Meeting The Dead Man Submitted by LoneLee on 11/18/2018 at 01:53 PM
“Heroes get remembered, and legends never die.” – Babe Ruth
11/16/18. 8:11PM – My room. The irony of that quote is I’m writing about my hero who goes by many monikers, one of course being “The Dead Man.” I wanted to shake things up a bit with this week’s post. As the time approaches for me to encounter The Undertaker for the very first time, I wanted to share what he’s meant to this business, to us as fans, and most importantly, to me. I’ve also added a chronicle of timeline in moments leading up to and passing of the actual fan meet.
I’ve met some of the who’s who in pro wrestling from Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, which I had been head over heels excited for, but none has caused me more anxiety than coming face to face with The Undertaker. The thought of his 6’10” stature, the cold look in his grizzled eyes, the fact that he’s a very private individual. More than that, being in the presence of perhaps the most revered character in WWE, history with a career spanning nearly 3 decades and my entire life comes to a head a little over 12 hours from now.
I sit here thinking about his demonic deep voiced promos coupled with the contrastingly high-pitched manager Paul Bearer gave me nightmares as a young lad. When the gong hits and the Dead Man cometh to collect his next soul, an entrance that still gives me literal goosebumps to this day. No man could extend such a far-fetched character for the longevity he’s maintained. Even trading in his hearse for a motorcycle at the turn of the century, he still carried an ominous presence with him to the shouting canticle of Limp Bizkit. I knew when The Reaper came within 50 miles of me, I had to find a way to him.
How many of us in our childhood mimicked rolling our eyes into the depths of our heads? Or imagined what it would be like to be choke slammed? Perhaps you were like me and tried to walk “old school” on the living room couch on a wrestling buddy only to plummet and suffer a nasty cut. As the years continued, so did my admiration for the Lord of Darkness. Seeing him perform with numerous injuries without missing a beat. The broken orbital bone he turned into a positive by sporting a Phantom of the Opera-like mask. Duct-taping a flak jacket to his broken ribs or sending Mankind from atop Hell in a Cell with a broken foot. Taker’s fortitude was unmatched. Perhaps the rarest endowment of all would be the genuine respect his peers carry for him, both as a worker and a man. Search online, I challenge anyone to find one negative comment about Big Evil.
Even if for a brief moment, what would I possibly say to him? As a rule, I make it a point to thank every wrestler I meet for their contributions to the business. But how could one sentence satisfy a lifetime of entertainment? The ups and downs, the plethora of thrilling feuds, the emotional roller coaster of a 21-year undefeated streak at the grandest stage of them all. I might want to leave out that when the streak was broken, I grew physically I’ll for the night. Or the literal tears I shed after his decisive loss at the passed year’s WrestleMania….It’s still real to me damn it!
9/28/2018. 5:03PM – At work. A notification email distributing the upcoming attractions at Frank and Sons Collectible Show in City of Industry, CA. The Undertaker is coming. Without a second thought, I maxed out my credit card, cementing my place at the event. Financially maybe not a wise decision. Self-consciously, an opportunity I could take 0% chance of letting slip away. Attempting to contain a whirlwind of emotions in the workplace, I made a promise to myself: I would write about this experience and evaluate the impact it has on my fandom afterword.
11/17/2018. 7:45AM – The car. The journey begins. Energy drink in hand, Future autographed poster in the back seat. long hair neatly pulled back a la Ministry of Darkness Taker (I had to pick the evilest and most cynical version.) Must be in line by 10:30. Nothing can stop me now.
9:15AM – Arrived! I Actually found parking in the usually overpacked lot. Line for ticket pick-up and photo-op are unorganized as always. The crowd keeps themselves entertained reminiscing about the glory days. Arguably, my favorite sentiment of these events.
10:49AM – The Man has arrived, fashionably late. I stand far behind a sold-out congregation of Undertaker chants. Despite being a nearly 7-foot man, I could only catch a glimpse of a baseball cap before he stepped through an area curtained off for photos. A fan behind me joked we were getting Mark Calaway and not The Undertaker. I shrugged him off. Was he expecting a gong complete with lightning and smoke? Okay, maybe the kayfabe kid in me very slightly was too.
11:54AM – I’m moments away from my chance to step forward and have my picture with the Dead Man. My excited friend chattered away as I stoically focused on The Streak DVD playing in repetition on the TVs. All pf those years, eras, and phases of my life rushed through my mind once more. The event staff prompted us to ready our cameras, only multiplying my tension. I peeked through the curtain and there sat a smiling undertaker, two very rare sights. Perched in his throne, even taller than all of us while sitting, sporting the aforementioned cap, sunglasses atop, and a plain black tee. I was quickly reminded of the American Bad Ass from the 2000s. The real man behind the Undertaker. The nervousness quickly exited from my being as he returned my handshake offering. “How ya doing, man?” He kindly asked I shook his grizzled, massive choke slamming hand. He retained he smile as we clamored in admiration, something no doubt he’s grown accustomed to. When picture time came, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes back in attempt to capture the moment. Easily the highlight of the event came after one the staff hand drew comparisons in my resemblance to the man we were all here to see on this day. “You even look like him with the eyes rolled back and the long hair,” she stated despite my being about a foot and a half shorter. “You even have better hair than me,” Undertaker claimed in my direction. All I could do was giggle and turn a shade of red as his Big Evil logo. I thanked him and everyone else one more time before exiting.
11/18/2018 10:00AM. My room again, the day after. I reflect back on moments like these quite often. When we as fans can give back to those that have put their bodies on the line and entertained us for years on end. It’s always been hard for me to rank The Undertaker on an all-time list of any kind. He’s always been unique to the point I’ve viewed him in a class on his own. Now I can say the man lives up to that legend. With the annual rumors of his impending retirement popping up and imminent Hall of Fame induction, and it’s difficult for me to imagine a WWE without him, I know without question the legend of the Dead man will never die.