Hosts Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson are back with another exciting edition of Something to Wrestle. This time the subject at hand was The Undertaker’s 2004-2006 WWE run. Prichard opened up about The Undertaker’s initial reluctance to return to the Dead Man character, wrestlers who were considered to end The Undertaker’s iconic WrestleMania streak before Brock Lesnar, and more. Highlights appear below.
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
Undertaker Did Not Want To Return To The ‘Dead Man’ Character After His ‘American Bad Ass’ Run:
Mark Calaway hated the idea, absolutely hated the idea of coming back as The Dead Man because he thought with the American Bad Ass character he was multi-dimensional and he wasn’t doing the head snaps and everything. He could work and go out and have a different style of match and he felt that if he came back as the Dead Man that he would have to go back to the Dead Man persona in the ring. We all felt, ‘Look, let’s give them that at WrestleMania (The Dead Man), but then you can evolve in the ring with your work. You can work like the American Bad Ass, but you’re The Undertaker. You’re in your old garb.’ It was a battle. It was a multi-month battle to really convince him that this would work and he didn’t think that people wanted The Dead Man back, he really didn’t. He just wanted to continue on with The American Bad Ass and felt it was a step back to go to the old Undertaker.
How WWE Convinced The Undertaker To Return To The Dead Man Character:
I could say a lot of begging, but it was a constant dialogue of, ‘We could do this,’ and he would come up with, ‘What if I’m presented with this situation? How would this Undertaker react?’ We worked through all of that and it took awhile, but we said, ‘Take this time off. Grow your hair out and if it completely sh*ts the bed and the audience is like, ‘Nah, we don’t like it,’ then we can always go back.’ He’s like, ‘Goddamn, you can’t go back.’ ‘Yes, you can. We’re gonna try it.’ Finally, he just gave in and said, ‘OK, I’ll try it. I’ll do it.’ The rest, as they say, is history.
On Whether The Undertaker Had Backstage Heat For ‘No-Selling’:
They [wrestlers in the locker room] didn’t know and neither did we at the time know how that character would evolve and change. They thought that, ‘OK, we’re bringing back the old character of The Dead Man, The Undertaker,’ and it was a lot of paranoia. It was unnecessary paranoia because nobody knew what the hell we were gonna have on that side, but it was in our minds, we’ll get through the WrestleMania match, but this new Undertaker – he came back, worked promos, and he worked differently, and he did sell, and he did have vulnerability because you had seen that in The American Bad Ass, but no one else had really seen that yet. The fear was, I think the paranoia in the locker room was, ‘We’re told to do this, but it’s OK for him not to sell what we do,’ and that wasn’t going to be the case, but I think that fear was valid and it was taking place in the locker room because guys came to me and asked me about it, but it was not to be seen yet, ‘Let’s just wait and see what happens. Let’s get there first.’
On Kane Being Discussed To End Undertaker’s WrestleMania Streak:
It had been discussed, but certainly not here [WrestleMania XX]. This was the return of The Dead Man and there was never any discussion, one way or the other, that Undertaker would not be victorious on this night. This whole thing was meant as the return of The Undertaker victory. It was not a squash match by any stretch of the imagination, but this match was laid out to be the return of The Undertaker and for him to look great.
Prichard Comments On An Earlier Wade Keller Report That Claimed The Undertaker Didn’t Follow Locker Room Dress Code:
Vince told him he wanted him to dress like The Undertaker and the dress code didn’t apply to him the way it applied to everyone else. The same thing with John Cena. He let Cena wear his shorts, and his tennis shoes, and his jerseys, and all that sh*t. That’s how Cena dressed out of the ring, as well. Those two guys were exceptions and Vince felt that with them it was OK….Undertaker on his own was like, ‘Sh*t, if everybody else has got to do it, I don’t have a problem doing it,’ and Undertaker did start dressing in slacks and everything else. At the beginning, Vince was like, ‘That doesn’t apply to you. I want you to be The Undertaker in and out of the ring.’ Black jeans, black boots: that’s how he dressed. The only thing he was ever out of code that I can remember was jeans and they were black jeans.
On Mark Henry Once Being Considered To End The Streak:
Vince calls me and says, ‘I’ve got an idea. What do you think about ending Undertaker’s streak?’ I said, ‘Well, with the right guy he’s made.’ He says, ‘Goddamn, that big bastard Mark Henry – he’s ready.’ There was silence. I’m like, ‘Really?’ Mark had been here 10 years and it wasn’t anything against Mark, but I didn’t think that Mark Henry beating and ending the streak would catapult him to the next level. I wanted to do it with somebody – for example, Randy Orton the year before would have made Randy and that would have been a hell of an investment going forward. Mark Henry wasn’t ready at that point…..I just didn’t think he was ready and there was also a part of me that was thinking, ‘Sh*t, I’ve got to pitch this,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll run it by him.’
Prichard On The Undertaker’s Reaction To The Mark Henry Idea & Vince McMahon Getting ‘Cold Feet’:
I ran it by him and his reaction was the same as mine. It was pretty much silence and he asked what I thought and I told him, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea, but try it on. See if there’s something you think that might work.’ He came back and said, ‘OK, if that’s what you guys want to do, that’s really what Vince wants.’
Vince, as we got closer to it, got cold feet, I guess. He realized that maybe Mark wasn’t ready, at that time for it and I don’t know if there was a real solid plan on the other side either to make it work. Paul Heyman hated it. I don’t know anybody that was like, ‘Wooo hooo! Let’s go do this,’ other than Vince. Sometimes you just got to try sh*t on and throw it out there. Sometimes you throw it out there and you need to just throw it the f*ck away too, but that’s how we got there.
Readers may listen to Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard in its entirety below:
Undertaker Did Not Want To Return To ‘Dead Man’ Character, Had Backstage Heat