Today, Mark Calaway, better known as The Undertaker, rode his motorcycle a short distance from the entryway to the ring at WrestleMania Axxess, a WWE experience that’s something of a hybrid of a mall and a conference center if both only had one occupant, and gazed upon a bronze statue of his likeness that his long-time employer commissioned to celebrate his entry into the WWE Hall of Fame.
These statues are maybe my favorite emerging ritual in WWE, a company that is virtually unrivaled in its ability to mine the past for the sake of profit and the goodwill of an audience that seems ready to abandon the entire medium of wrestling at a moment’s notice. “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation,” Tony Soprano once said, but in wrestling, “remember when” is currency. “Remember when” is forever, which is where the “Then” and “Now” of WWE’s slogan leads.
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) April 1, 2022
I like the statues because they are the ultimate end of that. They are, for lack of a physical space, the real WWE Hall of Fame. Goofballs and headscratchers get into the annual speeches and video packages event every year, but Drew Carey and Johnny Rodz aren’t getting a statue. Those who have—Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Bruno Sammartino—are among the most important names in the history of wrestling, names that pointed to the collective past, present, and future of their industry. Plus, the Andre the Giant one made it look like Hulk Hogan was contemplating mortality a bit.
Will The Undertaker’s statue spur similar contemplation? Probably not, though that is honestly no fault of his. The Undertaker’s is the seventh statue commissioned since Triple H inaugurated the tradition at WrestleMania 29 in 2013, and seven statues in nine years makes it something of a tradition. The only other wrestler who was alive to see his statue was Ric Flair, who is Ric Flair. The Undertaker is The Undertaker, but that’s not the same thing, particularly coming at the end of a final run made up of mercenary matches in Saudi Arabia, a mini-movie at the first pandemic WrestleMania, NFT drops, blended wines, merchandise collaborations with Snoop Dogg, photoshoots for People magazine, documentaries, podcasts, and on and on and on.
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Wrestlers and their likenesses are products, but The Undertaker is a PRODUCT, and his statue is another way of packaging it. Statues like this, after all, are a means of making a statement about the person whose likeness is immortalized. Sometimes statues are a lie (Ultimate Warrior) and sometimes statues are an odd attempt at reconciliation (Bruno Sammartino), and sometimes statues are a version of the truth.
I think WWE’s statue of The Undertaker is as close to their truth about the man as wrestling makes truth possible. It’s The Undertaker you know and like from the early ’90s. It’s the guy who never left WWE, even at its lowest. It’s the guy who was whatever a locker room leader is. It’s the guy who eventually made WrestleMania a spectacle just by making his entrance, let alone wrestle. It’s the guy who was in a ton of moments regarded with a certain kind of fondness. And, perhaps above all, it’s the guy who is a good employee, who is more than happy to talk about the virtue of being a good employee.
But it’s also just a statue of a cartoon mortuary employee from Cowboy Times, so let’s not think about it too deeply.
- Looks extremely light, probably extremely easy to pull down from its foundation, should it ever get one.
- Will spend approximately 98% of its time in the WWE’s archival warehouse, maybe spooking it up with the WCW Halloween Havoc pumpkin.
- It’s actually pretty sick that they were able to bronze the stripe in his tie.
- I like his hat for some reason.
- The Undertaker.
- Doesn’t have a speaker at the base constantly playing “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” by Limp Bizkit.
- No SARA tattoo.
- Also can’t see his tummy tat.
- This dude was super famous for tattoos, even the fake teardrop one he had in 1996, where are the damn tattoos?
- I also hate the hat for some reason.