Yara M. El Banna
Senior Staff Writer
It is the Camping World Stadium, in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, April 2, 2017. The fans are applauding their hero. He appears in his classic long coat and hat and starts to wander around the ring in darkness. He then takes off his hat, coat, and MMA-style gloves and places them centerstage. Then he makes his way up the long ramp, raises his arms in the air and disappears slowly down the trapdoor he came from earlier. WWE fans are left in floods of tears. The Undertaker, the master of the World Wrestling Entertainment ring, has ended his 33-year long in-ring career.
“The Undertaker is simply the only wrestler who has never been booed and that tells you enough about him and how people perceive him,” said AUB student Yehya Tlaiss.
Mark William Calaway, better known as the Undertaker, was born on March 24, 1965, and raised in Houston, Texas, as the youngest of five brothers. He played on the football and basketball teams in high school and received a basketball scholarship from Angelina College. He later joined Texas Wesleyan University to pursue a degree in sport management and played basketball as the center of their varsity team. A year later, in 1986, Calaway dropped out of university to focus on a career in sports. He considered becoming a professional basketball player in Europe before he decided to shift his focus to professional wrestling.
Calaway made his debut as “Texas Red” for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in 1984. His first match was a loss against Bruiser Brody. In 1989, Calaway joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as a villain and adopted the ring name “Mean Mark” Callous, and he was portrayed as a morbid character and wore predominantly black ring attire.
Calaway made his WWF, now known as WWE, debut as Kane the Undertaker at a taping of Superstars on November 19, 1990. The original Deadman character depicted him as a western mortician dressed in a trench coat, gray-striped tie, and gray-ringed, black Stetson hat with gray gloves and boot spats. He was portrayed as impervious to pain, something accomplished by Calaway not selling his opponents’ attacks. The name later changed to “Undertaker,” dropping Kane at his first official on-camera debut on November 22 at Survivor Series matches. The legacy of the WWE legend followed.
“As a kid, I used to stay up all night to watch the Undertaker live, destroy an opponent after the other and hold the longest win streak in history,” said AUB student AbdulRahman Ammouni. “I even had a cool collection of action figures dressed like him at different themes, from badass biker to a spooky death-monger. He is one of the greatest role models. He was able to connect with us even though he barely spoke.”
The Undertaker sported several signature moves like back body drop, bearhug, old school (arm twist ropewalk chop), running elbow drop, and several others.
He was a huge fan of mixed martial arts and earned the black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2011, after practicing it for a long time.
“The Undertaker has a special aura surrounding him, one that is unique in the professional wrestling universe,” said Yehya Tlaiss.
Tlais commented on how the Undertaker resembled immortality, wrestling for over 25 years and how the WWE character was his favorite wrestler and a legendary figure.
“I remember staying awake all night just to see him Live in action due to different time zones,” said Tlais. “When I hear his “gong” followed by his music, my body would tremble and I would feel chills down to my toes. His trademark gloves inspired me to practice Muay Thai, as he’s credited for adding this gear to the pro-wrestling world.”
In 2013, the Undertaker was voted the greatest WWE wrestler ever. IGN described him as “one of the most respected wrestlers, and characters, in the business; treated with actual reverence. Like a cherished, invaluable artifact.” Guinness World Records, Gamer’s Edition, reported the Undertaker as the wrestler having the most consecutive victories at WrestleMania.
Calaway made his film debut as Hutch in the 1991 film Suburban Commando. He also had guest roles on Poltergeist: The Legacy and Celebrity Deathmatch. Chaos! Comics published a short series of comic books, “Undertaker,” that were based on him.
Calaway was credited many nicknames including: The American Bad-Ass, Big Evil, The Deadman, The Demon from/of Death Valley, The Last Outlaw, The Lord/Prince of Darkness, and The Phenom.
His character on the WWE was a beloved childhood figure to many AUB students, including Joy Zeinoun.
“I grew up watching him since third grade,” she said. “He was my favorite because he was extreme in everything he did.”
Zeinoun also pointed out that she was sad to hear that the wrestler is retiring, but she acknowledged that he grew old and achieved so much in his field. She further added that as his fan, she would like to see him open a wrestling school post his retirement, where he could teach old school and new school techniques as she believes that he can still add a lot to the culture of wrestling.
One cannot deny all the sacrifices the Undertaker has given to the wrestling world. He definitely helped shape what the WWE is today. The world may not witness anything close to such a living marvel any time soon.