Friday, July 2, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
To those that fill the Gap
Recently, there's been a widening generation gap in professional wrestling and/or sports entertainment industry that has also created a small mix of Gen-X wrestling superstars. Superstars such as the Steiners, Big Bossman, Bret Hart, Curt Hennig, Psycho Sid, the late Owen Hart and the master of all of these 'Gap' wrestlers -- The Undertaker.
These are a few wrestlers of incredible talent that have bridged the hey-days of the '80s to the new golden age of the '90s. They fought with the best 10-15 years ago and are fighting with the best in today's new-found popularity. These select few wrestlers have also managed to stay away from mid-carder status for most of that time as well. There have been a number of wrestlers that have bridged over but have never really been in the limelight (Bob Holly, Jeff Jarrett, Dean Malenko, etc.) so they don't quite meet the criteria.
There are a lot of newer wrestling superstars that we will all see as the future of wrestling (The Rock, HHH, Buff Bagwell, Chris Jericho, Goldberg, etc.) and a lot of classical wrestlers that are pushing the envelope of retirement (Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, etc.).
These 'Gap' wrestlers are perhaps the best wrestling entertainers out there because not only did they learn from the best 'wrestlers', but they are also keeping pace with the stylings of the best 'sports entertainers'. This column is not claiming that the Undertaker or the Steiners are the best of the best, but rather they have maintained the high levels of the sport through all of its transformations. These 'Gap' wrestlers are the Darwinian survivors. If you don't adapt, you dont live long in the wrestling industry. The Undertaker has been a prime example of evolution.
From the Undertaker's introduction the WWF in 1990, he was a phenom. Here stands an imposing man of almost seven feet and 350 pounds. He has beat all of the major players he's faced -- Hogan, Sid, Bret Hart, the 'other' Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, Stone Cold.
Sure he's also lost to a couple of these guys, but always with the style and grace that leaves the fans satisfied. We were shocked and dismayed when he defeated Hogan for the championship, but we gained a soft spot for the darkman when the belt was stripped from him later the same day. He beat Sid and then lost the belt to Hart after only two months of his reign. It would be almost 6 years before his next reign as WWF Heavyweight Champion. But he never lost his focus or stopped plugging away.
This 'Gap' wrestler has laid down in the centre of the ring to get young or surging wrestlers over. He has always been the consummate professional in all of his transformations. As have all of the 'Gap' wrestlers.
I'm sure that there are a lot of wrestling fans out there that have the Undertaker or Hennig at the top of their favourites list, but those fan's voices are usually drowned out by the fans that cheer on either the new crop of talent or the classic troops of the past.
Also, in the example of the Undertaker, his recent character has a rather uncomfortable persona for most to openly back, making him an easy heel. But the fans are now a lot more educated about the industry then they were in the '80s so they know its just a part that the Undertaker is playing.
Even though these 'Gap' wrestlers are a small band of heroes they deserve as much (or more) admiration as the current stars and the stars of the past. They are the stars that make the retiring troops fell a little younger, and they are the story-tellers that keep the history--and hopefully the integrity -- of professional wrestling.
My favorite wrestlers of all time might fit easily into either the old or the new, but the ones I respect the most will always be those from the 'Gap.'
Undertaker, keep on walking the ropes and keep on carrying the torch of your select group.
David Daigle is from Calgary, Alberta and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.