When you say someone is “over” in pro wrestling, that’s usually a good thing. “He’s so over with the fans” means that he’s getting a big reaction and they’re clamoring to see more.
Let’s be clear – that’s not what I mean when I say that The Undertaker is over. I’m saying he’s over like shell art is over.
In 2010, I sat ringside at WrestleMania XXVI with my brother. It was a dream come true – our first Mania – and we were watching two of the greatest ever battle as HBK faced The Undertaker for the second year in a row. One career came to an end that night as the door closed on Shawn Michaels. Another career came ever closer to its finish, as well – but little did we know that 7 years later, The Undertaker would still be doing his thing. Should he still be doing it, though?
Don’t get me wrong, The Undertaker has put on some solid matches in the time since The Heartbreak Kid called it quits. From battles with Triple H, CM Punk, and even some of what he did with Brock Lesnar – Taker has still created memorable moments for us as fans. But for me, the moment when I began to lose hope occurred in New Orleans at WrestleMania XXX.
Again attending with my brother, I remember looking at each other and realizing about 10 minutes into Taker’s match that we were both thinking of making a run to the restroom. Yes, folks – The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar became a ‘piss break’ match for us. We came back, didn’t miss a thing, and The Streak came to an end before our eyes. We figured it may happen one day, but in such a lackluster fashion as that? Yikes.
To be fair, it’s been said that Taker suffered a concussion early in that match, and powered through it all – carried by Brock Lesnar, who was arguably not ready to take on that role, but had no choice that fateful day. But still, a boring match and the end of the biggest thing The Undertaker had going for him? It must be time for him to call it quits soon, right?
Three years later, multiple surgeries, and plenty of holiday meals later… he’s still at it. But why?
Yes, it’s an amazing thing to witness The Undertaker’s entrance. The lights going out. The music. The lightning and pyrotechnics. The aura of The Dead Man. But then he gets in the ring, and we reminisce in the wonderful things he did in the past. And we get just a taste of it.
When he showed up at the 2017 Royal Rumble, it was exciting to see him just ‘appear’ in the ring across from Goldberg. But then he started to move, and you quickly remembered that this is The Old Man, not The Dead Man. He seemed lost at times – forgetting who he was supposed to move onto in his sequence of eliminations. His offense looked lazy and uninspired. He appeared out of shape, and I almost wondered if it would have been better if he wore a loose t-shirt over his singlet. I expect certain old wrestlers to be out of shape as they age – hell, they’ve earned it if they want to let themselves go – but Taker carries a certain mythos that makes us not want to think of him as just a regular old man.
I hate to speak ill of the legends, but I’m over The Undertaker. I think his career is in danger of becoming tarnished if he keeps trying to drag things out. Maybe it’s not all his choice. Maybe he’s leaving the door open to Vince to call upon him – in which case, I’d hope Mr. McMahon sees what I’ve been seeing and stops making that phone call.
I don’t want to remember The Undertaker for looking terrible and being the ‘piss break’ match. (There’s a danger of that happening again this year, as he’s rumored to be booked against Roman Reigns… No thanks times two!) I don’t want to see Taker do what so many other legends did in the twilight of their career at WCW and even TNA. I want to remember him finishing off Shawn Michaels, going to war with Triple H, and being the big scary bad ass he always was.
We used to chant ‘please retire’ at Big Show, but that was more in jest towards his poor booking. I could never chant that to Taker’s face (he’ll always be scary even if he’s started to look a bit like Frasier), but I’ll sit behind my keyboard and make the plea. Don’t kill your legacy, Dead Man.
Also published on Medium.