As Undertaker Enters WWE Hall of Fame, Middle Eastern Fans Pay Tribute to ‘Phenom’
RIYADH: World Wrestling Entertainment icon and legend The Undertaker will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 1 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas as part of WrestleMania Week, in a ceremony that will be broadcast live around the world.
Mark Calaway, better known to fans by his ring name The Undertaker, is one of the most recognized Superstars in WWE history and a pop culture icon, having made his WWE debut at Survivor Series. from 1990 as the mystery partner of WWE Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team.
“I remember I was 11 when I saw him make his Survivor Series debut in 1990,” Sultan Alobaid, a Saudi media professional, told Arab News, echoing the sentiments of many Saudi millennials who grew up watching “The Deadman” on their television screens.
The man who earned the nickname “The Phenom” has won nearly every major WWE Championship and featured in some of his most memorable matches during his illustrious 30-year career.
A year into his run with the promotion, he defeated the legendary Hulk Hogan to win his first (what was then) WWF Championship in the 1991 Survivor Series, and became the youngest champion in the history at that time.
The Undertaker established a historic 21-year unbeaten streak at WrestleMania that has yet to be broken. Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition recognized him as having the most consecutive wins at WrestleMania in 2016.
“I remember every year I watched WrestleMania just to see who the Undertaker was going to beat,” Ahmed Al-Jassim, a Saudi mobile phone shop owner, told Arab News. “It started with Jimmy Snuka and we’ve seen it spread to other legends like King Kong Bundy, Triple H, Kane and Shawn Michaels.”
The Undertaker’s bouts with Shawn Michaels and Triple H are considered some of the best in the history of WWE’s biggest marquee event.
Recalling when Brian Lee stepped in as an Undertaker impersonator for several weeks in 1994, a Saudi WWE fan said, “I still remember the two Undertakers incident. Of course, at the time, there was no internet or satellite TV, so I followed the growing excitement through newspaper and magazine articles as the weeks went by. All my friends and I wondered was if that was true, and if WWE would actually pull off two identical wrestlers or use special effects.
The Saudi fan, now in his 40s, added, “I remember rushing to the video store and home when I heard the SummerSlam video was out and here it is: Undertaker Vs. Undertaker, identical in appearance and even in movement, was sports-entertainment history in the making and a truly memorable moment.
The real Undertaker defeated his impersonator in a one-on-one at SummerSlam in August 1994.
“The Undertaker played an important role in our entire childhood,” Tamaraah Al-Gabaani, a Saudi-based fashion influencer, told Arab News. Recalling the “fake” Undertaker episode, she said, “It obviously didn’t sit well with me as a loyal fan.”
Throughout his career, the Undertaker has been involved in many never-before-seen matches, a notable one being against Mankind in the first Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam 1996. Memorably, as the name suggests, the two legends of the fight spent 20 minutes brawling. in the boiler room of the Cleveland Gund Arena.
The Undertaker took his rivalry with Mankind to a new level with another unprecedented specialty match with the main event of In Your House: Buried Alive.
At the Badd Blood event in 1997, The Undertaker challenged Shawn Michaels to a first-ever Hell in a Cell match, who would go on to become a WWE mainstay.
“Well, you know, you have to mentally prepare yourself,” the Undertaker told Arab News in a 2020 interview, reflecting on those career highlights.
“When you think about your match, you have to look at everything that you did, leading up to that particular match, because obviously if you’re going to have a Buried Alive match, there must have been some serious things happening in along the way to get to the point where you want to bury someone alive.
The grisly feud between Undertaker and Mankind was reignited in 1998, taken to a new graphic height, and decisively resolved when they faced off in a Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring.
“You know, if there’s a lot of these matches like Buried Alive and Hell in a Cell, and the Inferno match, that one was interesting. There was nothing to repeat about that one, believe me, it was just over there doing it and I was hoping I wasn’t the one who caught fire. As morbid as that sounds, I guess that’s what I’m doing.
The match became one of the most famous in professional wrestling history when The Undertaker threw Mankind from the roof of the cell 4.9 meters onto a broadcast table below.
“I blame the Undertaker for the times I got in trouble for copying his wrestling moves off my friends and brothers,” said Joel Huffman, an American expat in Saudi Arabia and co-founder of Arabius, at Arab News.
Indeed, the Undertaker has been responsible for some of the most theatrical moments in WWE history. At the 1992 Summer Slam, held for the first and only time outside the United States at Wembley Stadium in London, he entered the arena on the back of a hearse.
During the 2005 Survivor Series, the Druids delivered a coffin which was struck by lightning and caught fire. The Undertaker then burst out of the flaming coffin in a rage and brutalized an entire ring full of superstars as a message to his next victim Randy Orton.
In 2011, promotional videos were released showing the Undertaker entering and standing in an old Western-style house on a rainy desert. Each promo ended with the date 2–21–11 being “etched” onto the screen.
On the February 21 edition of Raw that year, The Undertaker returned. But before he could speak, Triple H also returned and challenged him to a showdown at WrestleMania XXVII, which was then done under unrestricted rules. The Undertaker won, but had to be carried out of the ring on a stretcher.
“I thank him for his example of hard work and dedication throughout his legendary 30-year career and his well-deserved place in the Hall of Fame among the greatest sports-entertainment icons in history,” Huffman said. .
The Undertaker was in the list of wrestling giants who took part in WWE’s first televised event in Saudi Arabia in April 2018, where 60,000 fans packed Jeddah’s King Abdullah Stadium.
The event was the first in a 10-year partnership between WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority in support of Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reform agenda.
WWE announced on November 4, 2019, that it had extended its partnership with the Kingdom through 2027, under which it would hold two full-scale events in the country per year.
Saudi Arabia first announced that WWE would hold shows in the kingdom in December 2013, with the first home shows taking place at Green Halls Stadium in Riyadh in April 2014.
“I’m glad WWE has come to Saudi Arabia now,” Atallah Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi who works in transportation logistics, told Arab News.
“My favorite moment was when The Undertaker and Goldberg were wrestling. It was really awesome to see these two legends in person. I grew up watching both of them,” he added, referring to Super ShowDown 2019 at Jeddah.
On November 22, 2020, exactly 30 years after making his in-ring debut, The Undertaker announced his retirement to a crowdless arena in Orlando, Florida – emptied due to that year’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. .
The Undertaker’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame therefore marks an ideal opportunity to give the “Phenom” the dramatic send-off he deserves.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was 41 when he retired,” said Saudi fan Alobaid, reflecting on his hero’s monumental life in the ring.
“What a career! Forever the Undertaker.