by VINCE RUSSO
It’s hard to believe that it was twenty-five years ago when I first saw the Undertaker work for the WWE at the 1990 Survivor Series. If you’re as old as I am, and have the history to reach as far back as I can, you would be able to say that on that night you just knew that there was something special about this now iconic character. And, that’s exactly what he was—a character. There wasn’t ever another like him before . . . or. since.
With every plotted move, Mark made you believe that you were indeed watching a “Dean Man”. From the no-selling of his opponents arsenal, to the chilling “sit-up”, all the way to the thunderous “tombstone”—you believed everything that Mark Callaway was portraying in the ring—just a lost art in the business today.
I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have worked with Mark. Even though we were never close pals by any means, we didn’t have to be for me to truly understand and appreciate the man that he was. Mark was just one of those guys that you would label a pro’s pro. He didn’t say much, but his silence carried a deafening statement. He was far, and away the locker room leader when I was working with him, something that just doesn’t carry the same weight today that it did back then. And, ever though I was working in a locker room full of testosterone he-men—everybody feared “Taker” . . . everybody!
The one thing I’ll never forget about Mark, was him sprawled out in the locker room in intense pain after almost every match. Back then, the Dead Man had severe back issues that he would never sell before stepping in the ring. I know that there was an occasion, or two, where Taker would later tell a friend of mine that there was a bit of heat towards me on his part because at times I asked Taker to work hurt. That opinion he has of me tears me to the bone, why—because I never KNEW he was hurt. He would no-sell to me, and everybody else and proceeded to go out there and tear the house down. Man, we are talking about a prideful man here—he stood taller than perhaps anyone else I had, or have, ever met.
Fast-forwarding to 2015, it comes as no surprise to me whatsoever, that Mark looks as good today, as he did back then. The years have not physically aged him, as he is one of the few who you actually believe could beat Brock Lesnar based on appearance alone. I don’t think Mark would ever set foot into a wrestling ring if he didn’t feel he looked in the best physical shape possible—that’s just not him. Throughout his entire career Mark never sold anybody short—especially when it came to the fans.
But, as Triple H loves to say, now is a “different time”. In today’s world of sports-entertainment, Brock Lesnar is THE GUY. Outside of Kurt Angle, I just don’t know if there’s been a more believable pure wrestler in the business. You just believe everything that Brock does, which in turn convinces you that there’s nobody in the WWE who could beat him in a choreographed fight—or a real one for that matter–not even the Undertaker.
At SummerSlam, Brock Lesnar needs to go over clean, and the Undertaker needs to acknowledge the victory in a way that only he can. At 50 years of age, he could never beat this “Beast” in his prime, and that right there is the story. A loss to Lesnar wouldn’t hurt Mark one iota—the fans love him and will always want to see him, if he were to make a return at WrestleMania in the right circumstances against the right opponent—the fans would blow the roof of the joint as they always do when they here that bell toll.
I just have to say this—having younger brother Kane crash the party would just be a nightmare to me. Simply because I don’t think the current writing staff at the WWE could construct a story that the two warrant and deserve. There are also some calling for Sting to show up, still dreaming for that Taker vs. Sting match that could have meant something when WCW first folded. Today? I just don’t think it would do the two icons justice, and once again, I’m not sure that the story needed could be successfully built. As much as the fans–including myself–really wanted to see Sting return at the last WrestleMania, what did that really do to enhance his legacy? At 56 years-old, Steve Borden should only be involved when the situation created for him is as strong as the legacy he created for himself.
But as always—we shall see—but, either way, the fans are getting a match they want to see, and being that it should ALWAYS be about the fans first—everybody wins!