WWE & The Undertaker: When Wrestling Wasn't So Complicated (Opinion)

When people think about the Undertaker and Mark Calaway, it's hard to pinpoint one specific feature or characteristic other than he's arguably the person most synonymous with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) who's not a McMahon. Think of his 30-year tenure with the company even as he was going up the ranks before making his WWF debut in 1990 at the Survivor Series. Calaway started wrestling in 1987 and through six other gimmicks including a very brief stint in WCW, he landed his job for life as the deadman, The Undertaker, and set himself for life.

Would The Undertaker return for one last match?: Undertaker: The Last Ride (Image: WWE)
Would The Undertaker return for one last match?: Undertaker: The Last Ride (Image: WWE)

No doubt the headliner for the next WWE Hall of Fame, think of everything Calaway's seen over the years. In a time when managers were a regular site especially in heels, the Undertaker had three different people speak for him with Ted Dibiase, Brother Love (Bruce Pritchard), and the one he was most synonymous with in Paul Bearer (William Moody). The Undertaker survived several generations of top face and heel talent throughout the years. Four of his opponents from the streak where he went 21-0 have passed since in Jimmy Snuka, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, and Big Boss Man.

Calaway has seen it all in the WWE, from the company's lowest of lows when Turner's WCW was cherrypicking WWF talent during "The Monday Night Wars." He became Vince McMahon's unsung hero and his most loyal soldier, acting as his biggest muscle to counter the company's top babyface- whether if it's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. His feud with Mick Foley's Mankind was career-defining for both as well as the WWE during its "Attitude Era." Taker embraced the label as leader of the locker room, especially in the chaos during the "Montreal Screwjob" that saw top star Bret Hart humiliated at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in 1997- playing mediator and making McMahon confront Hart for his indiscretion and to stop being a coward. The fact is, Calaway has the respect of the locker room and he has the respect of the family he helps make rich for all those years. To list what he's done for professional wrestling would be too long and arduous, but what's worth mentioning about his legacy is that there will never be another like him nor will anyone else ever have his clout.

Undertaker had nothing else left to prove and coming from a background of having the guidance of a manager to enduring only two gimmick changes his entire career with the company from the deadman to the "American Badass" biker back to the deadman. Let's face facts here. His seven world title reigns aren't what made him special, because Taker did everything he was asked carrying the company on his back. What made him special is that audiences are very well aware of the cyclical nature of professional wrestling. Everyone knows you have your time to shine in the spotlight, but it takes a special place to earn something as unique as "The Streak." It's literally the closest thing to a genuine sports stat the mainstream will treat seriously.

One final thing worth mentioning with the character of the Undertaker is more than enough pomp and circumstance WWE ever needed. Calaway sold himself and didn't need over-produced "Creative" to get himself over. Were all the stories he was in gold? Far from it, but you know he always put a quality match on. Sure, the last few matches on average were hardly anything to write home about. His dedication is obviously never in question. What lesson to be had with every future generation especially in WWE? First, you don't need social media to get yourself over. Look at how long before Calaway introduced himself there. Second, we really need managers back on a regular basis especially if they're weak on the mic. It shouldn't just fall on someone like a Paul Heyman. Third, Taker's best talent was telling a story in a match as he showed countless times, and in The Last Ride special. You don't have to be the fastest, biggest, or smartest in the ring to succeed. You just have to tell a good story. If "Creative" lets loose on the talent and keeps things simple, then they can succeed like Taker was allowed to for all those years. Let them tell the story.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

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