Thank You Taker

Hey folks, welcome to this week’s edition of the STUpid Thoughts Newsletter! Sorry it’s a couple of days late, but after spending about a total of 22 hours between Thursday evening and the wee hours of Monday morning covering the events of Wrestlemania weekend, I needed a couple of days of recovery time. But we’re here, and we have a really big story coming out of Wrestlemania, so let’s dive right in and talk about the Undertaker’s retirement.

This past Sunday, Roman Reigns defeated the Undertaker in the main event of Wrestlemania 33, handing the Undertaker only his second ever Wrestlemania loss. After Roman left the ring, the Undertaker stood up, the lights went out, and he was dressed back in his full Undertaker garb when they came back up. The Undertaker proceeded to remove his gloves, coat, and hat, and leave them in a neat pile in the middle of the ring. The fans, realizing what they were watching, chanted “Thank you Taker” at him as he looked around to soak it all in one final time, then walked up the ramp and pumped his fist in the air as the lights went out once again to close the show.

The Undertaker’s retirement didn’t come as any big shock to anyone who had been following the business for the last few years. It’s no secret that he had accumulated a lot of injuries over the course of his career, limiting him to the point that he had been working part time since 2004, and for many of those years would only return for Wrestlemania. Especially over the last few years, the Undertaker was visibly diminished in terms of what he could physically do, and at the age of 52, most fans knew the end of his career was rapidly approaching.

Still, much like the passing of an elderly relative, the acceptance of that fact didn’t do much to cushion the shock and sense of loss when it finally happened. The importance that the Undertaker had to WWE over his 26 years with the company cannot be understated. Aside from the legendary Wrestlemania undefeated streak that itself lasted over 20 years, the Undertaker is a multi-time WWE Champion, multi-time Wrestlemania main eventer, Royal Rumble winner, and continuously worked for them as an active performer longer than any other wrestler in company history.

The Undertaker was also the most consistently popular, selling millions and millions of dollars of merchandise over the years. The Wrestlemania Streak alone became a draw that was seen by many as even more prestigious than the WWE Title. He continually reinvanted himself over the years, ensuring that the character never became predictable or stale. And most of all, he was a loyal soldier who recognized what WWE had provided him with, and physically pushed himself beyond boundaries most others wouldn’t, just to give back to the company that brought him his fame and fortune.

And this is just my own personal opinion, but at this point I don’t see how anyone could argue that the Undertaker hasn’t surpassed Andre the Giant as the greatest wrestling attraction of all time. Aside from the fact that the TV expansion, and especially the WWE Network, meant that more fans got to see Undertaker during his prime years, he also had far more longevity, and was able to continue performing at a high level until much later in his career.

Also unlike Andre, the Undertaker worked with nearly every single major star the business has had for the last 40 years: Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin, the Rock, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, Vader, Yokozuna, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Owen Hart, Big Show, Eddy Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Diamond Dallas Page, Jake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, Kane, Edge, CM Punk, Brock Lesnar, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and on and on and on.

The idea of the Undertaker, as limited as his schedule has been in recent years, finally calling it quits is hard to wrap my mind around. Much like the recently-departed relative not being at the house anymore, it’s going to take some time to get used to the idea that there won’t be an Undertaker match at Wrestlemania ever again. I hate to keep using that analogy, but to many wrestling fans, it’s just as surreal for them to face the fact that, and as much as we wish otherwise, this character who has never not been a part of most wrestling fans’ lives is gone forever.

All that being said, the Undertaker has absolutely earned the peace and quiet of retirement. Whether he was just an annual wrestling attraction, a key part of the Attitude Era, or one of the only wrestlers worth watching during the mid-90s, the Undertaker has given at least as much, possibly more, than any other wrestler who ever worked for WWE. Thank you Taker, and enjoy your retirement: you’ve earned it.