Mark William Calaway, known as ‘The Undertaker’, has had a remarkable 27 years. He’s nothing short of a global legend, and possibly one of the best performers the business has ever seen.
Calaway has accumulated a staggering net worth of $16 million, earning an estimated $1,811,000 per fight - plus the money he makes from guest appearances in movies (Suburban Commando, The Flintstones, WWE: Stone Age Smackdown) and TV royalties. But now he’s out - for good. Why, and what will Wrestlemania do without him?
In a way, it's time for The Undertaker to go. He’s likely got more than enough to retire with his four kids, and invest in things he likes. He’s already got a Club Chopper bike and a large collection of cars, including a classical 1978 Mercedes Benz. (Not that I think he was ever in this for the money - wrestling was his passion and his dream job. He stuck to his character of undead zombie / corporate boss / badass biker / supernatural cowboy through thick and thin, and was one of the few to survive the transition from WWF to WWE.)
But wrestling isn’t practical in an economic sense - just look at the amount of wrestlers who try for a career in the field but fail to earn a solid living. Not to mention the intensity of training you’ll need to do, in comparison to the extremely limited job prospects of the industry. So in a way it might seem crazy to retire after a victory, rather than a loss - the Undertaker has taken part in over 20 Wrestlemanias at an almost unbeatable winning streak of 23-1. But it’s probably best to get out while you’re at your peak, especially when the odds of success are so low.
For WWE fans, the bigger question remains: perhaps the Undertaker can survive without Wrestlemania, but can Wrestlemania survive without him? WWE’s revenue in 2016 was 737,099 dollars, and Wrestlemania is its grandest event of the year. It’s one of the biggest sports events for wrestling worldwide, with 33 runs so far. Box office tickets are sold out months in advance.
How much of this success is The Undertaker’s fans financing everyone else is unclear. WWE has so many superstars today, and represents a growing empire - but it’s got to face up to the fact that The Undertaker was a core part of the heart and soul of the brand. How much demand will there be left for the event without him to incentivise the fans? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, we can only say #ThankYouTaker - and rest in peace.