The Undertaker's Legendary 30 Year WWE Career Will Never Be Matched
"Holy cow! Look at the size of that ham hock! Check out them drumsticks, baby!" The famous words of 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper echoed around the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut at Survivor Series 1990 to change the course of WWE history forever.
The Undertaker emerged and sent a shiver down every fan's spine. Standing at nearly 7 feet tall and over 300 pounds, Mark Calaway brought an energy no other performer could. Fast forward 30 years and the journey looks to be ending at Survivor Series this Sunday, the exact same event it started. 'The Clint Eastwood of professional wrestling' has emptied his clip and is ready to ride off into the sunset.
Playing a 'Deadman' is something you can't train for, but 'Taker has shaped an entire generation of wrestlers with phenomenal character work alongside incredible knowledge of the audience.
"It's not so much about the moves, it's always about the story," he remarks in a rare public interview.
"You have to prepare mentally. So when you're thinking about your match, you have to look at everything you've done that led up to that particular match.
"Obviously if you're gonna have a 'Buried Alive' match, there has to have been some serious things happening along the way to get to the point you wanna bury someone alive!
"First you've gotta go back and reflect on that because with me, it's always about storytelling."
Telling stories is at the forefront of pro wrestling and it's something Undertaker feels strongly about. A veteran in every sense of the word, he has done it all in Vince McMahon's global empire with huge success.
Seven world championships, a Royal Rumble win and an unprecedented WrestleMania streak that spanned three decades and 21 matches. The 'gong' is a cornerstone of countless childhoods. His iconic finishers, the chokeslam and tombstone piledriver, have transcended wrestling and become pop culture phenomenon. It's something Undertaker is now able to cherish in the twilight of his career.
"It's very humbling," the 55-year-old admits. "When in the midst of my career and when out there working all the time, you just get zoned in on your performances and don't think about how you affect people on a personal level you don't even know.
"You don't think about what how what you do affect people's lives and sometimes it gives them hope, or gives them courage to do something they don't wanna do.
"It's really humbling that you have that kind of affect on people and you can't take advantage of that or understate that, because you do have a vital part in people's everyday life. It's so humbling, it really is."
What did have an impact on fans was April 6, 2014. WrestleMania 30. The day 'The Streak' died. Brock Lesnar shocked the world and emerged winner inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Lesnar's advocate Paul Heyman let out an 'Oh my God!' as over 75,000 people were stunned into silence.
Ever the perfectionist, that fateful evening six years ago hasn't sat well with Undertaker and in time honoured tradition, he wanted to see a young star get the rub.
"I guess selfishly, you don't want it to end! It was great because it allowed me to work once or twice a year at that point of my career.
"That was physically taxing in its own right, preparing for WrestleMania each year.
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"I've said this before, I don't think Brock needed that win. I had no problem doing it obviously. I just don't think he's the guy that needed it. I think Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt would've been elevated to a higher status quicker.
"I think Roman could've used the victory more so than anybody because I think Bray Wyatt and his development of 'The Fiend' is gonna catapult him to that next level.
"Current roster I have to say Roman, he should've been the one to break it."
Underneath the black hat and trench coat and behind the curtain was a man who had everybody's respect.
Appointed a locker room leader through actions rather than choice, many legends past and present have treaded carefully with Undertaker around.
But the man hailing from 'Death Valley' isn't brash or bold about his seat at the head of the table.
"It all starts with trust, initially. The guys have got to trust you. Then you have to also display a work ethic, with me business always come first above everything else. Yes we went out at night, had a great time at night.
"But that was never an excuse to not give 100 per cent. Regardless of how you felt. I think people seeing me go out and perform injured when I probably shouldn't have, because people had paid to see me wrestle. I think people look at that and say 'What we're doing isn't just for fun, this is serious.'
"Being someone you can talk to regardless of who you were on the card. I've been around a while, for a while! So there wasn't a lot I haven't experienced and all those things come into play.
"Having the trust not only of the corporate side, but also the talent, they appreciated where I sat in the balance of both. If you had a problem and really wanted to solve it, I'd do my best to help you or give you the best advice I can.
"I'm honoured that my peers considered me that, it wasn't something I lobbied for or tried to be, it just happened. With the class of people I've shared a locker room with and to hear what they think of me, it's very humbling."
Sunday will be an emotional evening for all involved with the WWE. Vince McMahon's greatest ever creation could be making his last ever appearance. If he leaves his gloves in the ring, there's a chance they're never filled again.
But across all the arenas, towns and cities, Undertaker has learnt one valuable life lesson in one of the world's biggest companies.
"The biggest life lesson is not taking anything for granted and living in the moment. In our world, any given night, any given match, you're an inch away from something catastrophic happening to you.
"As a talent, you definitely don't want to think about it but as great as everything is and you're on top of the world, it can all come to an end.
"Appreciate the things you have and live in the moment. My philosophy is treat people as you want to be treated, make sure you show people respect no matter who you are. If we're all in it together, the product will be better for our fans."
Featured Image Credit: WWE
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