Welcome back to Undertaker: Five Decades of the Deadman. We have finally made it to the end of this series. Over the past three weeks, we have taken an in-depth look at the career of The Undertaker. Part one focused on the 1980s; the introduction of Mark Calaway to pro-wrestling. The second installment took a look at the 1990s; the birth of The Deadman. Part three walked us through the 2000s; arguably the most active year of The Undertaker’s career and certainly the most innovative. The last installment led us to the 2010s and the foot coming off the pedal of an already legendary career. Part five is going to review The Undertaker’s Boneyard Match with AJ Styles – a match which made it five straight decades in the wrestling business for Mark Calaway. Additionally, we will take a look at what the 2020s may have in store for the WWE‘s resident Deadman.
The Undertaker versus AJ Styles: Boneyard Match
What a match. At WrestleMania XXXVI, The Undertaker and AJ Styles had the grudge match we all wanted – it stole the show on night one of WrestleMania weekend. Motorcycles were ridden. Shovels were used. Good Brothers (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) were thrown off barn roofs. Perhaps inevitably, AJ Styles was buried alive – his hand being left above the dirt (sadly not in a “Two Sweet” pose). This was a fitting end to a heated feud featuring a number of “real” moments. The main question we are left with: what is left for The Undertaker? It certainly felt as though this could be a final hurrah for The Deadman. Driving off into the night on his Harley – to the sound of Metallica‘s “Now That We’re Dead” – leaving the boneyard and Styles in his rear-view mirror.
— Metallica (@Metallica) April 5, 2020
In western movies, it is a common cliche for the cowboy to ride off into the sunset at the end of the movie. For a character as dark and, well, “un-dead” as The Undertaker, riding off into the moonlit night would be a fitting end. Did it represent the return of The American Badass persona; Taker riding away from the graveyard which has become a staple of his Deadman persona? This is mere speculation. If you turn to the upcoming WWE Network series Undertaker: The Last Ride, there is an interesting quote from Calaway in there.
“I’m gonna go out with a match befitting The Undertaker. That’s what separates being good, being great and being a legend.” – Mark Calaway (The Undertaker)
The Undertaker Goes Out With Style (Or Out With Styles)
If The Undertaker is hoping to go out with a match befitting The Undertaker, then what a fitting end the Boneyard Match would be. With the match being the main event of night one of WrestleMania, he has achieved a feat no one else has. The Undertaker has now main evented a WrestleMania in four consecutive decades: 1997 versus Psycho Sid; 2008 versus Edge; 2010 versus Shawn Michaels and now 2020 versus AJ Styles. This stat – combined with the boneyard stipulation and the end to the match – this would be the perfect end. At WrestleMania XXXIII, it was widely believed that at the conclusion of his match with Roman Reigns, The Deadman was no more. He left his trademark hat, gloves and cloak in the ring and disappeared. It would have been a fitting end, but it had a certain melancholy feel to it which did not resonate the way this ending did. The conclusion to the main event of night one felt like the true end of The Undertaker.
The title of Undertaker’s series “The Last Ride” along with the timing of it – with Undertaker moving to a less kayfabe version of his character – certainly seems to indicate this is truly the end. If so, what a career he has had. Five straight decades in the wrestling business (as a performer) is no easy feat. In an industry where countless careers are cut short by injuries, it is quite the achievement. The fact that four of those decades included a WrestleMania main event is unmatched and will be for quite some time (unless Triple H gets a Mania event within the next nine years). With a career as legendary as The Undertaker’s, it is no wonder Vince McMahon speaks so highly of him.
No one has had a career like The Undertaker’s. He has been present throughout generations of performers within the WWE. During the Hulk Hogan led Golden Era, he was there. He was there during the Attitude Era; an era defined by it’s two biggest stars, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock. Taker was ever-present throughout the Ruthless Aggression Era; still standing against the likes of Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. The PG Era – so dominated by John Cena – still had its resident Deadman in the locker room. Though appearing infrequently, he has still been present during the era dubbed the “New Era“, competing with the likes of Roman Reigns and AJ Styles. Undertaker is a true throwback to a time long-since passed but has somehow remained relevant throughout. There is nobody more deserving of the “legend” moniker than The Undertaker. What lies in-store for Mark Calaway? We’ll just have to wait and see. But if this truly is the end, it was an end befitting The Undertaker.
Thank you, loyal readers, for joining us on this five-part series chronicling The Undertaker’s career. Just under 10,000 words of content have been put into this series but no amount of writing could ever truly do The Undertaker’s career justice. If there is another series you would like to recommend, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comment section.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE and Undertaker fan? You can check out The Undertaker’s recent sit-down podcast with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, as well as all of your favorite matches on the WWE Network.