When The Undertaker first arrived in the WWF as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team at Survivor Series 1990, he was a creepy, if somewhat cartoonish, character based on a classic western mortician. For the next decade or so, The Undertaker’s character grew progressively darker. After this point, The Undertaker’s gimmick reset and he returned as “The American Badass” at Judgement Day 2000 – a gimmick which was a whole lot closer to his real-life persona.
Towards the end of the 90s, after years of working as a babyface, The Undertaker unexpectedly turned heel and became The Lord of Darkness. Aligning himself with Paul Bearer once again, Mark Calaway took his character in a bold new direction, one that was perfect for WWE’s Attitude Era. Now the maniacal leader of a Satanic cult, The Undertaker kidnapped and brainwashed multiple members of the WWF locker room in order to build his unholy following.
After a couple of weeks, Taker’s new Satanic crew became known as “The Ministry of Darkness” and began feuding with Vince McMahon and the face of his company, Stone Cold Steve Austin. During this period, there were a number of things Vince McMahon and his team of writers tried to keep hidden from fans in order to ensure the Ministry of Darkness storyline stayed alive. Even today, there are certain facts and moments from the period which the WWE would prefer you didn’t know or forgot about.
Here are 15 things Vince McMahon didn’t (and doesn’t) want you to know about The Ministry of Darkness.
15. Viscera’s Past
After joining The Ministry of Darkness and taking the name Viscera, Nelson Frazier Jr. became a 400-pound monster draped in black leather (a style tip he must have gotten from Sable). He was an imposing figure, there was no doubt about that, and when in the ring with the rest of The Ministry of Darkness, he became a terrifying entity in an even more terrifying machine.
However, fans who had been following WWF from the early 90s were well aware of Viscera’s professional wrestling past. From 1993 to 1996, he competed in WWF as Mabel and spent a brief period on the main event scene. During his initial WWF run, he teamed with Mo and Oscar as part of Men on a Mission.
While working with Men on a Mission, Mabel competed in yellow and purple ring gear, which made him look more like an oompaloompa than a genuine threat to his opponents. Obviously, this was not the kind of image McMahon wanted associated with his disturbing new faction, so he did everything he could to limit references to Viscera’s past character on WWF television.
14. Low Point For The Undertaker
Even in the age of tell-all shoot interviews and sensationalist autobiographies, it is impossible to find any negative stories about The Undertaker from former WWE superstars. Everybody who has worked with Mark Calaway has said that he has been a locker room leader and a consummate professional for the entirety of his career. For that reason, it is no surprise that he threw himself into The Ministry of Darkness storyline and did everything he could to make it work.
However, it may surprise some people to learn that The Undertaker would go on to consider his time in The Ministry of Darkness to be the low point of his career.
Despite originally being enthusiastic about the angle, Taker was growing tired of it when The Ministry of Darkness merged with The Corporation. Not only did The Undertaker feel the storyline had become convoluted, he felt his role as a major star was being undermined by having his forced participation in the Steve Austin/Mr. McMahon feud, in which he was nothing but a background player.
13. It Lasted Less Than A Year
Despite the fact that WWE now treats The Ministry of Darkness as if it were an integral part of the Attitude Era, the faction stayed together for less than a year.
The Undertaker originally patched things up with Paul Bearer after Bearer turned on Kane at Judgement Day 1998. The following night on Raw, The Undertaker and his manager began their crusade to bring nothing but a plague of evil and eternal darkness to the World Wrestling Federation. That meant recruiting numerous newcomers to their cause, including future WWE World Heavyweight Champions Edge and Christian.
Though fans were originally high on The Ministry of Darkness, they started to cool off after the underwhelming reveal of the higher power. This lead to a business merger of sorts between The Ministry of Darkness and The Corporation, which pretty much killed whatever little interest there was left in the storyline. Not long after this, the whole thing sort of just fizzled out.
12. Vince Had No Idea Where It Was Going
If the hastily thrown together reveal of the higher power (which I will discuss in greater detail a little later on) didn’t give it away, Vince McMahon and his creative team had no idea what the conclusion to the Ministry of Darkness storyline was going to be when the group came together.
Nowadays it is common place for the McMahons to make last minute decisions and dictate major changes to the script just hours before Raw, SmackDown, and pay-per-view shows. In the 90s, however, McMahon and his team were generally on top of everything that was going on, as the Monday Night Wars did not allow any room for error or failure to prepare. This makes Vince’s lack of planning heading into the storyline all the more surprising.
It’s a shame really, as a little bit of planning could have kept interest in The Ministry of Darkness high in the pecking order and the faction could have easily carried on well into the new millennium.
11. Gangrel’s Adult Film Career
In WWE’s current PG climate, it is unlikely we will ever see a character like Gangrel again. One of the most unique performers of the Attitude Era, Gangrel was portrayed as a gothic vampire, and would come to the ring by walking through fire while drinking from a chalice of blood (sort of like how Donald Trump descends the stairs in the morning).
WWE’s determination to maintain their family friendly image also means we aren’t likely to see the former Ministry of Darkness member inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame any time soon. This is because when his wrestling career was no longer yielding the results it had in his glory years, the struggling Gangrel became involved in the adult film industry.
In 2007, he signed a deal with a company to direct 12 films under the name “Vampire Warrior,” which he had been using on the independent wrestling circuit. If history has thought us anything, it is that we will not see Gangrel mentioned on WWE television until after his death.
10. The Frazier Lawsuit
This is the second entry on this list related to Nelson Frazier Jr., though it is far from his doing.
After another run in WWE as Big Daddy V and some time on the independent scene, Viscera sadly passed away in the spring of 2014 after suffering a heart attack. He had turned 43 just four days prior.
A year to the day after his death, Frazier’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. The widow of Viscera claimed that WWE, through their misdiagnosis of concussions, had caused her late husband to experience memory loss, migraines, and depression in the later years of his life. This is a common claim made by former WWE employees, though it rarely yields any results.
Obviously, WWE did everything they could to keep the lawsuit out of the mainstream media, which they have been desperately trying to become a part of for years now. WWE’s longterm lawyer – who must be the most exasperated man in law – defended the company, admitting Frazier’s passing was a tragic occurrence, but admonished his wife and her attorneys for trying to blame the death of a morbidly obese man on his former employers.
9. All Those Attempted Sacrifices
We mentioned Gangrel earlier, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of things Vince McMahon and his writers did during The Ministry of Darkness storyline (which the chairman would now like you to forget about).
During Mark Calaway’s run as a Satanic madman who had become consumed by his wrestling persona, The Ministry of Darkness attempted to carry out a number of sacrifices. These sacrifices usually involved the victim to be tied to the large ‘TX’ cross which has since become synonymous with The Undertaker.
Among The Ministry’s victims were top star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the boss’ daughter, Stephanie McMahon, who The Undertaker planned to wed in order to gain control of the World Wrestling Federation.
Despite numerous attempts to capture WWF superstars and sacrifice them to the higher power, which he never shut up about, The Undertaker’s plan was always foiled at the last minute. However, live ritualistic slaughter is not something you could have put past Vince McMahon during the Monday Night Wars.
Thankfully, The Ministry of Darkness never actually sacrificed anybody. Unfortunately, that same cannot be said for hanging people. That’s right, The Undertaker, aided by his brainwashed cronies, actually hung a man – and at WrestleMania, no less.
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania XXV encounter with The Big Boss Man was a lacklustre match and is among the most disappointing performances of Taker’s WrestleMania career. However, what happened after the bout remains one of the most infamous cases of Vince McMahon taking things way too far.
After defeating The Big Boss Man inside Hell in a Cell, The Undertake decided that further punishment was necessary and looked for a noose, so he could hang his fallen opponent from the gigantic structure.
For several minutes, the live audience (which included many children), was forced to watch The Big Boss Man dangling from the top of the cell as if he were the prize in a ladder match. Unsurprisingly, WWE erased the moment from its history, which is pretty difficult considering how much is made about The Undertaker’s WrestleMania record.
7. Naked Mideon
Anybody who requires further prove that Vince McMahon had absolutely zero idea what he was going to do with The Ministry of Darkness needs to look at what happened to Mideon’s career after the faction disbanded.
After being kidnapped and rechristened during the early days of The Ministry of Darkness, it seemed like Mideon was set for a relatively successful career on WWF’s mid-card. While his post-Ministry of Darkness career wasn’t exactly one for the Hall of Fame, it was certainly memorable (albeit for the wrong reasons). After drifting from match to match with no real purpose after The Ministry of Darkness came to an end, Mideon debuted a new gimmick in which he abandoned his restrictive clothing and became a proud nudist.
Now being referred to as “Naked Mideon” (real creative genius), he would erratically descend the isle without a stitch of clothing on, hiding his manhood with, ironically, a fanny pack. The Naked Mideon character eventually ran its course and Mideon left the wrestling business shortly after.
6. Army of Darkness
Throughout his career, and particularly during his Lord of Darkness period, The Undertaker has been compared to former WCW star Kevin Sullivan. While Mark Calaway played a Satanist character on television, he is actually a noted follower of Jesus Christ. Kevin Sullivan, however, has long been rumored to be heavily involved in Satanic practices.
During the 80s, Kevin Sullivan headed a demonic stable which he dubbed The Army of Darkness. The group boasted a number of major stars from the era among its ranks, including “Superstar” Billy Graham, Jake Roberts, and Luna Vachon.
Many wrestling historians noticed the similarities between The Army of Darkness and The Ministry of Darkness from the get-go, and Vince McMahon was probably aware he was teetering on an intellectual property lawsuit. In order for the gimmick to work, McMahon and the rest of the people involved in the storyline had to rely on the ignorance of their fans. Because the age of the internet was still some years away, The Ministry of Darkness managed to get through their reign with few WWF fans likening them to Kevin Sullivan’s stable.
5. Jake Roberts Rumors
As we just said, Jake “The Snake” Roberts spent a period of time working with Kevin Sullivan in The Army of Darkness. In early 1999, rumors began to swirl that Jake would be taking a similar role in The Ministry of Darkness.
Throughout the Ministry of Darkness storyline, The Undertaker would claim that while he was the Lord of Darkness, he was not the final authority on evil matters. According to Taker, there was a “higher power” from which he and the rest of The Ministry of Darkness took their orders.
When fan interest in the storyline was at its highest, everybody had a theory as to who the higher power might be. One of the most popular ideas was that Jake “The Snake” Roberts would be revealed as the leader of the faction. This was reported by multiple dirtsheets, with many claiming they had confirmed Roberts’ return with “reliable” sources.
Obviously, the return never came to pass, and it was later revealed that Jake Roberts was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction at the time, and was in no condition to perform. However, it has never been made clear if the return was actually planned or if it was merely the creation of ever-hopeful wrestling fans.
4. The Jackal
While plans to make Jake “The Snake” Roberts the higher power of The Ministry of Darkness may have been nothing more than rumor, it is widely believed that Don “The Jackal” Callis was originally intended to be the leader of the group.
The Jackal as the higher power actually would have made a lot of sense as he had played a similar character during his previous appearances in WWF and would frequently allude to a sinister plan to wrestle control of the company away from the McMahon family.
For a while, all of The Undertaker’s cryptic babbling seem to point towards The Jackal being as the higher power and fans were all but certain it would be him. However, halfway through the Ministry of Darkness storyline, Callis was released from his WWF contract. The reason for his release has never been made public, but it is possible Callis was indeed intended to be the higher power until he made some sort of colossal mistake.
3. It Was Vince All Along
The WWE Universe (though marketing were still to coin that buzzword) let out a collective groan of disappointment when the higher power threw back the head of his cloak and revealed himself to be none other than the chairman of the company.
“It’s me, Austin,” McMahon screamed into a microphone as the fans showered him with boos. “It was me all along, Austin!”
The revelation that Vince McMahon had been behind The Ministry of Darkness all along seemed like a pretty random decision, but some believe there was a bit more planning involved than appeared.
Though the general consensus is that McMahon made the decision because they had backed themselves into a corner and didn’t know what to do, the theory has been put forth that the WWF intentionally began spreading rumors of Jake Roberts or Don Callis being the higher power in order to throw fans off and maximize ratings.
Leading up to WrestleMania XX, WWE made it clear that The Undertaker was set to return to his original Dead Man gimmick after spending a couple of years working as more mortal biker character. This led to much speculation about a possible Ministry of Darkness reformation, though many fans knew it was unlikely to happen.
However, the return of Viscera and Gangrel to the WWE in 2004 seemed to increase the likelihood of a Ministry of Darkness reunion. Unfortunately, Gangrel was released from his contract shortly after and Viscera was repackaged as “The World’s Largest Love Machine.”
These days fans have pretty much given up hope of ever seeing The Ministry of Darkness again, but there have occasionally been rumors about WWE creating a similar stable using the members of The Wyatt Family.
This would presumably see the Wyatts as the active competitors while The Undertaker assumed the role of the higher power. While this would be an awesome idea and would probably do wonders for the Wyatts (not to mention the ratings), The Undertaker’s refusal to work more than a couple of dates a year means a new Ministry of Darkness will forever remain a dream.
1. It Was A Resounding Failure
Vince McMahon and the team of writers who were working with WWF in 1999 did everything they could to make the desolation of The Ministry of Darkness seem as natural as possible. This was because they couldn’t acknowledge the fact that they had ruined a great storyline with the reveal of McMahon as the higher power.
Of course, most wrestling fans didn’t care how the WWF brought the Ministry of Darkness angle to a close as long as they did so as fast as possible. The disappointing end to the storyline was the first of what would become many underwhelming twists and turns on WWE television. For many wrestling fans, it was the beginning of the end, perhaps even the first hint that Vince McMahon was falling out of touch with his audience.
The negativity surrounding the final weeks of The Ministry of Darkness is probably a contributing factor to WWE’s reluctance to run a similar angle in 2016, but some would argue that it provides greater motivation for Vince McMahon to redeem himself.