I’ve been a wrestling fan for most of my life. As a kid I would spend time at friends’ houses because they had Sky and I didn’t, just so I could watch a bit of what was then WWF television. I grew up watching the likes of Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior.
Into my adult life I’ve enjoyed watching Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Big Show and many, many more superstars grace the now WWE. But none – not one – has held my interest, given me goosebumps and elicited SO much joy as The Undertaker.
Mark Calaway’s portrail of the Deadman has been consummate. He hasn’t once broken character, in victory and defeat he has been chilling, dominant and resilient in equal measure. And so it was in retirement last night…almost.
Wrestlemania is ‘Taker’s event. He won 21 matches in a row – known as The Streak – before finally succumbing to Brock Lesnar and then last night to Roman Reigns (billed as a passing of the torch, it was anything but, with Reigns botching several of his moves).
Following the match, The Undertaker lay down his hat, gloves and coat in the middle of the ring and retired. As he left the ring he broke character for the first time, hugging his wife Michelle McCool as he walked up the ramp, pausing only to soak up the crowd’s acclaim. And then he was gone, back into the darkness from whence he came.
With him went my last reason to watch WWE television with any particular interest. It’s just not the same anymore. But at least I have my memories of the Undertaker – the greatest wrestling character ever to grace the squared circle.
From his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar team, through his epic Wrestlemania matches against Triple H and Shawn Michaels, his Hell in a Cell match against Mankind and his feuds with his brother Kane to his partnership with the same as the Brothers of Destruction (and loads more matches in between!) – The Undertaker has always been my favourite wrestler, beating the aforementioned Michaels by a nose.
I watched that debut at Survivor Series live…the first main event I stayed up for…and I was immediately hooked. Down the long, long years I haven’t failed to watch a main event in which The Undertaker was taking part.
Calaway has earned his retirement after 27 years at the top of the game and nobody can deny him that. But damn, if you ever wanted someone to be truly immortal it was ‘Taker. So with a rather strange sadness for a grown man talking about wrestling I can only say thank you for the entertainment, thank you for the joy, thank you for the goosebumps…