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  July 27, 2000



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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Undertaker's a mid-carder now
By ALEX RISTIC -- SLAM! Wrestling

While not dominating the discussions of the Net wrestling boards, the whisper can distinctly be heard: 'What's the status of the Undertaker?' 'Why is he wrestling in the tag team and mid-card segments?' 'Is he becoming a mid-carder?'

Some of you may question the validity these questions, but they have to be asked. Recent events demand so. No one argues that for the better part of his career Mark Calloway, The Undertaker, has been a dominating force in the WWF. Numerous titles to his credit; consistently, although not always, in the top ten in WWF merchandise sales; and one of the most popular athletes the Federation has ever had.

And here comes the "But" -- What has he done since his return? You can argue that he's been in the title hunt before, and was briefly in a more recent angle, but that doesn't overwhelm the matches and semi-feuds he's had since his return. Tag titles? Do you think the Undertaker of the past would have settled for a tag title hunt? He may not have consistently been in the title hunt, but the Undertaker was running rampant, squashing the other big men in the WWF -- names such as Kamala, King Kong Bundy, Giant Gonzales, Papa Shango, Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, Kane, Yokuzuna, and Sid Eudy (Sid Justice/Vicious/Psycho Sid). Not to mention his mini-feuds with Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Mankind. But can you really ignore the angles he's been in now?

Let's start with his gimmick change. Do we really need another "bad ass" in the WWF? Hell no! The Rock, in his own way, is a bad ass. One of the innovators, Stone Dumb Steve Austin, is set to return soon. It can even be argued that personas such as HHH, Tazz, and Chris Benoit are bad asses at what they do. So why is the Undertaker now becoming the Underbiker?

Can a 'dead' man's career be revived? Poll Results

Q1: Is The Undertaker nothing more than a mid-carder now?

Total Votes for this Question: 3233
10% voted for Yes, he's too injured
26% voted for Yes, his character's lame
6% voted for Yes, he doesn't fit in today
20% voted for No, he's still great
19% voted for No, he'll be back on top
8% voted for Mid-carders can be resurrected
10% voted for He needs Paul Bearer back
Face facts, the ethereal nature of the first incarnation of the Undertaker is one of the main factors that kept you interested. The fact that he was seemingly impervious to pain, the fact that he was on the "darkside," and the fact he consummately destroyed almost every entity in wrestling that was put against him added to his myth. Now, he's like the all the others. No longer unstoppable, merely human.

The WWF, believe it or not, is instrumental in the lowering of his status in the wrestling world. He was just too built up. He dominated his first appearance at Survivor Series in the early '90s, beats Hulk Hogan for the belt, who was still the most popular star in the stable at the time, destroys all the "big" men put before. Then you add his casket matches, plus Hell in a Cell, among others, and you get legend. In the early years the Undertaker was never defeated in fair contests. The small amount of losses he incurred were always do to the dirty tricks of his opponents.

That changed about two years ago when both Steve Austin and The Rock scored clean pinfalls on the Undertaker. Now, he was beatable. It couldn't last forever. Hulk Hogan was starting to lose more often, and cleanly -- look at WrestleMania VI. Ric Flair has put other stars over, such as Sting, Paul Wight, and Bret Hart. Why not the Undertaker? The only problem here is, how do you keep the mystique and aura once he's been beaten fair and square? You can't. The most unstoppable force in WWF history can only come out at least a little tarnished. What once was considered invulnerable could be placed on a mortal pedestal.

Which brings us to real life. Mark Calloway has suffered numerous injuries throughout his career. A broken arm in his NWA/WCW days as Mean Mark Callous. Various injuries in the WWF, including most recently a broken foot, suffered before his classic Hell in the Cell match against Mankind, and others, finally culminating in his torn pectoral muscle which kept him out longer, recovering from a previous ailment. I hate to say it, but he's lost a step or two.

I can hear your cries: 'Of course he'd lose a step if he's been injured that often. Wouldn't the same happen to you?' Of course. However, sorry to say because it's the sad truth, but it doesn't help. How many people have said Scott Steiner hasn't been the same since his neck injury a few years back? What about the British Bulldog, Brian Pillman, Austin and Sting? If you excuse the exception to the rule in Austin, the rest of these athletes have suffered huge dips in their popularity, at one point or another, because they could no longer perform at the levels they once had, losing some of the captured rapture of the audience. Some have, mostly through altered charisma and angles, as in the case of Sting, have been able to recapture part of their former glory. That, unfortunately, is not true in every case.

No more getting up right after being pasted (a pot belly will do that to you), no more top-rope walking, adopting a more brawling style -- what other conclusion is there? The things you used to marvel at aren't there anymore. Not to mention that he isn't the trim Undertaker that he used to be.

Getting back to the angles. The Underbiker? Although not having half of the charisma of the Undertaker, DOA already did that. Picking fights with people because they spilled liquids on your ride? Give me a break. That was nostalgic of movies from the 1950s, where people would fight you just because you accidentally stepped on their toes. His reinvention lacks the luster and the intrigue of his former persona. And no offence, his mic skills are nowhere near as good as The Rock's or Austin's. It was much better when he threw in phrases connected to the "darkside," and being more ominous.

Then there's the recent contests he's been in. Upon his return to the WWF this spring, he was thrown into the title hunt, then unceremoniously dropped into the tag team division, with Kane. The Undertaker is a singles wrestler, always has been, always will be. Throwing him there was just to kill time, to keep him in somewhat of a spotlight, until a new angle could be found. Doesn't he deserve better? Evidently, the WWF thought the apple cart was fine as it was. Doesn't that make you wonder? If he's still important to their plans, and they think a major push would pay off, wouldn't they put him in a more interesting or higher profile angle? They didn't want to disrupt their fans, thus causing disinterest or a dip in ratings, so they thought it best to carry on with what they had. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Then there's Kurt Angle. Sorry, but as popular as he is, he was never as popular as the Undertaker in his heyday. I know this is also being used as a stage to prop up Angle, but it just makes him look to good, at the expense of "The Phenom." If the Undertaker was consistently beating on the big men, weighing in over 100 pounds more than Angle in most cases, and put a beating to wrestlers with better skills, such as Shawn Michaels, than how could anyone not see this as a squash? You know what? Not everyone did. In fact, it seems almost split. Even the pundits at SLAM! Wrestling picked 3 - 1 in favor of Angle winning the match, showing that they thought Angle was either getting a push, or currently was the bigger star. This would not have happened five years ago. More importantly, although the Undertaker won their encounter at Fully Loaded, the feud seems to be continuing, this time with Angle looking like the aggressor. Even if the Undertaker comes out winning more than losing in his series of matches with Angle, just one victory solidifies that he can be beat, and persons who beat the Undertaker have gone on to bigger things -- Austin and The Rock, just to name two.

Also, seeing as how Angle isn't consistently main-eventing yet, apart from a couple of appearances, that puts the Undertaker below title-hunt status, and what's on the lower level is the mid-card.

Of course, this could all change. Next week, the WWF might get a crazy idea that they think will sell the Undertaker to masses once more. But that's just a hope right now. Until the fans see him in more of the spotlight, he will just be in the background.


Reader Feedback

  • July 20:Piledriver ban handicaps everyone



  • I just wanted to compliment you on a really well-written column. I particularly enjoyed your reference to the dumbing down of wrestlers like Jericho. Whenever I learn that a wrestler has spent any time in Japan, I know that guy can give or take a beating with the best of them. I think Road Dogg and Kurt Angle should be sent to Japan immediately. As far as the piledriver ban goes, I never thought it made much sense for a 6-foot man to try and give a piledriver to a guy who is 6'5". That's an accident wating to happen. Again, I really enjoyed your column, and had to let you know.

    erlewis-- Annapolis, Md.
    I felt the need to respond to your recent article, as it concerned me. Nowhere in your article did you mention "Droz" (Darren Drozdov) who was paralyzed by, I believe, a piledriver. I also noticed that you mentioned these names in your article: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Owen Hart. It's true these men have been known for their amazing wrestling abilities, but it should not be overlooked that Bret Hart has a SEVERE concussion, Shawn Michaels was forced into retirement by a horrible back injury, and Owen Hart was killed in an accident that should NEVER have happened. Two of these injuries are directly related to wrestling, and one was from the promoters thinking that the fans needed to be impressed with a flashy ring entrance.

    In a sport where there is no union, and injuries are expected to be "walked off" by fans and promoters alike, a ban on piledrivers (and any other dangerous wrestling manoeuvers) is a good thing. People forget that these injuries change the lives of the wrestlers and their familles forever. I have never heard of somebody being injured by "The Worm", but have heard of more than one wrestler being SERIOUSLY injured by a piledriver. Worse, some people go around copying this move, in which a person is being dropped on their head, and the consequence of doing such a thing is chillingly obvious.

    The Piledriver is not the most important wrestling move there is, but it IS the most dangerous. So any measures to reduce potential injuries should never be looked at as a blow to fans, but as a sign that maybe, just maybe, the promoters realize that wrestlers are human beings that are just as venerable as anyone else.

    Meg S.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Droz was was paralyzed below the waist after fracturing his neck during a match at the Nassau Coliseum back in Oct. 1999. D'Lo Brown was performing his powerbomb from the second rope. It was not a piledriver.

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