I was for many years in my youth a big fan of wrestling. especially the WWE (WWF back then) variety. Now I of course, did grow up in a world where the kayfabe, the masquerade of wrestling being anything beyond a well-rehearsed show had fallen. We all knew the wizard behind the machine. But it was still very interesting and not to mention difficult as heck to get ahold of. Now everyone who watches wrestling does at some point end up with a favourite wrestler. Mine was always Mark Calaway. Better known as "the Undertaker". A beast of a man, a hair short of 210 cm and for most of his career built like a brick house. He was also initially a very mobile wrestler as he was doing high flyer moves in an era of American wrestling where big wrestler tended to be slow power wrestler. As time went by many others would push the game forward. But the Undertaker was also always carried by his other gimmick, he was able to "call upon dark powers" to ignore hits and moves. This did grant him an air of indestructibility that really played into the same power fantasy as superman.
But this was over 20 years ago and as I out of curiosity watched a recap of Wrestlemania 33 that happened this last weekend. The Undertaker headlined the event and every single one of those 20+ years could be seen in his face, his body and how he moved. It was in a way heartbreaking. A part of me really wished that he would have hanged up his boots a lot earlier. Not having to see him go through matches being carried, made to look good by others as his body does not longer have the power to really do that himself.
Now there would be no shame in doing that, the Undertaker have been wrestling for over 25 years. Most athletes retire long before that and many WWE wrestlers work shows every week, sometimes several shows a week. That does take its toll on the body. But for some insane reason Mark Calaway kept on wrestling. While wrestling as a "sport" is fake, the action is as real as any stuntwork and many times more dangerous. It does leave its marks on the body.
So as I watched the end of the match and once it was over I saw the Undertaker slowly remove his gloves, his coat and then finally his hat. His face a mix of sadness and relief. Then Mark Calaway exited the ring but for the first time, the Undertaker stayed. In the ring, a legend laid and walking up the ramp was a 52 year old man. I hope this is the actual retiring of the Undertaker. Not built up with any hype or made a spectacle of. It was quiet and dignified. The proper way to send off someone who have been a hero me and many others.
But it is the end of an era and I do feel a tinge of sadness but at the same time I am glad that Mark Calaway finally is free from the alter ego that was and in many ways still is the Undertaker. But there will never ever be someone as dedicated to his craft as the Undertaker, nor as dedicated to the whole idea of the spectacle of wrestling.