This picture (thanks to WrestleShare) was what brought it all home to me as I saw it this morning. It was taken at a Nashville Predators hockey game, and along with it comes speculation that Undertaker will make an appearance at RAW tonight. However, the person in this picture is NOT The Undertaker – this is Mark Calloway. It’s not Undertaker when there’s no ominous music, no light show, no fog, no black leather trench coat, no rolled eyes, no black eyeliner, and no stuck-out tongue. Without all that, you’ve got Mark, and he looks…old.
Go ahead and roll your eyes at me, and try to convince yourself you don’t see it, but be honest with yourself – you see it, too. Mark looks old and tired. So, in seeing and reluctantly accepting that fact, with a heavy heart, I’m urging Mark to not accept the offer for an Undertaker match at Wrestlemania 29, and to go one step further, I believe he must retire from in-ring activity altogether. Here are five reasons why:
1. For the WWE. As I’ve often said, I’m a purist, and being such, I believe that no wrestler should ever take precedence over a promotion. It’s clear that, for WM29, WWE is focusing on Rock/Cena II and Lesnar/HHH II as their two big main event matches. With Undertaker’s absence from the WM landscape to this point, it’s a concern that there won’t be a proper build-up for his match with whomever it may be against (CM Punk has been the main named pushed so far…more on that in a minute). This delay doesn’t work well for WWE, and it’s unfair for any talent, even a legendary talent like ‘Taker, to hold a promotion hostage regarding their biggest show of the year, until he sees fit to make a decision. WWE deserves better.
2. For the man. Mark Calloway will be turning 48 years old on March 24th, and it’s been a rough 48 years. He debuted in 29 years ago (see the irony there?) for World Class Championship Wrestling, and has been a major player ever since in WCW, New Japan, and WWF/WWE. Within the last several years, he’s been hampered by nagging injuries (as you would expect from a 25+ year main-eventer who incorporates a high-impact style). To put it simply, his body is a wreck, and I don’t want to see him punish himself anymore, and possibly suffer a catastrophic injury that comprehensively impacts his quality of life in a negative way. Mark Calloway, the man, deserves better.
3. For the character. The Undertaker began as a character that felt no pain…he was a MONSTER heel in the truest sense of the word. Although his character certainly evolved into a more realistic persona over time, Taker’s toughness was always something we, as fans, could rely on. Undertaker’s resiliency has been the key point in making so many good matches great ones, and it has built within us, all Undertaker fans, a hope (and perhaps an expectation) that he will sit up. He will survive. He will overcome. However, the reality we must suspend to continue to count on that resiliency mounts with every year that passes, and Taker is no longer an active, tough-as-nails, bad-as-a-nightmare character anymore. In fact, the heart of the character is fading with each year that passes, and only the shell remains. The Undertaker character deserves better.
4. For the Streak. As I was writing this, I began to say that there are no Undertaker storylines anymore, but I quickly realized that wasn’t true. The Streak is a storyline; in fact, it’s the biggest, longest, most ambitious storyline ever undertaken in the history of wrestling. Think about it – who would have ever thought that an angle lasting over two decades, involving only one main character, and moving forward only once per year could possibly work? I know it wasn’t originally sketched out this way, and only extraordinary circumstances could have allowed it to happen, but that’s what makes it so special. Unfortunately, all good storylines need to come to their proper end; if they don’t they become bad storylines (translation: nWo) in a hurry. 20-0 is the perfect way to end it – Taker’s match with HHH and Michaels truly was the end of an era, and a fitting “out-in-a-blaze-of-glory” finish. There’s no “passing of the torch” needed, and if it’s attempted, it won’t be the proper payoff for the storyline.
A WM29 match with CM Punk can’t work. Punk is young, fast, relatively healthy (if his knee holds up and Miz doesn’t drop him on his head again), and an all-around better wrestler at this point than a broken-down Taker. Punk’s character has just come off a 434-day title reign, which, within the WWE Universe, makes him one of the best in the world. On paper, it’s a total mismatch (man, how I hate to type that). There are only two possible results to this scenario: if Taker wins, WWE has just dumped on one of its main eventers – and by proxy, the entire WWE locker room – by using a wrestler that’s way past his prime. If Punk wins, the Streak ends, which is something NOBODY wants. The Streak deserves better.
5. For the Legacy. It’s all about the legacy, and The Undertaker has meant so much to the WWE and this business, he deserves to go out on top, despite what WWE wants, what the fans want, and even what Mark Calloway wants. Consider Ric Flair, and how he’s managed to completely tarnish his legacy because he just can’t let go. As a huge Flair fan, it kills me to think of everything he’s done after his “retirement” match with Shawn @ Wrestlemania a few years ago. Undertaker deserves better.
Mark, I hope you get to see this post, and I hope you consider everything before making your decision about Wrestlemania 29. And once you consider everything that’s at stake now, I hope you make the choice you need to make, and go out while you’re on top. Thank you for all that you’ve done in the business I love so much.
- Undertaker Reportedly Questionable for WWE WrestleMania 29 (bleacherreport.com)
- WWE News: Undertaker Reportedly at ‘Less Than 50 Percent’ for WrestleMania 29 (bleacherreport.com)