There’s been a long-running debate about Undertaker and the Streak. Should it end? Should it go on, with Undertaker walking away from WWE and professional wrestling with an unblemished Wrestlemania record?
Undertaker is a unique legacy star. When the fans in Chicago threatened to hijack Raw this past Monday, their flyer even said “Undertaker is immortal and deserves respect.” His career has been legendary and fans see that.
Undertaker returned two weeks ago to confront Brock Lesnar, the latest in the line of challengers to end Undertaker’s vaunted streak. In the end it won’t be Lesnar, his advocate Paul Heyman, or even anyone in the office that will decide if Undertaker walks away without his Streak intact.
For Vince to book Undertaker to lose, it would be risky business. But there is a man who could make that decision – a man we have not heard much out of for a long time.
Calaway got his start in wrestling a long time ago – working in the territories like World Class Championship back in the day in a variety of gimmicks. He worked his way to WCW where he worked with Dan Spivey as part of the Skyscrapers before getting his shot in WWE.
But when Calaway came to WWE and debuted at Survivor Series in 1990, he came out as the Undertaker. He hasn’t departed from that character substantially since, which makes one wonder if Calaway and Undertaker are indeed one in the same – and not starkly different people both on and off screen. We haven’t truly seen Calaway to know that fact.
Cartoonish characters like the Undertaker or the Gobbledy Gooker, who also debuted at that Survivor Series event, tend to have short shelf lives. But Undertaker was, and still is, unlike anything seen on WWE television.
Part of the success of the Undertaker is that the character has transcended eras in WWE. As WWE moved into an edgier product in the mid 90’s, Undertaker fit in perfectly and helped Stone Cold, Rock, and Triple H become stars. And the “biker” years were another continued evolution that allowed us to see just a glimpse inside Calaway’s personaliy. And he returned one more time in the Deadman gimmick that we see today.
His storied career has included legends like Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Tito Santana, and will likely conclude with some of the brightest stars of today like Cesaro, Roman Reigns, and Daniel Bryan. His loyalty to WWE has never been questioned when the company had lean years in the 90’s. He could have left for greener pastures but didn’t. He continued to protect the character to a high level, so much so that it carries the same awe and mystique that it did when it debuted.
So herein lies the debate. Does WWE end the Streak? Will ending the Streak kill some of that Undertaker mystique? I can’t say one way or the other, nor is the question mine to answer. There are arguments I could listen to for each response to that question.
Once Undertaker retires, the Streak is no longer a money-maker for WWE. There is no way to build someone through the Streak match once he’s gone. But when Undertaker retires with a perfect Streak, it’s a goal to be chased by others. If the streak ends, per haps that allows Calaway the opportunity to be himself rather than protect a character.
Fans will rage on in debate over whether or not to end the Streak, and they’ll make compelling arguments each way. But the decision ultimately is not ours to make. That decision isn’t even up to any current superstar, nor is it up to Vince McMahon himself.
Mark Calaway is the only man who deserves to make that decision. And whatever choice Calaway makes, the fan in me will not question it, but instead simply applaud his legendary career.