by BROCK KOLLER
What connects Mariah Carey, Macaulay Culkin, and Bart Simpson? Simple. The Undertaker.
On November 22, 1990, the Phenom, the Deadman, the Lord of Darkness made his debut in the WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, during its Thanksgiving night pay-per-view event known as Survivor Series.
This Sunday, the Undertaker will mark his 25th anniversary at this year’s version of the Survivor Series, now broadcast the weekend before Thanksgiving so you no longer have to fight Uncle Walter over the remote after you eat the turkey. Give-me-the-re-mote, Uncle Walter!!!
The world was a lot different on November 22, 1990.
Let’s start off with the most essential bit of trivia one needs if he or she is writing a blog about a bygone era: gas prices.
According to Statista – your homepage and mine – the average price of a gallon of gas in 1990 was $1.30. Right now, according to AAA, the average is $2.15. This comparison would have had a lot more of an impact just a few years ago, but still approximately $1 more per gallon is enough of a change for me.
If you have been online in the past few days, you probably heard it’s also the 25th anniversary of a little movie called Home Alone. Kevin!! The parents’ worst nightmare scenario flick grossed $20.9 million the weekend of Survivor Series 1990 beating out newcomer Three Men and a Little Lady which came in at 13.7 mil, per Box Office Mojo. People just weren’t that interested in seeing the baby as a lady, I suppose. Why don’t you love her anymore?
That week Mariah Carey had the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with 'Love Takes Time.'
You don’t remember it? You are in luck. It’s right here -->
Listen to it through your speakers. And while it’s playing say aloud ‘I’m reading a blog about The Undertaker!' Everyone will understand.
Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts was 'More Than Words Can Say' by Alias. Not to be confused with 'More Than Words' by Extreme which became a big hit in 1991. Coincidentally, another big hit came in 1991 when the Undertaker tombstone piledrived Hulk Hogan onto a steel chair provided by The Nature Boy Ric Flair to win the WWF Championship at that year’s Survivor Series. So many connections with the Undertaker. So many connections.
But back to November 22, 1990. That night the top show on broadcast television at 8 p.m. is very similar to the Undertaker. That show also debuted in 1990 (minus a few shorts and a Christmas special) and it has been on TV ever since, reinventing itself and staying relevant just like Taker. We, of course, are talking about The Simpsons.
On November 22, 1990, Fox aired The Simpsons' 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving' episode to an 11.9 rating defeating The Cosby Show’s 11.6, Father Dowling Mysteries at 9.1, and even Primetime Pets which only had 6.2. C’mon man! Why weren’t you watching Primetime Pets?? Look at the video to the left and tell me you now don’t have FOMO.
Did you see that dog dancing? Classic Primetime Pets.
Well, you can’t say the 1990 Survivor Series didn’t fulfill the animal category itself.
On the same night one of the most legendary figures in sports entertainment history debuted, so did The Gobbledy Gooker – a human-turkey hybrid that had a strange fascination for dancing with announcer Mean Gene Okerlund.
It was Thanksgiving in 1990, after all. And no those weren’t boos you heard in the crowd, they were saying boo urns. They are always saying boo urns.
But this shows you just how rare a character like the Undertaker is. For every Undertaker, there have been dozens and dozens of Gobbledy Gookerz - goofy, off-the-wall characters, that make wrestling fans shake their heads and say, ‘I’m switching the channel to Primetime Pets. Is that a pig on the table? Oh, classic Primetime Pets.'
The Undertaker’s staying power (he does have powers) is more than just impressive, it’s supernatural.
Prior to Survivor Series 1990, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase boasted about a mystery partner for his Million Dollar Team, along with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and The Honky Tonk Man. He referenced an ‘ace’ up their sleeve.
That ace could have gone a number ways – it could have been a Gobbledy Gooker, here today, gone tomorrow. It could have been his bodyguard Virgil -a character important for that time, but did not last much longer. It could have been Macaulay Culkin – a popular celebrity used for mainstream media attention and then never heard from again in wrestling. (That would be the 2015 route).
But no, it was The Undertaker. A gimmick that could’ve been as cheesy as Velveeta (like that line), but Mark Calaway took the ball - a familiar 1990s wrestler who has another occupation gimmick – and ran with it and has been running for 25 years.
Pretty much since Dibiase said the words ‘I give to you the Undertaker’ that night, the Undertaker has been in the main event picture. As stated before, he won the championship just a year later!
Sure, WWE promoter Vince McMahon liked putting Taker against giants, monsters, and creatures of all kinds, because it made sense to fight weird and odd against weird and scary, but after those feuds, Taker would always return to the championship picture.
However, his late great manager Paul Bearer told WWE Magazine in 2010 that the Undertaker never needed the title.
“Undertaker’s persona is just so powerful that he’s never really needed a title. Some Superstars need a championship to say on top in the WWE, but not Undertaker. In my book, he’s a world champion whether he has a title or not.”
That pretty much says it all. The Undertaker has outlasted everyone and everything (besides The Simpsons).
He began in an era where he had to scare fans from saying their prayers and eating their vitamins, he went through the era where he had to embalm Stone Cold Steve Austin just to shock fans, to now – an era where as soon the gong of the first note of his entrance music hits – fans chant ‘This is awesome.’
The Undertaker is awesome. His legacy, his WrestleMania undefeated winning streak, his character – it’s all awesome.
On November 22, 1990, the world witnessed wrestling greatness for the first time.
On November 22, 2015, the world gets to celebrate that same greatness for the 25th year.
Back in 1990, in her number one hit, Mariah Carey was singing ‘You might say that it’s over.’
Sorry, Mariah, but the Undertaker’s ride is not over just yet. There’s still more history to be made.