What makes a legend? How does a man go from being just a mere mortal to becoming a myth and a legend known to thousands upon thousands of people?
The answer is simple. Look to The Undertaker.
To the uninitiated, The Undertaker is the stage name adopted by professional wrestler Mark William Calloway during his time working for the World Wrestling Federation, and later, World Wrestling Entertainment.
Known for his signature long, black coat and hat, Calloway has been a dramatic figure in the hearts of wrestling fans for the last 25 years.
His entrances were always heralded by darkness, thick smoke and the ringing of a foreboding bell that signaled his opponent’s doom.
Of course, there was no actual threat, it was all staged and the outcomes of the matches were all set beforehand.
But in kayfabe, in the story of the universe and its characters and to viewers both young and old tuning in, The Undertaker was the Dead Man, this was his yard and his opponent was going to be broken.
But this last Sunday at Wrestlemania 33, the biggest pay-per-view that WWE puts on, The Undertaker retired.
Losing his last match to Roman Reigns, The Undertaker ended his 25 year career as a professional wrestler.
Leaving his ring gear on the ground, his gloves, his long coat and finally, with some hesitation, his hat, The Undertaker walked out of the arena for the last time.
With his signature music playing in the background, he walked out backstage, stopping only to kiss his wife, marking the first time he ever broke kayfabe in his career.
At the end, just before disappearing into the back, he raised his fist in response to the crowd’s cheers of “Thank you, Taker,” marking the end of an era.
While some may be disappointed with the results of the match, almost everyone could agree that the ending send-off was perfect for him.
It applauded not only the man himself, but the legend that he had inspired in the hearts of an entire generation.
The Undertaker was a consummate professional and never broke character.
Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE, said, “We have all tried to get Undertaker to break character and we can’t do it. He is such a professional and an extraordinary human being behind the character. He’s committed to his craft and worked through injuries.”
Anyone would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t know who the Undertaker was, as he’s up there with fictional characters like Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man and Batman.
I have always been a fan of wrestling on some level, whether it be the skeptical love I hold now or the wide-eyed wonder of my childhood.
I can remember Friday nights when I would stay up hoping to watch the latest Friday Night Smackdown.
I’d look for all my favorite wrestlers: Batista, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton and plenty others. But the one that always stood out to me was The Undertaker.
Whenever I’d see the ring go dark and his theme come on, I knew I was in for a great show, not only in the match but on the mic.
And so it is with both sadness and gratitude that I say, thank you Taker.
Thank you for your tireless work these last 25 years, for entertaining and inspiring a whole generation of people.
Thank you for making professional wrestling what it is today and inspiring wrestlers such as John Cena and Kevin Owens.
Thank you for your time and thank you for your effort. While the idea of the Undertaker might be a myth in the canon of the WWE, you are truly a legend in the hearts of your fans.