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The Undertaker on Cody Rhodes’s return to WWE: “Cody is his own man now, and he believes in himself. I don’t think he did the first time through”
Monday’s episode of Raw closed with Becky Lynch outlasting Shayna Baszler, Xia Li, Doudrop, Nikki A.S.H. and Tamina to become the final entrant in Saturday’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
Lynch has been appointment viewing since her return in August, progressing and advancing her character so significantly that it feels like eons ago that she was known as “The Man.” Lynch stole the show in November at Survivor Series against Charlotte Flair, then did so again in an epic clash at WrestleMania 38 against Bianca Belair. She is breathing life into Raw every week, and her work continues to catch the eye of The Undertaker, who believes Lynch stands at the top of an elite list of pro wrestlers throughout the world.
“Becky is so dialed in right now,” says The Undertaker, whose name is Mark Calaway. “You’re on TV as much as they are, you can get used up really fast—but Becky is constantly evolving. She’s doing that on the mic and in the ring.”
When Calaway last spoke with Sports Illustrated in March right before his WWE Hall of Fame induction, he expressed his excitement over what was in store for the Lynch-Belair encounter at WrestleMania. Recently, he lit up when discussing the match, which he believes stands as an all-time classic.
“The women’s division is really, really good,” Calaway says. “Bianca has only scratched the surface of the star she’s going to be. She’s got such an incredible personality. She’s someone I really want to see succeed. And Becky is just on a whole other level. You never know what’s coming next. Watching what she’s doing, it’s clear she has the potential to be on top for a long time.”
Calaway made news last week when his new one-man show, UNDERTAKER 1 deadMAN SHOW, was announced for Friday, July 29 at Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. It is part of WWE’s SummerSlam festivities, and he will share stories and answer questions on stage.
“We’re still working on that,” Calaway says. “I’m very excited, and we’ll have more on that soon.”
The one-man show was inspired by Calaway’s outstanding Hall of Fame induction speech, which turned out to be a seminar on pro wrestling. He knew that the approach was different from the way others typically give their HOF speech, but standing out is a way of life for The Undertaker.
“I knew I had to do something different,” said Calaway. “I didn’t know I was going to completely reinvent the wheel. It was the first time in a live atmosphere for me to show the man behind the hat. As JBL said to me afterward, ‘What a roll of the dice.’ I was really happy with how it turned out.”
There will be even more behind-the-scenes stories and rich material revealed about Calaway’s 30-year career during the upcoming Biography: WWE Legends series on A&E. The second season of the show premieres on Sunday, July 10, where it will go in-depth on The Undertaker, the greatest character in WWE history.
“People are going to get a completely different look behind the character and see me in a light they’ve never before seen,” Calaway says. “They’re going to see my family, and a lot of other different things I protected for years.
“All these years, everyone wanted to know, ‘Who is The Undertaker?’ I held all that back. Now it’s time to answer those questions. It will be very intriguing for fans of The Undertaker.”
WWE is currently at a crossroads as Vince McMahon is investigated for alleged misconduct. McMahon voluntarily stepped down as CEO and has been replaced on an interim basis by Stephanie McMahon. Calaway’s friendship with Stephanie McMahon dates back more than three decades, and he believes that the company is going to thrive under her leadership.
“Stephanie is incredible, and she’s going to show that in this new role,” Calaway says. “She is level-headed, she sees the whole picture. Her steady, calm hand is exactly what is needed. There’s not a selfish bone in her body, but she’s all about business. She’s the right person for the job. I have 100% confidence about what Stephanie McMahon will do for the company.”
Calaway is one of WWE’s living legends. He is a proud ambassador for the company, and he still closely follows the product. One of the most captivating elements of WWE programming from WrestleMania in April through Hell in a Cell in June was the performance of Cody Rhodes, who is currently recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. Calaway, who made his Survivor Series debut in a 1990 match that featured Rhodes’s father, the late, great Dusty Rhodes, as well as wrestled Cody’s older brother Dustin (aka Goldust) during their years together in WWE, expressed his elation over Rhodes’s successful return to WWE.
“From his first trip in, to where he is now, Cody has a much better grasp of who he is,” Calaway says. “It’s great to be part of a legacy in the business. Cody’s dad is one of the all-time greats. That also makes it very tough for people like Cody, Dustin and Charlotte Flair. It takes a minute to figure out who you are. No one can be Dusty. Naturally, though, you fall into that trap of trying to be like him.
“The first time Cody came through, he was trying to figure out who he was. Now he knows. Yes, he keeps the legacy alive. His dad was ‘The American Dream,’ he’s ‘The American Nightmare’. That’s cool how he’s merged that, and he’s pulled a few things from Dusty’s repertoire. Cody is his own man now, and he believes in himself. I don’t think he did the first time through. Sometimes it takes going away to someplace else, and his time away served him well.”
While there is currently no one quite like The Undertaker in pro wrestling, the memories of his work will endure. The upcoming Biography special intends to show rare archival footage of Calaway playing the role of The Undertaker. If done right, it will be a spectacular viewing for wrestling fans.
“There is so much content, and it was a joy working with A&E,” Calaway says. “People are going to learn a lot they didn’t know or expect, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody thinks about it.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Vince McMahon continues to appear on television like it is business as usual, but it certainly feels like a floodgate of negative stories is about to be opened regarding his alleged illicit activity. The latest piece is from journalist Abraham Riesman (the author of a forthcoming unauthorized McMahon biography), who wrote a story detailing the allegation that McMahon raped former WWF referee Rita Chatterton in 1986.
- Wednesday night marks a critical night for AEW. Can the “Blood and Guts” match carry the momentum from Forbidden Door? And is the best way to keep Claudio Castagnoli a main-event talent by turning him heel tonight? A turn from Claudio would allow Jericho and Co. to win the match, keeping their momentum alive, and ignite a Moxley-Castagnoli feud that would help carry AEW through the summer.
- The John Cena tribute on Raw was extremely well done, with a few backstage segments scattered in before he cut a heartfelt promo in the ring.
- In addition to hearing from Steve Austin, the surprise tributes for John Cena featured plenty of talent from AEW, like Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson and Paul Wight.
- This thread from Amanda Huber is powerful, and it is even more so when Bray Wyatt adds a very emotional couple of tweets.
WES is only a week away from chance to earn fans’ trust
Wrestling Entertainment Series is only nine days away from its debut.
The first WES show will take place on Saturday, July 9, at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England. It will air on FITE, headlined by MMA great Alistair Overeem against former Impact champion Moose in a match that will determine the inaugural WES champion.
Another promotion, especially one with international roots, is a massive positive for the entire industry. But after already postponing the show twice, it will be paramount to follow through with a show on July 9. And the pieces appear to be in place for success.
Originally, the card was supposed to close with Overeem against Adam “The Titan” Scherr, who was Braun Strowman in WWE. Considering this is Overeem’s first match, the pairing made sense. Scherr has experience in that role, as he wrestled boxing great Tyson Fury in his initial foray into pro wrestling. But once the show was rescheduled from June to July, it lost Scherr, who had already committed to a different booking. Transitioning to Moose as Overeem’s opponent is smart. There are not many who match up with the physically imposing Overeem, but Moose—a former NFL player who has completely redefined his look and possesses one of wrestling’s most shredded physiques—is certainly one of them. If Overeem wins the match, his first title defense could be against Scherr.
WES is run by Sunny Dhinsa and Gzim Selmani, best known as the Authors of Pain in WWE. Now known as the Legion of Pain, the team will bring back the great Paul Ellering as its manager in WES. Their card next week features a few other revisions. Lina Fanene (Nia Jax) was scheduled to wrestle C.J. Perry (Lana), but as of right now, neither is expected to be at the show. Dean “Mojo” Muhtadi is wrestling fellow heavyweight “Big” Damo Mackle, and there is now a matchup of luchadores pitting Lince Dorado against Samuray Del Sol.
A number of former WWE talent will help fill out the card, including Levis Valenzuela Jr. (No Way Jose) and Impact’s Eric Young. If WES wants to grow, it will be important to have recognizable champions. Legion of Pain will wrestle BT Gunn and Kez Evans for the men’s tag titles, and the women’s tag title match will be decided between Steph De Lander (formerly Persia in NXT) and Anastasia against the She Wolves.
A number of question marks still exist. How will WES fill a 10,000-seat arena, especially given a lack of marketing? Can the production make a venue that is, potentially, one-fifth full look and sound like a show that is deserving of consumers’ money? Most of all, will the show actually take place? It appears the company has the assets to make it happen. Ultimately, potential just means you haven’t accomplished anything yet—and for all of its potential, WES now needs to follow through with a successful first event.
Tweet of the Week
The time has finally arrived for Cesaro’s shot at the main event.
More Wrestling Coverage:
- ‘Forbidden Door’ Shows AEW and NJPW’s Partnership Has Legs
- Jon Moxley Steals the Show During Castagnoli’s Surprise AEW Debut
- Claudio Castagnoli, fka Cesaro, Makes AEW Debut
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.