Last year marked the 25th anniversary of The Undertaker's debut in WWE. Over that time, the man, the myth and the legacy has been nothing short of phenomenal. Things have changed over time, eras have come and gone: the Golden Era, the New Generation Era, the legendary Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era and the infamous PG Era.
But throughout those iterations, there has been one constant: The Undertaker. 25 years of destruction has undoubtedly cemented the Undertaker as the greatest WWE Superstar of all time.
In many aspects of life, we find ourselves comparing one thing to another -- it's just human nature. And in WWE, there are already many claiming that this superstar or that superstar has all the skills to be "the next Undertaker." However, though these superstars may go on to have legendary careers, there is no doubt that there will never be another Undertaker. The reason being: the man is simply one of a kind. And here are just some of the reasons why:
Brock Lesnar is an impressive physical specimen. In fact, one of his nicknames is "the Anomaly." However, when it comes to anomalies in WWE, the Undertaker is the perfect example. The man behind the Deadman, Mark Calaway is nothing short of incredible. He is 6 foot, 10 inches and weighs around 299 lbs. Yet he moves with the grace and determination of a high-flying cruiserweight.
Many big men have been criticized in WWE for not being great athletes or not possessing real wrestling skills. However, the Undertaker has never been one of those big men. For 25 years, he has been praised for his agility and skills in the ring. To this day, we are still in awe of how he performs the patented "Old School" walk on the rope -- a move that never fails to bring every soul in a stadium to their feet. And let's not forget about those over the top rope dives onto his unlucky opponents, waiting at ringside; another incredible feat for a man of his size.
Even as he appears less, winding down before his retirement, he still manages to put on an incredible show. Nobody tells a story in the ring quite like the Undertaker.
Everything about the Undertaker's character is larger than life. The aura that surrounds him is undeniable. The undead persona that enters the arena in a hat and coat, flanked by druids with flaming torches, and has the ability to bring light to the arena by raising his hands and rolling his eyes has captivated viewers for decades.
Created at a time when outlandish gimmicks were a big thing in WWE, the character of the Undertaker has outlasted every one of them and has since been billed as the greatest character in WWE history. Whether it's the entrance, the caskets, the Tombstone Piledriver, Paul Bearer, the eye roll, the thunder and lightning, the mind games or his relationship with his 'brother' Kane, the character is without a doubt the most beloved in the company's history.
And in today's era, when there is a distinct lack of gimmicks, it's refreshing to see the Undertaker show up every once in a while, reminding us all of the power of a great character.
25 years is a long time, but over that time period, the Undertaker has successfully adapted and altered his persona and move set to keep things fresh and modern.
Having been described as the WWE's version of both Darwin's evolutionary theory and Madonna, it's clear to see that every single time the Undertaker evolved, it was a resounding success.
Starting out with an undead western mortician look, the Undertaker evolved in 1994, becoming darker and trading his grey tie, gloves and boots for purple ones. As the WWE's product became more edgy, Taker evolved into the more agile and even darker fan-favorite Lord of Darkness in 1996 before becoming the villainous, sadistic leader of the Ministry of Darkness in 1999.
All of these personas were different yet loyal to the character's core and still maintained that undeniable Undertaker aura. In 2000, after some time away, Taker returned as the "American Badass" --- a motorcycle riding, bandana wearing, ass-kicking machine. He even updated his move-set, incorporating a new finisher: The Last Ride.
Although this was a significant departure, he maintained the long hair, the relationship with Kane, the fighting style, and occasionally still did the Tombstone Piledriver. In 2002, he would evolve this version of the character, cutting his long hair and becoming a villain again.
However, in 2004, the Deadman would rise again as Paul Bearer led the returning Undertaker to a victory that year's WrestleMania. This new "Last Outlaw" gimmick was a hybrid character, paying homage to every iteration of the Undertaker that came before: the original Deadman character with the hat and coat, the sticking out his tongue from his Ministry days and the ring gear of his "American Badass" days. 12 years later, this Undertaker has never gone stale and incorporates the best attributes from all his iterations.
He also expanded his move set yet again to incorporate even more MMA fighting techniques as well as the dreaded Hell's Gate submission hold. With younger opponents and different fighting styles all around, the Phenom continues to successfully adapt to each new environment. At 51 years of age with over 25 years of experience, the evolution continues.
Seeing the silhouette of the Undertaker emerging through the fog in his trademark hat and coat as he enters the arena to do battle is without a doubt the most awe-inspiring sight in WWE history. Throughout the last quarter of a century, when that trademark gong rings through the arena, you know you are about to witness the extraordinary entrance of the Undertaker.
It may have changed somewhat over the years, whether it be a different entrance robe or different music, but the essence of it has always remained the same -- barring the "American Badass" years. There is nothing like watching the Undertaker make that slow walk down the ramp as his gothic theme music echoes across the building.
Whether he was walking down the ramp alone or with Paul Bearer by his side, the Demon from Death Valley's entrance was the ultimate mind game for his opponents. And it just happened to be an incredible visual too.
With 21 consecutive victories on the "Grandest Stage of Them All," WrestleMania, "The Streak" was arguably the greatest accolade of the Phenom's career. Defeating a legendary list of opponents over the years, the 21-0 undefeated streak may no longer be intact, but it was a perfect highlight for an individual who always excelled at WrestleMania. With his record currently standing at an amazing 23-1, hopes are high that the Undertaker shall return to dominate at WrestleMania again next year.
We know about the legendary character, but much of the Undertaker's success was down to the man behind the character and his loyalty to the company that propelled him to super stardom. During the early days of the infamous Monday Night Wars between WWE's Monday Night RAW and WCW's Monday Nitro, it seemed as if WCW was doing everything in their power to put the most famous wrestling organization in the world out of business.
WWE headliners like Hulk Hogan, Razor Ramon, Diesel, Ted DiBiase and the 1-2-3 Kid all jumped ship, leaving Vince McMahon and the WWE for "greener pastures." However, despite multiple rumored offers from WCW, the Undertaker never wavered and remained by Vince McMahon's side until they eventually won the war.
Constantly credited as a locker room leader, the Undertaker was the glue that held WWE together. As commentator JBL, so aptly put it: "That man right there is the Phenom, the cornerstone of the WWE!"
When it comes to longevity, nobody has managed to consistently compete at such a high level for such a long time. The Undertaker has dominated WWE for almost 26 years. Both the man and the character have with withstood the test of time, amazing audiences worldwide for the better part of three decades. He is the only remaining active competitor who appeared on Raw's very first episode back in 1993 and his most recent appearance on the show was earlier this year.
His matches are among some of the greatest of all time and even now, at 51 years of age, Taker puts on nothing less than a five star show. Age is just a number to the Undertaker and the Man from the Dark Side continues to defy expectations every time he steps in the ring.
There you have it, just some of the reasons why the Undertaker is one of a kind. Professional wrestling has seen many athletes carve out legendary careers, but nobody (past, present or future) has been able to reach the heights of the Undertaker.
A superstar of epic proportions, the seven-time World Champion has literally done everything there is to do in WWE. Although he only wrestles about once a year, the Deadman still brings that unmistakable presence with him. He is undoubtedly a future WWE Hall of Famer and stands alone in his own league. There will never be another Undertaker because the Phenom is quite simply one of a kind.
Thank you, Taker, for the almost three decades of entertainment. I can't wait for the day when he returns one more time -- the Dead shall indeed rise again.