If professional wrestling was a video game, The Undertaker would be the wise old veteran hidden in a mysterious location, waiting for a young hero to find him and ask him for his knowledge. Of course, being the wrestling legend that he is, the Undertaker would of course part with his knowledge and wisdom to any who would hear him, and that knowledge would catapult the young hero to the top of the mountain.
The Undertaker has been wrestling for over 32 years, 26 of which have been spent in WWE. He has in all likelihood seen hundreds if not thousands of wrestlers come and go, and has been through everything there is to experience in WWE. Given all that he has accomplished, he is a bottomless well of insight and knowledge for how to succeed in WWE.
One doesn’t have to ask the Undertaker for advice; all one has to do is look at his career from the beginning to the present to see what works and what doesn’t. The Undertaker’s stellar career has been filled with incredible highs and just as many lows. He has reached the top of the mountain many times, but doing so has taken an incredible toll on his body. He has enjoyed success as World Champion, but was also stuck with terrible opponents over the years. If the Undertaker were to write an autobiography or detailed account of his WWE career, such a book would be biblical in length.
There will never be another wrestler or character like the Undertaker ever again. Because of that, it’s essential that today’s stars and those who are training to become the wrestlers of tomorrow study his career in the hopes of learning some critical details of what one needs to succeed and what one needs to avoid.
Here are ten things that every wrestler can learn from the Undertaker’s storied career.
10. Having A Look That Stands Out
In a world where almost every wrestler has a generic look (i.e. short hair, simple black trunks and few other identifiable features), the Undertaker stood out like a sore thumb. He had flowing long hair, wore black full-body wrestling attire, and even wore makeup and eyeliner to make him look more unusual. In pro wrestling, your look is critical, so it makes sense to try and make yourself stand out as much as possible.
While WWE might be currently favouring a ‘clean’ look for its wrestlers, it’s essential that WWE’s wrestlers do what the Undertaker did and change their look or attire to get fans’ attention. Whether that means growing their hair out, changing from shorts to tights to a full-body leotard, or getting some kind of mask or face paint, any one of these small changes can help a struggling wrestler carve out a niche for themselves by looking different from everyone else on the constantly growing WWE roster.
9. Choosing The Right Gimmick For The Right Person
If rumors are to be believed, Mark Calaway was at one point penciled to take the “Gobbledy Gooker” gimmick instead of Hector Guerrero. Imagine if that happened, and the undead mortician gimmick was assigned to someone else. The results wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as they are with Calaway as Undertaker. That should tell you how critical it is to match a gimmick to the right wrestler.
Maybe it was simple timing, but having Calaway play any other kind of character wouldn’t have worked in WWE. He was born to be a stoic, ominous wrestling zombie, much like Steve Austin was born to portray a surly redneck instead of a technician like the Ringmaster. This is why it’s essential that the powers-that-be think very carefully when assigning gimmicks to wrestlers. They only work as well as the Undertaker gimmick did less than 1% of the time.
8. Knowing What Works And What Doesn’t
Because the Undertaker has been with WWE for so long and has done literally everything there is to do, his career serves as an excellent case study for future WWE superstars. In particular, it provides WWE with enough evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and how that can apply to any WWE superstar.
Almost every time WWE put Undertaker against another giant, the result was a disappointing contest. Not only were these opponents some of the Undertaker’s worst, but these matches led to some of the worst in WWE history. Although WWE would fix their mistake by pitting Undertaker against smaller and more technically-sound wrestlers in later years, they did pit him against giants many times, which led to more terrible matches.
By looking at Undertaker’s career, one can see that following certain match formulas doesn’t work. Other WWE superstars need to evaluate which opponents and match-types allow them to showcase their strengths and conceal their weaknesses, instead of making those wrestlers do everything possible when they may not be capable of doing so successfully.
There are very, very few wrestlers that truly become company mainstays in any promotion. It takes an incredibly dedicated person to stick with one company no matter how many difficulties they experience there.
Undertaker is one such wrestler. He has been with WWE since 1990, and still makes occasional appearances for WWE, even though he doesn’t have to. Even when many of his fellow big stars were jumping ship to WCW during the 1990s with the promise of more money and fame, the Undertaker stayed loyal to Vince. That isn’t just dedication; that’s true class.
That loyalty has paid off for the Undertaker, to be sure. He’s considered WWE’s biggest legend, its greatest Superstar ever, and is widely praised by all of his former and current co-workers. The huge paycheck he must get for his annual appearances must not be too bad, either.
6. Giving Back To The Fans
Although he’s known to be a very private individual, and is considered WWE’s biggest legend, Undertaker has never forgotten about the most important people in all of wrestling: the fans. Undertaker has posed with fans on many opportunities, even when out of character, and has even done charity appearances as well. He also comes back at every WrestleMania because he knows how important it is for fans to see him perform on the biggest stage of them all.
He knows very well that he doesn’t have to come back, but because it was the fans that made him such a big star, he comes back for them.
This is important for other wrestlers to remember, that no matter how big a star they might become, it’s the fans that make them such big stars in the first place. Even if a wrestler becomes a big star and makes tons of money, they should follow the Undertaker’s example and never forget about the fans, no matter how much they might think themselves ‘above the fans’ once they become certified headliners.
It should go without saying that wrestlers are exceptionally tough individuals. But some are tougher than others, and the Undertaker ranks as one of the toughest. He has worked through countless injuries and still comes back to perform despite his body being incredibly worn down from over thirty years of wrestling.
This is a man who climbed a Cell with a broken foot, worked many matches with taped ribs, keeps performing Tombstone Piledrivers despite severe knee damage, and continues to perform incredible feats of strength despite multiple shoulder surgeries. The guy’s probably the closest thing to a true definition of a living juggernaut that we’ll ever see (Sorry, Roman Reigns).
While it’s hard to ‘teach’ toughness, other wrestlers can learn from the Undertaker’s example and keep going even when they’re hurt. Sure, there are tons of risks in wrestling, but in Vince’s world, where toughness and fortitude are of paramount importance, the risk may be worth the reward.
4. Keeping Matches Fresh And Interesting
There’s a good reason why the Undertaker is such a fun wrestler to watch- you never know what he’s going to do. Despite being a super heavyweight, the Undertaker does many different things in his matches: he strikes like a boxer, he uses his power, he demonstrates excellent submission skills, and sometimes he even flies. How many other wrestlers of his stature can boast such a wide variety of moves?
Other wrestlers should follow the Undertaker’s example and do different things than what’s expected of them. It’s always more fun to see a small guy demonstrate unusual strength or for a bigger wrestler to show unexpected agility. That makes them more unpredictable and exciting to watch.
In an age when fans can look up to wrestlers from around the world and see men and women doing incredible things, more WWE superstars should do what the Undertaker did and fill their matches with surprise moves and unexpected maneuvers.
3. How To Defy Expectations
The Undertaker has always been billed as a monster because of his huge stature. Because of that, he was put into Vince McMahon’s token monster mold: a slow and plodding wrestler that rarely, if ever, left his feet. This led to some boring matches for the Undertaker. In fact, there was a time when the Undertaker’s matches were among the most boring in the company (with his 1994 outing vs. the “Fake Undertaker” being a prime example).
But Undertaker showed the world that he wasn’t an ordinary big man. He was unbelievably agile, capable of running faster than many of his co-workers and jumping very high. But the best example of the Undertaker defying expectations for a big man was the no-hands running suicide dive he’d execute on occasion. That is a move that many of his smaller compatriots find incredibly difficult to pull off, yet Undertaker has pulled it off flawlessly on many occasions.
Small wonder, then, that many consider the Undertaker to be the greatest big man of all time.
Have you ever noticed that no one ever really says anything bad about the Undertaker, even in shoot interviews? That’s because the Undertaker was a straightforward man who respected those who respected him. He always had this ‘business-first’ approach that led him to put WWE’s best interests ahead of his own. Why else do you think that ‘Taker allowed Vince to green-light his precious streak ending? Because ‘Taker respected Vince enough to follow through with that decision, regardless of whether or not he liked it.
Wrestling is an industry built on jealousy and deception, but the Undertaker managed to rise above all of that. He became someone that lower-card wrestlers could actually look up to, because he respected the hard-working members of the company. That’s something that every wrestler should strive for, instead of simply thinking only of themselves.
1. The Importance Of Changing Over Time
If there’s one word that could never describe the Undertaker, it’s “stale.” The Undertaker has proven time and again that changing one’s gimmick, move-set, or overall presentation is critical to longevity in professional wrestling. Whether it was a subtle addition to his regular move-set, or the drastic change between the Lord of Darkness and the American Badass, the Undertaker knew what he needed to do to stay fresh in fans’ eyes. How else do you think he managed to stay as a top dog in WWE for over 25 years?
This is something that every WWE Superstar needs to take into consideration. They need to look at their past performance and makes the right changes so that they’re not repeating themselves too much. Since the stink of repetition can become impossible to get rid of once it starts, it’s best that WWE’s veterans and more high-profile wrestlers follow the Undertaker’s example and keep changing things up so that fans don’t get bored.