'd had enough and left their leader to be decimated by The Undertaker as he picked up the win.
6 Put Over: Kane
Where would Kane be now if it weren't for his on-screen brother The Undertaker? The Big Red Machine was introduced to us in 1997 as the brother of The Deadman and his career took off from the get go. It began with Taker initially refusing to fight his brother culminating in what would be the first of many classic matches between the two at WrestleMania XIV. They've fought in rings surrounded by fire, and they've buried each other alive.
It will forever go down as one of the greatest rivalries in WWE history. Not only that, but they were even on the same page for years. As the Brothers of Destruction, they actually held Tag Team gold. Safe to say that Kane would not have had the long and successful career he's still enjoying to this day had it not been for The Undertaker.
5 Buried: Heidenreich
In 2004, a pro wrestler by the name of Heidenreich was introduced to the SmackDown brand. A poetry writing psychopath who tried to make a name for himself by gunning after The Undertaker. Shocking. Heidenreich got The Deadman's attention by interfering in his WWE Championship match with JBL and thus got a match with him at the following pay-per-view, Survivor Series.
The Undertaker won, but Heidenreich wasn't quite done. It would appear that he wanted to take the term 'burial' to a more literal level, as he would have a cask match with him at the Royal Rumble two months later. Despite interference from Snitsky, Heidenreich lost again. WWE wanted to have Heidenreich and his new friend face off Taker and Kane at the ensuing WrestleMania, but thankfully, The Undertaker insisted on battling Randy Orton.
4 Put Over: Randy Orton
Which brings us neatly on to our next entrant, Randy Orton. As I just mentioned in the previous post, The Undertaker wanted to square off against Orton at WrestleMania 21, and that he did. Of course, Undertaker won the match but it sparked a tremendous rivalry between the two and continued Orton's gimmick as The Legend Killer.
The two met again later that year at SummerSlam with Orton leaving victorious. By the time they met at Armageddon inside Hell in a Cell, Orton and Taker had been feuding on and off for almost a year. Undertaker won the final match in the series but it was a classic and make no mistake, that feud did wonders for Randy Orton's career.
3 Buried: CM Punk
Looking back, having Brock Lesnar end The Undertaker's streak at WrestleMania XXX was incredible. It's a moment than none of us who were watching at the time will ever forget. However, and I really don't want to be 'that guy', I feel an even better choice would have been to end it a year prior, when The Deadman stepped between the ropes with CM Punk. Punk's complaints since his departure from WWE are legitimate.
He was a main event player who was over with the fans, but for some reason, Vince and co couldn't get their heads around it. If they had, then maybe it could have been Punk who conquered the greatest streak in sports entertainment. Unlike many others, I really enjoyed the build to their match at WrestleMania 29, as distasteful as some of it may have been. Who knows where WWE would be now if Punk had won that night?
2 Put Over: Jeff Hardy
On an episode of Raw in 2002, Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker had a match that is still considered as one of the best in the show's history. Jeff was given the opportunity to face The Undertaker in a ladder match for his WWE Undisputed Championship. The Deadman, of course, thought that it would be a simple day at the office, despite the ladder match being Jeff's specialty.
He could not have been more wrong. Hardy gave Taker everything he had in an absolutely incredible match. Whenever I think of it, I can still hear Jim Ross shouting 'climb the ladder kid, make yourself famous' as Jeff ascended the ladder at a point where he looked like he may win. Unfortunately he did not, but this match along with The Undertaker helped elevating Jeff Hardy.
1 Buried: Diamond Dallas Page
During his time in WCW, Diamond Dallas Page had a very good run. He held the WCW Championship, had feuds with Goldberg and the nWo. So naturally, it only seemed right to place him in a rivalry with The Undertaker upon his arrival in WWE. He had earned it through his work with WCW. Well, DDP may have had the honor of battling The Undertaker, but neither the match nor the storyline would be career memories that DDP holds fondly.
DDP's first order of business in WWE was to stalk The Undertaker's wife. He gave Taker some trouble for a while but obviously, they eventually clashed in the ring. Judging by that match, neither WWE nor The Deadman had any respect for what DDP had done in WCW. A quick and embarrassing match for the company's newcomer and one that he never really came back from. It's said that DDP liked to plan his matches ahead of time which clearly didn't go well with The Undertaker.