WrestleMania 33… aside from feeling slightly disappointed with the overall event, there are three other emotions that really strike me the most having watched this event: joy at seeing The Hardy Boyz return to the WWE and winning the RAW WWE Tag Team Championships; anger at seeing Roman Reigns get the win over The Undertaker; and sadness at seeing The Undertaker retire after losing the match by leaving his ring gear in the middle of the ring and walking off up the ramp to end the show. But it is the feeling of sadness that is still with me the most the day after that is affecting me. And it’s not just because The Undertaker is now retired, meaning one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time will no longer be appearing on WWE programs anymore (even though he had only made sparse appearances over the last five years), but because of certain style of wrestling is now over and done.
The Undertaker was the last great character from an era of wrestling that had been over years ago. An era of wrestling when every single wrestler on the roster had a character that they had to portray. An era of wrestling that featured cartoonish characters and almost ended up destroying a company who finally saw the light and opened up to a more realistic style of storytelling. An era of wrestling that everyone had left behind but one man, against all odds, continued using the gimmick given to him – a gimmick that should never have worked in the first place – and not only succeeded as the character, but thrived and became more popular as the years went on and became one of the ultimate legends in the industry. Not just the WWE but in all of the professional wrestling landscape.
The retirement of The Undertaker at the end of WrestleMania 33 marked the official end of an era of wrestling, that even though had ended years ago, continued on in spirit through The Undertaker as he not only stayed dedicated to his role for over 25 years, but showed that when someone is committed to a role as much as he was, no matter how silly the gimmick, no matter how many people said the character wouldn’t get over, no matter how many people said that characters in professional wrestling was the death of the golden age of wrestling, The Undertaker went on night after night for years, proving all the doubters and naysayers wrong; that there was a market for these kind of character wrestlers and, that when done right, would go over with the crowd.
And I think that is why I am surprised that the feeling of sadness at The Undertaker retiring is affecting me as much as it is: because I thought I was one of those fans who applauded the death of the character wrestlers when the nWo and the Attitude Era began. I thought I was done with the characters and gimmicks when I started liking wrestlers like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg, and others that came onto the scene in the mid-to-late 1990s and beyond. For some reason, I put it in the back of my mind that The Undertaker was a product of that very era I was happy to see end. That The Undertaker was every bit a living remnant of an era of wrestling we all were happy to see pass on. That every time The Undertaker changed and evolved his character over the past 27 years was the man behind the character staying true to what many people saw as a failed era in the wrestling profession.
Very few people in the professional wrestling industry have had an effect on me as The Undertaker has. As a character that I enjoyed watching for 27 years and have grown to love and respect, it’s been nothing but a joy and a pleasure. And legions of fans the world over are probably feeling the exact same thing I am at this very moment, a bit of sadness and heaviness of their hearts knowing that Mark William Calaway will probably never don the attire of The Undertaker for a WWE match ever again. But Mark Calaway has deserved his final WrestleMania moment. After years of being one of the best and most reliable workers in the industry, even before he joined the WWE, Mark Calaway earned all the adoration and respect from the fans of the WWE and the beyond.
So, I wish that Mark Calaway will enjoy his retirement and enjoy the time that he will spend with his, Michelle McCool, and his four children. That he takes the time to heal his body and enjoy the benefits of retiring and taking it slow. That he enjoys the memories of friends and fans that he has made throughout his illustrious 27-year career. That he has all the happiness and rest & relaxation that someone who dedicated so much of himself for the entertainment of the fans has earned. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my heart broke just a little coming to terms that The Undertaker’s career is finally over.