Undertaker recalls being set on fire during his Elimination Chamber entrance, on knowing when it was time to retire and the difficulty of attending WWE shows since then

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Undertaker
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com

On knowing it was time to retire: “It’s weird. Like, I knew that it was going to come but I wasn’t mentally preparing myself for it. I always just thought I was going to be able to do it and realistically, you know, Father Time is undefeated. I knew early on, even when I was still working, and I love this business so much, but I knew I was going to have a hard time. People always ask me, Well why don’t you go down to the PC? Why don’t you be a mentor? When I’m around, I do that kind of stuff. But as an everyday deal, I can’t do it. Because recently, I’ve just kind of had closure at Mania.

“I don’t know if you heard this but I struggled since I retired at being at live events. I would go, I was at the Rumble because I had the 1DeadMAN Show in Clearwater. I stayed over and I was at the Rumble. By the time I think maybe the first match had gone out I left. Because internally, my body and my mind is [thinking] you should be getting ready, you should be going out there and I get almost, I wouldn’t say anxiety, but I just get this feeling like I can’t take it because I want to be out there so bad. I wanted to continue to wrestle, obviously, my body broke down and Father Time is undefeated, I never wanted to be a parody of myself and I really risked that at the end.

“I had some matches that I think maybe at one point in my career, they were bad. But there was one point in my career I felt like I could take anything and turn it around and I just didn’t have it in me, like the match I had with Goldberg in Saudi Arabia. I should have picked up on the fact that he had his bell rung, and then [he] rung it again when he hit the post, I should have been sharp enough to adapt at that point, and not try to get to where I was getting.”

On the eye-rolling origins: “Crazy enough I did it by accident. I had a match and I want to say it was Greg Valentine. I was working with Greg Valentine, and I was on him and I had him down in the corner. And I just slapped a choke on him, you know, because of my hair being long like it was, I just put the choke on him, and I threw my hair back. And when I threw my hair back, my eyes went back and I wondered if I could hold them back there, and I did. I wasn’t consciously thinking roll your eyes back, but I did it. Then I go back, I get to Gorilla position, and everybody is looking like, ‘What the hell was that? That was the coolest thing! That was so creepy!’ And then they run it back and show it to me and I’m like holy crap. That’s scary. So it just happened by accident. And then naturally, I used to have a fairly long tongue. So the eyes and the tongue. Those were requested a lot by people that you probably wouldn’t think would want to see that.”

On wearing snakeskin pants: “There was a pair of snakeskin pants I wore at a match with Kurt Angle that I really regret. It’s one of my biggest regrets. They were horrible. So the rumor for a long, long time was that I forgot my tights, or I forgot my pants and I had to borrow those from The Godfather. They were mine. Terry Anderson bless her heart, she did all my gear pretty much my whole career. I told her what I wanted to do. Throughout my extended career, my gear was very, I mean, it was minimalistic, there was not a lot of thrill to my character.

“When I told her I wanted a pair of python pants. She went no you don’t. I went yes I do. I just thought it would be cool looking. They were snakeskin pants. I’m a biker, it didn’t translate well. I really regret those pants those are awful, man. I see them every once in a while. They’ll pop up on a feed or something. [Do you still own them?] No, no, no, no, they’re long gone. I think I burned those. And the horrible thing was, it was a really good match. That’s what really sucks is I had a really good match with Kurt. That’s when we used his twin and they screwed me out of the title there. But I can’t watch it and enjoy the match for its quality. All I see are those damn [pants]. I’m touching 330 at that time, too. I’m a big dude and big dudes don’t wear snakeskin pants.”

On the Brock Lesnar laugh: “That was Brock. So we talked a little bit about that match and he ran it by me but I don’t think I was paying enough attention to what he really wanted to do. So when he did it, I was almost taken aback a little bit like what the freaking hell are you laughing at that? And then it kind of dawned on me what he was doing. Then I laugh back at him and it’s yeah, it’s become kind of an iconic deal but yeah, if I’d have been paying close enough attention I’d probably go Yeah, I don’t know if I want to do that. But the way it worked, it worked out worked out fine. Fortunately, too it was at the tail end of my career and not in the middle or the front end of it because that surely wouldn’t happen then. But I think for the time period, it worked out okay.”

On the Elimination Chamber entrance where he was set on fire: “Yeah, that was pretty hairy and potentially could have been far worse than what it actually was. A lot of things happened just by chance that night. Backstory, two weeks prior I have Kevin Dunn and the lead pyro guy out on the stage. I’m saying ‘Look, these pyro balls when I stop at the edge of the stage right before I hit the ramp.’ I said ‘These two pyro bursts right here are too close, I’m getting a lot of heat. I want my entrance to be as scary and as cool as possible. But I said these right here, they need to back out a little bit. ‘The guy goes ‘No I think it was there’s just a draft in the building.’ I was like, I don’t care if there’s a draft in the building. I’m telling you these pyro bursts are too hot, they’re too close.

“Kevin Dunn said you need to back them up. Okay, so now we jumped forward two weeks. It’s the Elimination Chamber, it’s in St. Louis and I’m the champion. We’re gonna switch the belt because we’re leading into me and Shawn. So originally, I had one of my Hellraiser jackets on. I had that coat on, well, when I wear that coat and when you wear the belt, you can’t see it, because it all fastens together. And I said, Okay, this is my last night as champion, I want people to see the belt. I don’t want to carry the belt, I don’t want to drag the belt, I want to wear the belt. This could be the last time that I have it. So the last minute I switched from the Hellraiser coat to the duster and hat so that when I walked down, you’ll be able to see the title. The first thing that I did right was that.

“So now I was the last one into the pod and I was gonna be the last one to come out. So I’m thinking about, okay, my hair is gonna dry out and when my hair dries out I can’t see a thing. So I take a couple of extra bottles more than I usually would do and I just doused myself with water so that my hair stays wet, so when my music hit, I’m drenched in water. I mean, it’s just pouring off of me. That was crucial. I come out and make my entrance. I stop at my normal spot, my head down waiting to do the lift. The pyro ball on the left comes up and it comes right up my left side. I mean, it’s like he moved it in and it’s so hot. I will no-sell something as long as I possibly can until I can’t take it. So I turned to my right to get out of the fireball and then this one goes off. Now I’m right in it. So I’m totally engulfed in this propane pyro ball and the only place that I knew safe to go was go straight. Because you’re also dealing with walking off the stage and I’d be on fire and take a huge fall.

“So I run out of the fireball and obviously everyone’s freaking out and they’re trying to cover for me. [The announcer says] ‘He wants to get in this match he is running to the ring.’ So I come out of this pyro ball and I can see my hat is on fire and my right sleeve is on fire. Now if I hadn’t switched coats this arm would have been totally just trashed. Then without all the water that I had on me, I mean, my eyebrows were all singed up, my face was burnt and then I had a big burn right around my singlet. So I’m in the pod, I know that I’m okay but now I have the burnt flesh and burnt hair smell. I’m looking down and I’m watching the skin on my chest bubble up, it’s blistering up and I’m getting madder and madder and madder. They’ve got a couple of ring crew guys underneath.

“Back then the floor of the pods were grates. So they’re handing me bottles of water up from the bottom and I’m taking the water and I’m pouring them on myself. I still gotta go. They’re asking me ‘Do you want to stop? Do you want to get out?’ I was like, ‘No man, we got business to do, I’ve got to drop this belt to [Chris] Jericho.’ So everybody, they work, they work, they work. Finally, I’m the last one in and then I ended up going another 20 minutes with Jericho and that Jackass puts me in the Walls of Jericho. My burned chest is on the mat and I’m thinking you got to be kidding me! So finally Shawn [Michaels] comes up through the ring, gives me the Super Kick and then I get out of there. I’d already told him, I said look if that dude backstage when I get back I’m gonna kill him and I totally meant it.

“So I’ve been out when I came out it was all over with man, I blew through Gorilla backstage it was like a ghost town. There was nobody anywhere. And everybody’s kind of behind me chasing me because they want to take care of my wounds and everything, but I was like, man, if there’s any chance this dude is here he’s dead, because I was pissed! But yeah, so I had severe burns on my chest and ended up having to go to the burn centre the next day and went into a little bit of a shock later that night. Once I started trying to shower and get cleaned up I came out of the shower and I was just shaking. So yeah, that was pretty scary, that one could have been avoided.”


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