The Undertaker should be recognized by most as the greatest wrestler in WWE history. The championship accomplishments, his incredible in-ring skills, and his gimmick as The Deadman has never died, even though he's had many variations and in-ring attire. The character has worked in more ways than one, and he's always found ways to put on intense matches, no matter the opponent nor how old he is.
But what fans will remember most about The Undertaker will be the way he showed up unexpectedly. To the WWE Universe, there was never anything like having the lights turn out, his music plays, and he shows up in the middle of the ring to attack the heels.
Though he's always arrived fashionably late, some of his unexpected returns are more memorable than others. Here are the 15 epic times Undertaker made a surprise return.
15 Monday Night Raw, January 30, 2012
At WrestleMania XXVII, The Undertaker had defeated Triple H in one of the most memorable matches of The Phenom's career. Fans were given an Undertaker WrestleMania match that was nearly as awesome as his victory over Shawn Michaels a year earlier.
But of course, after that win, The Undertaker was off of WWE television for 10 months, and fans once again could only wonder how much longer they would have to wait until he returned. He came out on January 30, 2012 to cut a segment with Triple H. The fans had waited long enough, and a hyped-up rematch took place at that year's WrestleMania. Of course, The Undertaker would go on to win, in another epic clash between two WWE legends.
It was all built up perfectly with his return on Raw.
14 SummerSlam, 2009
The Undertaker had fought Big Show on an April edition of SmackDown in a losing effort. He was then gone from WWE for four months. Fans could only wonder just when The Deadman when come back. Well, SummerSlam 2009 brought us a return for the ages. CM Punk had just defeated Jeff Hardy in an epic Ladder match. Of course, Hardy was the face, and fans were devastated that he lost. That opened the door for an epic curtain call.
Punk flaunted his championship over Hardy, lying flat on his back. The lights then went out, came back on, and there was still a body lying where Hardy was. Only, this time it was The Undertaker. He arose and attacked Punk. That set up a 'Taker championship victory over Punk at Hell in a Cell.
13 Battleground, 2015
Fans had waited over a year to see The Deadman confront The Beast who ended his perfect WrestleMania streak. Once again, WWE picked the perfect opportunity to have 'Taker show up unexpectedly.
Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins faced off for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at BattleGround, 2015. Lesnar was on his way to victory after hitting an F5, but the lights went out and The Undertaker had once again returned. He attacked Lesnar and cost him the championship. What makes this return so great was the following night's Raw confrontation the two had. The entire roster tried restraining the two but they had a nice brawl that lasted about 10 minutes.
This confrontation would set the stage for two more epic bouts between the two, at SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell.
12 Raw 1000
After The Undertaker's emotional victory over Triple H at the WrestleMania XXVIII, The Deadman took more time off of WWE. This hiatus would only last a few short months, however, and thankfully enough.
With his brother Kane getting attacked by multiple men when coming out to have a match with Jinder Mahal, The Undertaker came out of nowhere and The Brothers of Destruction Chokeslammed and Tombstoned the attackers. Listen, everyone knew that The Undertaker was going to return for Raw 1000. There was no way he would miss out on it. But Vince McMahon and the creative team brought back the nostalgic feel by having The Undertaker and Kane fight together.
No doubt that having The Undertaker return in epic fashion for Raw 1000 was one of his best yet.
11 SummerSlam, 2010
Coming off of arguably his best match yet, a WrestleMania XXVI victory over Shawn Michaels that forced The Heartbreak Kid to retire, The Undertaker competed in a Fatal Four-Way World Heavyweight Championship match on a May, 2010 episode of SmackDown.
In that much, The Undertaker suffered legitimate facial injuries and needed time off from WWE. This set the sage for another awesome return from The Phenom. Kane was facing Rey Mysterio at SummerSlam for the World Heavyweight Championship. Kane would emerge victorious and tried to gloat more about his championship by putting Mysterio in a casket.
Sure enough, Kane's Brother of Destruction was right in the casket, giving him a scare. The return was unexpected and awesome, though Kane would overpower The Undertaker and finish him off.
10 Unforgiven, 2007
The Undertaker had been in a championship bout with Batista, but Mark Henry had come out to viciously attack him. After that, Edge cashed his Money in the Bank title shot and defeated The Undertaker with ease. This all took place on the May 11th, 2007 edition of SmackDown. Setting up the stage for something special.
This helped Mark Henry make an epic run as a heel. He bragged about taking out The Phenom and WWE started hinting at his return. That official return took place at Unforgiven, 2007. Both men fought in the main event, and The Undertaker would pin Henry for the victory. Though the match itself wasn't anything special, having 'Taker come back to take down one of the biggest heels certainly saved an otherwise lackluster Unforgiven.
9 Monday Night Raw, February 21, 2011
The Deadman renewed his rivalry with Kane during a match at Bragging Rights. The Big Red Machine would bury his brother with outside help from The Nexus. The Undertaker needed time off with a legitimate shoulder injury. Once again, fans had to count down the clock until they got to see him again.
During the Feb. 21, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw, The Undertaker came out. Triple H surprised the crowd by interrupting him, and the two WWE icons agreed to face off at WrestleMania, which was only weeks away. As we talked about earlier, it was a match for the ages with 'Taker defeating The Game.
This was the perfect way to hype up fans for the match. TheUndertaker made (yet another) highly-anticipating return only to be confronted by an old rival. Classic.
8 Royal Rumble, 2006
Another entry, another time where The Undertaker was off screen for a while.
At the 2005 edition of Armageddon, The Undertaker faced off against Randy Orton in a Hell in a Cell match. The Undertaker would take down The Legend Killer, of course. For reasons unknown to the fans, The Deadman wouldn't show up four a couple of months. But once again, it was well worth the wait. Kurt Angle had just defeated Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship. But the celebration was short-lived.
The Undertaker unexpectedly came out to confront the man WHO SUCKS! WHO SUCKS! WHO SUCKS! WHO SUCKS! The two would embark on a short feud, given fans another epic dream feud from two of the Attitude Era's top stars. That rivalry ended with Mark Henry attacking The Undertaker.
7 SmackDown, June 16, 2005
John Bradshaw Layfield was the WWE's top heel on SmackDown during his nine-month WWE Championship reign. What helped him get over was winning multiple matches against The Undertaker, though he needed interference from Heidenreich. Or other cheap ways to win matches.
The Undertaker would face Randy Orton at WrestleMania 21, with the latter claiming he was The Legend Killer and set to destroy The Deadman's perfect WrestleMania streak. Once The Undertaker took care of business, he was off television for a couple months. Go figure.
On the June 16, 2005 edition of SmackDown, Undertaker fought JBL in a match, only to lose due to Orton's interference. It was another unexpected appearance by The Undertaker, and it was epic to see him have one more confrontation with JBL. Plus, this happened before that forgettable feud with Muhammad Hassan. Let's not go there.
6 WrestleMania XX
WrestleMania XX will go down as one of the most memorable ever. It featured the final match for both Goldberg and Brock Lesnar in WWE, though the latter has since returned. That was a match everyone wants to forget.
Evolution defeated The Rock 'N' Sock to get over once and for all. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit their WWE and World Heavyweight Championship matches, respectively. Their embrace at the end of the show will put chills down the worst of the worst. Even Donald Trump. Okay, probably not him.
Another epic part of WrestleMania XX? Well, The Undertaker made another return, facing off against Kane. It was one of the last few times we'd see Paul Bearer by his side. Of course, The Undertaker would emerge victorious. A great return at Madison Square Garden on the Grandest Stage of Them All? Who can complain?
5 Survivor Series, 2005
Randy Orton really ended up being The Legend Killer, defeating The Undertaker at SummerSlam at 2005 and No Mercy that same year. Orton thought he REALLY finished 'Taker by putting him in a casket and lighting it on fire. Only to find out that The Undertaker wasn't even there after all.
To cap off Survivor Series, Team SmackDown faced off against Monday Night Raw. Randy Orton was part of the winning team and started to celebrate at the end, only to have The Undertaker come out and meet him once again. Orton and his father Bob left as The Undertaker attacked many of the Superstars. The Deadman got his revenge one last time, taking down Orton at Armageddon.
By the way, is there a chance we might be able to see them fight one more time?
4 Raw is War, March 2, 1998
I feel like just about every entry here has just about involved Kane. Here is yet another one! We can't complain, though. Kane and The Undertaker have a history together where each was paramount to the other's success. How would Hulk Hogan look without Randy Savage? That's what we thought.
On the March 2, 1998 edition of Monday Night Raw, nobody knew where The Undertaker was. Similar to what Orton did in the last heading we mentioned, Kane lit a casket on fire, with The Undertaker presumably dead. On this episode of Raw, Paul Bearer came out to confront Kane. Suddenly, came the lightning bolt, and The Undertaker had emerged from the smoke.
The Undertaker then taunted Kane, how he wasn't able to be destroyed. Little did fans know at the time that what he said in this particular promo would define his character forever.
3 Survivor Series, 1995
Okay, now we're going far back.
Leading up to the point of Survivor Series, 1995, The Undertaker had to take time off; needing surgery to repair an orbital bone. This came at a time, of course, where The Undertaker wasn't known for a guy who would take so many hiatus' only to make an unexpected return some time later. So here's what happened.
The Undertaker had finally returned at the 1995 Survivor Series. He had changed his character, wearing the opera-like cape. His alliance, The Darkside, faced off against The Royals in a Four-on-Four Elimination match. Mabel thought he had finished The Undertaker and proceeded to leave the ring. The Undertaker sat up and won the match for his team after Mabel got counted out. Now that's how you return, folks.
2 WrestleMania XIV
At a time when Kane thought he had lit the casket on fire and sent The Undertaker out of this earth, he was in for a surprise. The Undertaker returned at WrestleMania XIV to face The Brother of Destruction's other half. The Undertaker made yet another iconic return to the ring, as he and Kane put on arguably their most memorable and iconic match ever. Undertaker would win the bout, but Paul Bearer and Kane attacked his old friend as part of revenge. Once again, Vince and the creative team put this all together and gave fans the rivalry of a life time.
And we promise this is absolutely the last time we mention The Undertaker and Kane on this list. It just happens to be that The Big Red Machine helped set up so many iconic 'Taker returns.
1 Judgment Day, 2000
The Undertaker has undergone many gimmicks, but one of his more underrated ones easily includes The American Bad Ass. Months prior, 'Taker "walked out" of WWE (in reality, he required surgery) setting the stage for a new character. The coming out party for was at Judgment Day, 2000.
The main event match that took place that night was Triple H vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship. With Triple H coming OUT victorious, the villainous McMahon-Helmsley group celebrated. The Undertaker then came out on his motorcycle, cementing his face turn as The American Bad Ass.
That was easily his most epic return that WWE fans can look back on. It was a brand new era of The Undertaker, and his forgettable heel run had come to an end.