October 18, 2001
The Unbeatable, Unstoppable Undertaker
In the past decade or so, there have been numerous wrestlers who have come and gone, used various names and gimmicks to gain pops and heat and given their bodies up for the sport. However, no one has ever come close to the popularity of the Undertaker.
On October 15, I was sitting in the stands at Raw in Ottawa and watched an aging man who probably wants to retire to a more private life with a loving wife garner the biggest pop of the night. The minute that Limp Bizkit theme song hit, the crowd went insane; when he showed up on his Harley, the crowd lost it. It was unbelievable. Not simply because he beat out names like Mick Foley, the Rock, Canadians Y2J and Edge or even R-V-D himself, but because he doesn't have to actually prove himself. He can just show up, jump a few times, use his fist a great deal more and do one or two strength maneuvers that most people could only dream of accomplishing. No high-risk moves are needed nor does he need to work the mike. He just needs to stand with one arm in the air and he has thousands of people at his mercy. He is the perfect icon and perhaps the sport's one true modern legend.
I have been a great fan of the Undertaker since he first started in the ring all those Survivor Series ago. I've watched him with and without managers; with and without Kane and yes, with and without the 'urn'. I've always been a fan and even used to dress like him and was given the title Deadman by most of my friends. I even caught his attention back in 1997 that made him miss a tag. It was a priceless moment for me. Which makes what I am about to say even harder.
Until October 15, I had lost my way. Now, I see a man who can still maneuver okay in the ring, but is showing his age. He's not quite at the stage of Mick Foley's last years, but he's getting there. The battle against the bulge is being lost; as is his ability to keep his hair (a problem I am all too familiar with). Most columnists on the Internet are calling for his retirement with the same fervor as most Yugoslavs when they wanted Milosovic to step down. I too was truly convinced it was over.
One Raw later, I've changed my mind. He might be an old clunker, to parlay some columnists out there, but he's a classic. But don't just take my word. Listen to the crowds all over North America who keep vocalizing night after night, their wish to see the Undertaker 'keep rollin'.
In the end, the Undertaker's popularity is quite possibly the most poetic form of irony. The character known as the 'Deadman' can never seem to die. And, although my state as a fan was in a coma, it's back and stronger than ever.
Oh, and on a very quick sidenote: To you, Mark Callaway, thanks for everything. Keep it up.
Jason A. Tetro is from Ottawa and can be emailed at email@example.com. He has written for SLAM! Wrestling twice in the past: