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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

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The Undertaker's Legacy

By @YourBuddyCJ

For the last quarter-century, The Undertaker has been both a bench mark and a standard bearer in the wrestling world. From building coffins and wearing comically-large ties for some weird reason, to leading a ministry of darkness, even through his biker phase, the deadman has always delivered.

The Undertaker made his WWF debut at the 1990 Survivor Series as the mystery fourth partner of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar team, and he immediately made his presence known. His entrance alone made children cling to their parents in fear. Accompanied by the amazing Paul Bearer, the sight of the nearly 7-foot tall monster left fans and wrestlers alike in awe. One year later, at the 1991 Survivor Series, Undertaker won his first WWF Championship by defeating the mighty Hulk Hogan, everyone knew he was going to be a forced to be reckoned with for a long time to come.

My personal fandom of the Undertaker began in the Attitude Era. Ministry of Darkness 'Taker legitimately scared the hell out of me as a kid, and, to this day, remains my favorite incarnation of him. The feud he had with the newly-debuted Kane is one of the staple feuds of the Attitude Era. Moving on to the Ministry of Darkness, this is when the Undertaker character truly came into fruition. Although the stable members of the Ministry were hit and miss (Mideon, anyone?) The cult, Satan-esque nature into which the Deadman transformed was absolutely terrifying to young kids like me.

What has made the character work for all these years is the solid, consistent ring work that backed up his persona. His matches in the late 90's with the likes of Kane and Stone Cold Steve Austin immediately come to mind. Of course, I would be foolish to talk about his ring work without mentioning the infamous Wrestlemania streak. From Wrestlemania 7 against Jimmy Snuka to Wrestlemania 29 against CM Punk, he didn't lose a single match on the biggest stage. The list of victims who have been laid to rest are an absolute who's who of WWE history, minus Giant Gonzalez of course(and Sycho Sid). The greatest match of all time, in my opinion, is a Undertaker Wrestlemania match: Wrestlemania 25 versus Shawn Michaels. If you want to see flawless in-ring work and expert storytelling, look no further than that match. As the years went on, it became apparent that age and years of wear and tear were slowing down the Phenom. We all knew that eventually the fabled streak would come to an end. Personally, I thought it would've been at 29 against Punk, but I don't think any of us thought that he would end the streak against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30. After 3 brutal F-5s and a legit concussion, Undertaker's shoulders were pinned to the mat for the first time ever at a Wrestlemania. I'm not ashamed to admit I choked up a bit seeing a battered 'Taker laying on the canvas with a screen reading "21-1" in the background. The streak was over.

With the streak behind him, where does Undertaker go from here? He had a successful return to Wrestlemania after a win at WM31 against Bray Wyatt, and now he has set his sights on the man who took away what he cherished so deeply, Brock Lesnar. The two titans will clash at this year's Summerslam, and it is sure to be a hell of a ride. I'm expecting Undertaker to pick up the victory and avenge his lone loss at Wrestlemania. I truly believe that Wrestlemania 32 will be his swan song, and we will be saying goodbye, once and for all.

The Undertaker is, without a doubt, the greatest character performer in the history of professional wrestling. 25 years and the Deadman is still going. It's a testament not only to the strength of the character, but to the man who portrays it as well. Wrestling fans as a community like to bicker and argue, it's what makes this sport so fun, but one thing we all agree on is that there has never been anyone like the Undertaker, and no one will ever come close again.



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