At the end of Wrestlemania 33 wrestling fans saw The Undertaker walk the aisle at the showcase of the immortals for the last time. There was a lot of speculation of if this was his Wrestlemania but Taker let us all know what is was in true Undertaker fashion. When he dropped those gloves and hat in the middle of the ring it all became clear. To say that it was the end of an era would a gross understatement.
The Undertaker does not belong to any one particular era of pro wrestling. He is the most dominant and consistent force that the sport has ever seen. With over 30 years in the business the man who is known to family and friends as Mark Calaway was always destined to be special. Not fully appreciated in his runs with World Class Championship Wrestling and WCW, Calaway came to the WWF in 1990 where Vince McMahon crafted the legendary Undertaker gimmick for him.
In 1990, the Deadman set the Survivor Series on fire when he debuted as a part of The Million Dollar Man’s team. He was managed by Brother Love but those services were handed over to Paul Bearer, who happened to be a real-life mortician. The Undertaker had a dominant first year as he won his first Wrestlemania match against future Hall of Famer Jimmy “SuperFly” Snuka. He had his first major feud with the Ultimate Warrior with culminated with him losing in the first ever “Body Bag” match to the Warrior. That was the only set-back for him at the time. He went on to plow through the competition and was the number 1 contender for the WWF Title by the time Survivor Series came back around.
The Undertaker defeated the legendary Hulk Hogan at the 1991 Survivor Series in the famed Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI. It was the first World Title in a career that would see 7 reigns with the biggest prize in the business. Like Andre “The Giant”, the Deadman could have had many more runs with the belt but he didn’t need it. He was large enough that anything involving him was main event level. Generally, gimmick characters do not last long and the wrestler changes names and outfits until he or she finds their winner. What Calaway has done with The Undertaker is nothing less than amazing.
There has only been one man to wear the all black and take something as ominous as death and have little kids cheering and terrified all at the same time. For 27 years Vince McMahon has always been able to count on the Undertaker. During the late 90s when superstars were jumping to Atlanta to work for WCW and take Ted Turner’s big guaranteed contracts the Undertaker stayed with the ship.
The Deadman was a big part of the success of the Attitude Era. With the cast of characters that helped bring the WWF back to the number 1 spot the Undertaker’s saga with his brother Kane helped the WWF turn the tide. The man from Death Valley now had a dance partner that was as physically imposing as he was and could mimic most of his move set. Kane did something most of his opponents couldn’t do and make him look vulnerable at times. They became foes who would then become partners as the devastating Brothers of Destruction.
During this time, the Undertaker not only helped the career of Kane but helped push along a young Rock, Stone Cold and Kurt Angle. He may be the most respected superstar inside and outside the ring. He took his character and evolved it over the years as he made it fit during the different times in the business. Whether it’s the original Deadman, The Minister of Darkness or The American Badass you never doubted the Undertaker.
You cannot begin to talk about the true essence of The Undertaker without talking about Wrestlemania. The Superbowl of professional wrestling is one of the biggest events in sports every year. The Undertaker has turned it into his event. With astonishing record of 23-2 his presence at the event will truly be missed now that he has hung up his boots.
The idea of the Undertaker at Wrestlemania cannot just simply be summed up in his win loss record, even though it will never be matched. It’s the everything that comes along with his aura. Soon as that signature gong hits 80,000 people in attendance know it’s real. That pageantry of his entrances is like nothing ever seen in sports entertainment. From his early opponents of big gimmick guys like King Kong Bundy and Giant Gonzales to his later epics against Shawn Michaels and HHH no matter where he was placed on the card everyone came to see The Deadman.
Keith B. Holt
Follow on Twitter @Kholtjr