The Undertaker is dead. Long-live The Undertaker.
We don’t mean that he’s literally dead, just metaphorically dead – besides can he truly die?
If last night’s sold-out Wrestlemania 33 is to be believed then his match with Roman Reigns is truly The Dead Man’s final curtain call in the squared circle.
It felt like another piece of my childhood was waving goodbye and strolling off into the sunset never to be seen again. Kind of like that final scene in Toy Story 3.
Now first-things-first, I know what you’re going to say in the fucking comments section so let’s get this out of the way: 1) yes we are truly aware wrestling’s fake – that shtick is getting old now and 2) we know that there are better in-ring performers in wrestling past and present.
Okay, now to the matter at hand.
While it hasn’t been officially announced by WWE, if his departure from the ring last night was anything to go by this is probably it for Dead Man Inc. And maybe it’s for the best because at least the man born Mark William Calaway can walk off with his head held high.
We mentioned before that he wasn’t the best technical wrestler (think Kurt Angle, Daniel Bryan, Bret The Hitman Hart), nor will we say he had the best mic skills or charisma (The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho). But what you can’t deny is that The Phenom had a presence like no other.
Although he started his career in the now-defunct WCW as ‘Mean Mark’ Callous, it was his debut in 1990 as the ‘enigmatic’ Undertaker that made the legend. Since then he’s been the definition of a one company man.
Maybe that’s why Vince and co. let him run with that impressive Wrestlemania streak for so long, a streak that in many wrestling fans eyes should never have been broken. Especially to someone like Brock Lesnar who is only a part-time performer – we should point out, however, that it was at ‘Taker’s behest.
But that’s the thing about the Undertaker, he’s all about company loyalty. Whatever works best for the company he’ll do it. When Shawn Michaels was thinking about not ‘putting over ‘Stone Cold’ at Wrestlemania 14, he made damn sure HBK followed the script. You have to remember this was during a time before HBK cleaned up his act.
Not only did he have the respect of the younger wrestlers (naturally) but also his fellow veterans, like Ric Flair and The Rock.
That respect translated itself to the fans and no matter how times the roster changed, or the numerous brand splits or how many times Triple H and John Cena would inadvertently bury someone’s promising wrestling career, in the end ‘Taker was the one constant that the fans could cling onto.
For the Undertaker it was all about telling a story in the ring, and no one could do it better than him. His ominous intro music and elongated entrance was something that we were more than happy to put up with. If it had been anyone else the volatile crowds would be chanting ‘THIS IS BORING’.
Even his transformation as the American Badass was received well by fans (for a time anyway). He was master at judging the crowd, when he knew that they were getting tired of it he reverted back to his Dead Man persona.
And when he approached the tail end of his career, his sporadic appearances and expected Wrestlemania matches were something that fans all looked forward to.
If this is truly the end, then finishing it with only – his second ‘Mania could work in everyone’s favour. Prior to their match Reigns was not being received well by the WWE fans, it was impossible to sell him as a face to a crowd who wouldn’t accept him as ‘The Guy’.
Maybe this win for him well see him get a that long overdue ‘heel-turn’, something that the company failed to do with John Cena. Again this is showing ‘Taker’s willingness to do right by the company – one final act, one final gesture of good will. Always willing to play second fiddle if it helps the story and the person he’s working with.
Think about it, when he and Mankind (Mick Foley) had that infamous Hell In A Cell match, who do we remember more? It’s Foley, it’s always been Foley, but it’s because the Undertaker was willing to play a more background role to the hardcore legend’s ‘heart-stopping antics, – well that and we’re pretty sure ‘Taker didn’t like the idea of getting chucked off that The Cell.
If I’m being honest there’s something quite sobering and cathartic watching the Deadman remove his gloves, fold up his coat and place his hat on the ring at the end of the show.
As a character he was a man of few words and more of a man of action, so if that was his ‘definition’ of a retirement speech then it’s fitting.
Thanks for memories.