Posted in: Sports, TV, WWE | Tagged: 2008, Freddie Prince Jr., kane, Kevin Dunn, michael hayes, paul bearer, podcast, The Undertaker, Triple H, undertaker, Vince McMahon, wrestling, wwe, wwe hall of fame
The Undertaker Was Supposed To Have An On-Screen Son In 2008
While he is an iconic loner character with few human traits, recently-inducted WWE Hall of Famer The Undertaker has strangely enough over time become a character closely associated with a fictional family. Since 1997, when his longtime manager Paul Bearer introduced us to The Undertaker's younger brother, fellow WWE Hall of Famer Kane, and revealed that The Undertaker had burned down his family's funeral home in his youth, killing his parents and badly burning Kane, Taker's character was forever changed into someone who was now defined by his past and whose future would be a constant reminder of it, as he battled and teamed with his brother for the rest of his career.
Now we're learning from former WWE creative team member and Scooby-Doo star Freddie Prinze Jr. that in 2008, WWE was set to expand The Undertaker's Thanksgiving table by one seat, as they were about to introduce a new character: his on-screen son.
On today's edition of the Wrestling With Freddie podcast, Prinze told listeners of an almost-realized story (that was actually approved by Vince McMahon) for the Deadman where a new wrestler would be introduced as The Undertaker's son and would serve as a foil for him.
"We received a note from Vince that said Undertaker needed an opponent to run through before the next Pay-Per-View storyline. Someone had gotten hurt. I don't remember who and before we could get Taker to Edge, they wanted someone that we could just run through. But they wanted us to have it be someone that could mean something. So they wanted us to find someone from FCW that we could bring up, assign a gimmick to, and basically smash and destroy him for The Undertaker."
Prinze continued, explaining how they came to the idea of adding another family member for The Undertaker to fight. "We're kind of spitting ideas around and nothing's really clicking. I don't remember who said it, but one of us said, 'What if he claimed The Undertaker was his father?' Somebody else said, 'I don't think anyone will buy that but maybe it could be like in a supernatural sense.' He's getting killed anyways, he's getting smashed up. Yes, that would be a father killing his son, but he's not really killing him, I just mean like smashing him in the ring."
They would end up picking FCW wrestler Hade Vansen for the role and immediately got to work on crafting video promos with him. "So he's cutting these promos and he's doing a good job. So we get the story approved by Freebird (Michael Hayes), and then we get it approved by Vince. We start shooting these little segments and they're airing on television. It's an ongoing thing. He's not calling out The Undertaker, but he's speaking about The Undertaker, and you're just waiting to figure out what the reason for it is. It was this father-son thing. So we're building up, I think we get two weeks of TV out of it"
There was one major problem with Vansen portraying the son of The Undertaker and like most wrestler issues in WWE, it came down to size. Taker is a giant at 6ft 10in tall and over 300lbs, while Vansen was 5ft 11in and 220lbs and decidedly not a giant.
This came up at a production meeting, with none other than Triple H who voiced his objection to buying this guy as The Undertaker's offspring. "So we're in the production meeting and everyone's putting their segments through. Here comes our segment and nobody said boo the last two weeks or even three weeks of TV that we got out of it. Not one agent. Not Kevin Dunn. Not Vince. Not anybody. All of a sudden out of nowhere, Hunter (Triple H) says 'Are we seriously going with this guy?'
Prinze continued explaining Triple H's opposition in the meeting. "Remember, this is not a Pay-Per-View match. This is not a guy that would get any sort of offense on The Undertaker. It would be just a build-up for The Undertaker to have something to do so he could smash this guy and then get rolling over to Edge. He says, 'Are we really going to go with this guy?' Vince goes, 'What do you mean? What's the problem?' He says, 'He looks like he cuts my grass, man', and Vince laughed."
It was at that moment that Prinze says he knew his idea was dead and The Undertaker would remain presentless on Father's Day. "Literally all the air went out of the room. Like you could just feel it. Because now it's embarrassing to the company, well, at least from my perspective. You put something on TV for three weeks and then you remove it with no explanation, there's no way you can do that. Like that doesn't happen on any show. You could replace someone like on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the day. Vince laughs, and then Hunter laughs, and then Kevin Dunn laughs, I mean he sells for it. You would have thought it was the best joke ever. So I'm like, oh man, this is dead. We're dead, and Vince goes, 'All right, dump it.'"
And that was it. Prinze was left to break the news to Vansen himself that his planned call-up and push were no more. It got worse for Vansen though, as he was released by WWE in January of 2009, leaving only a big "what if?" story to add to the many throughout WWE history.