Never forget the Undertaker

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So I値l set the mood for you.

I知 sitting in my living room on Sunday night with my wife, and our two boys.

The fire is crackling in the fireplace, nachos (turkey taco meat) in a giant pile on my coffee table.

And Wrestlemania 33 is streaming on 60 beautiful inches above said crackling fire.

By the end of the night I sat there with the same group, except that I was joining millions of other people around the world who were crying because the Undertaker decided to retire.

I have been watching WWE and really, all pro wrestling since I can remember.

My mom seemed to always be helping with one wedding or another and that left a lot of Saturdays where it was just my dad and I, which meant one thing

WRESTLING!!!!

We would rent videos from the local video stores and binge watch them all day.

Beside the obvious choices of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior as persons of intense interest, there was another character who I was always dying to see, but for different reasons.

In 1990 Mark Calaway, better known as the Undertaker made his debut in the (then) WWF and his dark character fascinated me.

WWF aired creepy vignettes with him making coffins and caskets for his opponents and being controlled by a mysterious urn (when I found out what and urn was, I was horrified).

As a small boy I was truly terrified of him, but that terror made me need to know what he was up to at all times, like if he was beating Jimmy Snuka up I wasn稚 worried that he could be under my bed.

When Undertaker beat Hulk Hogan for the world championship in fall of 1991 I cried.

My hero was conquered by the monster who haunted my favorite thing in the world.

Then something life altering happened.

I wasn稚 scared of him anymore.

I started to enjoy the art of wrestling more than just the characters and there was almost no one better at telling a story than the Undertaker.

As I grew up I began to understand the themes and storylines that I had been oblivious to, which really completed the whole wrestling fan experience.

One of those storylines was the Undertaker and his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania.

I became aware of this just prior to his Wrestlemania XIV match with his kayfabe (wrestling slang for storyline) brother Kane, which put him at 7-0 for the time being.

Each year the question in January for me was, 努ho is getting the Undertaker storyline this year?

And believe me it really varied.

Everything from opponent quality, to stipulation, to where the match was placed on the card schedule.

One thing never changed though.

Undertaker always wade the most of his matches and got the most out of his opponent.

There have only ever been three times I have cheered for someone to beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

Edge at Wrestlemania 24, and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemanias 25 and 26 (the latter of these being Michael痴 retirement match and another one of my more emotional moments as a fan).

One by one he stacked up the wins over the biggest names in the business, Edge, Michaels, HHH, Ric Flair, CM Punk, Batista, and Randy Orton until he was sitting at an astonishing record of 21-0 headed into Wrestlemania 30.

Over the years Undertaker had started show the wear and tear of 20-plus years of battling the best wrestlers on the biggest stages in a variety of brutal environments and was only making appearances to build his 閃ania match up and then after the event he would vanish for nine months.

People began to wonder if his amazing streak would continue forever, or if the (now) WWE would use the first loss of his Wrestlemania career as a send off for him and as a massive push for an up and comer with potential.

When the announcement came that Undertaker was set to face former rival Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30, I was excited because, in my mind, Lesnar being an old rival that Undertaker had beaten before meant that he couldn稚 possibly be the guy to end the streak.

April 6, 2014.

The day that the wrestling world received its biggest shock since the Hulk Hogan became a bad guy (we値l discuss that another time).

In front of 75,000 fans in New Orleans, the streak ended.

If you have ever wondered what 75,000 people in one room in complete silence sounds like, go watch that.

I, like many others waited to hear that the ref had miscounted, or that Lesnar had somehow cheated, but it never happened.

I then began to wonder if the time had come for Undertaker and he had decided to retire, after all he was 49, and had just restarted fatherhood with a new child.

He didn稚 retire.

Lesnar got to be the guy who ended the streak (something his character heavily depends upon to this day).

Undertaker moved on.

At 閃anias 31 and 32 he beat fellow monster and newcomer Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon (WWE owner Vince McMahon痴 son) respectively.

2017 rolled around and there had been little, to no mention of Undertaker, save a few surprising appearances during the Fall of 2016 and people really started to wonder what was going on, but then the Phenom of the WWE made an appearance just prior to the Royal Rumble (WWE痴 second biggest event) and suddenly it was very clear that he would be in the two biggest events of the year.

This got me thinking that maybe he was going to call it a career soon.

Why else would he uncharacteristically participate in multiple events instead of the usual one he did every year?

It became clearer and clearer by the appearance that this was the end for him.

At the Royal Rumble he got eliminated by Roman Reigns, a young and popular star who has a strong character and high stance within the company.

During his career the Undertaker always to the WWE as 塗is yard and he defended that phrase so much it became a regular talking point for other wrestlers, commentators, and fans.

After Reigns eliminated Undertaker, he looked him straight in the eyes and said, 鍍his is my yard now, and then it became crystal clear that Undertaker was about to go on his last go around in the ring.

Over the weeks to come, the story was built on Reigns and his recent string of dominance over the roster, and at various times the Undertaker would show up and they would get the better of each other to make the match look like an contest, despite Reigns being a perfect specimen of physical strength, while the Undertaker was looking like he was embracing the 租ad-bod.

So that brings us current to Sunday night.

As I sat there watching the event, knowing that if the last match of the night was to be Reigns and Undertaker then my suspicions would be 100 percent accurate.

Again, I was right.

I began to inventory all of my memories that involved the man who used to haunt my dreams.

My shock when he threw Mick Foley off a 20 -foot high cage and through a table below.

The delight I had every time he popped out of a supposedly empty casket.

How I would marvel at the ability of a 610 and 300 pound man who could leap over the ropes and gracefully land on the men below.

Watching these moments with friends, family, and even alone.

Each moment has a specific spot in my life.

And on Sunday night, in a flurry of steel chair shots to the back and multiple football style spears to the guts the person that had been the continuity in one of my absolute favorite things couldn稚 take anymore.

Following his win, Reigns didn稚 celebrate or posture (even though the win was probably the biggest of his career) he quickly exited the ring and walked up the massive entrance ramp to let the greatest wrestler of all time have his moment.

As he laid there, people were surprised that he had lost, but they watched to see if he could get out of the ring by himself, or if a litany of other wrestlers would come get him, or a medical crew, or something.

Instead he did his trademark sit up, then rose to his feet and began methodically removing the trademark gear that he had donned for years while his ominous music sounded throughout the Citrus Bowl.

First, the MMA-style gloves.

After that it was his long duster that he had been wearing since the inception of his character.

And then finally, he removed his hat, rolled his eyes back into his head and hit his trademark look before setting them in a pile in the center of the ring.

He exited the ring, kissed his wife, who was sitting ringside, and walked up the ramp to about the midway point, he stopped looked back, threw up a solitary fist, and was lowered below the ramp.

As mysteriously as he had entered the company over 26 years ago, he left in the same fashion.

But for those of us who are still able to suspend belief and be entertained by the sport of professional wrestling, the end of the Undertaker was perfect.

Emotional.

Haunting.

There will never be anyone better.

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