Announced by a tolling bell and an organ playing the funeral march, one look at the sallow eyes peeking out from beneath the brim of his stetson was enough to cast a chill over a crowd.
This unstoppable monster angle was something management wanted to play up, and a year after his debut Taker beat Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at Survivor Series. With a little help from Ric Flair.
What I think is most fascinating about this first incarnation was that he was actually an Undertaker by trade, listen to this.
Then we’re going to pick them up and put them in the carriage and then drive them to the chapel, get a little wreath that says Sally, hand a tissue to grandma.
This era of Taker has come to be known as the Western Mortician – because he is an Old West Undertaker.
Which is a role that rose to prominence in the 1800s as American towns in the west were being settled and the relatively new technology of preserving bodies so loved ones could come and say their last goodbyes became commonplace.
It was also a vital role as the average life expectancy was just 37 years of age and as Roger McGrath, author of Gunfighters, Highwaymen and Vigilantes said:
“It was a very harsh environment, with scorching deserts and dehydration,”
But perhaps the most lovely twist is that most wrestling gimmicks involved being a job and a wrestler, Mark Calloway was an undertaker and a wrestler, but Western Undertaker’s were often undertakers and furniture salesmen.
Why? Because they’re the ones with the tools and skills to make coffins. Something Taker would bring into his gimmick.
He would also revisit the Old West for inspiration later in his career taking on the roles of The Last Outlaw and The Gunslinger.
“I get it, you’re the aging gunslinger with just a few bullets left in your gun and you can shoot it out with anybody in the locker room but Undertaker, you can’t shoot with Brock Lesnar!” – Heyman