There have been a handful of perfect duets throughout wrestling history. These men are able to get the best out of each other and tell stories in the ring that set an almost impossible standard. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker are one of those rare couples. Now, with The Undertaker ready to say his “last goodbye” this Sunday at Survivor Series – the same event Taker made his WWE debut 30 years ago – Michaels is hoping “The Deadman” has found his peace in his life. ‘away from the ring.
In an extended conversation with CBS Sports, Michaels said he didn’t know The Undertaker (real name Mark Calaway) until his on-screen debut on the 1990 Survivor series beyond seeing a few clips of him as Mean Mark Callous at WCW. .
In the locker room, however, there was a belief that The Undertaker’s character concept would have a short life despite being unique.
“I was a lower mid-card team guy back then,” Michaels said. “From the locker room scuttlebutt that I was hearing, it was this incredibly cool character. Like I’ve said over the years, the biggest takeaway is that everyone thinks it was really cool and a great idea, but we’ve all wondered what sort of longevity thing a character like that can have.
“He’s dead. He doesn’t sell. It sounded from a locker room perspective like maybe a limited character. It looked like he would be very cool, but it would be short lived. Which, of course, 30 years. later, that’s pretty dang fun if you ask me. But it talks about Mark’s ability. And then seeing it, it was a character hard not to think, “What a great idea.”
“It’s pretty simplistic, but trying to remember a time that I’ve never seen anything like this then or since – I know it certainly had a lot of ramifications maybe, for so to say. I don’t know, I think it fits as one of the most thoughtful characters ever. I don’t know how you could object to that. And again, for it to last 30 years old while still being incredibly strong and awesome when it comes outside is pretty impressive, and it’s really hard to do. “
Michaels credits Undertaker’s longevity to the attention to the smallest detail. This allowed him to evolve from a literal zombie to a “living, breathing, smelling human being who was then just thrown into the Undertaker.” Much of this transition took place in the early 2000s when Calaway upgraded Undertaker from “The Deadman” to “The American Bad Ass”. Suddenly he was riding a motorbike in the ring and taking a more “reality-based” approach to his character.
“Making the transition between that and coming out of it, and obviously taking time in between, has helped a lot, but what makes them both work is that neither of them was ever too far apart. of human being, ”Michaels said. “A lot of it reflected who he was and what he was going through in his life. … When we are younger we are all a little less [emotional], therefore, to say. Years went by and he got older and now he’s a daddy, he’s a husband, he won a truckload of wisdom in wrestling for 25, 30 years with wounds and ups and downs, happiness and grief. You go through a lot of things and all that and all of these emotions and this journey was lived through The Undertaker as he evolved and transformed him into this person. “
Michaels stood opposite Taker in arguably the best three games of Taker’s career. In 1997, the duo faced off at In Your House 18: Badd Blood in the very first Hell in a Cell match. In 2009 and 2010, Michaels and Calaway played two of WrestleMania’s greatest games of all time in the 25th and 26th editions of the event.
They had faced each other – and sometimes the same side – several times over their long careers, starting with their first featured singles match at In Your House 17: Ground Zero a month before the now iconic Hell in a Cell fight. Michaels maintains that the WrestleMania 25 match between the two is not only the best of their couple, but one of the most perfect things he has ever done.
“The perfect one will always be 25 for me,” Michaels said. “But the first time in Louisville [In Your House 17 was special] going into this with a guy you’ve never really been with and you recognize the weird chemistry you have with someone.
“Look, Mark and I were never friends. We weren’t close and we didn’t ride together. Usually you have that chemistry with guys that you’ve done that with and where you at least have one. a little more positive working relationship. Mark and I just had fantastic chemistry without ever really speaking to me which is quite different. My two favorite games that I will always enjoy will be Hell in a Cell and fast forward which looks like 100 years later. For me, it’s probably one of the most perfect things I’ve ever seen or done, and I think there are a lot of people who feel the same. “
Michaels is one of the few men in the wrestling world who seems completely happy with their decision to retire. He hung up his boots for good after his WrestleMania 26 match with Calaway – a fight that was billed as a career (Michaels) against a streak (Undertaker’s 17-0 mark – at the time – at WrestleMania).
Aside from just one tag team match in 2018, Michaels has not returned to the ring since his 2010 loss to Calaway. This ability to stay out of the ring, Michaels said, can be attributed to having exactly the right game with the right performance and the right opponent.
“At the time, I didn’t know if I had the capacity to appreciate what I had and recognize this moment,” he explained. “Before, I saw it in other people, but I didn’t know what they were chasing. It’s one of those things where you think they can’t let go of that and the crowd noise or the special feeling money or the feeling of being a big deal. … If you want to be happy and content and want peace in your life, you have to be able to let go and walk away knowing that it is what it is instead of trying to climb up. notch or feel it again or try to get past it. “
“Listen, if I could accurately describe it to people, I would definitely tell them because I see now and I appreciate that it’s such a challenge and a struggle for everyone and I don’t know if I had the ability to enjoy what I did All I know is that I came home after that game. My wife took us back to San Antonio, and I looked at her and I said, “You know, I think maybe this is the one. If I never did it again, I would be. happy to end on that one. Of course she didn’t get it and was stunned by it. Shortly thereafter I made the decision to be the next to go. Like I said I wish god i could tell you but it was just a feeling.
“I think it has so much to do with it being Mark. It’s a weird thing that we’ve always been so different, but he and I had been there – I got there in 1988, there was since 1989 or 1990. We had been through ups and downs and life changes. Believe it or not, they sound like two very different paths because we took them differently, but they are still very similar to many respects and he knows and understands that. So that we were on either side of the locker room for all these years, but every time we stepped in the ring it was just magical. Then being at the end, and you go with him and now you’re not that different. You’re both dads and husbands and now both wise enough to appreciate every little thing in life and the wrestling craft and the journey you’ve been on – and survive this trip – you go there with each other and it’s juice you perfect, it’s perfect.
“All of these things came together for me, and I was just like, ‘I don’t think it’s better than this.’ If you are looking for more, you are going to make it into everything in life. It’s like chasing your tail. I didn’t want that. I see that other people are not happy, and being happy is important to me. I I want joy in my life. That’s why I got into wrestling, I loved it and it made me happy. So many times towards the end, everyone looks miserable. I didn’t want this for me in my life. “
As Calaway prepares for his own exit from wrestling after years of competition as age visibly begins to affect his performance, Michaels believes he can find the same kind of contentment in this new phase of his life.
“I do. It’s one of the things I felt this time around,” Michaels said. “Like I said, I want this for him. It’s one of the things that bothers me, that I didn’t know. Mark has never struggled with anything, and if he does. did, I never knew it because he keeps things close Everyone has their kryptonite too. No matter how much everyone thinks someone has it all together, no one does. world has a slit in his armor. Every Superman has his kryptonite. I believe he can [be content], but part of that is on you as an individual to help you find contentment and peace in a situation.
“He’s a smart, bright, smart man, and I believe, yes, he will find him. All I know is that in the last few years I’ve never wanted him for someone from as bad as I do with him. Because, again, I feel like crap for no – that’s one of the things I always say to him when I see him. You know, “Thank you so much for me. give that. “He didn’t know he was giving me this, but he did. For me, it will be the greatest gift a guy or someone close to someone has ever given me, this feeling like you can walk away from the wrestling ring and not wrestle with it because I understand how incredibly rare and special it is. “
WWE will hold the Undertaker’s final farewell Sunday at Survivor Series. The event will air at 7 p.m. ET worldwide on the WWE Network.
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