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The Undertaker. The Deadman. The Phenom. The American Badass. Big Evil. Mark Calaway goes by many names. But one thing is for sure, he is one of the most accomplished and iconic WWE superstars of all time.
This Sunday at Survivor Series, the Undertaker will be giving his Final Farewell to WWE fans around the world at the same event where he started his historic legacy back in 1990 when he debuted alongside Brother Love. It might not be the exact way that any of us pictured someone like the Undertaker would make his retirement official to the WWE Universe, for starters the arena will be filled with virtual fans on screens instead of being packed to the gills with thousands of people screaming at the top of their lungs until they lose their voices, but it’s certainly going to be a celebratory (and emotional as hell) sendoff for the highly-regarded veteran.
The Final Farewell isn’t the only thing Taker is involved with this weekend though. The OG has teamed up with another well-respected legend in his own field, Snoop Dogg, for a special capsule collection of merch releasing exclusively via the WWE Shop today at 2 p.m. ET. The collab includes T-shirts, a hoodie, beanie, and posters fusing the worlds of each icon with graphics like vintage rap t-shirt-inspired collages and hearse low riders. The hip-hop legend is celebrating an anniversary of his own, his classic debut album Doggystyle released 27 years ago on Nov. 23.
"Undertaker. 30 Years. Boss Dogg. 27 years. Godfather to Doggfather—I have an enormous amount of respect for such an icon in the sports and entertainment industry. Our career paths are similar in longevity and the respect we have from our peers," says Snoop Dogg. "It’s only right we team up for this collaboration to celebrate both of our reigns as the Original Deadman and the Original Gangsta."
Ahead of the big weekend, we got a chance to talk to the legend himself, the Undertaker, about his collab with Snoop Dogg, his favorite rival throughout his career, if this is really the last time we will see him in the squared circle, and more.
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
You debuted 30 years ago at Survivor Series. Can you just take me back to that moment? What do you remember most about that night in 1990?
I think the biggest thing that I remember is actually how nervous I was. This was going to be the first time that the national audience was going to see the Undertaker. At that time there were only four pay-per-views. There was the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series, SummerSlam, and WrestleMania. So this was a pretty significant event, and I'm making my debut at it, and I'm making my debut at the expense of several legends and future Hall of Famers. That's the biggest thing I remember is just how nervous I was. Don't trip. Don't fall down. Don't embarrass yourself. Don't hurt anybody. I think those were the thoughts and the feelings. Obviously, I was extremely excited about my WWE debut, but all those other things were creeping in slowly as I made that long walk.
Obviously, it turned out fine, but did you imagine that debut and that match would be the starting point to one of the most storied careers in wrestling history?
No. Honestly, it's hard to, in your wildest dreams, no matter how big or how large you set your goals, imagine a 30 year run in one company with one character. I had a feeling we had the potential to be doing something really special, but to say that I had the foresight to see a 30 year run and still be relevant in the year 2020, that would be a stretch to say the least.
I know along with Survivor Series this weekend, WWE is also releasing this collaboration between you and Snoop Dogg. That's a pretty iconic duo. Can you just talk a bit about that project and how that came to be?
Obviously, Snoop is such an iconic figure in pop culture. And then obviously, the Undertaker has been around a little while himself, and plays a role in pop culture. So, to the date this Sunday, Nov. 22, marks my 30th year with WWE and then Monday, Nov. 23, will be the 27th anniversary of Snoop Dogg's groundbreaking album at the time, Doggystyle. As crazy as it sounds, it makes a lot of sense that two figures so relevant in pop culture have these anniversaries coinciding with each other. I couldn't be more happy to be doing this with Snoop. Obviously, everybody knows, everything Snoop does turns to gold anyway, and then half of that turns platinum. So, I think it's really cool, and just adds another layer to each of our legacies in the entertainment world.
He's had a handful of appearances in the ring over the years. Have you guys ever met backstage, or gotten a chance to chat at all?
Yeah, in crossing, usually at WrestleMania. Snoop's a huge wrestling fan. At WrestleMania, I'm a different animal, usually. I'm trying to get in the zone, but when you see somebody like Snoop, you definitely want to say hello and thank them for being a fan, because it's their influence, too, in their genres of entertainment. It crosses over, and it means a lot to the success of both forms of entertainment.
Snoop's a huge fan. I don't remember which WrestleMania it was, but we were in Orlando, at the Citrus Bowl. The venue wasn't in the greatest shape to start with, so they had a bunch of trailers, and RVs, and stuff set up as dressing rooms. I had to walk by Snoop's trailer. And I was like, dang, man, they came to have a good time. They're tailgating. They're out there barbecuing. Until I got closer, and I realized why they were barbecuing. I think you can figure the rest out. [Laughs.]
I think I can put the puzzle together for that. [Laughs.]
I was just like, yeah, man. That's that swag right there. That is Snoop. I thought it was pretty cool.
Entrance music is so important. I know back in the Attitude Era, you strayed away from the music that Undertaker is known for. Is there a Snoop song that you think would have fit the Undertaker well as an entrance theme back in the day?
You'll see my train of thought once you see the collaborations. You see some of the designs, but you know that song, "Ain't Nothing but a G Thing, Baby?"
So you take that "G" out and you put a "T" (for Taker) in there, that's a natural fit, right? [Laughs.]
WWE Network has been doing a bunch of programming throughout the month. I recently watched the special that highlighted your feud with Randy Orton back in the 2000s. Do you have a feud you worked that is your personal favorite?
Man, there's so many, but I think as a body of work, starting off, the Kane/Undertaker story, I think is probably the greatest story WWE has ever told. It's gone on for 23 years, this storyline, and it continues to evolve, and it's still relevant. So I think that's probably the greatest story.
As far as a rivalry, my rivalries with Shawn Michaels and Triple H are [my favorites]. Those four WrestleManias we had back to back-to-back-to-back was probably my proudest work that I've done. But I don't know. I think maybe a lot of people may think the biggest rivalry would have to be Mankind. We were so similar as far as demented-type characters, and the things that we did as far as, Hell in the Cell, and Boiler Room Brawls, and Buried Alive, and all of the different theme matches. I think that Mick [Foley] would probably have to go down as one of my classic rivals.
You mentioned some of those stipulations that you helped usher in, like Hell in the Cell, the Casket Matches, the Inferno Matches with Kane, all those things that fit the character so well. Was there anything that was off limits to you? Were there any ideas that Vince [McMahon] and creative thought were a bit too crazy to pull off?
If there was anything they thought was too crazy, I never knew about it. We got pitched things and when you're young, it's just like, "Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. Yeah, let's do that. Let's try and set one another on fire." It just made sense, right? You don't really think something really bad could happen. We were just thinking as far as Kane and I in the Inferno Matches, yeah, this makes sense. This is where the story has progressed to. It started with fire, and now it's going to end with fire. We were just so on board with the story, but there wasn't a lot pitched to me that I wasn't willing to do.
If you look at today's current crop of WWE superstars, who's someone that, if you were at the top of your game, you wish that you had the opportunity to work with?
In a straight, high marquee WrestleMania, main-event type match in a wrestling ring, I would have to say AJ Styles. I'm very proud of what we did in the Boneyard Match. I think we absolutely made the very best out of a bad situation, being with COVID and all that. I would have loved to have had a match with AJ in a wrestling ring, in front of a live audience. I think that would have been great.
On the current roster, man, it just seems like The Fiend, Bray Wyatt would be a natural fit for an Undertaker opponent. I think he's head and shoulders above the rest as far as being able to work, having such a strong character, and doing such a great job with it. He seems like a natural fit for somebody I'd like to work with, or I would have liked to work with.
Is there someone right now that reminds you of yourself the most, or that you see a lot of yourself in, when you look at the current roster?
Character-wise, obviously, it would have to be The Fiend. I think he's the closest thing. I think he's going to be, if he keeps his head together and stays motivated, and in the game, I think he's the next era’s Undertaker. He's going to fill that void that the Undertaker leaves. It's a much more difficult world now, to keep those kind of characters compelling. I know he has the potential to do it. It's just going to take a lot of work, but I definitely see him as the heir apparent.
The Undertaker persona has grown beyond wrestling over the years similarly to guys like Stone Cold or Ric Flair. Athletes especially, they love imitating you. Tyson Fury is a recent example. LeBron wore the T-shirt a few years ago after the Finals. Is that still surreal for you to see that you meant so much to so many people?
Yeah. That's really cool. You're talking about some of the greatest athletes in the world and the fact that you may, or may not have, had some kind of influence in their young lives and their development. It's really humbling when you see guys at the top of their game paying respect to you. One, it obviously lets you know that you've done something right. And two, these guys who are world-class athletes appreciate what you do, and respect that. It's really humbling, and it's really cool to see. I was really moved by Tyson Fury sending out that tweet the other day. Really cool. Obviously, I'm a huge boxing fan, too. Whoever's the heavyweight champion of the world is considered the king of the world in sports. I thought that was pretty cool that he took the time to do that. Pretty moving.
I know you were a basketball player back in the day. Which NBA superstar would you compare your career to?
That's an easy one. It would have to be Bill Laimbeer or Rick Mahorn. They both played a very physical game.
Do you have a favorite WWE moment, not involving yourself, from across the past three decades?
I would have to say watching my wife and then girlfriend Michelle McCool win her first title. I was able to witness all the hard work and struggles she went through not only for herself, but for the entire women’s division. She's always the hardest worker in the room.
What can you tell us about the Final Farewell segment that's set up for this Sunday? What sort of emotions do you think are going to be going through your head?
I've been thinking a lot about that. Obviously, I don't know exactly what we're going to do on the show, but I do know that I'm going to run the whole gamut of emotions. There going to be times I'm sure, where I'm happy and there's going to be other times where I'm sad. And I'm hoping that I have a lot of guys that I've worked with in the past there to share a few stories with them. I think the biggest thing for me though is having the opportunity to address my fans and the fans of the WWE, especially, the ones that have stayed with me for 30 years. That's just amazing in our industry that I've been able to stay relevant with our audience for so long when there's so much content, and there's so many new faces, and so much turnover, that I was able to stay current and relevant, as all these eras came and went, and to still be here. It's important to me that our audience knows how important it was to me to be The Undertaker for them. I just don't want that to get lost or anything.
Not every pro wrestler really gets to have this type of celebratory sendoff and go out on their own terms. How does it feel knowing that you're one of the few that's able to have his final moment like this?
It's humbling. It really is, to have the WWE show this much appreciation for me. I've always said it and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do what I do for a living, and do it for so long. For those guys that don't get these opportunities, I want to share that with them because there's a lot of guys out there that aren't going to get that kind of notoriety, that played pivotal roles in the development of my character and helping me become this larger than life figure. I don't take that for granted. It's much appreciated, the contributions that those guys made to The Undertaker persona.
Your career spanned three decades. Now that you have the downtime, what does life after wrestling look like for you? Kane became a mayor. Others become actors. Is there anything you hope to accomplish?
There's a lot of things and I'm open to almost everything. If Rock needs a legitimate threat, heel, to his next action movie, I think I fit the bill. Shameless plug. [Laughs.]
There's a lot of things. Whatever comes down the pipe really, I'm open to. I definitely want to pay some things forward for our next generation of talent. There's several veteran organizations that I’d like to work with, to give our veterans the respect and the honor they deserve. And basically, all the hunting and fishing that I've missed out on through my career, I want to catch up and enjoy myself, and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and just get out and be in nature, and be what I am at heart, a good old country boy.
I know you, you rode off into the night at Mania 36. I know this is the Final Farewell, but the Deadman can always rise. Is this really the last time that we can expect to see Undertaker in a WWE ring?
Well, in the immortal words of Vince McMahon, "Never say never."
In my mind and in my head, I have come to grips, and I have accepted the fact that my days in the ring are over. Not because I want them to be. I wish that I could do this forever, but no one outruns Father Time. I'm just at a point at this stage that I can't perform at a level that people expect when they pay their hard earned money to buy a ticket to come watch me wrestle. I just can't do the things that I once did. I'm not the same guy. And I'm surely not the guy that's going to try and cash in on the equity that I've built up over the last 30 years and just call something in. That's not the way I'm wired. If I can't go out and be the Undertaker, then it's time for me to stay home.