When it comes to the slightly curious world of professional wrestling, there tends to be two schools of thought. There are those that will probably be classed as the majority, who just don’t get it, who can’t get past the over the top, scripted sideshow masquerading as a real combat sport. Then there are the others, the ones who know fine well its all fake but still enjoy the show of it all, and let themselves get caught up in it in the same way someone might a Broadway show.
Regardless of what camp you may fall into, most with even the slightest interest in popular culture will know the real, iconic legends of wrestling, your Hulk Hogan’s and The Rock’s. These are crossover stars, they’ve done movies, TV shows, music videos; they’ve become celebrities rather than wrestlers. There is one man who hasn’t really crossed over but has still somehow become a real wrestling legend that both camps will be familiar with, and that man is of course The Undertaker.
The Undertaker, or Mark Calaway to give him his birth name, joined the WWE (Or WWF as it was then) in 1990 and has been a mainstay ever since. Some could argue that he did get a little lucky being given such an iconic gimmick, especially given some of the truly ridiculous characters seen in WWE over years; Psychotic Dentists, Roosters and Pig Farmers are just a few of some of the more mental ideas cooked up. But in life, sometimes you’ve got to put yourself in the position to the catch the breaks and Mark was ready when his break came. That image of the Michael Myers like, unstoppable, evil bad guy, combined with eerie and haunting façade of a gothic undertaker is a powerful enough; let alone when it’s being portrayed by a 6”10 giant built like a brick s**t house! Fans lapped it up. After years greased up muscle men in Speedos rolling around the middle of the ring, a bit of theatre had arrived. A real life, comic book villain was brought to life and was standing there right before the audience.
Then there are the others, the ones who know fine well its all fake but still enjoy the show of it all, and let themselves get caught up in it in the same way someone might a Broadway show
But a gimmick can only get you so far, you don’t spend twenty-two years at the very top of a business like professional wrestling on image alone; especially when there is constantly someone younger, faster and stronger snapping at your heels trying to steal your spotlight. This past April (at the ripe old age of 47 no less) the Undertaker competed in his 20th consecutive Wrestlemania. For those not familiar, Wrestlemania is the biggest night on the wrestling calendar, the showpiece event of the WWE, sold all around the world; this year alone it drew an attendance of 78,363 and garnered 1.21 million buys on pay-per-view globally. You don’t headline twenty in row without having talent and the fans wanting to watch you in action. Those who have ever watched Mickey Rourke in the movie “The Wrestler” will understand the concept that although the moves are rehearsed and the outcome predetermined, its still takes a hell of a lot out of these guys’ bodies, especially after year upon year of seemingly endless wear and tear on your back, knees, muscles and joints.
I’m 32 this year and I’m sore after going for a 3 mile run these days, so imagine the aches that he has after getting blasted over the head with fold up chairs, being dropped of your back, or shoulder, or head for all these years. That’s one of the reasons the Undertaker has been at the top for all these years is because he has literally taken the concept of “Sports Entertainment” as they now like to call it, to the absolute limit and given the fans a show every time he’s entered that ring. Even at the age of 47 and admittedly now on the wind-down, he’s still giving the fans that pay his wages all that his body will give.
I don’t know how many matches big Mark has left in him, if any at all. The storyline that has evolved over the years is that he has now won 20 consecutive matches at Wrestlemania, “The greatest streak of all time’ they call it. It seems now is the perfect time to call it a day, both in storyline and in reality. He will undoubtedly be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame within the next few years and will go down as one of the greatest “Superstars” of all time. So, after ruling the ring ever since 1990, its surely time that people put to one side their prejudices’ of wrestling and give credit where credit is due, take our hats off, and finally pay our respects to the dead man of wrestling.
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