November 15 marked the first time that the Undertaker stepped into a WWE ring since his Hell in a Cell victory over Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 in April. Since there was no onscreen announcement to the contrary, many casual fans assumed he'd go on hiatus again, simply to return for the following year's WrestleMania season. But behind closed doors, there was a very real possibility that that was the last we'd ever see of the Undertaker in that capacity.
Back in June, we reported that the Undertaker's relationship with Vince McMahon was strained and in need of serious repair if the Deadman was ever to appear in WWE again. It stemmed, in part, from Vince's pitch to put Shane over in their match, but likely went beyond that.
At the time, sources close to the Undertaker were saying that not only did he not want to appear at another WrestleMania, but he didn't want to wrestle in WWE again. At all. Vince had asked the Phenom to compete in his second straight SummerSlam, but Undertaker had reportedly turned him down and wasn't answering any of his phone calls for some time.
If you recall, the Undertaker was originally booked for dates on WWE's post-Mania European tour, but he pulled out abruptly. It had been reported that he withdrew from the dates over concerns with terrorism. It's not clear whether that was the actual reason, or if his frustrations with Vince were the true catalyst.
Fortunately for WWE fans everywhere, fences were mended, and the two sides were able to agree to an arrangement. As noted, the Undertaker returned to the company last month, in what originally looked just to be a special attraction for the historic 900th episode of SmackDown Live. But it quickly became apparent that he was there for more than just pomp and circumstance.
The Undertaker proclaimed that WrestleMania would no longer define his career and that he was back. He threatened SmackDown'sSurvivor Series team by claiming that if they lost, whoever was responsible would have to answer to him. Curiously, the blue brand was victorious over Team RAW in that encounter, and we've yet to see or hear from the Undertaker since. Of course, he was never expected to return on a full-time basis.
However, it seems that the wait may finally be over. According to Wrestling Inc, the Undertaker was backstage at Monday's episode of RAW which took place in Austin, Texas. And not only is he expected to be backstage at Tuesday's SmackDown Live taping in Houston, but he's also expected to appear on the show. As most people know, the Undertaker is a resident of Texas, so the booking made sense. January's Royal Rumble also takes place in San Antonio.
As you can see below, a picture was taken featuring the Undertaker walking outside the Austin arena Monday night along with WWE Producer Kevin Dunn. It's being reported that the Deadman was seen walking with a noticeable limp. He recently underwent hip surgery in order to be able to wrestle when the time comes, and he was walking around with crutches as recently as October.AJ Styles was pulled from his house show match on Monday as a result of an ankle injury he suffered in his WWE World Championship match with Dean Ambrose Sunday at TLC. Styles is expected, however, to defend his title against James Ellsworth on SmackDown.
The plans continue to see Styles defeat Ellsworth and then move on to a major program with the Undertaker, which should culminate with a match at the Royal Rumble next month. By appearing on this week's episode of SmackDown, the Undertaker could very well kick-start that feud with The Phenomenal One, but his health will certainly play a large role in how things are booked.
[Featured Image by WWE]