WWE's Last Legend: A 5 Way Tribute to the Undertaker
The Undertaker aka Mark Calaway is a legend, whose legacy has transcended limitations of time. Past or Future, the Undertaker has risen above it.
When the history of Pro-Wrestling would be written, Mark Calaway would feature as a prominent chapter of it. When we discuss about the future of WWE, inadvertently we realize that soon enough there will not be the Phenom. The hollow that we feel speaks volumes about the legacy of Deadman.
Legacy of this multifaceted superstar has been one of the most discussed topics in wrestling community. I decided to try my hands on it as well.
In my opinion there are two factors that made the legend of Undertaker so larger than life. First is Mark Calaway the person & performer and secondly the marketing excellence of WWE.
I have already written the first part of this dual. The first part dwelt upon marketing strategy behind Undertaker’s success. You can read it here.
Coming to the present article, this article will focus on total five elements.
- 1. It will try to explore the man behind the gimmick, Mark Calaway.
- 2. It will focus on Undertaker as a performer.
- 3. The third part would try to find out where the Undertaker stands in the history.
- 4. The fourth part would be a little sombre as it is about the future without the Undertaker.
- 5. The last part is a fan's confession, as to what this superstar means to him.
I hope that you enjoy the ride.
The Man Behind the Gimmick – Mark Calaway
The true indications of what kind of person Mark Calaway might be lie in the respect he deserves and gets across the world.
In pro-wrestling we never come across a non-controversial legend. We in fact know our legends for blowing their legacies. Undertaker is probably the only example of untarnished legacy.
There have been few hallmarks of Undertaker that have defined his legacy over the years. His loyalty, his aptitude for business, his respect for his craft and his treatment of juniors are some of them.
The respect he has earned is also outlandish for this business. It goes back to pre-attitude era. When Shawn Michaels and company was rampant with ‘Klique’, it was Taker who took people under his wings and protected them. For all their might, Klique could not mess up with the Undertaker.
Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Ric Flair or anybody else, in their books Undertaker is always shown in a positive light. All of them stress one fact that Taker is the undisputed leader of locker room. All these books talk about him with a hint of awe. Even in the locker room Taker still remains a larger than life persona.
A person in his shoes had every right to go outrageous and demand unreasonable power. So far we have never heard of any such story. He has always done what is right for company. We often talk about the streak and all. It is however a general agreement that if found a right person; Taker himself will drop the streak. When it comes to the Undertaker, there is not really much negative that we can discuss about.
His down to earth mannerisms probably lie in the way he has reached here. Mark Calaway started out as an amateur pro-wrestler in Texas. At that time, he worked as a bartender in nights to support himself and wrestled at Indy circuits to hone his skills during day. Pro-Wrestling did not earn him money in the beginning but he never gave up on his passion. From that humble beginning, it was his hard work and a hand of destiny that took him to this pinnacle of fame. He does not seem to have forgotten his routes.
When I was searching for information about ‘Mark Calaway’, all i could gather was following. He loves rock music and bikes. He loves tattoos. Real estate is his side business and he owns a joint venture ‘Calahart Agencies’.
I could not resist but wonder about the vast difference between the person he seems to be and an outlandish gimmick he plays.
Probably the true essence of Mark Calaway’s success lies in the fact that he has been able to keep his legacy and life so distant.
A One of a Kind Performer
Undertaker is surely not one of the most revered technical wrestlers in the world. However, this fact has never hindered him from giving us spectacular matches. For his size, he had astounding agility. With age, he has slowed down but even today he remains better than most of the roster.
When I think about the Undertaker as a performer, two points amaze me. I want to elaborate on them instead of other obvious points.
The very first factor that makes me wonder is that Undertaker has evolved as a wrestler each and every year.
For first few years in WWE, he was far from being one of the best performers. He relied heavily on his gimmick to do the trick and of course on his pet gimmick matches. Then slowly he started developing more moves. He added more elements of Mixed Martial arts, submission moves to his arsenal. With time he turned into one of the most all round wrestlers. He still continues to evolve and innovate according to his needs.
The most recent example is of ‘Hell’s Gate’. The man with several finishing moves could have easily done without it. But in reality, he needed it. With his age, Choke-slam and The Last Ride are difficult to be performed on bigger men. Hell’s Gate essentially made-up for that loss.
The second factor of the two is most significant in my opinion.
We all know that non-wrestling elements are the integral part of Pro-Wrestling. They are the real difference between Pro-Wrestling and Wrestling. I will just list them below.
Gimmick and Character, Promos, Storytelling, Emotion, In-Ring psychology & use of entrance, pyros and music are the most important non-wrestling elements in my opinion. A performer who has a mastery over these surely can become the true megastar.
Undertaker in my opinion is the single greatest master of these elements put together. A little that he may lack in promos is made up for by his gimmicks and effects. The emotion and storytelling he brings to the ring is no less than HBK. His ways are subtle but yet highly effective. In ring psychology is again an area where he is exceptional. The way he sells spot injuries or the way he designs his offence tell the story. In case of gimmick, there is nothing left to say.
Therefore, these are the two factors I feel that have made Undertaker so special a performer. Without these two, we would have never been so much in love with him.
Finding His Place in History
When we are talking about the Undertaker and his place in the history of Pro-Wrestling, we have to go beyond North-America and think from a global perspective. The sole reason is that the Undertaker is a global phenomenon.
To put it simply, The Undertaker is the one of the biggest global Pro-Wrestling star ever. The Rock, John Cena or Hulk Hogan were and are equally popular but keep in mind that Hollywood helped them in reaching so far. Undertaker’s global fame has only one attributing factor, which is WWE.
I will give you an interesting stat. When Undertaker’s ‘vegetative state’ story broke out, there was a widespread rumour on internet that Undertaker is dead. Within few hours, Google had 4 entries for Undertaker in their Top 15 searches. Having four Google entries in Top 15 means more than 100 million hits. Now that is incredible.
When we try to find out reasons of this humongous fame, there are several. First of all gimmick of the Deadman and all effects related to it are really catchy. You watch him once and you will never forget it. Secondly, since he never really needed to speak, language did not remain a barrier. People who never understand a word of English could understand him.
History will always remember The Undertaker as the only mega draw, who was not even once was a face of his company. He saw Hogan. He saw Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Rock, Stone Cold, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Batista, John Cena and Randy Orton taking over the top spot. Three generations came and went along but Undertaker simply remained as the backbone of WWE.
For twenty long years, he has served his company. In the journey he has given this business some really great things. He helped Vince in creating new stars. He was the reason behind many gimmick matches. In his career, he has given countless awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and bone-chilling moments. He will be forever remembered as the man who gave moments, which’s magic will never wane.
However, the most important contribution of Undertaker will not simply be attracting new fans. But instead, bringing them back and making them feel at home. All those fans who have watched WWE for more than 10-15 years have gone away from the promotion for a while.
Whenever they came back, no matter if Bret Hart or Rock was there, Undertaker was always there. He was the connecting bridge between memories and present. For a father who had seen Taker in his teens and his little daughter or a son, he was the connecting bridge between generations.
For history, Undertaker will remain its favourite son. He is the ultimate presence and a star of highest magnitude. He will remain a legend with a pure and clean legacy. His championships, streaks and rivalries will fade with the flow of time but the dark shadow never will.
A Future Without the Undertaker
To be very honest, world moves on. Wrestling is never going to stop because somebody retires. It may miss few things but some newcomer will fill in the gaps. That is how this world goes on. But then there are some cases, when that gap is out of this world.
When Bret Hart retired, Kurt Angle soon entered into the picture with his divine techniques. When Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair retired, Hulk Hogan and Flair tried to fill the gap several times. If people find a half hazard mixture of Hogan and Rock in Cena then WWE desperately tries to make an Austin out of Orton.
Two superstars however have defied this law of replacements. First one is HBK and second is Undertaker.
In case of HBK, we may have an equally gifted performer someday. But the emotion of HBK will never ever be back. No two hearts are ever the same and HBK was a unique heart. No other heart will beat the same and will create similar emotions in our lives.
In case of Undertaker, his gimmick is the ultimate undoing of any future attempt of replacements. That awe-inspiring presence, dark aura and subtle emotions are a property of Mark Calaway. It was inside him, not something that was acquired. Finding somebody else of such quality is an impossible task.
To put it simply, WWE can recreate a wand but the hands performing that magic can’t be recreated.
Undertaker will leave two big holes when he leaves. The very first is, in future it is difficult to have a superstar who can draw as much as the Undertaker without being the face of promotion. WWE will have a tough time in doing that and will need several people at once to do the job.
The second hole is even bigger. After HBK’s retirement, Taker has become the last specimen of a dying breed. He is the last legend still active in ring sensibly. Triple H, Jericho, Edge, Cena and probably Orton may have a chance but not a certainty. The pantheon of legends has come to a halt with the Undertaker.
In future, after Undertaker retires, business is going to need another legend, a larger than life persona that will have us in awe.
To sum it up, future without the Deadman is not bleak or dire, but it is simply not the same.
A Fan’s Confession – Growing Up with the Undertaker
Here we come to last part of this article. I hope you are not tired after such a lengthy journey. If you are then bear me for one more page.
For me Undertaker means WWE. In 1992 when I was 4 years old, I saw the Undertaker for the first time. For a while, he scared the hell out of me. I used to hide behind a couch and used to watch him by poking my neck a little bit outside. From those days to 2011, he has been the reason of my unceasing love for WWE. Even today I eagerly anticipate the gong. The moment he appears, I still have goosebumps. His magic has me spellbound for all these years.
I stopped watching WWE twice. From 1997-1998 and then again from 2000 to 2004, but both the times when I came back, Undertaker was there. I was again hooked on to the WWE.
His rivalries with Kane, Mankind, Randy Orton and Batista are some of my fond memories. But what Shawn Michaels and he did at Wrestlemanias and Royal Rumble 2007 are my ever lasting memories of my hero.
For me, it is difficult to imagine a life without Undertaker. Even when I was not watching WWE, I knew what is going on. I have spent 19 years of my 22 years old life with Undertaker on my screen. He is one of the very first of my memories.
Soon enough there will not be the Undertaker. There will not be that gong anymore. Wrestlemania will come and go but the streak will not be there. I consider myself to be a rational man, but for Taker I have had only emotions.
Today his never ending list of injuries hurts me. If he retires, I would surely be sad as hell but I want to see him going on his feet with pride intact. I am sure that he is a different legend. He knows the right time to hang up his shoes and he will do so.
I always wanted to pay homage to my idol, who has given me abundant joy, countless memories to live with. I have nothing except words to give him. That is why I have gone ahead with this article.
I have to confess one thing here. Without Undertaker, my life would have never been the same and without him, my life will never be the same.
Undertaker is favorite of almost all of us. We all have respect for him.
I hope you have enjoyed it so far. If I have been able to make you recall your good memories of Taker then I have succeeded in my goal.
To all those who have read it so far, friends i cannot thank you enough. You guys have given me tremendous love over the past few weeks. I had never expected it. I hope that with this article I have lived up to the expectations. I will continue to experiment. Sometimes I will do good, sometimes I will fail. But irrespective of all that, it is a pleasure to be with you guys.
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