He is without a doubt Vince McMahon‘s single greatest gimmick and creation in his thirty four years at the helm of the WWE. The Phenom. The Deadman. The American Bad-Ass. The Undertaker.
A disgruntled former WCW employee who walked away after insufficient investment, Mark Callaway was immediately thrust into the main event of the WWF when he debuted at Survivor Series on November 22, 1990, as the Western style undead mortician The Undertaker. Originally a new hired gun by “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and managed by Brother Love, once he switched managers to the equally creepy Paul Bearer in 1991, his character was set in (tomb)stone – a character that has lasted, albeit with a few tweaks here and there, essentially the same until this day 25 years later.
He has been, at times, the company’s biggest heel or it’s most beloved face and has now entered the pantheon of other legends like Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels, who are now revered for their legendary careers more than anything. His undefeated streak at Wrestlemania was one of the annual events main event draws for years – its crashing halt to Brock Lesnar is still talked about with the earnest of the wildest conspiracy theories and debated on line until friendships are lost in unending comment threads. The power of the Deadman continues to awe and inspire.
With his match earlier this year at Wrestlemania 32 against Shane McMahon drawing a negative (and generally confusing) sentiment from many fans, people began to wonder what was left for the Undertaker. Was his legacy fading out? How much did he have left in his tank? Would we even see the Undertaker in a WWE ring again?
Back in May, multiple outlets, including Wrestling Observer, claimed that The Undertaker told Vince McMahon and several others backstage that he was done with the WWE and that his Wrestlemania 32 match was his final appearance. The world was in shock – was this going to be how the Undertaker’s legacy ended? Photos appeared throughout the summer, most notably one that seemed to have him on crutches, leading people to believe that he had finally run out of steam and the Undertaker we’d all known and loved was ended.
But then things began to change. Rumblings of a possible match-up against John Cena at Wrestlemania 33. Then the appearance, fully in character, at the Cleveland Cavaliers home opener, looking to be in better shape than he’s looked in years.
And then it became official. On WWE’s official website, The Undertaker’s photo appeared as one of the announced Superstars appearing on Smackdown Live‘s 900th episode, broadcast live on November 15 from Wilkes-Barre, PA.
And while the speculation and theories have run rampant for a year now, from John Cena, to a rematch with Bray Wyatt, to one final match-up with the recently retired Sting, here’s what this author would do if given the book on Undertaker’s Last Ride in the WWE. And it would go no further than from within his own (kayfabe) family. The only man that could (and should) end the Undertaker’s story, is the Big Red Machine himself, the Taker’s own deranged and twisted “brother” Kane.
HERE’S HOW IT SHOULD ALL GO DOWN
For six years after his arrival, The Undertaker was alone in his own mythology (minus the attached manager/mortician Paul Bearer). His netherwordly persona was a single lineage to the Darkside, which he managed to weave into feuds and matches against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Sid Vicious and Bret “Hitman” Hart. But the arrival of a younger brother who was burned from seemingly the Undertaker’s own neglect added depth to the Undertaker’s character and history that he had never had before. And for twenty years, the paths of both WWE Legends have forever been intertwined. So it’s only fitting that both men end their WWE careers together, ending a story that is two decades (of destruction) in the making.
Kane’s character has always been about being a victim. His character was born out of betrayal, the turning of his back from the Undertaker on his dead family, the betrayals of Paul Bearer, the women he’s loved (Tori and Lita), The Authority. Everyone who has every allied with the Devil’s Favourite Demon has always ended up scarring the monster more. The latest betrayal, the RKO from Randy Orton a few weeks back on Smackdown Live when Orton seemingly joined the Wyatt Family, could be the slowburn descent into the angle that ultimately ends at Wrestlemania 33 in Orlando. Feeling that he has no allies left in the WWE Universe, Kane becomes the most evil realization of his character ever. A monster now devoid of any feeling or trust, Kane goes on a rampage of destruction, devastating Superstars left and right, without a match booked, just to cause chaos and disarray in the WWE Universe to match the chaos in his own psyche.
In order to defeat the Demon, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon bring back the only man who has ever had long term success in defeating Kane. His own brother, The Undertaker.
The Undertaker and Kane feud off and on for months, with The Undertaker trying multiple routes to bring back the good in his little brother, sometimes coming close, before losing him to the depths of the monster within time and time again. Come Wrestlemania 33, the only path left becomes apparent to the Deadman. He must destroy his own flesh and blood.
The match would be a gimmick match, combining both the Undertaker and Kane’s very own gimmick matches. An Inferno Buried Alive Match. The ring is on fire, with a path of flames up the ramp way leading to an open grave. The two battle it out for survival. At the matches end, the Undertaker realizes that his brother is now stronger than he is and that the only way to defeat him, is to sacrifice his own soul. In one last move, the Undertaker spears Kane into the open grave, which is immediately covered in by the gravediggers around the site. Both men are buried together, to forever rest in peace.
And while some may claim that Taker vs Cena would be the passing of the torch, the reality is that that opportunity has long since passed. Andre The Giant passed the torch of the 70’s to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Shawn Michaels passed the torch of the New Generation to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Attitude Era at Wrestlemania 14. Cena should have been passed the torch a decade ago, not when Cena’s generation has already given way to the New Era. And while Sting is a dream match-up from the Monday Night Wars era, there is simply not enough story except fan dreams to provide any long lasting remembrance once the match occurs.
But a no-contest double burial to the end the twenty year story of the Brothers of Destruction – with one final act of good to save the world from the evil he himself had hand in creating – would be the ultimate ending of a mythology in wrestling like no other. And the perfect send off for Mark Callaway and Glen Jacobs from the world of wrestling.
Main Photo: WWE.com