As over 75,000 fans looked on, The Undertaker stood center in the ring during the closing moments of WrestleMania 33. His No-Holds-Barred match with Roman Reigns had ended. After enduring a brutal assault, spear after spear after spear, The Undertaker had lost. Staring out at the crowd, Taker slowly removed his gloves, his coat, and his hat and placed them neatly in the center of the ring. The time had finally come for the Phenom to retire.
Chants of “Thank you Taker” echoed throughout the masses of those in attendance. The Undertaker was getting his well-deserved sendoff at the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania. As the camera panned over the many somber fans, it was shown that there wasn’t a dry eye in sight. Taker would take one final walk up the ramp, raise his hand in his trademark pose, and slowly disappear into the fog. The gong that for so many years signified the arrival of the Deadman, signaled his final departure as it sounded off 3 last times as the lights went out. The moment meant a lot, surely to all his fans, but hopefully, for the man behind The Undertaker himself.
Mark William Calaway was born March 24, 1965 in Houston, Texas. Growing up he exceled as an athlete, playing both football and basketball for the local Waltrip High School. In 1985, he enrolled in Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas where he played basketball there as a center. In 1986, Calaway dropped out to pursue his basketball career, as he’d encountered the intriguing prospect of playing professionally overseas. Before he committed fully to leaving the states however, Calaway discovered the world of professional wrestling and fell in love.
If I wanted, I could tell you all about his early days of professional wrestling. I could tell you how hard he worked just to get his foot in the door. I could tell you about all the countless hours he must’ve spent every day in a gym trying to make in a business where no one believed he could succeed. I could tell you all this but would any of it matter? We know where his story led. We all know the story of The Undertaker.
Perhaps what I will tell you is what exactly The Undertaker meant to me. As a boy growing up, my parents didn’t exactly want me watching pro wrestling. In fact, for my younger years it was banned in my house (Partly because my older brother had a habit of setting up a few pillows on the floor and attempting to perfect his Chokeslam technique on me). It never did stop me from sneaking up to my brother’s room every Friday night to watch Smackdown. Now, the whole show was decently interesting to me, but in all honestly all I cared about was the main event, which back then featured The Undertaker 9 times out of 10.
The goosebumps. That’s what has stuck with me the most from my early days watching The Undertaker. Every time that gong would sound and he’d make his grim entrance to the ring, I swear every hair on my body would be sticking straight up. It’s those same goosebumps I felt when he made his final entrance down the long ramp to face Roman Reigns. The same goosebumps that crept up to my arms when he stood in that ring and took of those gloves.
I’m not sure what the wrestling world looks like without The Undertaker, but I know exactly what it was like with him. The Undertaker will forever be a legend. In the coming days, I’m sure there will be complaints. About the fact that he lost. Or who he lost to. But I know that none of that matters to me. All I’ll remember is the goosebumps.
To Mark Calaway, I say thank you and I hope you enjoy retirement. To The Undertaker, all I can hope for is that he may always… Rest. In. Peace.