It’s November 1990 at the WWF’s marquee event Survivor Series. During a traditional Survivor Series match, Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase introduces us to his mystery partner for the bout. A bell of foreboding tolls in the arena, the crowd goes eerily quite. Out walks a man, wearing all black with an all black morticians hat hiding his grim features. Slowly removing his long brimmed hat, a face of pure hatred and anger greets the camera. The camera seemed nervous to linger on him too long, as we saw glimpses of crowd members worried faces. Gorilla Monsoon couldn’t help shouting about how big and scary this monster was, taken aback by the sheer terror emanating form this beast hailing from Death Valley. Everyone was in awe of him. In the first minutes of the match he destroyed Koko B Ware and Dusty Rhodes like a giant would crush children. Only to be counted out by the referee. He slowly walked back up the entrance way and disappeared behind the curtain. But his name was already etched onto everyone’s mind. The Undertaker had arrived, but no one knew just how much of an impact he would have on the Wrestling world.
Granted Survivor Series wasn’t his actual debut but this is where you can trace back the linage of destruction. It’s now been 22 years since that fateful night and at a warm night in Miami’s heat we saw the Undertaker go 20-0 at Wrestlemania in a Hell in a Cell match battling Triple H. In the end we saw a beaten King Of Kings being carried from the battlefield by his worthy victor and also long term friend Shawn Michaels. Before they left our sight, one final look around at the thousands in attendance and millions at home. A poetic end to one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history!
22 years is a long time for any professional to be at the forefront of their given industry, but for a wrestler to do it is unheard of. He is a 7 time World Champion who has afforded us countless TV moments of pure gold. We’ll never forget his sacrificing of the boss’s daughter Stephanie, or when he hung Big Bossman from the Cell, not to forget the time he sucked Diesel into the Abyss, or when he rose from the dead and we will never ever forget when he threw Mankind off AND threw the Cell. There are just so many moments that include the man controlled by an Urn. TONS of which I’m sure I’ve forgotten.
But was it the man that created these moments? Did, real name Mark Calaway, add to these moments or was it all the illusion of the Phenom character? Not a sole can question that Calaway is able to craft a truly sensational match in the squared circle and, in recent Wrestlemania’s, some of the most emotional bouts in history. His dedication to the character is what has truly brought everything he’s done in the past 22 years deep into the fans emotional state. Burying the connection you feel towards him in a truly permanent place. But have you heard him on the Mic? To put it lightly he’s definitely not one of the best talkers to grace the biz! I cringe whenever I watch old DVD’s featuring The Undertaker being interviewed as I know just how awkward it’s going to be. And he was certainly no better when he referred to his American badass gimmick.
Which begs the question; could anyone dedicated enough to the Phenom character pull off the Deadman gimmick?
In Japan and Mexico it’s a common occurrence that a gimmick will get passed down to the next generation. Weather it be blood relative or a rising star with a similar style. Even Rey Mysterio’ mask and name is his uncles. Think of Tiger Mask in Japan which is now being performed by its 5th different wrestler. There are several more examples of such heritage being passed down. A case must be made that the Undertaker Gimmick could be one of them.
If anyone has ever watched the cartoon Batman of the Future where a young man takes up Batman’s cowl to rid the new streets of Gotham of crime and human filth, mentored and oracle’d by an elderly Bruce Wayne you’ll get what I’m driving at. Not a new Big Man as I believe that would look to much like they were simply replacing Calaway but what about a new, sleeker, sprightlier Undertaker for today’s audience. Imagine an average sized wrestler who as the speed and agility to pull off some of Takers signature moves with a more “flashy” execution. For example, “Old School” with a 180 twist. Simple yet new and exciting!
The persona and mystery of this character would remain, including the beautiful ring entrance and odd, eerie goings on (the aforementioned kidnappings and sacrificing naturally) and the Tombstone would have to be the finisher of choice. Calaway could be the New Takers Paul bearer, urn in hand, controlling the whims of his puppet. It puts the old taker on TV allowing people to familiarise themselves with the new incantation and adds a degree of torch passing that would shun the die hard fans from saying “Well this is stoopid!”
I’m sure Vince could see the merchandise dollars in such a character. Hell, put a mask on the guy and the money will practically print itself with the younger audience. Especially if he does some flips. Theirs still money left in the Calaway Taker for a couple more Wrestlemania’s but its time for him to hang up the boots. If he were to reappear for another Wrestlemania it would only serve to start the destruction of his legacy. This past Wrestlemania was such a Poetic finish that it was just how I want to remember his Legacy and his streak. But why not craft more memories from that same persona. Repackaged and re-marketed. Taking a relative unknown with potential from development and giving them a chance to shine. Who knows, such a crazy concept could give us 22 more years of the bells tolling the end of many a WWE Superstar!
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This article was first posted on October 1, 2012