As a character, there has never been a better one to grace the squared circle than The Undertaker.
He is a mythical being who can summon light and fire, and was impervious to most forms of pain. He has been a dominant force in the WWE for the last thirty years, and not once has his gimmick ever become stale.
He started out at the top, and as we’ve learned on the latest episode of The Last Ride, he finished on the top.
The Undertaker has always been my absolute favourite wrestler. I was born in October 1990 – he made his debut at Survivor Series just one month later. He has been a constant throughout my childhood and adult life to this point, even though he was only wrestling once a year since 2011.
There has been nothing I’ve looked forward to more than seeing him in the ring, even though it was coming at the expense of his own health in the latter years.
The Undertaker epitomised my childhood.
He was in the first match I ever watched – Hell In A Cell at Badd Blood 1997 vs. Shawn Michaels – and I always remember my cousin putting in the VHS tape and asking me who I thought was going to win and I excitedly said The Undertaker. I didn’t know who he was, I didn’t know anything about him, but the mystique of what I saw and the size of the man told me he was going to win.
He didn’t, but that didn’t put me off one bit. I was mesmerised that Michaels had beaten him (via Kane’s interference) and that was the spark that brought me into the crazy world of wrestling.
The next year, I saw his Hell In A Cell match vs. Mankind. I don’t know whether it was a good thing for seven-year-old me to be exposed to that level of violence, but seeing this giant destroy Mankind kept me wanting to see more. It became a craving, but as somebody who didn’t have Sky in the UK, my involvement in wrestling remained sadly limited. I would watch it whenever I could, though.
Just a few years later, The American Badass debuted, and I loved it.
There was nothing more typical of the year 2000 than The Undertaker mixed with Limp Bizkit. It wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but singing Rollin’ and pretending to ride a motorcycle in the school playground sticks out vividly as a cherished childhood memory to me.
Looking back on this, it was the first real time that Taker had changed his gimmick, and while that mattered little to me as a child, it kept the character fresh. I don’t know if The Undertaker as a slow moving, mythical monster would have worked as well in the fast-paced world of the Attitude Era, so The American Badass will always have my blessing as it kept him relevant.
His rivalries throughout the 2000s kept SmackDown relevant.
Batista, Edge, CM Punk, Randy Orton and JBL to name a few. All huge names in their own right, but I don’t believe they would have been elevated to the levels that they achieved without the help of The Undertaker. The Phenom is such a consummate professional that he even made The Great Khali look half decent.
Some of these names on this list have joined ‘Taker on my favourite of all-time list, and I don’t believe they would have done that without taking on The Deadman.
I have been lucky enough to see Taker twice live in my life – at WrestleMania 28 vs. Triple H, and at WrestleMania XXX against Brock Lesnar. To be able to see the culmination of a four-year-long feud with Shawn Michaels & Triple H, inside Hell In A Cell was something special. For me personally, I think that should have been the culmination of The Deadman’s journey.
It was so special to see the three of them walk up that ramp and embrace. Something completely unscripted and purely emotional would have previously been considered breaking kayfabe, but this moment stood above all of that. This was three warriors who had given everything to the business over the past 20 years and it deserved that final stand on the stage.
Then, two years later, it happened.
The Streak was broken. Brock Lesnar had conquered The Undertaker at WrestleMania. For me, this really signaled the end. I believe if he didn’t go out at WrestleMania 28, he should have here. I know why he didn’t – he couldn’t remember the match because he was concussed. It was visible even from the cheap seats where I was sitting. When that three-count hit the mat, all of the air got sucked out of that arena. Nobody could believe it, and nobody spoke for a good five minutes. I truly never believe that there will ever be a moment as shocking in the rest of wrestling history.
I am so glad I got to witness two special moments of The Undertaker’s career. The man made my childhood. Even when I became a lapsed fan, he was one of the people who could always bring me back to watch the amazing feats that he could perform.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Undertaker.
You have given me, along with millions of other fans, memories that I will cherish for the rest of my days. You have performed even when your body told you to stop. You have given us everything you have and you deserve nothing more than to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
See you down the road.