The Undertaker and Wrestlemania.
To your Average Joe, these names are familiar but carry very little weight.
To a wrestling fan, they are names spoken in reverence. Wrestlemania, “The Showcase of the Immortals”, has been the premiere showcase of sports entertainment for just shy of 32 years, and for 25 of those years, The Undertaker has been its symbol of excellence.
The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania history reads like a comic book series. His various incarnations as The Phenom, The American Badass, The Last Outlaw or his villainous turn as the Prince of Darkness are easily compared to the Man of Steel, Dark Knight or Man Without Fear handles used, respectively, by Superman, Batman, and Daredevil. His win/loss record, known as “The Streak”, currently sits at 22-1 with 21 consecutive victories, a record that will never be duplicated and one that many superheroes would envy.
And then there are his opponents, who range from legitimate monsters and psychopaths to more cerebral assassins. If no other element of The Undertaker’s career or his performances at Wrestlemania indicated that he was an anti-hero pulled straight from the pages of Marvel or DC, then men that have challenged him on The Grandest Stage solidified the idea.
The Undertaker’s first major Wrestlemania match came against one of the most legendary superstars in history: Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The innovator of the DDT, Roberts had been one of the most popular and beloved superstars of the late 80’s, even rivaling Hulk Hogan. In 1991, however, “The Snake” embraced his dark side and began tormenting Randy Savage and his wife Elizabeth. The Undertaker briefly aligned himself with “The Snake”, but ultimately deemed him too depraved. “The Snake” became the first notable villain to be vanquished by The Undertaker, and it was this feud that birthed the anti-hero mentality The Undertaker embodies to this day.
In his other early outings, The Undertaker, a 6’10” man with uncanny agility, found himself fighting titans much of the same mold. Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, and Psycho Sid were some of the first monsters that challenged and, ultimately, fell to The Undertaker, laying the foundation on which his legacy would be built. In later years, it would be smaller but more devious villains that would test the Deadman. “The Legend Killer” Randy Orton, “The Ultimate Opportunist” Edge, and CM Punk all went to great lengths to get inside the head of The Undertaker in advance of their battles with the legend. CM Punk even went so far as to desecrate the memory of The Undertaker’s longtime manager and ally, Paul Bearer, stealing an urn full of Bearer’s ashes and emptying the contents onto a prone Phenom.
The comic book parallels between The Undertaker would not be complete without an arch-nemesis. The Undertaker has three. His on again-off again war with his half-brother Kane has resulted in two Wrestlemania matches, while a game of “who’s best” against current WWE COO Triple H has yielded three grueling and incredibly violent matches, one of which saw The Undertaker carted from the ring on a stretcher despite being the victor of the match.
As for the third nemesis, they say that good friends make the best enemies. Such was the case when The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, both heroes and both carrying much respect for the other, fought tooth and nail against each other in back to back years, creating two instant classics and ultimately ended Shawn Michael’s career.
The Undertaker is currently scheduled to face Shane McMahon, at the behest of Shane’s father and WWE CEO Vince McMahon, at Wrestlemania 32 on April 3, 2016 with control of the WWE at stake. It is a match that will occur inside the confines of the dreaded Hell in a Cell, a structure in which The Undertaker has competed more and won more matches than any superstar in history. While Shane McMahon may not represent The Undertaker’s rogues gallery as vividly as others have, he has managed to rack up wins over such superstars as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mick Foley with his daredevil offense. The atmosphere is certainly set for yet another dramatic chapter in the comic book series that is The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania legacy.
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Todd doesn’t like anything and doesn’t care what you think about it.
SPRATTE IS A SPAZ AND LIKES EVERYTHING BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS AWESOOOOME! Spratte also REALLLLY likes coffee. And Mountain Dew. And he mourns for the generations that will never fully understand the experience of watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Aaron has a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Northern Colorado and likes to spend his free time writing the occasional sad bastard play. Because, like Whedon and Moffet, your tears give him strength.
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