WWE Hot Take: Deadman Is Dead, Undertaker Must Stick with American Badass

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2020


There's no going back now. 

Undertaker's latest iteration was a reversal of sorts, a callback to his Big Evil/American Badass days, and it's simply too good for him to do anything else for the remainder of his career. 

It sounds like hyperbole, right? But Taker needed a modern version, and getting back to the bandana-wearing, motorcycle-riding, trash-talking Taker is an unexpected breath of fresh air for both the character and WWE

The change came about as WWE adjusted to the defensive mechanisms put in place in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The company has habitually done its best work with its back against the wall, and that was proved in recent weekly broadcasts and at WrestleMania 36—audience-less shows that were much better than fans probably could have ever predicted. 

Undertaker's match in a cemetery against AJ Styles, ultimately burying the Phenomenal One alive, was the crowning achievement of the unorthodox WrestleMania

That showed off everything great about the new (old) Undertaker character. He drove up to a cemetery on a motorcycle, beat the tar out of a Superstar, talked a ton of trash while doing it, showcased some vulnerability, still did some magic-y things like summoning fire, got the win and drove off on his bike. This wasn't some silent, brooding magical ordeal that might've been cheesier than most fans could've withstood. 

But this goes far beyond just one match. This is critical for outside the ring, too. The lines between the real world and wrestling are far too blurred at this point. Taker can't be posing for selfies like this:

Undertaker @undertaker

Landed late last night...must be meeting with somebody important today! #ontheroadagain https://t.co/LkDZ0mKlvz

Or turning around and grabbing photos with cats: 

All this before hopping in the ring and taking on his old Deadman gimmick where he's rolling his eyes, wearing his old outfit and hamming it up. 

It just doesn't work—and that's a good thing. If Taker wants to be more visible on social media as his career winds down, perfect. Lean into the American Badass character and let it ride. And think of the marketing opportunities. It is much easier to get him out there on Stone Cold's podcast, doing radio shows for WWE or whatever else if he's just kicking back in a biker character. 

Don't forget the impact on the rest of the roster, too. Supernatural characters, ignoring Bray Wyatt's latest invention for a moment, just don't get a ton of play. Something that straddles the line in the way an Aleister Black does seems more likely to catch on, whether it's in the minds of fans or in the minds of the folks ultimately pulling the strings. 

While the bulk of the above focuses on details outside of the ring, consider the impact inside it. First of all, cinematic matches like the one against Styles at WrestleMania 36 were made for Taker. It was brilliant, and if it's the last match type he ever participates in, that's a good thing, not bad. 

Second, there are more possibilities with the social-media using, bike-riding Taker. It's more personable and maybe fun for Superstars looking to make a name for themselves to call out the old-man Taker. Make him a prizefighter who puts younger guys in their place. There's a lot of flexibility for interesting, if not unexpected, feuds if he's not technically some demonic supernatural presence. 

Maybe this ultimately isn't how fans saw Taker going out. But evolution and change is a good thing, and it would be a true testament to Taker's legacy if he modernized with the times a bit via a small reinvention by looking to his past, then extending his career even longer than he has any right doing. 

If American Badass is here to stay, an Undertaker renaissance might just be on the table.