By Rodrigo Verney, February 2 2021—
There comes a time in every athlete’s career when the capability to withstand hardships to the body is no longer what it used to be.
Whether it be from old age or injury, retirement for athletes is unavoidable, but there are some larger-than-life athletes that fans wish would stay on the field — or in this case, the ring — forever. These athletes seem to bridge the gap between real life and fantasy and shape generations with the passion they display for their sport. Unfortunately, even legends have to eventually call it quits.
No matter the situation, a farewell will never be easy. Mark Calaway — professionally known as The Undertaker — and his decision to retire was no exception. The news was probably one that every fan was expecting, but still wasn’t ready for. The announcement came on Nov. 23, 2020, in the Sunday pay-per-view Survivor Series, the same event in which he was introduced 30 years ago. Legends like Shawn Micheals, Big Show and Rick Flair were there to support Calaway.
The Undertaker’s career was the longest in wrestling entertainment, with three decades of pure dominance. He got his start by trying out for the World Championship Wrestling (WCW), a wrestling rival of World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)’s old registered name. Thankfully, due to a failed contract, The Deadman signed with the WWE in 1990, making his debut in the same year. He won over fans and gained a cult following due to his appealing dark personality. He was the villain we all loved to cheer for.
The Undertaker is one of the few superstars that had one hell of a ride. He was one of the most recognizable faces in wrestling, becoming an icon even for those outside of the entertainment industry. This status doesn’t come easily. Calaway was a huge piece in one of the most important eras of the WWE. He participated in dazzling performances and was the only one to hold a near-perfect record in WrestleMania throughout all his career.
Famous moments include highlights like the infamous cage battle against Mankind. Never in the history of WWE will we see something that can compare to what those two superstars went through. During the King of Hell in a Cell in 1998, The Undertaker and Mankind broke the barriers of what we thought a wrestling spectacle could be. Once they climbed the five-meter-tall cage, all bets were off as the thrill of danger became more real than ever before. That fear was justified as this match came to a close when The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the cage into the announcer’s table.
Although his illustrious profession gave him many highlights, his biggest achievement has to be his WrestleMania record. Almost unbeatable in the event, his performance will forever be remembered as one of the greatest streaks in sports entertainment history. This was where he started — and ended — the careers of many legends, like the HeartBreak Kid and Triple H, all while maintaining an unbelievable 21-0 streak on one of the biggest stages in WWE history, setting an unprecedented record that will challenge superstars for years to come.
The iconic Undertaker stuck around for a long time in the industry. Many fans could foresee his career ending, as he was down to two fights per year in his last active year. Certainly, the problems that impaired the league from properly working this year — mainly COVID-19 — influenced his decision, although we don’t know the extent of such influence. Regardless, fans were shattered as his retirement signaled the end of an era.
Calaway is now part of a show that depicts how he faced this last year and what will he be doing from now on. The show tackles his journey into retirement and perfectly illustrates how his body could not serve the demands of his status anymore. Appropriately called Undertaker: The Last Ride, the show is available in its entirety on WWE’s network, free of charge. It is an unskippable watch for the die-hard WWE fans.
As much as we have dreaded this moment, fans everywhere were well aware of his short future with the WWE. It is quite difficult to maintain a level of athleticism over the age of 30, much less 55. There have been talks of his retirement dating back to as early as 2017. COVID-19 became an indicator that 2020 would be the last ride in Calaway’s wrestling years. Fans had some time to mentally process what would happen, before the official announcement was made, removing some of the sting in the punch.
However, the show must go on. We have to look forward to the new era of sports entertainment. What The Undertaker brought to the history of WWE will never be forgotten, but now is not the time to hold on to old memories hoping that they will come back. That is one lesson from the pandemic that I think all of us had to learn. Surely, against the highlights of the past, the future will always seem risky and dangerous, but that is what creates memories — the feeling of unpredictability that makes us rise from our chairs on a Monday night and cheer for those three taps on the mat that change everything.
The legends will always live on. Their spirit was captured on tape. The excitement of their careers forever encased on the stories we pass on. Now it’s time to celebrate everything he stood for — his era, his devotion to the sport and his unstoppable will to put on a show for all of us. No one will ever take his place and no one should try to. This is the time to embrace the future of the league — to trust that he left it in good hands.
“Now, my time has come to let The Undertaker rest in peace.”