If, by some crazy chance, you have not watched WrestleMania 33, nor seen or read the highlights? Turn away NOW!
If you’ve made it to this point, then let’s get right to it. On Sunday Night, wrestling fans around the world saw a couple things happen that we all knew would happen eventually, but which we never wanted to really see: Undertaker lost another match at WrestleMania, and upon doing so he left his coat, hat and gloves in the middle of the empty ring, akin to what amateur grapplers do with their boots upon retiring from the sport.
So what does it all mean?
For me personally, it’s a huge deal. For lots of people around my age (I am pushing forty), they grew up watching this guy. They saw his character evolve several times over. He came in as this monster heel to take on the sacred cow that was Hulkamania. He leaves one of the most beloved wrestlers to have ever set foot in a wrestling ring. It is an impressive run that lasted more than a quarter century. It’s extremely impressive, awe inspiring, and his departure, while richly deserved and perhaps long overdue, will create a void.
So, here’s my big question, to myself to answer here, as well as to all of you reading this: will we ever see another Undertaker? If so, who could fill that void?
And, by “another Undertaker”, I mean any of the following-a Superstar with that longevity. A Superstar with the ability to rip off 20 straight wins at WrestleMania (though, honestly, that takes more than luck. It takes management liking you a lot). The leadership, I dare say, can be filled. While he was the longest tenured and most respected (and perhaps feared) man in that locker room, there will be others. Now, it could be Kane. I could say Hunter, but he’s unique because he also has a C level executive title, so that changes things. Perhaps it’s John Cena, but I seriously doubt it. I think he’s too Hollywood, too busy with stuff outside the ring. It could even be someone newer to the company, someone like AJ Styles, who clearly loves the business and eschews all the extraneous commitments. He’s a wrestler first and foremost. This would have been a great role for CM Punk, too, had the straight edge Superstar remained with the company. Undertaker was a special breed. While he did have some things going on outside the ring, they were few and far between. He was extremely, fiercely protective of his character. You never saw him at the Hall of Fame, because he did not want to break character. That desire to protect the business, so to speak, is harder and harder to find. Pretty much all the current stars have been in movies, or TV shows. Top brass likes this as another way of selling the brand. Undertaker, however, was about as Old School as you could find in the locker room. It’s entirely possible we won’t ever see another man like him work in WWE.
So, I dare say that as he walked up that ramp, it was the final curtain dropping on a generation. Plenty of fans, myself included, take issue with who it was that appears to put the big man down for good. Looking at the names Undertaker retired, or who he had epic wars with, any of them would have been better. Could you have imagined one of his wars with Hunter being the last match? Or his first WrestleMania loss, to Brock? Those probably would have been far more fitting. What we may never know is if this entire setup was his choice-meaning to retire, and who he’d lose to…or if this was Vince, desperate to validate his choice of pushing Roman Reigns down everyone’s throat, even though the crowds are incessantly booing at the choice. I think, at the end of it all, the biggest issue I have with it is not that The Undertaker is done. It’s who he lost to.
But, we can’t dwell on it. At the end, all I can do-all any of us can-is to respect the man. Respect the career. Respect all of his accomplishments, his legacy and his legend. Remember how many absolutely awesome, ground breaking matches he gave us. How many satisfying surprises, main events and more that we came to love and remember. And, as much as we might all wonder who could or will fill the void…perhaps we don’t really want or need anyone to do so. After all, there will never be another Phenom. No one can replicate what he’s done, nor should anyone try to. What he had was special. It was natural, it was not forced, and it was truly a phenomenal, once in a lifetime kind of thing. We should never see anyone, or anything, like it again because it was just that special.
Retire in peace, Dead Man.