When the Undertaker retired from the WWE last summer after thirty years as one of its biggest stars, it is fair to say that it was the end of an era. After signing for the company in 1990, the Taker’s career spanned the final years of the WWF and the Attitude Era, and the successful rebranding as the WWE and the Raw and SmackDown! brand splits.
Despite the WWE having other major superstars during this period, the Undertaker was the one that stood head and shoulders above them all with his macabre persona and his all-action ring style, a mix of raw power and athleticism, and this combination made him one of the most popular wrestlers with WWE fans.
The Undertaker cemented his status as a WWE legend from the mid-2000s. From the turn of the Millennium, he changed his persona to that of a rogue, Hells Angel-type biker, nicknamed the American Bad Ass and Big Evil. But after losing a Buried Alive match to Vince McMahon in 2003, the Undertaker disappeared for a while, before returning early the following year as the Deadman in the run-up to WrestleMania XX.
Also central to the legend of the Undertaker was the Streak, a run of 21 consecutive victories at WWE’s premiere event WrestleMania, which began with a win over Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka at WrestleMania VII in 1991, and included title victories, and a win over Shawn Michaels which led to the Heartbreak Kid’s retirement. Post-2010, the Undertaker’s WWE appearances became more few and far between, with most focused on WrestleMania and storylines related to the Streak and speculation as to who could end it. This led to two consecutive showdowns with Triple H, both won by the Taker which took the Streak to 20-0. In 2013, the Undertaker beat C.M. Punk at WrestleMania 29, which took him to 21-0, but it was to be the final win of the Streak. The following year, the Undertaker faced Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, and Lesnar emerged triumphant, finally ending the Taker’s 23-year unbeaten record at WrestleMania.
In the years following the end of the Streak, the Undertaker’s WWE appearances became even more sporadic – though no less dramatic – during an era of change for the company. However, he still remained one of the company’s most popular stars.
As the company struggled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020, a number of wrestlers and other staff were released, and at the same time, the Undertaker announced his retirement at 55-years old.
There has been no one like the Undertaker in the history of the WWE, and right now, it’s difficult to see anyone around that could measure up to the standard set by the Deadman. It could well be that the Undertaker was the WWE’s last great superstar.