The Undertaker is tied with Bret Hart as my all-time favorite wrestler. While his dark side persona has gained him fame the world over, he represented something else to me. The giants of the squared circle often apply dastardly tactics while using their size advantage to steal victories. Taker started the same but quickly became something different, something more.
Growing up as a mixed-race kid in an area where most didn’t mirror my complexion, I found myself in many uphill battles that were bigger than me. I’m proud of the obstacles I overcame, but there were times when I wished these problems would pick on someone their own size.
Enormous foes would find themselves trembling in the presence of this 6’10 and 328 lbs. colossus from Death Valley because he was the one person they couldn’t bully. I admired that because I never had the luxury of scaring away a problematic situation. I lived vicariously through the Undertaker because he used fear as a vehicle while applying his considerable skills in the ring.
There is a match that aired on the 4/25/92 edition of WWF Superstars that illustrates his dominance in the face of bullying adversity. The Undertaker squared off against The Berzerker and was blindsided with repeated shots to the head via a Viking shield.
The Berzerker would attempt to stab the Undertaker with his sword and piledrive him on the cement floor. A few minutes later, the Undertaker did his infamous sit up as if he had emerged from a coffin, got to his feet, and stalked a now frightened Berzerker back to the locker room, never to be seen again.
One thing that always stuck in my mind was the countless times the Undertaker was screwed out of a championship. Ten wrestlers cost him the WWF title at the 1994 Royal Rumble, and Mankind screwed him out of the Intercontinental title at In Your House: Beware of Dog. These incidents felt personal to me because no one deserved a belt more than the dead man.
My favorite Undertaker moment is his match with Psycho Sid at WrestleMania 13. It sounds weird that someone actually enjoyed what is considered one of the worst WrestleMania main events in history. This was a last minute creative decision booked from the ashes of Shawn Michaels refusing to put over Bret Hart in the show’s originally planned main event.
WrestleMania 13 arrived and the Undertaker had his best chance to finally win the big one. I was confident he was going to win, but I didn’t dare jinx it. Taker donned his original black hat and trench coat with gray trim after months of wearing a medieval-esque black leather garb.
Twenty one minutes later, the referee counted 1-2-3 and I yelled, screamed, shouted, and cheered with thunderous applause while jumping up, down, and sideways as the Undertaker finally won the WWF championship (I don’t really count his win over Hulk Hogan). My mother rushed into my room because it sounded like a fight broke out.
As a wrestling fan in a post-kayfabe world, I can’t turn off that part of the brain that examines a match or event from an inner workings perspective. That’s why I like to think back to the time when all I knew is what occurred on my television screen and looked at the Undertaker as a wrestler instead of a worker.
Regardless of the lens I use to look at things, I will always have a deep appreciation for what the Undertaker character meant to me. Not only as a timid kid who didn’t quite fit in, but as a former practitioner and current pundit of professional wrestling who recognizes and respects a unique body of work that the industry is far better off for featuring and embracing.