At WrestleMania 33 last night, a piece of my childhood was laid to rest.
The Undertaker debuted in the then WWF in November of 1990. I was born two months earlier in September.
I became a wrestling fan around 1994 because of The Undertaker. He’s the first name I remember hearing (and thinking it sounded weird) and the first wrestler I remember seeing on the television.
For more than 23 years, he was my version of a superhero, even if a rather macabre one. He was my superhero before I discovered Superman or Batman. For the longest time, I saw him as indestructible, a myth in boots. He could take on any foe or challenger and if they knocked him down, rest assured, he’d do his patented sit-up.
But of course, there’s just a man behind the phenom and the phenomenal legacy he etched across generations.
This is corny as all hell to non-wrestling fans and probably some wrestling fans, too, to which I have no shame to give, but after his last match that I was fortunate to witness live last night, The Undertaker slowly took off his fighting gloves, his classic jacket and hat, placed them in the ring and walked away. He kissed his wife (breaking character in an extraordinarily human moment) and somberly walked up the entrance ramp.
He raised his fist in the air and that was it. He was done. Finally able to do what he had claimed his opponents would do for almost three decades: rest in peace. No more left to give to a business he’d already given so much for. No more left to give to fans he had given more than enough memories and entertainment to.
And in that moment, I had to snuff out multiple attempts to just want to cry right there in Orlando surrounded by 70,000 fans. Because at last, that one constant all my life is now gone.
A part of me always knew the man behind the myth was real flesh and blood, capable of bruises, broken bones and unable to defy the greatest foe of all, father time. In a word, he had become more mortal than myth. But you never expect to actually see it. When your hero transitions to that mortality, nothing can really prepare you to see them striped down like that, a mere shadow of what they once were.
I get that childhood amnesia deal and have very few memories of anything in the first half-decade of my life, but The Undertaker is one of them. And now as an adult myself, near the same age he was when he won his first WWF world title from Hulk Hogan — I repeat, Hulk Hogan, that’s how long he’s been a constant or as the WWE likes to say, the conscious of the WWE, he’s done.
The best ever, undoubtedly. Nobody had a career like him. Nobody had his longevity coupled with being on top from the get-go. Nobody had the respect he had accumulated because of it.
He’s more than earned his chance to rest in peace. Finally.