Welcome to Planet Kayfabe, everyone. Here I am going to discuss what is apparently a difficult topic for both fans and wrestlers. Age. Specifically focusing on the Undertaker vs Goldberg match. Ever since this straight up disaster of a main event took place last week in Choppy-Choppy-You-Heady Land I've been hearing every old wrestler with a podcast or guest on a podcast defend this embarrassing display. It is to the point where I'm starting to think The Undertaker has mob ties because I know for a fact that if anyone short of a Triple H had that same match with Goldberg they insiders would either bury it or decline to comment. I am not even going to say The Undertaker is most to blame for this match being bad, but it is funny how he is constantly given a free pass even though every time he has stepped in the ring since his match with Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 33 he has looked old, tired and just well past his days of belonging anywhere near a wrestling ring. Especially in the WWE.
For fans, especially those who grew up watching Undertaker which is the majority of fans left in WWE, I believe it is hard for them to admit Undertaker is too old because in a what it is like saying you are older, too and coming to grips with your youth being long gone. Despite his on-screen persona, the Undertaker is human. Mark Calaway was born on March 24, 1965. He turned 54 this year. To put that into perspective for you, that is older than Vince McMahon was when he started wrestling matches in the Attitude Era. It is also slightly older than Gerald Brisco was when he was doing comedy spots with Pat Patterson during that period. In fact, Brisco was 53 years old that time he pinned a sleeping Crash Holly to win the WWF Hardcore Championship. Of course, I'm not trying to say Undertaker is the same as Brisco and Patterson, but there's a lot of good reasons why Bob Backlund and Iron Sheik didn't headline a WWF PPV in 2000.
Age isn't always a bad thing. In fact, Vince McMahon has clearly changed his views a lot over the years. In the "New Generation," he did away with massive names that made the golden era of the 1980s WWF a mainstream pop culture success. While those guys were indeed getting older, what Vince McMahon underestimated was their name value. Suddenly WCW had big-time names like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage to legitimize them both in the eyes of fans and advertisers. This gave WCW a boost, however years of relying on the past and the WWF constantly pushing youth and looking for the next big star is what pushed the WWF ahead of WCW in the end. I know it sounds like I'm picking on The Undertaker, but he is really the most recent example, along with Goldberg, who sparked this whole topic. The Undertaker still obviously has name value, as does Goldberg, but it is clear Undertaker does not belong in a wrestling ring anymore.
The fact that The Undertaker has lasted this long is nothing short of amazing, though. Being a big guy and more prone to back and lower body pain he must really feel it after it matches and probably has for many years. Everyone has an expiration date, though, and in my opinion, Undertaker has long passed his as a worker. In the 2010s the WWE has heavily relied on nostalgia too much. I have written about this many times in the past. Every era of WWE and every decade has its stars. What are the big stars of the 2010s? All the dream/nostalgia matches we have gotten at Wrestlemania every year. Guys like The Undertaker and Triple H working every year. Rock coming back. Sting coming to WWE. Goldberg returning. Brock Lesnar returning. Batista returning. Kurt Angle returning (though he didn't ever get that big of a spot). Even on the mid-card, we have seen Attitude Era starts such as the New Age Outlaws, The Dudley Boyz, and the Hardy Boyz capture tag team championships again. When you think of every decade in wrestling in every promotion you have an image of what was in at that period and for WWE they have relied too long on what was "in" in the '90s because they are too lazy to create new stars in the 2010s and even when they do try they make him say "suffering succotash" and ruin any chance he has of getting over.
Double or Nothing, AEW's inaugural event, came in with much hype that delivered, however, no one would have guessed that the match that stole the show would be Cody Rhodes and his 50-year-old brother Dustin in a 5-star performance. AEW's "All Out" sold out 15 minutes after tickets went on sale. A show headlined by 48-year-old Chris Jericho in a world title match. Part of Chris Jericho's heel gimmick is taking all the credit for AEW's buzz, but he's not entirely all wrong. Chris Jericho was and is AEW's legitimate star that enabled them to get a prime time television deal on TNT. He is going to be the top heel that makes their babyface a huge star. However, even if someone, as washed up as Undertaker or Goldberg, went to AEW that too would make a huge splash in the public. The big difference is Jericho is a big star who can still go in the ring. Wrestlers are lasting longer than ever thanks to their health choices. AJ Styles is 42 and had an incredible match with Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were 44 and 43 respectively when they had one of the greatest WrestleMania matches ever at Wrestlemania 25 in 2009. If you were in your 40's a decade prior to that, you might as well have been in your 70's in most cases.
This doesn't need to be over-complicated, though. You can use the eyeball test to see when someone is too old to be working in the ring even if their name still has marquee value. Batista made a point to have his final match this year at Wrestlemania against Triple H at age 50 knowing his wrestling days are behind him (yes, the successful acting career helps). Kurt Angle is also 50 and had his retirement match also at this year's Wrestlemania. Kurt is one of the best wrestlers of all-time, but if you watched any of his matches this year it was clear that he was significantly slower in the ring and even appears to be in a lot of pain just while moving around. That is the same feeling I get during every Undertaker match I've watched in seemingly the past four years.
Vince McMahon is another figure subject to some scrutiny for being so hands-on with WWE at his age. He's not wrestling, although his near 50-year-old son with the worst cardio in the promotion is getting a massive push right now, but at 74 years old it is fair to criticize him for being out of touch with not just current society but even the trends of the wrestling world. Vince, for how much he changes his mind, is also very much stuck in his ways and if you listened to the Jon Moxley interview on Talk is Jericho, he echoed a lot of statements fans have had over the years. Vince doesn't have it anymore. He has a reputation of being a genius, but he's not a genius. He is an old man in a nice suit with the biggest last name in wrestling. I'm not going to make this one complicated for anyone reading. Vince is old. Too old to be this hands-on with WWE. He is 74 and for nearly 2 decades since the purchase of WCW and enjoying the WWE has his personal little snow globe that he can shake at his every whim to amuse himself, he is too old to start caring again about current society or pop culture the way he did in the '80s and 90's when he was forced to listen to the consumer. He is a guy who is surrounded by yes men. He even re-hired his most loyal yes-man Bruce Prichard after being away from WWE for 10 years. The last thing this company needs is more old voices with old ideas nodding along with Vince's old voice and his old ideas. Vince used to be pretty forward thinking, as I said earlier, in the '90s when he made a hard push for youth, even though it hurt his company and helped his competition for a few years eventually it catapulted the WWF to its most popular period ever. Vince's 2010's obsession with nostalgia only pops the older fans. WWE right now is at least popular with the younger audience than ever right now and a large part of that is that they have no stars and the stars they DO push are older than the fathers of every 10-year-old who watches this. Seriously, think about it. If you are 35 and have a 10-year-old son that father was a teenager when Shane McMahon stared wrestling matches and was six years old when The Undertaker debuted.
If these guys could still go like Wrestlemania 25 they'd shut me up pretty fast, but they can't. WWE, days after the Super Show Debacle showed 20-year-old clips of Goldberg tossing around guys like The Giant and Kevin Nash. Well, it clearly is not 1998 anymore, that's for sure. The Undertaker himself said in a 2002 interview with Michael Landsberg on TSN's "Off The Record" in Canada that he didn't want to be one of these old guys that fans feel sorry for and say "you should have seen him in his day". I'm sorry to say as a life-long, huge Undertaker fan, but we have reached that point. The problem is with a lot of wrestlers, much like pro athletes, they rarely ever retire on their own terms. They are either forced to retire due to injury or stick around too long to where they hold no value to whoever is paying them. The only difference between sports and pro-wrestling is that in professional sports you have to pass an actual physical, which I know WWE does as well, but it is obviously a flawed process since they cleared Kurt Angle out of nowhere when Roman Reigns was too sick to compete at TLC and Daniel Bryan wasn't even cleared yet. In pro-sports you can be the biggest name of your generation and a good ratings draw, but if you can't compete at a championship level, or at least a competitive winning level, you're not going to make the team. Wrestling is different. You can pretty much book whatever match you want. WWE even booked Bret Hart in matches 9 years ago and even made him United States Champion even though he wasn't cleared to even take a bump. Even that was a bit hokey. The send-off versus Vince McMahon was fine enough.
If this came off as harsh, here's where I put over the talent who paved the way and also understand their reason to still want to compete. While I said these larger-than-life superstars are human and can't wrestle forever I also understand they are human and have a need or want to make as much money as they can while they can still muster up the energy to hit the gym, make a town and do a match. Undertaker and Goldberg were paid very good money to go over to Saudi Arabia and in your 50's I don't blame them for taking that payday while they are still active. They have bills to pay. In some cases ex-wives to pay. Children to put through college. I get it. Yes, they are rich but it doesn't hurt to increase your comfort zone.
While most might snicker at them for just taking the money, I don't. I know I wouldn't say no to that and I know most of the people reading this wouldn't as well. I also don't feel like they whored themselves out for the money. Undertaker and Goldberg tried to have a real match. They wanted it to be special. Undertaker was visibly angry after the match. Goldberg took to Twitter to basically apologize for the match. They wouldn't have reacted this way if it was all about the money because they wouldn't have cared how the match turned out. They wanted to give us a special dream match and prove they weren't just two old guys trying to relive their glory days and instead all the audience could do was laugh or cry.
Not everyone that is older is used up as I clearly laid out earlier. There's still a spot for guys like Undertaker in this business, I just don't think it is in the ring. This isn't just an overreaction to one match either. This is a long time coming. After and during the match was concerned for both guys. Goldberg clearly knocked out. Both tired just two minutes into the match. The botched Jackhammer. The botched Tombstone. These guys were one bad bump away from perhaps not even being able to walk ever again -- never mind wrestle. As a guy who grew up watching these nostalgia acts in their prime, it was nice seeing them get one more go in the spotlight, but time hasn't stood still and as we inch towards the 2020s it will only get increasingly sadder for the fan and more dangerous for the wrestlers of the 90's to continue to try and compete in high-level main event matches.
You may say who am I, some writer on a website to say when someone should retire and that's fine but sometimes wrestlers need to be saved from themselves. The last thing they need is more encouragement. I've seen every excuse in the book made for this match. If the best defense you have is "he's a legend" and "the first minute was pretty good" then your time is up. People chanted "please retire" at Big Show simply because they were sick of seeing him on TV. For as much flack as internet fans on social media get, wrestling fans, by and large, are nicer today than ever and very forgiving. If THIS version of Undertaker or Goldberg or Batista or Triple H or Kurt Angle were wrestling main event level spots 20 years ago they would be booed out of the building. I don't want to see that happen, but it could. The party's over, fellas. Time to go home. There's a good crop of wrestlers out there dying to get some attention.
Thanks for reading, everyone. You can follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe I'll be back next time with my thoughts on WWE Stomping Ground. Oh boy, that'll be a fun one. For NoDQ, this is Planet Kayfabe. Take care and God bless.