There are pro-wrestlers and then there is The Undertaker.
For the last 27 years, the Deadman, as he was popularly known, entertained millions of fans across the world with his in-ring theatrics and jaw-dropping moves.
Ever since making his debut on November 22, 1990 at Survivor Series, The Undertaker won hearts and respect of both his fellow wrestlers and the fans of pro-wrestling.
On April 2, 2017 the Phenom kept his iconic hat and coat in the squared circle. And that was the moment of shock for all of pro-wrestling’s fans and the fans of The Undertaker.
Millions across the world took that as a signal of his retirement.
A quick look at how people are reacting on Twitter proves the fact that there was no one and will not be anyone like The Undertaker.
— Kala’s Stage (@kalasstage) April 3, 2017
— Brandon Lees (@Bwanen) April 3, 2017
— RUSSELL BROWN (@rcbrxwn) April 3, 2017
— Jagadish(Jack) (@Real_Jagadish) April 3, 2017
— JDUB. (@JDUB_247) April 3, 2017
Pro-wrestling came to India with cable television in the 1990s and I was one of the hundreds who immediately got hooked. It was the time of the legends of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as WWE). There were the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Owen ‘The Rocket’ Hart, Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Yokozuna, IRS, and Macho Man among many, many other greats.
The Undertaker made his debut way before WWF actually became popular in India. To be honest, The Undertaker was the one who Indian pro-wrestling fans from the ’90s identified with. The respect he commanded was way more than others of the time and the legends who came later.
Being a guy from that era, I can still vividly imaging dressing up as The Undertaker and doing that ‘zombie walk’ while pronouncing the iconic bell sound,which signaled the entrance of the Phenom, with my mouth. And I was not the only one.
— DavKind (@DavKind76) April 3, 2017
And do you remember Akshay Kumar’s fight scene with The Undertaker?
Such was the popularity of The Undertaker in India that the 1996 Bollywood film ‘Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi’ had the ‘other’ Undertaker as a character in it.
The ‘other’ was actually Brian Lee, who had played the character of imposter Undertaker in WWF and faced the real Undertaker at Summerslam 1994 in the iconic ‘Undertaker vs Undertaker’ match. (That match is still hailed as gold standard among wrestling and Undertaker fans.)
Indeed, with the apparent retirement of The Undertaker “our childhood is officially over”. But has he actually retired?
Let us be perfectly clear about this – the WWE has not yet made any official comment on Undertaker’s retirement. Those, like me, who grew up watching WWE know very well how the pro-wrestling format relies heavily of Hollywood-esque storylines to create the buzz for the next match.
And even if some may doubt his ‘retirement’, one cannot overlook two facts.
The first is that The Undertaker was defeated a second time at Wrestlemania – an annual PPV event in which the Deadman held a record 21 straight victories. His first loss at the event came at the hands of Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX.
Subsequently, The Undertaker defeated Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon in the Wrestlemania 31 and 32, respectively. At Wrestlemania 33, he was defeated by Roman Reigns bringing the win-loss record to 23-2.
The second fact is that The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway in case you didn’t know, is 52. In a physically demanding sport like wrestling, 52 is post-retirement age especially for a top-billed wrestler such as The Undertaker.
Yes, Ric Flair, hailed as the greatest professional wrestler in the history of pro-wrestling, was well past 60 when he officially retired. But it should be noted that Flair had stopped participating in matches as the top-billed wrestler. The prime of his time was over and all he was doing before finally retiring (in-ring) in 2012 was just play along.
Then there is Goldberg, who is just two years younger to The Undertaker. But Goldberg has been able to keep himself in a shape, something The Undertaker has not been. And that is a major point.
So by all accounts, The Undertaker apparently has retired unless the WWE has other plans for him and for us. And if he has actually retired, let us admit that there legendary wrestlers will come and go but The Undertaker will remain forever. Because, a Deadman never dies.