It’s just strange to find that one of the few variables to be unchanged in my life is The Undertaker.
I’ve watched wrestling since the time I popped out of my mama, and I literally mean that. Heck, one of my first memories is Ric Flair wrestling Sting at Starrcade in 1991. My father somehow re-watched the match two or three years later, as the match occurred three days before I was born.
Of course, one of the first wrestlers I was able to remember was The Undertaker.
Seriously, how could any impressionable child not be able to stare in wonder at someone who was apparently dead. I could easily admit to being legitimately terrified of Taker, as the way he walked was as if floating on the very molecules within the air itself.
The very fabric of his trench coat sent shivers down my spine, as it seemed unearthly and fresh from the grasp of death.
Looking back, I'd have to chuckle at how frightened I was of The Undertaker. It seems foolish, due to the fact I've grown wiser and older to the point of knowing what's kayfabe and what's reality. I wish I found out sooner, as thinking The Undertaker was really dead gave me the fear of walking through a cemetery and thinking the dead would rise and drag me to their graves.
The way The Undertaker moved in the ring was almost mystic in itself. He's a man who's billed to be at 6'10", and he moves in the ring as if he were 5'9" and weighed a hundred pounds less. It was as if he had the ring in his full command.
The mat would levitate him over the ropes to become a missile, and the ropes would be come solid steel while he would go old school on his victim's chest, back or the back of their neck. To witness the Tombstone Piledriver was nerve-wracking, as the way he executed the move was as if he were shattering the entire spine.
I guess you could say that while I did fear him as a child, I also greatly admired him. I suppose to a young child's eyes it was astonishing to see a human being as both life and death. To see him beat down upon his opponents with various signature moves and then eerily place them within body bags.
By the time I reached the age of seven or eight, I was flipping the channels back and forth to watch the WWE and WCW, as it was the Monday Night Wars. Stone Cold was my hero and the wrestler I imitated to no end.
I would say, "WHAT?!" just to annoy my family and flip the bird just because Stone Cold did the same. DX was my favorite faction, and The Hardy Boyz was my preferred tag team.
I suppose the reason The Undertaker was not on my list of favorites is most likely due to the fact that deep down I still fear him. How could you not? He was satanic, and the fact that he crucified Stone Cold basically made me "hate" him, as any child at the age of seven or eight would without an understanding of what''s scripted and what's not.
His stable, The Ministry of Darkness, had members that were vile, and at that time I was sure their bodies were filled with maggots and such other morbid things. After his Hell in the Cell match, he hanged Big Bossman from the top of the cell, and he did it with a noose.
Seeing Stone Cold crucified was horrific and gave me nightmares for years. It was as if The Undertaker went into the depths of Hell and brutally took the Devil's place to become the embodiment of evil within the WWE.
His wrestling skills were phenomenal and was nearly unmatched within the WWE. He was unstoppable, and he would never die. No, I really do mean that literally, as you could bury him, set him on fire and seemingly make him limp as a corpse, but he either just comes back with a vengeance or rises back up without a dent. He was feared by me, but slowly fear soon transformed into respect.
In life, there are many changes, and during the Attitude Era my life was in somewhat of shambles. My parents divorced, my grandmother died and my father became nonexistent. My education became a higher priority than wrestling, and that made me become a casual wrestling fan who would watch the WWE but would miss a few Raw's here and there.
I moved around from Maine to Florida to Connecticut while I made friends and lost friends, whether through them moving or dying.
Family issues, puberty and basically the ups and downs of my life as a teenager was, I suppose, like any other. The exception was me slowly going from a hearing world to a Deaf world in a span of four to five years is something that not every person goes through.
I suppose The Undertaker going from the Deadman to American Badass in a way was helpful in transitioning through various changes in my teen stages. As once I realized that wrestling was scripted and mainly in the world of kayfabe, some of the magic of pro wrestling was forever lost.
Seeing The Undertaker portray a Biker gimmick brought realism into pro wrestling and help me come to an understanding that it's was still something Iove to enjoy watching, and him being a badass biker is something any teenage boy can be a fan of. His feuds in the early-to-mid 2000s were stabilizing, and him being able to cut a promo was as good as him being the silent Deadman.
When Stone Cold left the WWE, it almost made me forever abandon WWE and pro wrestling as a whole. WCW biting the dust didn't help, either, as a lot of my favorites never got the push they deserved. The Rock leaving for Hollywood was a hard slap in the face that was somehow unexpected for me personally.
Witnessing countless wrestlers over the years dying of drugs, car crashes and heart attacks were some of the hardest moments I had to go through. Miss Elizabeth, Owen Hart, JunkYard, Umaga, Eddie Guerrero and countless others were all hard to accept that they are all forever gone. The entire Chris Benoit incident had and still does leave me mind-blown, as him committing a double murder-suicide involving his wife and son is just tragic on so many levels.
When The Undertaker went back to his Deadman gimmick, it also resurrected the fan within me. Deep down inside, I knew the one that would never vanish or abandon me would be The Undertaker. I know, it's very foolish to have thought that back then, but through all my changes in my life and the deaths in pro wrestling, I needed something to grasp onto, some illusion of consistency.
In my late teens I painfully had to accept the painful fact that The Undertaker will one day retire. He was getting injured more often than I could count, and you could see the obvious wear and tear on the man. He still had the spirit of a young wrestler in his prime, but his body was slowly battling injuries. Every time he left to heal for an injury, he would come back, but his appearances on television would always decrease.
I suppose that never mattered at the time, as when WrestleMania came around, I knew I'd see the immortal version of The Undertaker. He is always an unbeatable and unmovable object when it was go-time in front of the world.
He would face the smartest, strongest and the swiftest, and all of them seemingly had the purposefulness of striking down The Demon of Death Valley. Yet, once the gong is heard, they all concede to The Phenom.
The man who came closest to ending the streak and The Deadman himself was Shawn Michaels. HBK vs. Undertaker I was a tale of two men whom were the last of their generation, it was a tale ultimate good versus ultimate evil and it was a tale where the streak might actually end.
The match storytelling was almost Shakespearean, and the athleticism was the stuff that gladiators of old would have wished to replicate. The match was a masterpiece and forever to be in the conversation of being the greatest match ever.
HBK vs Undertaker II might not have matched the epic-ness of the first, but it followed the tale of Shawn Michaels' mind being corrupted by the need to destroy the streak. It was also an end of Shawn Michaels, as he was beaten down to retirement but walked away knowing he left wrestling a classic that all fans would love.
Those two matches made me remember why I loved pro wrestling and forever made me respect Shawn Michaels, but more so, respect The Undertaker.
The Undertaker survived (by my count) five eras, and those respective era's top wrestlers, who were the poster-boys of the WWE. He is a living legend who transcends the entire business of pro wrestling on a level that I don't believe even Hulk Hogan could achieve.
Sadly, all great things must come to an end, as the final chapter of The Undertaker's career begins with the brutal WrestleMania 27's Triple H vs. Taker match, where Triple H loses the battle but The Undertaker is carted out, signifying that he lost the war, thus his career is coming to a close.
I suppose it's fitting, as toward the end of WrestleMania 26 to this year's supposed third encounter between Triple H and The Undertaker was also the time span when I started my own journey into my higher education, thus closing the doors on my childhood and entering the realms of adulthood.
The Undertaker has been with the WWE for 22 years, while I've only been alive and breathing for 21 years. In a way, I grew up watching The Undertaker's career, even going as far to watch the parts I could not recall, as either I was too young to remember or somehow missed that glorious chapter in The Undertaker's career.
Regardless of whether or not The Undertaker can make it to 20-0 and keep the streak forever a part of pro wrestling lore or whether he fails for the first time, forever burying The Undertaker and simply living life as Mark William Calaway, he would have only faced 13 men before the assumed hanging up of his boots and retirement that we all yearn to never happen.
As for me, I thank my lucky stars to have witnessed the majority of a career that might stand the test if time and be one all future wrestlers will wish to achieve. I am at ease to accept that The Undertaker will retire, and that, in a way, would fully fill in the cracks of that door I closed on my childhood and confidently walk fully through the door of a new adventure.
Yet, as I pursue the pleasures and forthcoming disappointments of my life, I'll forever have the Shadow of The Undertaker to remind me of the lessons I've learned in my early years and of the man himself, who became a legend like no other!