SLAM! WRESTLING: Guest Columnist

SLAM! Sports
SLAM! Wrestling

August 1, 2000

The Undertaker: Wrestling with age

By MICHAEL O'REILLY -- For SLAM! Wrestling

I have always enjoyed wrestling. Not always out in the open, as it's popularity swung wildly in one direction then the other, but I did watch. I was one of the kids who sat and watched Hogan's pythons run wild on you, Macho Man fly through the air and Big John Studd bluster around and bully the mid-carders. Hillbilly Jim and the Junk Yard Dog, and even Iron Mike Sharpe. I grew up watching these characters. And then I grew out of these characters. I got bored of watching Hogan 'Hulk Up'. Even if I didn't know the term for it then, I understood what it was. I got tired of being able to predict who would win a match. WWF got very stale for a time. For a while I even stopped watching, finding other things to do on Saturdays.

Can a 'dead' man's career be revived? Poll Results

Q1: Is The Undertaker nothing more than a mid-carder now?

Total Votes for this Question: 3233
10% voted for Yes, he's too injured
26% voted for Yes, his character's lame
6% voted for Yes, he doesn't fit in today
20% voted for No, he's still great
19% voted for No, he'll be back on top
8% voted for Mid-carders can be resurrected
10% voted for He needs Paul Bearer back
One wrestler brought me back to the fold. And his name was Mark Calloway, and his character was The Undertaker. It must have been fate, really. I guess I was channel surfing when I spotted this man in black, and his manager. The Undertaker, his manager Paul Bearer, and his magic urn. He was a bad guy, and I was really into watching him crush all those who would stand before him. Sure, looking back at his early days now, his costume looks ridiculous, and his hair barely fit underneath that cool hat of his, but that didn't matter. He was the Badass long before they ever advertised it. His dark and mysterious theme song, with its Bell tolling for whomever was next to face his wrath, proved that much better than Kid Rock ever will.

The Phenom's career is long and illustrious, and there is no need for me to go into detail about it. But I will mention this. Even when the WWF realized that Undertaker could only go so far, and was eventually beaten, I never lost interest in him. Undertaker has done much more than ride a wave of popularity like The Rock has done. He, along with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, carried the WWF on his back until they could finally make the next step. When the soon-to-be nWo abandoned the WWF for southern pastures, who was there to step in and make sure they still had some star power? Who was there to make Bret Hart the top star of the mid '90s? The Undertaker. Who has helped elevate more wrestlers into stardom in the WWF? I say nobody has. Undertaker has mastered the art of taking the best qualities of an unknown wrestler and giving him the "Rub". Who was Mick Foley until he feuded with the Undertaker? Who was Kane? And honestly, who was Bret Hart? They were all WWF talents who were stuck in the mid-cards until Undertaker feuded with them.

Now I'm not going to say that Undertaker is or was the best technical wrestler ever, nor will I say that those mentioned above, along with others, never would have made it to the positions they occupy in our mind as great stars. But think to yourself. Have any of the old boys helped create a new group of superstars? What would WCW be like today if even two or three of its Millionaire's Club had done two years ago what Undertaker has done all throughout his career? When McMahon asked him to job, he jobbed. When McMahon asked him to squash, he squashed. And when McMahon asked him to go to war, he did that to. For nine years.

So now Mark Calloway is considered old, and a "mid-carder". He has a "brother" who has taken his gimmick, a broken down body, and a sense of pride in what he does. McMahon knew the Undertaker was losing his luster. So he did the sensible thing. He changed his style.

Mr. Calloway just got married. He probably wants to play with his children someday. So he's now a brawler with a wad of chaw in his mouth and a steel horse underneath him. The Underbiker, the Lazytaker, they call him.

This is foolishness.

Undertaker is only suffering from his own loyalty to the WWF. The locker room is bursting with talent that needs to be put over. Mark Calloway knows his time in ring is soon to come to an end, his "Judgement Day" is fast approaching. What should he do? Hold onto his grip at the top of the WWF's title picture like certain others have done? Or bow out gracefully by helping to push another youngblood into superstardom with one or two more feuds?

Editorial: Undertaker's a mid-carder now

Michael O'Reilly is from Barrie, Ontario, and can be reached by e-mail at
He wrote a guest column back in February 2000 titled: XFL? Bring it on.

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