Undertaker Retires: The End of an Aura
By Akash Ghosal
There aren’t a lot of wrestlers in the industry who can proudly hone the accomplishment of having one gimmick throughout their career. Most wrestlers have had undergone modifications of their gimmick or simply changed it to win the fans over, be it as a heel or a babyface.
What separates The Undertaker from the rest is the fact that he has swooped wrestling fans off their feet for three decades as the ‘Deadman’. Yes, he did wear the ‘American Badass’ for some years in the early 2000s, but it was more of another side of the same ‘Deadman’ coin.
Debuting in the WWF (the then WWE) Survivor Series, 1990 as ‘Cain the Undertaker’, the gimmick had left most fans across the world scared and in awe, something that he carried around for 30 years. Described as one of the most hardworking individuals in the wrestling business by many of his contemporaries, Undertaker (real name Mark Calaway) was the yardstick of measurement of talent and performance during his time.
The Undertaker character was almost a household name in every home, with even non-wrestling fans being aware of him, which showcases the immense quality of the persona, so when he announced his retirement via a Tweet, fans around the world swept social media with their tributes and memories of the legendary figure. One of the stalwarts of WWE, Undertaker has been a fan favourite, always perfecting the mixture of mystery and fear he brought into the character.
One of the major accomplishments of The Undertaker was his Wrestlemania streak, which was finally broken by Brock Lesnar in Wrestlemania XXX. This was probably the first sign of retirement of the legend, who had already been wrestling once a year due to his health issues, to keep the streak alive. With the streak broken, it was clear that he did not have a lot left in his tank and it was time to put someone else over.
The WWE ring was always ‘The Devil’s Playground’ and the fast uprising Roman Reigns had started calling the ring his ‘yard’, which led to the two to engage in a feud in Wrestlemania 33. The match was supposed to mark Undertaker’s retirement and to put Roman Reigns over with a victory against the former, sealing the fact that the ring is his ‘yard’.
Undertaker had marked his retirement by keeping his symbolic gloves, overcoat and hat in the middle of the ring, before walking off, even breaking character for the first time ever to kiss his wife. It was, however, Undertaker’s zeal to give the fans a perfect ending that made him return for Wrestlemania 34 and then have one last match at Wrestlemania 36 against AJ Styles.
Post Wrestlemania 36 in 2020, many of the wrestling followers did foresee the retirement to be soon enough when the first episode of ‘The Last Ride’ aired on the WWE Network and the words “For the first time ever, Mark Calaway allowed his career to be documented” appeared on the screen.
The 5 episode documentary showed the legend totally off character talking about his journey and life outside the ring. For someone who had never broken his character for WWE, the documentary gave away a lot of moments suggesting his retirement.
His appearance on Stone Cold’s podcast, The Broken Skull as the laid back man he is off the wrestling world, was something that nobody had expected to happen during his wrestling career.
The man with the biggest and the scariest persona in the ring having a laugh and a drink with the character that never gave a second thought to the management had the undertone of a possible big news incoming.
Going back to his words, Undertaker had mentioned about retirement a lot of times as “riding off into the sunset” and probably the ‘American Badass’ did drive off into the sunset post his victory against AJ Styles in a Boneyard match in Wrestlemania 36, thus giving his other gimmick that perfect goodbye he had failed to, according to him, to give to the ‘Deadman’.