The Undertaker made his WWE debut in the fall of 1990. Back then, his undead character was a stark contrast to the rest of the cartoonish gimmicks and characters that permeated the roster at that time.
In his televised debut match, Undertaker made quick work of Koko. B Ware and Dusty Rhodes in the Survivor Series elimination match, and he was never really hurt throughout the contest. He was only eliminated by count-out when he decided to go after Rhodes.
Right there and then, his aura was cemented as he was legitimately terrifying and unlike anyone else on the roster. The Undertaker continued picking up victories and within a year, he was challenging for the world title. The champion at that time was Hulk Hogan. Big surprise there. The Hulkster had handed the reigns of the company to the Ultimate Warrior back at WrestleMania 6 in 1990 but that reign failed to live up to the hype, only for Hogan to come back and win the title yet again.
UPDATE: 2023/09/18 14:30 EST BY MICHAEL CHIN
It’s unfortunate that The Undertaker beating Hulk Hogan wasn’t a wholly positive experience for him so early in his career. Nonetheless, the end of the match and its aftermath caused a rift. Interestingly enough, these two iconic figures would find themselves standing on opposite sides of a WWE ring again in 2002 with the world title on the line once again. As one might expect, over ten years passing had changed a lot for both men, and the way they approached doing business together reflected that. All in all, the backstage story between these men is a pretty fascinating one to look back on now.
Undertaker Vs. Hulk Hogan Was A Big Match
Hulk Hogan versus Undertaker headlined Survivor Series 1991 and the storyline was actually pretty intriguing as it was the clash of the titans, the unstoppable force meets the immovable object as Hogan was the super-hero, and he was up against a supernatural foe in the Undertaker.
Neither Hogan nor the Undertaker (at that time, at least) were superb in-ring workers, but the match had the big-fight feel and the crowd was into every exchange. The match proceeded and Undertaker dominated most of the contest but towards the end, Ric Flair interfered and slid a chair into the ring.
Hogan was distracted by Paul Bearer and Undertaker took advantage as he hoisted Hogan up for the Tombstone piledriver and crashed his head onto the steel chair. As devastating as the move looks on camera, it was easily one of the safest finishers out there as the knees of the executor take the impact while the head of the opposing wrestler remains safe. Hogan, however, thought otherwise.
As soon as Undertaker executed his signature move, Hogan whispered. “Ow, you got me, brother,” signifying that Undertaker had actually injured him. Mark Calaway was 24 years old at that time and according to the man himself, he was devastated that he had injured the cash cow of the company.
More importantly, as a wrestler, you just have to feel terrible knowing that you had injured someone else. Hogan implied that Undertaker had injured his neck and Mark Calaway was mortified. Backstage, according to rumors, Hogan was even yelling about someone calling his wife and his kids as he was in an immense amount of pain. Again, just rumors, but this does sound like something Hogan would do.
Six days later, Undertaker lost the title back to Hogan (again, no surprise there) on Tuesday in Texas and popular belief was that Undertaker was being punished for injuring Hogan. Mark Calaway himself admitted that he was shaken up. It was only after his conversation with Shane McMahon that Calaway started to feel confident. Shane McMahon assured the Undertaker that Hogan’s head was nowhere near the mat, but the young wrestler still felt a tad guilty.
Calaway Confronted Hogan Himself
Eventually, Undertaker saw the tape, realized what had happened, and went to confront Hogan. Calaway called Hogan out for lying about his injury, stating that he had watched the tape and his neck was safe all the way through. In response, Hogan cooked up a lame excuse about his neck being jammed due to the Undertaker putting his knees around his head too tightly and that led to the injury. Calaway did not escalate the issue further, but he got to know what Hogan was really about.
“‘Okay,’ I kind of realized I know what you’re all about, and that’s all I needed.” Mark Calaway, ESPN.
Despite this, Undertaker was never really overtly hostile towards Hogan and whenever they were in the same building, he made sure to say hello and keep business as usual. He did mention that after the little spat, his radar was on high alert whenever Hogan was nearby.
The Undertaker Vs. Hulk Hogan Happened Again In 2002
The iteration of the feud between The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan that transpired from 1991 to 1992 was a watershed moment for WWE. Hogan began to inch away from the spotlight and toward his first retirement in Spring 1992, while The Undertaker took arguably his first steps into immortality when he won his first world title by beating the biggest babyface in wrestling history, albeit under spurious terms.
By the time the two clashed again over a decade later, a great deal had changed. Hogan had reaffirmed his status as an icon in his WCW run which included playing the top heel for years. By 2002, though, it was clear that he was in the twilight of his days of wrestling on a full-time basis. Meanwhile, The Undertaker’s steady presence toward the top of WWE had given him a place as a locker room leader and one of the most universally respected men in the business. No longer could The Hulkster “pull rank” on The Dead Man, and it’s perhaps telling that The Undertaker beat him in decisive fashion for another world title at the Judgment Day PPV.
In the 2020s, Jim Cornette came out and blasted The Hulkster for what he did at Survivor Series 1991. Cornette said this was an old trick used by wrestlers to guilt-trip the newer stars and make them feel indebted. In summation, Hogan was not ready to drop the title, and so he lied about his neck being injured and Undertaker lost the title within a week. The Hulkster has never commented on this issue and wisely so.