The Undertaker. The Deadman.
When I was new to wrestling and first saw The Undertaker I raised my eyebrow "a guy pretending to be a deadman wut" and quickly was fascinated by him. You'd think a living deadman would make wrestling look too fake and stupid for a kid, but no, he instantly became one of my favourites. He had that aura of badessery and coolness. It was like he was more of a video game or comic book character than a pro wrestler, per se. He sure stood out among the rest. Especially after the WWF cartoonish era was long gone.
Now, when you think about it, The Undertaker's gimmick on paper is ridiculous. It has to be one of the dumbest ideas ever on paper. It's a gimmick that was meant to have a shelf life of like what? 6 months? A year? But somehow, Mark Callaway has made it work. I guess him being very professional and committed to the character helped. I can't imagine ANYONE else pulling such a gimmick convincingly for nearly three decades.
Now as for his matches... well for a legend he sure has had a lot of stinkers, but that's not necessarily his fault. His gimmick is partly to blame for this. I feel like in the first 5 years or so of his WWF career, the only reason for people to pay to watch The Undertaker was for the experience of seeing a man playing a living deadman right before their very eyes. Nobody wanted to see him have epic matches or anything. Also, I feel like Callaway had a rather easy job at the time. He basically didn't have to sell much offence. It's not like his Mania matches from the current century where he had to do a lot of stuff.
Some people say Undertaker's matches are slow and repetitive and they kinda are, I suppose, but in 2005-2009 he was at his absolute best in the ring, imo. His matches against Kurt Angle, Batista, Orton, Edge and Shawn Michaels were all pretty damn good.
Like many fans, I used to get very invested into the Streak. By the time I got into wrestling(2004), the Streak was already becoming an entity of its own instead of a mere stat. It was always the biggest draw of WM to me after the main events for the world titles. I do miss the days where people discussed the possible opponent for Undertaker at WM. Hell, I remember people in 2006 thinking Khali might be the one beating the Streak. And in 2008 or 2009 people suggesting Ted Dibiase's son to do it because it would be poetic considering Taker was kayfabe brought in to WWF by Ted DiBiase sr. LOL imagine that, Ted DiBiase Jr. beating the Streak!
. I remember at some point me wanting Edge to break it, since Edge had a WM streak as well for a few years. But tbh, I'm glad he didn't beat it.
And there was ALWAYS that slight fear that he might lose it. At least in 2005-2010 there was. I feared he'd might lose it to Orton and especially against Batista. When Taker kicked out of the Batista Bom at Wm 23 I jumped off my seat. I shit you not. That match was very hyped and it sure as hell delivered! Only time I cheered against Batista.
I think the last time I truly believed he'd might lose his Streak was in his rematch with HBK. My thought process was "well, why else would they have a 2nd match, then?!" and to my pleasant surprise, Taker won again. Then he faced HHH twice in a row. I kinda feared he'd lose it to HHH on the 2nd(well 3rd...) time and that it was gonna be another Hunter ego-feeding trip but fortunately no. So after that I pretty much thought "he's never gonna lose it".
...but he did. Against Lesnar. At first I was like "WAAAT IT'S OVER?!" and then I was like "...well thank God it wasn't Cena, at least!". Tbh, I think if Lesnar had never left in 2004 he'd have beaten the Streak around 2005-2007. Always thought he'd be a good candidate to break it if he ever came back, but Iv'e never imagined WWE would pull the trigger on it.
Honestly, losing his Streak killed a bit of his aura. You could say the Streak isn't the only thing that defines his legacy, but I think it kinda is one of the main things that does. After the fact that he's a walking deadman, that's the very first think I think of when I think of The Undertaker. The Streak was always something that got me hyped about WM. It was one of those things that the company kept doing well even when they weren't doing so well in terms of creative decisions overall.
Ofc, he also got older and his matches dropped in quality this decade. At this point it hurts to see him in the ring. Ric Flair was still having some decent matches in 2002-2008, but Taker in the last 5 years or so? Ugh. He's so banged up. He needs to hang it up already.
As for his Biker gimmick, didn't care much for it. I guess it was cool at the time to keep things fresh for a bit, but it didn't get better until his heel turn after the Invasion angle, imo.
Oh and he sucks on the mic, seriously. He's GREAT at saying 3 words "Rest in peace". I bet that's how he ends his phone calls or signs his letters and e-mails, even. But anything else you ask him to say? It's not that great. Hell, isn't he a pretty private person? It does show on TV, tbh. No wonder he has mostly thrived in a gimmick full of mystery and that doesn't require you to talk much. It's fine he's not a good mic worker, since his unique character and the way he plays it make up for it. But the truth needs to be said.
...well, I might have sounded like I was a bit too hard on him, but don't get me wrong, I really like him and he's one of my favourites. He's undoubtedly a legend of the business, but he's never been THE number 1 guy ever. In the New Generation Era he was the 2nd guy behind Bret Hart and HBK. In the Attitude Era he was behind Austin, Foley and Rock and perhaps even Triple H after the Austin vs. McMahon feud was over. In the post-AE eras he wasn't the top guy either. The top guys were Lesnar, Cena, Batista, Orton and Reigns. He's always been a guy who works with the draws, kinda like Triple H. I guess Taker is hard to book as a top guy since he plays a character that's not supposed to be exposed and break kayfabe on TV shows like Conan, Jay Leno, etc. All of his major title reigns have been underwhelming. He didn't need the title to get over, tbh.
That being said, Undertaker is a very well-known wrestler. Arguably the most well-known one worldwide after the usual suspects. His longevity helps too. A lot of males under 40 years old know who he is or remember him from watching WWE when they were kids. I notice Middle Easterners in particular absolutely love the guy. I feel like every single wrestling fan from the ME I see online has Undertaker as their favourite wrestler haha. Undertaker also seems rather popular in Europe. I think Undertaker is mostly popular among people of my generation and younger who started to watch wrestling around 2002-2005. Aka, when Undertaker was already a legend and was hitting the peak of his career ring wise.
Is The Undertaker overrated? Dunno, maybe a bit? But I guess you can say that about a lot of other wrestlers. I'll always love Taker's best moments and all, but I can't deny some of his flaws.
What about you? What are your honest thoughts on The Undertaker?