Why WWE Will Never Be Able to Recreate The Undertaker's Success

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2018

The Undertaker made a surprise appearance with Shawn Michaels on Raw.
The Undertaker made a surprise appearance with Shawn Michaels on Raw.Credit: WWE.com

The Undertaker's appearance on Monday's Raw to hype his match against Triple H at Super Show-Down was met with the usual amount of fanfare from the WWE Universe, but it also exposed a problem the company has had for years. It can't create new stars as iconic as The Deadman and probably never will again.

To say WWE doesn't have popular Superstars on its roster wouldn't be accurate, but nobody comes close to capturing the magic every fan feels when The Deadman walks out on the stage.

Even his entrance has become its own special attraction, and most of it consists of his slow walk toward the ring. Anyone can do it, but nobody else can do it like him.

Unfortunately, this is not a problem WWE can solve. The audience, atmosphere and overall product have changed so much since The Undertaker debuted that it would be almost impossible to recreate his success.

Let's take a look at why he is the last of a dying breed.


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Supernatural Is Harder to Sell

Pro wrestling is still filled with bright and colorful characters with a variety of personalities, but the kinds of gimmicks we see these days are a far cry from what we used to see in the '80s, when Taker was coming up in the business.

Before WWE made its product edgier in the late '90s to match changing tastes, it would regularly feature unrealistic characters we were supposed to believe lived in these personas every day of their lives.

We have seen everything from clowns and witch doctors to vampires and whatever a Mantaur is wrestle inside a WWE ring, but those gimmicks stopped getting over before the Attitude Era kicked in.

The closest WWE has come to creating a character with supernatural powers in recent years is Bray Wyatt, but everything about his personality became so muddled and vague that fans began losing interest.

Part of what makes The Undertaker so unique is how he has been able to maintain a character who never should have lasted as long as he has in this business while so many others have failed in their attempts to copy his formula.

Had Mark Calaway been born 30 years later and WWE was trying to launch this character in 2018, fans would laugh it out of the building. 


People Get Bored Easily

The WWE Universe is arguably the greatest fan community on the planet, but keeping it happy for more than a week is harder than you might think.

One of the reasons Taker is so legendary is because he has been a marquee attraction since his debut in 1990. Most of today's Superstars will be lucky if their WWE run lasts half as long.

Fans simply don't have the patience to wait several years while management builds someone up into a huge star anymore, and when the crowd does get behind someone, it can forget about them just as quickly.

Remember when people used to chant Zack Ryder's name during shows he wasn't working? Those same fans still fill arenas every week, but the "we want Ryder" chants stopped years ago.

Daniel Bryan's Yes Movement has slowed down considerably since he returned to the ring at WrestleMania 34, The Shield has reunited almost as many times as D-Generation X, and Brock Lesnar went from megastar to pariah because management handled his universal title reign so poorly.

Part of the problem is overexposure. WWE has so many hours to fill that we end up seeing all the biggest names on the roster more than we would have 20 years ago.

When Raw was a one-hour program, we would go a few weeks without seeing certain people because there wasn't enough room on the card for everyone to be featured. Nowadays, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns usually have two or three separate segments throughout a three-hour episode.

When people had to wait weeks between appearances from The Undertaker, anticipation would build so much that when he finally did show up, we all cheered our heads off. It just doesn't work that way anymore.


The Undertaker Had Better Competition

When you hear Ric Flair say "To be the man, you have to beat the man," it applies to more than just championships. 

The Undertaker was able to grow into the living legend we know today because he had the biggest stars in the history of pro wrestling to put him over.

Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley and The Nature Boy are just some of the icons he has bested throughout his career. With the exception of Sting, Taker battled every big star from the '80s and '90s multiple times.

Today's generation doesn't have the luxury of being able to compete with trailblazers as often, so it's unable to get the same kind of boost The Deadman received when he defeated Hogan for the WWE title one year after his debut match with the company.

It takes a big name to make a bigger name, and WWE simply doesn't have the star power it needs to create another success story like The Undertaker.


WWE Is Focused on Too Many People at Once

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon would love to be able to replicate Taker's success with every Superstar, but the company has spread itself too thin by attempting to build more than one top star at a time.

WWE used to pick one person to be the top dog and put everything behind them. If that person got injured, became stale or didn't get over, management would shift its focus to someone else.

Today's product is different in several ways. WWE has upward of seven hours of television to film every week, in addition to a dozen pay-per-view events. And that's just the regular schedule.

There are also one-off specials like the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, the Beast in the East in Japan and the upcoming Super Show-Down and Evolution PPVs. And let's not forget about the hundreds of non-televised live events every year.

With Raw, SmackDown and NXT all touring separately, WWE needs multiple stars it can rely on to headline shows and put butts in the seats. This means no Superstar is going to sit at the top of the mountain alone.


Nostalgia Is All the Rage

Society tends to view the past through rose-colored glasses. We always think the things from our youth are better than what we have today, and we refuse to admit when it's time to move on.

When The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stood in the ring on Raw, every person in the arena was engaged with the segment because they were seeing two of the greatest performers of all time do what they do best.

The chants of "one more match" at The Heartbreak Kid are a testament to his legacy, but it also shows how the WWE Universe refuses to let go of the past.

HBK went out on his own terms while he was still capable of performing at a high level. Does anyone honestly think another match would benefit him in any way? He's older, hasn't wrestled in several years and probably likes waking up in the morning without having to ice an injury.

The Undertaker will never be unwelcome in a WWE ring, but he has reached the point when continuing to wrestle is doing him more harm than good. He's never going to be able to put on the kind of performance he had with Michaels at WrestleManias XXV and XXVI, so we should stop expecting it.

The WWE Universe keeps welcoming back The Deadman for the same reason Hollywood keeps making reboots and sequels—because nostalgia is powerful.

In 15 years, which Superstars will we be nostalgic for? Will you be hoping for what will likely be The Shield's 15th reunion? Will we still be chanting "Yes" at the top of our lungs for Bryan? Probably not.

While these wrestlers are possibly more talented inside the ring than many of their predecessors, WWE will never be able to recreate what The Undertaker and other legends like him have because business is done differently than it was when they were coming up in the industry.


What Does All This Mean for the Future?

The Undertaker is one of the last of WWE's special attractions from a previous era, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Just because WWE can't replicate what The Deadman has doesn't mean it can't do something different to keep us coming back for more.

Having new main event stars emerge regularly means the product will keep refreshing itself for each new generation while past generations will be able to look forward to whatever exciting changes are on the horizon.

The roster looks different than it did 10 years ago, and we will be able to say the same thing in another 10 years because WWE has created a training system to ensure it always has talent waiting in the wings.

WWE can't recreate The Undertaker, but it doesn't need to. The main roster has more talent than ever, NXT is full of incredible Superstars waiting for their chances to shine, the women's division continues to grow in exciting ways, WWE is expanding internationally with NXT UK, and other promotions are getting big enough to offer fans an alternative.

Taker is unlike anyone else who has ever stepped foot in the ring, but he is just one man. Pro wrestling will continue to thrive once he is gone. 

Who knows? Maybe 20 years from now, we will be talking about Strowman in the same way we talk about The Phenom today.