WWE: The Undertaker's Legacy and the Fans' Desire to Have Him Return
Admit it. You want him to come back.
He’s 47 years old, with a body that has been wrecked over a very physical 28-year career, and now he doesn’t even look like the same man. He’s won every championship, wrestled every type of match, and headlined events all over the world. He’s done it all in the business, and at this point he not only has nothing left to prove, he’s really got nothing left to do.
But, you want the Undertaker to come back, all the same. Don’t lie.
The Deadman’s appearance on the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw did nothing but heat up the conversations among WWE fans once again, and many of the comments have centered around his place in the company, and how much fans want to see him back.
The dimming of the lights, the ominous sound of the bell ringing, the lighting and smoke that begins to fill the arena, it’s a very familiar sight that we have witnessed since Taker’s debut in 1990. The theatrics of his character alone is enough to make fans stand to their feet in anticipation, and to keep coming back for more.
The fact is, no wrestling promotion has ever done it better than WWE, especially when it comes to the overall presentation. Undertaker is a prime example of just how good the company is at what they do, and how they can pull the fans in, despite how outlandish the gimmick being spotlighted may be.
And, it doesn’t get much more outlandish than the Undertaker.
First off, he’s dead. As in stone dead, but somehow walking around, thanks to the power of a magical urn carried by a ghoulish fat guy named Paul Bearer.
Try getting just that part of the idea past the meeting table, and see how quickly you get laughed out of the room.
Then, there’s the gear. Black and purple, with a striped tie, long duster, and black hat, like a ghostly mortician, perhaps haunting the dusty streets of Tombstone.
By this time, even those closest to Vince McMahon must have thought the boss had lost his mind.
Now, here comes the real kicker. Since this guy is the walking dead, he doesn’t feel pain, which means he doesn’t sell.
Alright, fun time is over.
Think about it. The No. 1 illusion of the business, the one element of every match that makes it seem real, is the actual selling of the moves. It’s the only thing that keeps the crowd from shaking their heads, standing in unison, and walking out the front door.
Without those moments of physical pain, of making the moves look good by responding accordingly, there is no believability left. The façade is over.
And, now a pro wrestler was actually going to get in the ring, and not only no-sell a couple moves, he was gong to no-sell a lot of moves. And, if a guy can’t feel pain, then how could he ever lose a match?
So, he had to not only win, he had to win all the time.
A ridiculous character, based on an insane concept, there was no way this was ever going to fly, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
I know, “boo,” right? Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Undertaker not only got over, he shot to the top of the company. When fans saw him, they did not see a grown man pretending to be evil, and sinister, with a taste for the theatrical. They saw the embodiment of supernatural power, and dark energy, perhaps straight from hell itself.
Or, maybe they just really thought he looked cool.
Either way, Undertaker became huge, and despite how silly or far-fetched the gimmick may have seemed upon first glance, the fact is, it worked.
There is no doubting that WWE’s efforts to help get Taker where they wanted him to be attributed greatly to the character’s success. But, a great amount of the credit goes to the man himself, for making it happen.
Fans could have booed him out of the building, laughing at the gimmick, refusing to give it a chance. But, the fact that Taker carried the gimmick the way he did, making it as realistic as he could, drew the fans in, and made them to want to see him as often as possible.
He embraced the character, bringing it to life, and caused fans to suspend their disbelief, and accept him for the Deadman that he portrayed.
The fact that he could work lights out didn’t hurt any at all.
First, you get the crowd’s attention, then you keep it by giving them a reason to keep watching. Undertaker’s ability, and his skill in the ring, made him relevant, gave him credibility, and balanced out the weirdness that his character often found himself involved in.
Through his various incarnations over the years, from the Prince of Darkness, to Big Evil, Undertaker has entertained the WWE faithful all over the world. Considering his immense level of popularity, it’s no mystery why he is so missed, and why fans would love nothing more than to see him return to the fold, if not full time, at least more often than he does.
But, as we all know, nothing lasts forever. Time marches on, and the older Superstars begin to filter out, replaced by newer, fresher faces. The days of WWE needing Taker to be the main-event attraction, pushing him to World Title status, are obviously over.
He works a much lighter schedule now, appearing only when WrestleMania season begins, and the questions of who could end the streak are once again asked.
For a good number of us, we understand, and we have accepted it. After all, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Edge walked away.
Triple H is now down to only a few matches per year, and the Rock is back very sporadically at this point. So, yes, for some fans, we are used to seeing our old favorites move on to the next chapter of their lives and careers.
But, as long as Undertaker is still under contract with WWE, there will always be that segment of fans who want to see him return on a more regular basis. It’s a testament to the character’s staying power, and to the man who has made it work for so long.
Undertaker is truly one of a kind.
This column is No. 400 for me, and I am celebrating two years on Bleacher Report. For those reading this piece, and for everyone who has ever taken the time, I just want to say thank you.
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