As media outlets try to jump on the WrestleMania bandwagon coverage for hits as they try to tell you what the Undertaker meant to wrestling fans, I'm going to tell you what the Undertaker meant to this wrestling fan.
I have been addicted, enamored and in love with the circus that is professional wrestling since I was 8 years old in 1996. It all started with WCW Saturday morning wrestling, but that's a another story for another time.
My first taste of the Undertaker came after the original Deadman era, but in his Lord of Darkness phase in the summer of 1997 as his longtime former manager Paul Bearer was teasing the world about Kane.
I literally missed 'Taker's early 90s runs, sub-par WrestleMania matches and weird ass booking.
People seem to forget that Undertaker didn't tear the house down at a WrestleMania until his first of three match-ups with Triple H as the freaking American Bad Ass. While he wasn't known as the guaranteed big-match performer as he was through the late 1990s and 2000-2017, he was still a special presence.
Let's look at the gimmick that Mark Calaway turned into potential the WWE's most successful gimmick.
He was a giant, literal deadman who came to the ring doused in makeup, dressed in black with purple gloves. His manager, Bearer, was a portly man in a mortician suit and tie also doused in makeup who shouted things like "OHHHHH YES" and "My Undertaker."
While his gimmick may pale in comparison to some of the other early 1990s WWF ones, it's still astonishing that he managed to stay at the top of the card through OG Deadman, Lord of Darkness, the Ministry, the Corporate Ministry (!) and the damn Kid Rock loving biker. These lasted through the Hulk Hogan era, the Cartoon era, the Attitude Era, the Kurt Angle era, the John Cena era and the PG era.
There has never been a WWE performer more committed or more able to deliver on his gimmick, no matter the task. It sure as hell didn't hurt that Undertaker was the best seller in the game, the best in delivering strikes, could take a crazy bump and just knew when to milk the moment.
He wrestled in the first Hell in a Cell, beat Hulk Hogan for a WWF Championship during Hogan's era, beat Ric Flair, HHH (3x), Shawn Michaels (2x), Edge and Kane (2x) at WrestleMania, took part in Elimination Chambers and literally left a fingerprint on several generations of the sport.
Undertaker has both had some of the most underrated and overrated matches of all time.
I don't want to go through his matches, his record at WrestleMania, bitch about Roman Reigns, complain about no Cena Mania match or to speculate about any potential WWE future involving the Deadman. I just want to, like the rest of the world, say thank you.
Keep an eye out for a That's So Braven podcast on a more in-depth, technical self-conversation about the Undertaker as I walkthrough his in-ring career.
I grew up watching the Undertaker, and he and HHH represent the last active connection to the Attitude Era. From his entrance to the three-count, you knew you were going to be entertained with the Undertaker involved.
He survived multiple generations of fans with the least likely to succeed gimmick -- on paper -- of all time. For this, he is the epitome of what professional wrestling is supposed to be. Undertaker made an insane gimmick work because the second he stepped into the ring, you knew you were watching a master entertainer and the true excellence of execution.