In all lines of work there comes a point where one must ask themselves "am I too old for this?". And if you don't, rest assured someone will ask that question for you. It's common knowledge that athletes often have to ask themselves that question long before the rest of us. Well, the world of wrestling is no different. Many wrestling legends of yesterday have retired, either plagued by injuries or just deciding that their wrestling days are over. With the likes of 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and most recently, the "Icon" Sting all retired from active competition, it's clear that we have moved into a new era without these legends.
However, as the wrestling landscape continues to evolve, there is one constant that has remained for over two decades. And that is WWE's resident Phenom: The Undertaker. Having dominated WWE for the past 26 years, it's no surprise that rumors of the Deadman's retirement continue to circulate, with many believing that he is 'too old' to keep wrestling or that his better days are behind him. Now that those rumors have once again raised their heads, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to look at 5 times that the Undertaker has defied expectations and proven that age is just a number - something he will undoubtedly do at least one more time.
#1. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 25 (2009)
At 44 years of age, when you've been putting your body on the line for 19 years straight in unimaginably brutal matches (Hell In A Cell matches, Inferno matches, Casket matches and Buried Alive matches) one might be forgiven for thinking that your better days were behind you. However, that was not the case for the Undertaker or fellow veteran Shawn Michaels. The two tenured superstars met in an incredible 30 minute classic that has gone down in history as "the Greatest Match in WWE History". After showstopping reversals, incredible dives and a plethora of finishers, the Undertaker came out as the victor, tombstoning Michaels for the 2nd time to extend his WrestleMania undefeated Streak to 17-0. Critics rejoiced at this match and commented on how, in a show full of promising young talent and unstoppable high-flyers, it was the two 40 year old veterans who stole the show. The word 'perfect' isn't a word associated with professional wrestling a lot, but if you're ever looking for a perfect match, this is it. These two legends proved that, on this night, age was just a number.
#2. The Undertaker vs CM Punk - WrestleMania 29 (2013)
CM Punk's nickname 'The Best In the World' wasn't just a nickname, it was truth. Constantly referred to as the best wrestler of his generation, CM Punk was ultra-skilled and incredibly talented in the ring. When he was chosen as the next challenger to the Undertaker's vaunted WrestleMania undefeated streak, many wondered if this would finally be the year that "The Streak" would be broken. After all, the Undertaker hadn't competed in the ring in a year, how was he going to match up to the younger and quicker Punk? However, the Undertaker once again proved that age hadn't slowed him down as the two men put on a five-star battle that completely stole the show. Undertaker not only defeated Punk, he was able to go toe-to-toe and keep up with the young upstart throughout the entire match. Critics called it the true main event of the night and many called it the 'Match of the Year'. The 'Best in the World' had been defeated by the greatest of all-time. The match and victory were a fitting tribute to the Undertaker's recently deceased manager, Paul Bearer.
#3 The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar - SummerSlam (2015)
At WrestleMania XXX (2014) when a gaunt, frail and old looking Undertaker had his 'Streak' broken by the "Beast" Brock Lesnar, he also suffered a serious concussion. Thus, many felt that it was finally time for the Undertaker to hang it up. The long, hard to watch and disappointing match fell flat and led many to believe that the Phenom couldn't do it anymore. Many also felt it was the passing of the torch and in effect, the end of an era (the 'old lion gets beaten by new lion' metaphor). However, 16 months later, a revitalised, younger looking Undertaker returned and sought revenge on Lesnar. Growing his hair and beard out, he looked similar to his 2004 incarnation and was much more agile in the ring than he was the previous year. He was also in the best shape he had been in since at least 2008.
The two had their highly anticipated rematch at SummerSlam 2015,marking the first time 'Taker had wrestled outside of WrestleMania since 2010. Undertaker and Lesnar managed to steal the show with a physical battle that resulted in the Undertaker finally achieving a win over the man he had never beaten. Including a hilarious laughing sequence in the middle, where 'Taker mocked Lesnar's cocky laugh with a scary cackle of his own, the match was basically the Undertaker shrugging off all those 'has-been' and 'retirement' comments. The controversial ending, in which the referee didn't see Undertaker tapping out which allowed the Phenom to hit Lesnar with a low-blow and lock him in the Hell's Gate submission hold, drew criticism. But the match itself silenced those critics and proved without a shadow of a doubt that at 50 years of age, the Undertaker could still hang with the most physically imposing of WWE's talent.
#4. The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar (Hell In A Cell Match) - Hell In A Cell (2015)
Not satisfied with putting those critics to rest, the Undertaker fought his supposed 'conqueror' one more time - this time, inside the demonic 'Hell In A Cell' structure. What followed was the most brutal match WWE has delivered in the past decade. With their strictly PG regime, blood is forbidden and violence is curtailed. However, this match shattered those boundaries as two warriors clashed inside hell and ended up bloodying each other. After chair shots, suplexes, chokeslams and Tombstones, Lesnar came out with the victory...but barely. With a signal of respect to Lesnar, the rivalry was finished. This was a far more fitting ending than the trainwreck of a match in 2014. The real victory here was that the Undertaker had silenced his critics, once and for all. He had entered "The Devil's Playground" one more time and once again proved that 'Hell In A Cell' was indeed still the Deadman's yard.
Ironically, this match was kind of a homecoming for 'Taker as he had once again won the 'Match of the Year' honor (an honor that many believed he had maintained from 2007 until his initial loss against Lesnar in 2014). Not bad for someone who many had written off as being too fragile to fight Lesnar the year before.
#5. Undertaker vs Shane McMahon (Hell In A Cell Match) - WrestleMania 32 (2016)
Here's a statistic that speaks for itself: The Undertaker wrestled in the first 3 'Hell In A Cell' matches back in 1997 and 1998...he has also wrestled in the last 2 'Hell In A Cell' matches in 2015 and 2016. His match against Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 this past April not only extended his record at the event to 23-1, it was once again called the match of the night by many critics. Both 'Taker and McMahon flourished on the grand stage, proving that age is just a number to these two men. McMahon should also be commended, at 45 years old, for launching himself off the top of the Cell and crashing through the announcers' table. The match was amazing, not for being a great wrestling match like others, but because it told a fantastic story. Nobody tells a better story in the ring than the Undertaker and this match was a prime example of this. At 51 years of age, the Deadman once again proved that he could excel in the ring, not only on the grandest stage but in the 'Devil's Playground'.
WrestleMania is MY Yard...Hell in a Cell is MY House!
- The Undertaker
So as retirement rumors once again begin to circulate, let's remember that the Undertaker has a habit of putting those rumors to rest. Furthermore, he consistently proves that he has still got it, or as one WWE fan so aptly put it in a sign "You don't have it...You ARE it."
And if that hasn't convinced you, check out these Undertaker statistics below:
I'm not crying...you're crying!