How Did The Undertaker Become One of the Greatest WWE Superstars of All Time?

Published 12/24/2020, 10:29 AM EST


Now that it’s all said and done and The Undertaker has called it quits on his illustrious career, many debate the one fact- Is ‘The Deadman’ the greatest wrestler of all time? 

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With a career spanning over three decades and generations of Superstars, Taker managed to hold his physical might until he could no more. Staying at the top of the business for so long, the better question would be- What made The Undertaker a good wrestler?

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If you saw Taker in his WCW days as “Mean” Mark Callous, you’d never think he would be a hit. WCW had no big plans for him and he was on the road to becoming a jobber. 

Calaway decided to take his talents to WWE, becoming an instant success. The entire table turn of fortune is something that goes unnoticed far too often and many ignore what made The Undertaker.

The Undertaker vs Kane during Wrestle Mania XX at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

The Undertaker had very rare athletic abilities

‘The Phenom’ is a 6 ft 10-inch giant who weighs nearly 300 pounds. You have to wonder how he made those over the top rope jumps and moved with such agility in the ring.

This unique trait is what convinced Vince McMahon that Calaway was special. Never before had there been a giant man moving so flexibly at will, and there probably never will be. 

This ability of Calaway became the anchor of his success at WWE. Over the years, his athleticism never failed him. He could make the top rope jumps in 2015 as well as he could in 1995. 

The Undertaker is also one of the last remnants of the golden generation of Wrestling. He started off during the times of Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and Bret Hart. 

His style belongs to that era which was arguably the best time for professional Wrestling. Working with Taker was very easy and his profound knowledge and skill of the sport through the years made him age like fine wine. 

Mark Calaway was blessed with a timeless character

However, as good as Taker was, it wasn’t just his athleticism that earned him success at WWE. The main pivot behind The Undertaker was the character of ‘The Deadman’. 

A gimmick can make or break any wrestler’s career. A bad gimmick can send you home before you even start. Calaway’s ominous height made him the perfect candidate for the role of a gloomy, darker character.

The beauty of ‘The Deadman’ was its reusability. The timeless gimmick of Taker made fans want to see him again and again. The anti-hero persona made him an asset to any storyline. WWE spared no expense when it came to selling The Undertaker to the fans.

From Paul Bearer’s interesting role and even better storylines and feuds, The Undertaker had the luxury of slow and dramatic entrances. His entry into WrestleMania once involved a vulture. That speaks volumes itself.

Pyrotechnics and light work to sell the ‘supernatural’ element of Taker’s powers was another thing that made fans love ‘The Deadman’.

WWE made The Undertaker better and better

The character itself saw several modifications over the years. From the original to the Ministry of Darkness, to a very smooth transition into “Big Evil”, WWE kept Calaway evergreen. 

370782 04: World Wrestling Federation’s Wrestler Undertaker Poses June 2000 In Los Angeles, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)

‘Big Evil’ was a pleasant break from the seriousness of the previous role of Taker. It merged perfectly with the events of the Attitude Era as well. Taker returned to his gloomier persona a few years later, much to the delight of fans.

The streak was another element that kept The Undertaker the hottest entity in the business. His victories at WrestleMania ensured him a spot at the main event every year, a feat seconded by no one. 

ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 03: Triple H and Undertaker battle during their WWE No Holds Barred Match at ‘WrestleMania 27’ at the Georgia World Congress Center on April 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)

The very thought of- “Will ____ beat the Undertaker? Will the streak end?” is something that made fans love ‘The Phenom’. His legendary status kept growing until his own achievements and strengths weighed down on him.

The Undertaker was forced to deliver on heavy expectations

Following legendary fights against Shawn Michaels and Triple H, it started becoming clear that Taker couldn’t do it like he used to anymore. 

The Undertaker’s character was ageless. Calaway’s body, however, was not. A visible and gradual decline in Taker’s performance made fans fear the worst. He managed to put on his best works even at an older age.

Unfortunately, people wanted Taker back at WrestleMania every year and expected big. After the disastrous match against Goldberg, Calaway understood that he needed to stop.

What was once his biggest assets became a huge liability. Despite the barriers of age and fatigue, ‘The Deadman’ pulled on and performed well at the highest stages. 

WWE wanted to push younger stars like Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, something that forced Taker to return by ending the streak and losing his ‘Yard’. Calaway then left fans with a match of a lifetime against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36 with the first-ever cinematic fight.

Mark Calaway never broke the ‘Deadman’ character

Mark Calaway was a good wrestler but an even better Undertaker. Throughout his tenure in WWE, he never broke character even in the most tempting of situations.

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In interviews outside the ring, backstage moments, or even in public, Taker stayed in character. Calaway became The Undertaker over the years. This is what made him so believable anytime he stepped in the ring. 

Of course, no wrestler is complete without the opponents he faced. Taker fought an array of legends with names like Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Mick Foley, Edge, CM Punk, John Cena, Batista, Jimmy Snuka, Yokozuna, and many more.

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WWE made The Undertaker the legend that he is, and Calaway hit it home by proving to be the perfect man for the job. The WWE Universe felt it deep within when he addressed it for the final time at Survivor Series 2020, exactly 30 years after he made his debut in the company.

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Luke Dias

1208 articles

Luke Dias is a senior WWE and AEW author at EssentiallySports, having published more than 1000 articles on professional wrestling. Having completed courses in Advanced Writing from the University of California and Media and Ethics from the University of Amsterdam, Luke is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism from Xavier’s College. His tremendous knowledge of WWE history enables him to make past connections, adding depth to the articles.

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