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Undertaker, Undertaker, Undertaker. Must we do this?
Look, let’s just get it out of the way early. The Undertaker is an all-time great in the history of pro wrestling. The gimmick stands the test of time, spanned many different eras of the business, and drew significant dollars throughout each. The in-ring portion of the career is a success with legendary matches against premiere talent like Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, and others. The longevity of the act was unmatched at 30 years as a main event level piece of business. Facts are facts and Undertaker’s full body of work only leads to one place. He’s an icon.
In recognizing the need to develop and open up the Undertaker act to insure checks keep clearing, Mark Callaway has smartly lifted the shroud of secrecy around his character that he diligently protected while he was a full-time wrestler. The result? He’s talking more. Thus far, he’s less of an icon in that role.
This week on the Joe Rogan podcast, Undertaker hopped on his trusty motorcycle and ran over the company that he helped build. How? Well, he talked about today’s product being soft, pined for the era of wrestling where men were men, referenced with what felt like an overly dramatic eye roll current stars playing video games in the locker room, and played a general ode to the good ‘ol days when he was running the show.
The first thing Undertaker should do is look in a mirror. He was on said WWE product that he deemed too tough to watch just two months ago. And guess what? His appearance didn’t take the overproduction out of the show. The WWE ThunderDome entrance and theatrics played out like a movie. If the last outlaw himself can’t shatter the corporate slog of a soft WWE product, who can?
Right now? Nobody. And that’s by design. The WWE brand rules all and the Undertaker should understand that fact better than he led on during the interview with Rogan. Current stars in WWE could be the roughest and manliest group of manly men on earth. They could be men who chew beer bottles and rip shots of Cuervo for breakfast and they still wouldn’t be put into a position to outdraw the brand. Prime Undertaker plopped into the corporate wrestling environment that WWE cultivates would have a ceiling like the current crop of stars seem to have now.
Video games have nothing to do with it. Men being men have nothing to do with it either. It’s a different time and WWE is a different company. The stars look and act different because the company does. Oh and what about the women?
Now, as for “the good old times,” let’s have 12 Jack on the rocks, and talk memories stuff – there is a time and place for that. The eras that Undertaker alluded to in his comments are riddled with good and bad. The unscripted, raw nature of a product rooted in stars that could draw money? Good. The wrestling star life in the fast lane with 300 days a year on the road, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and other forms of dangerous debauchery? Bad.
Undertaker needs to balance that equation and advocate for the good of those times. Coach talent and lean on leaders of the WWE where he can in an effort to get back to the raw feel of wrestling that truly is the most effective. At the same time, he can acknowledge where his era had it wrong and put over the stars of today for learning from the tragic mistakes of those during his time to get it right. Those stars aren’t “less than” because they’ve properly adapted to have a safer, longer, and more profitable career.
The Undertaker will be a WWE ambassador for life. He can be effective in that role, but if par for the course continues to be this week’s interview with Rogan, he won’t be. The man is a legend of the business and he has a lot to give that business even if he’s not giving it inside the squared circle. He’s got equity, but that equity can dry up fast when you stand up for the wrong things.
So, again, Undertaker, must we do this?
Let’s not. The wrestling world doesn’t need an exact replica of the crusty old man that he remembered seeing when he first walked into a wrestling locker room like he told Rogan. It’s time to see an Undertaker that’s better than that.
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