To borrow three words from The Rock, “It doesn’t matter” if you are a pro wrestling fan or not, because the chances are, either way, you’ve heard of the Undertaker. The ghostly character was brought to life, or rather death, by Mark Calloway back in 1990, and has since gone on to transcend “Sports Entertainment” ever since.
From the deadman’s likeness appearing every year as cosplay for Halloween getup, through to Bollywood film portrayals, Saudi statues, and collectible comic books, popular culture often gives a nod to the Undertaker. So tonight, after an in-ring career spanning 30-plus extraordinary years, one of WWE’s most successful and enduring stars will stalk the red carpet and claim his rightful place in the company’s Hall of Fame.
Unquestionably, Calloway’s desire to shun interviews and the media spotlight, to keep his Undertaker persona mysterious, has been one of the keys to his success, but behind the black trench coat and unearthly demeanor lies a dedicated athlete that has wowed millions of fans with his feats of intestinal fortitude. Ahead of Takers’ big night as part of WrestleMania week, M&F takes a look the the Undertaker’s long lasting career in the squared circle and the moments that changed WWE history.
The Undertaker and The Choke Slam
Right from his very first pin-fall victory against Dusty Rhodes at 1990’s Survivor Series Pay-Per-View, the Undertaker would claim the move as one of his signature strikes. When the deadman slapped his giant hands on an opponent’s neck before lifting them off the ground and returning them to the earth with authority, no one was safe from the choke slam.
“Your’e about to go for a ride when he slaps that big hand on you,” says AJ Styles, who faced the Undertaker at WrestleMania 37. “I know, because it’s happened to me, and he’s a legend no doubt!”
Another victim of the Undertaker during his debut at Survivor Series was Koko B Ware. He would prove to be the first of hundreds to suffer the Phenom’s “Tombstone” finisher. The move, technically known as the inverted piledriver, has doomed some of the WWE’s greatest stars. It is a move that requires strength and control, in order to plant his opponent head first onto the mat.
“It’s very devastating, you don’t see a lot of people do that, but when he did it, it was all over baby!” says WWE Hall of Famer and iconic ringside manager, Jimmy Hart.
Walking the Ropes
Rarely in pro wrestling does a man who stands 6’10” walk along the length of the ring’s top rope, but few “big men” in wrestling have every been as athletic as the Undertaker.
“It was so out of the box,” says Sammi Zayne, who will face Jackass star Johnny Knoxville at WrestleMania. “Especially for the time, and now 30 years later, we are still talking about it, especially for a guy of his size. When you see some of the ropes from the early 90s, those ropes were sagging, and he held his balance so well. It was ahead of his time, no question, he was ahead of his time.”
The Undertaker Breaks Shawn Michaels Heart
Having tangled with the Undertaker in many memorable matches, the “Phenom” would finally lay rest to the “Heartbreak Kid’s” active in-ring career in 2010, at WrestleMania 26, in one of the greatest pro wrestling matches of all time. “I was I tears,” recalls Beck Lynch, who will defend her WWE RAW women’s title against Bianca Belair at WrestleMania. “It was one of the greatest matches ever. I look at the Undertaker, he is such a legend, and I study everything that he does. It’s one of the greatest careers in WWE history and I’m so excited for him to go into the Hall of Fame.”
Despite burying hundreds of hapless opponents during his storied, three decade plus career, Undertaker’s respect for his fellow combatants often gave fans a momentous match that only served to seal his fate as one of WWE’s most feared and equally beloved warriors. With his unmatched combination of strength, speed, and intensity, Mark Calloway created a character that will be immortalized in the WWE’s Hall of Fame class of 2022 on Friday evening. Congratulations, deadman!