Monday, April 3, 2017

The End of an Era

It's very difficult to say goodbye to one's childhood heroes.

It's even harder when one of those heroes continues to be active into one's adulthood.

After 27 years, The Undertaker, has apparently hung it up. 

For wrestling fans in general, it's a stunning moment.

For myself in particular, it feels almost like a punch in the gut followed by a boot to the head.

It's no exaggeration to call The Undertaker the longest running and best loved member of the WWE roster. The man began wrestling officially for the WWE under the Undertaker gimmick in November of 1990, making his on-camera debut at the 4th annual Survivor Series pay-per-view event. The character was created in a time where gimmicks that seemed to come out of comic books and cartoons were the norm. Yet despite all the other characters the WWE (Then the WWF) had at that time, Taker stood out. Where others were colorful and bombastic, Taker was slow, calculating, methodical, and effectively monotone, with his jet outfit paired with gray gloves, tie, and spats. He looked like— and so far as anyone could tell actually had his look modeled on— the depictions one would see of an undertaker out of the Old West.

At nearly seven feet tall and over three hundred pounds, Taker was as close to the mythical 'total package' as any athlete can hope to get. And as far as wrestlers went, he was a perfect fit. The size. The look. The voice. The charisma. The absolutely unbelievable agility for a man his size.... In the years that followed his Survivor Series debut, The Undertaker garnered many nicknames, but perhaps none was more appropriate than that of The Phenom. He lived up to that in every possible way. Taker was rarely out on injury, a fact that I and many other fans are thankful for. But what helped him become such a classic figure in the wrestling world and the community that has sprung up around it over the decades, was that above all else, he was incredibly adaptative.

Taker's look and even aspects of his gimmick changed over the years. From something resembling a half vampiric mortician (The Deadman) from the days of Wyatt Earp to a demonic monster and/or priest of a demonic cult from a comic book (The Lord of Darkness), to the motorcycle driving American Badass all the way back to the original Deadman persona, Taker managed to roll with the times, transitioning easily from the more fantasy based characters of what we might call the Federation Years to the grim and gritty days of the Attitude Era to the  PG 13 era and back to the Federation Era, always able to keep himself relevant. And at all times, laying it all on the line to entertain the fans. It was for good reason that I and so many others would cheer our heads off when that tell tale gong would ring. He gave us the best years of his life and tried to give us more than our money's worth every time he went out to that ring. I can only hope that in some small way, we were able to give him back some of the joy and excitement he brought to our lives week after week for the last twenty-seven years.

It can truly be said for anyone who remembers my character Warwolf's original beginnings that Taker was not only among those who inspired him, but in many ways was the most direct inspiration. Without The Undertaker, there would likely have been no Warwolf, Esheraso or otherwise. In that, I owe Taker a very personal thank you as a writer for providing me with the spark that gave birth to a character I might never have dreamed up otherwise.

In recent years, Taker has gained a new nickname; The Last Outlaw. I would like to amend that.

He wasn't just The Last Outlaw.

He was The Last Survivor.

He was a part of a time we'll likely never see again in our lifetimes, and the chances of seeing another individual who could ever do what he did is slim to none, no matter how many wrestlers come and go. He was a part of my childhood and teenage years who kept rolling with me until April 2, 2017, when he finally said it was time to go.

One thing many people have said about the Undertaker is that he very much believed in the tradition that when you go out in the wrestling business, you go out on a loss, to give back to the fans and the company. I can tell you here and now nobody would have been upset if he had gone out on a win. But he respected tradition. He took only the second loss he's ever had at WrestleMania, a show that carried an indelible magic due to his insane winning streak. Another feat we'll never see again in our lifetimes. For this last sacrifice on the part of a man who gave his all to please us in the wrestling community, much respect is due, and much respect is given. 

You've earned your ride into the sunset, Undertaker.

And so the final bell has tolled.

The lights have faded to black.

God I'm gonna miss him.



Godspeed, Deadman.

And thank you. For everything.

We'll miss you.

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