April 4, 2017
Lots of thoughts coming out of WrestleMania, in what I thought was a great show overall. As more matches took place and the night went on, I realized that they were saving The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns for the main event. It made no sense for it to be the main event, unless of course it was The Undertaker's final match. That instinct ended up being correct, as The Undertaker slowly placed his gloves, trenchcoat, and hat in the center of the ring, and slowly walked away.
Honestly, I thought the match was brutal. The timing was off and Taker just didn't look good. His 30+ years in the business have taken their toll on his 52-year old body. Honestly, his loss to Brock Lesnar a couple of years ago probably should've been his last match. Despite cutting back to just a couple of matches a year the last few years, the guy just hasn't looked good. With that being said, for as much respect as the guy has from the fans and the locker room, the guy should've been able to wrestle as long as he wanted to, and it looks like that's exactly what he did.
I remember seeing Taker debut at the 1990 Survivor Series. With Brother Love as his manager, he seemed like just another goofy cartoon character. I remember thinking there was no way he'd last long in the WWE. I remember actually enjoying him as "Mean" Mark Callous in WCW, and thinking he would've been great as an original member of the Skyscrapers. He ended up being a replacement though, and it just didn't pan out. At a time when WWE was still heavy on cartoon-type characters, this just seemed like another goofy one. Come one, who's supposed to take a guy dressed like that seriously? They booked him solid though. He quickly eliminated Koko B. Ware, and pinned the legendary Dusty Rhodes, then continued to beat on Dusty outside of the ring. At WrestleMania 7, he had a dominating performance against "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, in what would start a WrestleMania win streak that will never be matched by anyone. He would go to feud with The Ultimate Warrior and main event with him all over the country during the summer of 1991, before oddly turning babyface by rescuing Miss Elizabeth at SummerSlam '91 from Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
The first time I had the opportunity to see Taker in person was a house show in South Bend against the Warrior on June 10, 1991. The people absolutely hated him and his manager Paul Bearer got a pretty good amount of heat; enough so that people at ringside kept throwing things at him. I wouldn't have the chance to see Taker in person again until September 25, 1995 when he defeated King Mabel at a house show in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During the feud with Mabel, Taker suffered a broken orbital bone. He would go on to wear a "Phantom of the Opera" style mask to protect his face. I'd have the chance to see him again just 3 months later, as he lost to WWE champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart via DQ at a house show in Ft. Wayne.
Oddly enough, I got to see The Undertaker face WWE champion Bret Hart at a house show again on September 25, 1997. This time, Hart would lose via DQ due to interference from Brian Pillman. The next opportunity to see The Undertaker would be July 12, 1999 for an episode of Monday Night Raw, as he teamed with Kane in a losing effort to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Big Show. The next opportunity to see The Undertaker was a big one. After several months off, he appeared on a motorcycle during The Rock vs. Triple H match at Judgement Day in Louisville. He turned from the "Deadman" to "American Bad Ass", and that crowd popped huge!
As far as I recall, the last opportunity I had to see The Undertaker was another big event, as he defeated Ric Flair in a no-DQ match at WrestleMania 18 in Toronto. It was one of my favorite matches on the show and I'm glad I had the chance to see it in person!
I'm very thankful for the opportunity to see him perform so many times in person. Although the last couple of years weren't exactly kind to him, he still the best big man I've ever seen in the business. He could go toe-to-toe a big guy like Yokozuna, or a smaller guy like Shawn Micheals. He could have an entertaining match with just about anyone, and always had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, whether he was a heel or babyface. His absence will leave a huge void, especially at next year's WrestleMania. Now matter how old he's gotten, it will be strange to not see The Undertaker on the card. Thanks for all you've done over the years. I greatly appreciate it. #ThankYouTaker
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