The legendary Undertaker was recently interviewed by ESPN to talk all things pro-wrestling. Highlights can be found below.
On the difficulties of opening up out of character:
It was pretty difficult, honestly. But it was my idea. The end is near. [Laughs] I knew that I needed to document some of this stuff, because I wouldn’t have another chance to do it. Because once I finally pull the plug, I won’t have the opportunity to have footage of me behind the scenes and what I was thinking at the time. I really didn’t know what we were going to do with all of this. We didn’t start out with any thoughts. We just started filming this stuff with the thought that somewhere down the line we’d maybe do something with it. But it was extremely difficult. Even though it was my idea to have a crew start following me, it was extremely difficult for me to get used to it, to let my guard down. They would be there. They’d be filming. And then next thing you know, I’d snap at them, ‘Why are you filming me?!’ And they’d be like, ‘Because that’s what you asked us to do.’ And I was like, ‘Aw, s— you’re right.’
I’m a notorious old-school guy. When I hear people talking about matches and this and that, I just cringe, because I’ve always protected the business. Obviously I realize that it’s the natural progression and that things have changed. I’ve changed with it, but there’s that certain aspect of it being not for everybody. That’s one reason why The Undertaker had the longevity that it did. Because all they got was The Undertaker.
Whether he was ever worried about The Undertaker gimmick running it’s course:
You run that risk. Especially when you have up to six hours of content a week on television. Regardless of the character, any talent runs the risk of burning themselves out, based on that content alone. And then as all the — this is the only way I know how to say it — but all the ‘smart marks’ and all the dirt [sheets] became such an obsession, it was hard for characters to stay viable. You become a flavor of the week. I think what really helped me [stay viable] was that I did protect that character. I didn’t give them anything other than the character. You didn’t see me doing movies as something else. I had opportunities to do that other stuff, but I passed. I knew wrestling. I knew WWE. I knew Vince. That was my passion, and to this day [it still is]. I knew I couldn’t be [The Undertaker] here, and then go do something else.
I don’t think people would have accepted it and stayed intrigued in the character. When I started feeling stale in the Attitude Era, I thought that if I didn’t change the character, I don’t think it would have lasted through that era. It was everything goes, reality based. That’s when I switched to the American Badass character. I kept some elements of The Undertaker. Kept the name. But I took the shackles off for a little while for how that character presented itself. And it worked. People accepted it, and it fit for that time period. Once I felt like it ran its course, I was able to bring [the Undertaker] right back. Now I had elements of the original Undertaker, elements of the American Badass and I was able to keep adding to the character while staying true to it. That’s what’s given it the longevity that it’s had: Adapt, but keep the core elements of it.
Being disappointed with his WrestleMania match against Roman Reigns:
That was one of those times it was tough having the cameras there. That was the first time that I watched that match back. I was so disgusted with it that I didn’t want to watch it back. I was so disappointed for Roman. Even after Brock Lesnar beat the streak, for guys coming up to have a match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania — especially where Roman was at — it was important for his career. Especially because he was going over. For me, in that role, I wanted to do the very best that I could do for Roman. I think the world of him. You want to be able to do the best you can for him, and you know you have no business being in the ring. Yes, I could have mailed it in. Protected myself. Only done a couple of things that I knew that I could do. But that’s just not the way I work. And it wouldn’t have been fair to him. So I just tried to do the best I could. The harder I tried, the more I did — at least in my perception — it was not a good night. It was really disappointing. Watching it back finally, and watching it back in front of a film crew, it was like … I didn’t have to say much. You could just tell from the expression on my face that I wasn’t really pleased with it.
Being proud of his Boneyard Match against AJ Styles:
I think it could, if I wanted to do that. That possibility is there, but we’ll just see on that. We were both very proud of that match. Considering all the circumstances, we were really, really happy with it. And the fact that we got to go offsite and give it a theme like that, it helped tremendously. Like I’ve said, for me, it’s always, always about the story. I tell this to people all the time: Wrestling isn’t about the moves. It’s about telling the story. You use wrestling moves to tell that story, but that’s not what it’s all about. He went places in his promos leading up to WrestleMania that no one has ever dared go, you know? After all those interviews, even if we had had a regular match … you talk about my wife, and it would have been all fists anyway. I’m not trying to armdrag and armbar and do all that stuff. I’m going to punch you in the face until your nose meets the back of your head. Because that’s real, you know what I mean? Because of the intensity of his promos, and then going to [the boneyard], I think we really told a great story. At the end of the day, that’s the most important part.