Last night at the pay per view, "Survivor Series," World Wrestling Entertainment celebrates 25 years of one of their more lauded and long standing superstars, The Undertaker.
That character has been played by Mark Calloway for nearly three decades, and The Undertaker persona debuted at the 1990 version of "Survivor Series" when professional wrestling was closing out its 1980s boom period with Hulk Hogan leading the way, and still nearly a decade away from its second best revenue period "The Attitude Era" when The Undertaker arrived on the scene in the wrestling promotion.
Plenty of fans and so called experts alike have debated the profoundness and importance of The Undertaker character and what it means to the history of professional wrestling. The uniqueness of pro wrestling is that success is measured on two main points: drawing ability and longevity.
The Undertaker has both.
He's always been a viable and attention grabber in the world of the WWE, and the idea that he's lasted this long is a testament to Calloway the individual (although he's been working a part time schedule for quite some time now) and to the idea that the gimmick simply works.
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The Undertaker character is equal parts mystique and exactly the epitome of what professional wrestling is: showmanship and character development. The Undertaker's character has developed in the last 25 years from something that looked like it crawled out of a grave to a wrestler and performer that still strikes a cord with audiences when he starts his ring entrance of walking slowly to the ring with that eerie funeral music playing in the background.
In between those two version of The Undertaker, he's deviated somewhat and at certain points from the character that said little and instead was more fearful that filled with words. Mark Calloway still was referred to as The Undertaker in the early 2000s, but he changed to more of a biker, Harley Davidson version of himself, probably a lot closer to the real Mark Calloway than any incarnation of The Undertaker.
No matter what version of the character came through on television, no other performer than Calloway could have played The Undertaker as well as he did. He brought the character to life, he lived the part, he was, in fact, the on camera "Dead Man" that fans loved.
Calloway has always remained loyal to the company that made him a household name as well. Some argue that Calloway plays that card a little too much since he really couldn't leave for another wrestling company during the time when WWE battled World Championship Wrestling in the late 1990s and early 2000s since he couldn't take the gimmick with him. That argument is paper thin; Calloway, the man, still looked like The Undertaker and could have easily left for WCW and still had that same presence that made him a main event player.
He stayed. He continued his legacy. And now he's arguably character wrestling has ever seen. The Undertaker might not be around for much longer, but the last three decades have shown just what one wonderful gimmick and idea, when paired with the right person and performer, can stay relevant for so long.
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