Lutz's Blog: There is only one person who can end Undertaker's WrestleMania streak
By Jeffrey Lutz
When The Undertaker walked through the curtain last Monday on Raw to begin his latest -- and perhaps last -- road to WrestleMania, he left behind the only person who can end his undefeated streak at WWE's most important event, a streak that has reached 21 and counting.
That person is not Triple H or Stephanie McMahon or even Vince, who one supposes could book Undertaker to lose at WrestleMania, even though that would be a questionable decision at best. It wasn't any full-time wrestler, and it certainly wasn't either of the two performers he would face in the ring that night, Brock Lesnar or Paul Heyman.
The only person with enough stroke to end the streak is someone all WWE fans have heard of but have barely met over the last 23-plus years. That person is Mark Calaway.
The Undertaker and Mark Calaway, as synonymous as they have become during the last two decades, are starkly different people. Or are they? We haven't seen enough of Mark Calaway to know whether he has some of Undertaker's tendencies or whether the person has slowly morphed into a lighter version of the character since the character debuted at Survivor Series 1990.
The early versions of the Undertaker character were unlike anything portrayed on WWE television before or since, though Bray Wyatt offers some of the same characteristics. Calaway and Undertaker debuted on the same pay-per-view that also included the unveiling of the Gobbledy Gooker, suggesting that WWE wasn't ready to leave behind the cartoonish aspect of the business and that a darker character like Undertaker might have a short shelf life.
Undertaker was a WWE creation, but Calaway quickly made the persona his own, giving Undertaker a natural evolution when the company was moving toward an edgier product and allowing him to fit perfectly into the Attitude Era, where he served as a stable foundation to help the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H become main-event stars.
The evolution continued at the tail end of the Attitude Era when one of Undertaker's sabbaticals concluded with Calaway returning as a biker version of Undertaker that enabled Calaway to finally show glimpses of his actual personality. Most of Undertaker's "shoot" interviews, including a spot on some late night talk shows as himself, came during this era, and Calaway seemed at peace with abandoning the Deadman character for an updated edition that didn't force him to keep up an act 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Living publicly as Undertaker was a choice Calaway made early in his career. That's why he rarely (or never) did publicity interviews, as he was bound to protect the aura and the spirit he worked hard to establish. Calaway was forced to stay in character, and that apparently wore on him because he slowly but surely began to change his philosophy during the late 1990s and early 2000s, perhaps feeling as if his legacy as the Deadman Undertaker was secure and complete.
When Undertaker became a legacy star, though, it wasn't the biker version of the character that fans wanted to see. So after another break in the winter of 2003, he returned at WrestleMania 20 as the Deadman and has been playing that character ever since. Calaway has shown flashes of himself -- he has taken pictures with fans and in recent DVD releases has given honest interviews out of character, but he has still mostly always been the Undertaker.
I know Undertaker. I want to meet and learn more about Mark Calaway. His first pay-per-view included Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka and Tito Santana and his last event will probably include the likes of Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and Antonio Cesaro. Calaway probably has stories about all of those guys and everyone else who has passed through WWE in the last 23 years, and I want to hear them. I want to read a tell-all book written by Mark Calaway that gives his perspective on the business and how it has changed since he became involved.
Calaway is probably the most loyal employee to ever pass through WWE. He stayed with the company during the lean early-1990s and protected his character so vigorously that Undertaker has the same mystique now, even though Calaway is 48 years old -- that it had 20 years ago. Calaway is never seen at Hall of Fame ceremonies because the Undertaker isn't fit for them. We know too little about Calaway and, in turn, too little about WWE since 1990. Calaway probably has more to say about it than anyone.
WWE should reward that loyalty by allowing the Undertaker to become Mark Calaway, once and for all. Calaway can present at many Hall of Fame ceremonies, since many of his contemporaries are beginning to enter the Hall and he is a lock to join them sooner than later.
The only question is whether Calaway would OK the end of Undertaker's WrestleMania streak to kill off some of the mystique of the character so Calaway doesn't have to keep up the act for the rest of his life. I don't have a good answer to that question, because there are benefits to each side of the argument. The streak won't make money for WWE when Undertaker is no longer wrestling, and the person who breaks the streak may see a huge surge in income, but maybe Calaway would feel more secure in a post-in-ring career if he had the streak behind him.
Whatever decision is to be made, it should be left in the hands of one person. Not Triple H or Stephanie McMahon or Vince McMahon. Not Daniel Bryan or C.M. Punk or John Cena. Not Brock Lesnar or Paul Heyman. None of them have what it takes to end the streak. The only man who does is Mark Calaway. I can't wait to meet him.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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