Let's Hear It For the DeadmanBy Laurence SalfordI’ve been wanting to write something about the Undertaker for a while now, but every time I come to try and write about him, something else comes up and takes over. You see, everyone has the “I started watching wrestling because” stories from when they were younger, about what first really attracted them to the business, what really stood out and make them take notice of the two men grappling in the ring. For me, it was two different things, the Hardcore division and the Undertaker. I wrote a few months back now about how the Hardcore division really stood out for me as something fun and exciting and got me interested, but the first time I heard that infamous gong and saw the slow, eerie entrance, I knew I was hooked.<!--more-->I started watching in 2000, and as many of you will be aware, the Undertaker wasn’t a part of the active roster at this point. When I started tuning in at PPV’s at friends houses, or watching Smackdown on Sky One, I enjoyed what I was seeing (especially the hardcore division), but was mainly watching for the social aspect of the whole situation. At that age, when all your friends are watching something like that, you just watch so you can join in with the conversation that goes along around you. One of my friends however, had an older brother who had an extensive VHS collection of old wrestling PPV’s, which he has happy to lend to us young’uns to show us the era of “proper wrestling”.I gladly took one off him, keen to see how wrestling used to be, and from the moment I saw the Deadman coming down for the first match I saw him in, I knew I had found something I really liked. I’ve always been a fan of the fantastical, and something about the Undertaker really clicked into place with me. His eerie entrance, atmosphere that surrounds him, his size, his outfits, his finishing move, everything I saw I loved. From then onwards, I borrowed anything that I could get my hands on that the Undertaker. From his feuds with Kane, the whole business with the Ministry of Darkness and Corporate Ministry, to even his earlier days as a very strange pale giant, I was all over it.The Undertaker is a rare breed of superstar. With Vince McMahon, it’s always been about trust and whether the superstars that he sends out week in week out can put on a good show consistently, and prove themselves to be a good ambassador for the company. The Undertaker is probably one of the only superstars who I could fully say with absolute certainty, that Vince McMahon trusts him implicitly.Temptation is a bitch in wrestling, with many top draw superstars thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, moving to WCW (Hogan, Flair etc), TNA (Hardy, Angle), MMA (Lesnar, Lashley), and other such non WWE type ventures. Not only has ‘Taker never traded brands and gone anywhere else, but he has remained one of the most consistent performers in the WWE. Despite some big injuries that he has had over the years, he has never really cracked under the pressure of being a top draw, and has remained the steady influence in the dressing room over the years.The reason that there will never be anyone like him again, is that I can’t see anyone else being a main eventer for the 20 years that ‘Taker has headlined PPV’s for. Its difficult to keep at the top for that long, especially since the preferred method of escalation up the roster is a slow but sure build, as when ‘Taker joined, he was instantly pushed into the main event picture, headlining Wrestlemania a few short months after his debut, beating Snuka.Not only has he been in the main event picture for 20 years, but he can wrestle with the best of them. For a big man, he can pull off some ridiculous top rope based maneuvers, he can grapple, brawl, fight and wrestle. He has had some great matches with big men and small men, and has one of the most diverse move sets around. His appeal is that that transcends what most other wrestlers can bring to the table, as he has what I can safely say, is the most successful wrestling gimmick of all time.Imagine if now, the Undertaker had never been created, and a superstar debuted with seemingly magical powers, who drew his powers from a magic urn held by a small screechy man. This character would look ridiculously out of place, but even now in this era where gimmicks are few and far between, he doesn’t look silly. Not only is this due to people being used to him for so long, but because the gimmick is strong. OK, sometimes even I think that they lay on the magical powers too much, but his character has been built both solidly and consistently over the years, that even when he switches between the Deadman and American Badass persona, no-one questions it. He is seemingly exempt most of the time from logic holes and scrutiny like most superstars would usually face, because y’know, its ‘Taker.The man lives his gimmick; he is rarely seen out in public, manages to keep out of the spotlight and keeps the distance that is required to help keep the mystique of his character alive. I know a lot of this piece seems like a massive puff piece about the Deadman, but I can’t help it, I love the guy. I get excited more but his yearly appearances by anyone else’s, and could happily sit there and watch his matches/promos/appearances endlessly.As much as I love all the current crop of wrestlers, I just can’t see anyone ever displacing ‘Taker as my all time favourite. Not only has he been around at the top of his game longer than any other wrestler, but he quickly got the faith of the management and respect of the locker-room. I cant really comment on all the backstage stories about ‘Taker, as I never know whether to believe that ‘Taker once attacked Angle on a plane because he thought he was assaulting Vince, or whether he threatened HBK legitimately when he refused to drop his title, or whether he is the epitome of the “wrestling hard man”.What I do know is that he is responsible for some of my favourite wrestling moments of all time. The Black Wedding (mainly due to how much of a massive badass it made Austin look), the HBK/Taker Mania series, the Maven surprise elimination in the 2002 Rumble, the HIAC with Mankind. I could go on and on with moments from wrestling that he has helped make great.In some ways, I hope that ‘Taker comes back a bit earlier at the 2nd January 2012 Raw episode, so we get a bit longer with him in the final years of his career, so he can build a good rivalry to his 20th Wrestlemania, and I will be pleased to hear those famous Gongs.How do you all feel about the Deadman? I’d like to hear some of your favourite memories of the Undertaker’s career, and those of you who feel he is your numero uno.Tweet me @l_salfordEmail me Laurence_salford@hotmail.com