At the end of 2001, Once the Invasion storyline had finished, WWE begun to move forward with their product. One man was also in need of a change. For the past 18 months, The Undertaker had portrayed his American Bad A** gimmick driving to the ring on a motorbike.
In December 2001, on an episode of Monday Night RAW, The Undertaker would make another change to his character and look. This time, taking more of an edge to his character as he begun to portray a heel for the first time in over 3 years.
With the joy of success by defeating the Alliance, a boisterous Vince McMahon started the Vince McMahon ki** my ass club. After inducting William Regal, McMahon said he was going to have another WWE employee kiss his a**, and that would be RAW commentator Jim Ross.
The Undertaker | The Deadman Became Big Evil
While refusing to kiss McMahon a**, The Undertaker made his way down to the ring. He said that he had been kissing McMahon a** for over a decade and questioned if JR was about to kiss Mcmahon’s a**. When JR said he wouldn’t, The Undertaker shot him a look and questioned if he was better than him. The former Deadman attacked Jim Ross and put his head up against the a** of Vince McMahon.
The following SmackDown, The Undertaker explained that he deserves respect from his fellow co-workers, and if he doesn’t receive it, then he was going to beat it out of them. A few weeks later, The Undertaker battled Rob Van Dam at Vengeance for the WWE Hardcore Championship.
Showing his new evil side, The Undertaker chokeslammed RVD off the stage. The Undertaker would pin Rob Van Dam to become the new WWE Hardcore Champion.
With his new vicious side and competing in hardcore championship matches. The Undertaker dominated his opponents in brutal fashion, JR begin to use the nickname ‘Big Evil’ as The Undertaker made his way to the Royal Rumble to try and punch his ticket into the main event of WrestleMania X8.
The Undertaker | The Deadman
Big Evil faces an unlikely challenge from Maven.
The very first winner of Tough Enough, Maven found himself in the ring with the Hardcore Champion, and while Taker was distracted, Maven delivered a dropkick and eliminated the Deadman to everyone’s surprise. A furious Undertaker looked at Maven, who had a shocked look on his face as if the consequences of his actions were going to come back and haunt him.
The Undertaker got back in the ring and eliminated Maven. He then beat on Maven all the way through the crowd before smashing him into a popcorn machine and busting Maven open wide.
After the Royal Rumble, The Rock referred to The Undertaker’s elimination in his backstage interview. Annoyed with The Rock, The Undertaker cost the great one his chance at becoming the number one contender for the WWE Undisputed Championship. The following RAW, during a tag team match.
The Undertaker grabbed a metal pole from his bike and struck The Rock across the head. In retaliation, The Rock cost The Undertaker his WWE Hardcore Championship in a match against Maven. Angry at The Rock, the now-former Hardcore Champion attacked The Rock in the parking lot and delivered a devastating tombstone on top of a limousine.
The Undertaker | The Deadman
Big Evil comes to No Way Out.
This all lead to a match between the pair at No Way Out. On the SmackDown before the pay-per-view, the seeds were planted for The Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania. Co-Owner of WWE, Ric Flair, confronted The Undertaker over his actions, and at No Way Out, Flair got involved in the match.
Flair grabbed a metal pole from The Undertaker, who was readying to hit The Rock, but Flair struck Taker allowing The Rock to pick up the win. The next night on RAW, The Undertaker would challenge Ric Flair to a match at WrestleMania only for Flair to turn him down, stating that he’s not an active wrestler anymore.
With Flair unwilling to accept The Undertaker challenge for the biggest show of the year. The Undertaker decided to goad Ric Flair into having a match. Taker attacked Flair best friend, Arn Anderson. He would also attack Flair’s son David, who was at WWE developmental.
The Nature Boy finally accepted Taker’s challenge and a brawl begun on a episode of Smackdown where Flair would punch a fan. With Flair temporarily relived of his duties as co-owner by the board of directors, Vince McMahon booked David Flair against The Undertaker, where Taker beat on the former WCW Hardcore champion.
The Undertaker pinned Ric Flair in their match at WrestleMania, and in the first-ever draft, Flair drafted the Undertaker as his first pick for Raw. This infuriated Undertaker. Undertaker demanded to be the number one contender for the WWE Undisputed Championship but so did Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Both squared off at Backlash, and the Undertaker picked up a controversial victory over Austin to book himself into the main event of Judgement Day against Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the Undisputed Championship.
The Undertaker | The Deadman
Big Evil roles through Judgement Day
The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan at Judgement Day to win the championship, after the match, Taker slammed a steel chair into the throat of the immortal one, suffering him to bleed from the mouth. As champion, The Undertaker defended his WWE Undisputed Championship against Jeff Hardy in one of the greatest ladders matches of all time.
He defended the championship against rookie at the time, Randy Orton, and against Tommy Dreamer. But at King of the Ring, he defended the championship successfully against Triple H with The Rock at ringside. The Rock delivered a Rock Bottom to The Undertaker during the championship match, and being irate, The Undertaker demanded a match against The Rock, only for Mr. McMahon to announce that The Undertaker would defend his Undisputed Championship against The Great One at Vengeance.
On SmackDown a few weeks before Vengeance, Undertaker defended his championship against Kurt Angle and the match ended in a draw when Angle made The Undertaker submit to the ankle lock, but Taker had Angle pinned down for the three the same time. McMahon then added Angle to the championship match at Vengeance.
At the event, The Rock pinned Kurt Angle to win the WWE Undisputed Championship meaning Undertaker lost the title without being pinned. With The Undertaker out of the championship picture, A new team arrived on Raw. The Un-Americans, a team consisting of Test, Christian, and Lance Storm, attacked The Undertaker, looking to take out one of Raw biggest stars on their arrival.
This led to The Undertaker standing up to them, declaring his love for the USA, and turning face whilst doing so. His face turn would be cemented at Summerslam, defeating Test and celebrating holding the USA flag high in the air to the crowd’s delight.
The Undertaker’s run as The American Bada** is one that is talked about regularly, but his work throughout 2002 as a heel and his high-profile feuds along with working with younger talent, and elevating them is something that is undervalued in his illustrious career.