Undertaker will be appearing tonight on WWE Monday Night Raw in a six-man tag team match alongside his "brother" Kane and Daniel Bryan. The three will be facing the dominant trio of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, also known as The Shield.
And this is some big-time stuff.
Over the past few years, WWE fans have had to deal with an Undertaker who is not just part-time, he is extremely part-time. Making perhaps only 1-2 appearances on live TV through the year, The Deadman has been reserved only for WrestleMania season, as every year someone new steps up to challenge his undefeated streak.
So, the fact that he is booked for Raw is pretty important. The fact that he is booked to actually work a match?
Again, big-time stuff.
Undertaker is one of the most respected Superstars that WWE has ever known. He is a legend in the company and is admired by his peers.
He is also loved by the fans. And here are seven major reasons why.
Undertaker is a veteran, a man who has done it all in the business, and faced every top legend that the industry has ever known.
And there were many legends that have come before him.
The Phenom's obvious respect of the men who paved the way not only in WWE, but in the business, is one of the most admirable traits he possesses. He has not forgotten where he came from, or who made it all possible in the first place.
The clip above, which shows Taker bowing and showing respect to Ric Flair, is just one small example, among many. Taker has worked with the best in professional wrestling, respects them, and more importantly, they respect him.
Undertaker could have continued working a full-time schedule. He could have stayed right where he was in the WWE pecking order, refusing to let go of the spotlight.
But as the years went by, Taker likely realized the very real limitations on his body, as the wear and tear began to show. Instead of hurting himself, or perhaps blemishing the character that WWE had put so much time, effort and money into, he bowed out and allowed the company to move on through the year.
Undertaker comes back for WrestleMania, gives everything he has, and leaves the crowd breathless. Just another reason to respect him.
As WrestleMania 29 approached, fans began to wonder whether or not Undertaker would actually be on the card.
Truth be told, I was one of them.
With each passing week that went by, there was no sign of The Deadman and no word of what his decision regarding WWE's biggest event of the year would be.
His body has seen a very long career of damage. Injuries, surgeries, wear and tear, all impacted by age, could have potentially prevented him from competing this year at Mania.
But The Phenom did not just show up. Along with CM Punk, he stole the show.
WWE Superstars are expected to be resilient. It's part of the job description. But to consistently be one of the top guys and perform at a high level for nearly 20 years shows the dedication Undertaker has to the company and to the business.
Undertaker has absorbed physical punishment from some of the biggest names the industry has ever known and yet he keeps coming back for more. Even at his current age, he is still capable of putting on a good match and maintains the reputation he has earned over the years.
Undertaker can take anything and get back up. He is The Deadman, after all.
The hat, the tie, the purple and gray. Who can forget the classic gear?
What about the goatee, the black leather-spiked robe and the massive crucifixion T?
How about the dew rag, leather duster, denim and motorcycle?
All of these belong to The Undertaker, a man who has constantly reinvented himself to stay current with the times. When WWE needed him to be a dark, lifeless zombie, he did that. When they needed him to be a little more demonic, he pulled that off as well.
And when the time came for him to drop some of the theatrics, trade in the tights for blue jeans, The Deadman didn't even flinch.
And he got over every time.
Some Superstars spend their entire career with one look, one entrance theme, one move-set, and never change or evolve with time. They are content to stick with what works.
But Undertaker's willingness to reinvent himself, to take a chance, is yet another reason for fans to believe in him and respect him for who he is.
And he always makes it work.
The best Superstars have both signature and finishing moves that are specific to them. Easily identifiable, and instantly recognizable, these moves are the cornerstone of the guy's routine that he uses every time he gets in the ring.
Tombstone piledriver and Hell's Gate. I think those two pretty well qualify.
Undertaker is a big man, and big men usually rely on shoulder tackles and clotheslines to fill their matches. It's expected and if Taker followed suit, it would not have been very surprising.
But, when The Phenom works, he actually wrestles. Undertaker can get down on the mat and make it happen just as easily as he can put his opponent in the corner and unload some heavy punches on him. Taker does not typically rely on just his size, he has always worked hard to put on the most entertaining match he can, and that means doing more than just standing around waiting for his opponent to basically run into him.
When the hand goes in the air, fans know the chokeslam is not far behind. When he does the slashing motion with the thumb across his throat, that means that the Tombstone is on its way. When he applies the arm wrench and heads for the corner, then we're about to see some Old School.
These moves embody what The Undertaker is, they are perfect for him and no one can do any of them quite the same way that he can.
As stated in the previous slide, Undertaker does not rely solely on the fact that he is a big man to get what he wants in the ring. And it's his desire to do more than the norm that has increased his popularity over the years.
The sight of the seven-foot, 300-pound Undertaker diving over the top rope is one that never ceases to amaze me. He rarely ever touches the rope and it still causes me to hold my breath whenever he leaves his feet.
The MMA style that he has subtly incorporated into his repertoire over the past couple of years has also enhanced his ability in the ring. Despite his age, Taker looks as though he could more than handle himself in a real fight.
But the real testament to his ability lies in the fact that over the years he could work with anyone in the locker room and have a great match. From Kane to Brock Lesnar to Rey Mysterio and Ric Flair, Undertaker has proven that his ability to work a match and either slow down or speed up his tempo when required, is more than enough reason to respect what he can do.
Undertaker is a pro, a guy who understands that to be too one dimensional is to sacrifice opportunities to not only work with a wide assortment of talent, but to also cheat the fans who want to see their favorites have the match of the night every night.
The crowd has always known that Taker gets it done in the ring. Just another reason to love what the guy brings to the table.
For me it all begins with the gimmick.
Who would have thought that a seven-foot walking zombie bowing to a ghostly white man in black and the gold urn that he holds above his head could have possibly translated to a professional wrestling ring?
I have to admit, the first time I saw it, I was a little doubtful myself.
But those doubts soon vanished, as the more Undertaker was put in front of the WWE audience, the more they grew attached to him. The long hair, the dark and sinister overtones of his entrance, combined with the fog and flames, absolutely captivated the crowd every time they saw him.
The theatrics of his entrance carries over to his promos, because whenever Undertaker speaks, it truly sounds like he's delivering a very somber eulogy. Fans don't expect the boisterous passion of Dusty Rhodes or the cocky cynicism of CM Punk, they know that when Undertaker cuts a promo, they will be taken on a dark journey, as only he can provide.
So many times we have seen the druids, the caskets, the moments when Undertaker suddenly sits up in a match like a mindless slasher—it all does nothing but enhance the character that fans cannot get enough of.
The fact that he is very rarely seen or interviewed outside of WWE as many other Superstars are, adds a facet of mystery to his character. We don't get to hear how he feels after a match, or what his plans for the future are. Taker shows up, steals the show and goes home.
And we love that about him.
For me, the fans' love and respect for The Deadman can be summed up in two words: the streak.
Everything on this list, every trait, every quality about The Undertaker, all leads us to the undefeated WrestleMania streak.
After all, the reason fans cared about it in the first place was due to his character, move-set and ability in the ring. His respect for the business shows every time he steps into the ring, especially his willingness to truly work his match, giving his opponent many opportunities to shine.
His resiliency is second to none, and his desire to reinvent himself has kept him very current with the times, as he looks as relevant and believable today as he did when the streak first began.
The truth is, fans usually don't get to see Taker until WrestleMania season begins every year, which has firmly connected their love for him with the undefeated streak. It doesn't just mean a lot to WWE, it also means a lot to the audience.
And that is what matters most.