The Phenom, The Dead Man, The Undertaker
Mark William Calaway was born on March 24th, 1965 in Houston, Texas. Yes, The Dead Man was born once. I can’t even imagine that. I wonder if his entrance to the world was anywhere near as flashy as all of his entrances to the ring. The lights go out, the bell tolls, and the purple mood lighting comes on. Then, moments later, Mark just casually strolls out of his mom, followed by a line of druids, who are carrying a casket along with them. It’s weird for me to imagine him not being The Undertaker. As far back as I remember; Taker has been on Television, tearing it up.
He made his debut as Kane The Undertaker on an episode of WWF Superstars on November 19th, 1990, almost a year to the day after I was born. By the time I found Professional Wrestling, Undertaker was already an established mainstay of Vince McMahon and his Company. If you have the WWE Network, they produced a great episode of the Monday Night War series about Undertaker and Sting.
It was very informative, showing the world how those two men were really the only ones loyal enough that neither of their respective bosses ever had to worry about them jumping ship. Which is something that may only really carry weight to it when you realize that either guy just had to pick up the phone and they could’ve been making millions upon millions of dollars. Vince would’ve killed to have Sting during the War, same as Eric Bischoff would’ve killed for The Undertaker.
While Sting had never, ever been with Vince (until now), Mark did wrestle for the WCW for a little while. His ring name was the wildly creative Mean Mark Callous. So many guys wrestled for World Championship Wrestling in the late 80s to early 90s, but all of it was irrelevant. All Undertaker’s time in the Georgia-based promotion did was put him on Vince McMahon’s radar. Thank God for that. I mean, think back over how much The Demon of Death Valley has entertained us over the years. Look at all the classic matches he had.
Undertaker vs. HBK at Badd Blood, Undertaker vs. Mankind at King of the Ring 1998, Undertaker vs. HBK at WrestleMania 25, Undertaker vs. HBK at WrestleMania 26, Undertaker vs. Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1997, Undertaker vs. Kane at WrestleMania 14, Undertaker vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 27 and 28, and so on and so forth. That’s not even close to half of the excellent matches that Taker has had over the years. He’s also won a host of Championships, including the WWE Championship four times and The Heavyweight Championship three times.
He’s won four Match of the Year titles from Pro Wrestling Illustrated and two from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Before CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, his match with HBK in Hell in a Cell was the last five-star match the WWE had held. He has a legacy that rolls about a mile long. He was so over when he first arrived, that Vince put forth a sanction on The Dead Man, requiring that he never break character if he were out in public. That meant he had to do everything as The Undertaker, and the sun was pretty much off limits. Dead people don’t have tans.
That only recently began to fade away. When he was The American Badass, he was allowed to do press because that character wasn’t supposed to be the walking dead. That was it though. Until Vince McMahon did Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast and referred to Kane’s older brother as Mark, and not Taker, or Undertaker, or The Dead Man. The casual way with which he did it completely threw me for a loop. All of a sudden he’s Mark? Things must not be going so well.
What was once arguably the biggest aspect of Mark’s lasting legacy was his undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar took that in a completely convincing fashion, putting The Beast over permanently as a top heel in the company. Everyone bitches about Lesnar having the belt now, but I’m pretty sure that’s only because they still hate him for conquering the streak. I get it. I also wanted him to end his career with The Streak untouched, but it’s not as if I’m going to forget about the man now.
No loss could ever erase the memory of The Undertaker. How could anyone, myself included, ever forget The Phenom and all that he brought to our TV sets, week in and week out? It’s still up in the air on whether or not Taker will be wrestling at WrestleMania 31, but I have to imagine this will be the last, if he does. The rumor is that he’s going to face Bray Wyatt. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see The Dead Man go out on top with another great WrestleMania match.