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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Undertaker: Building The Dead Man
May 1, 2005 by Ketheach O'Daillaigh


Hey welcome again to my column. This is about the Undertaker, the character and why we would associate him with fear, evil, etc. It's probably important to note that this is about the Undertaker, and not anything to do with Mark Calloway, it's the character we are referring to in this column, not the man himself. For instance, if the Undertaker character were real, these are the possible explanations. On the other side it's interesting to read it and think about why we would associate certain elements of the Undertaker persona with certain things, like when you are watching a horror film and the music starts and suddenly you feel scared. What in the past has conditioned us as a society to find certain things scary, and to associate other things with them" I was going to split it up, but giving how long it took to finally get it done, we might as well go through it all at once. By the way, don't listen to any music that registers between 45 and 72 beats per minute. If you do, I am in no way encouraging you to write back and tell me how great I am. If you don't, you're gonna realise what I mean about half way through this. And please offer some form of reply about this, as response is the goal of every journalist. I can be reached at ketheach@yahoo.co.uk

Undertaker: Man in Black

Probably the most constant factor in the persona of the Undertaker over the last ten years has been the use of the colour black in his attire. Apart from briefly wearing denim blue during the "Bad-ass" days, the Undertaker has always been the man in black. So what part does the colour black have in common with the rest of the Undertaker persona" Where does black fit in with the Dead Man"

The obvious answer is of course that Black is the colour of death and evil, two things that are synonymous with The Undertaker. So where does this association come from" The most simplistic answer would be that black is associated with night, traditionally the hours of monsters and demons. The real answer is more complicated than this. Black, as a colour, is actually created by the effect of no visible light being able to reach the eye. In clothes, the colour black is created by the fibres in the cloth absorbing retinal light rather than reflecting it. In a world where light was seen as the presence of god or other form of "good" forces of the world, the colour black represented the absence of light or goodness.

The absence of light could also be taken as an absence of the soul, which is the reason why demons and monsters are more often than not draped in black.

Whilst this is mainly a pagan belief, Christianity absorbed fragments of it in the same way that they absorbed fragment of every regional pagan religion that they replaced. Think about it; Jesus, Mary, Angels and popes can all be associated with the colour white. Who exactly knows what colour Jesus wore, yet he is always presented as wearing white. However the Christian religion was not the only group to adapt these beliefs for their own use. The Janissaries, in their original form in 1330, use to dress entirely in black, with black horses, for the purposes of frightening their adversaries in battle. Due to the colour of their dress and the ferocity of their fighting the rumour spread through the enemies of the Ottoman Empire that the Janissaries were not human at all, but demons summoned from hell by Murad the First.

The fear factor worked, to such an extent that when the Ottoman Empire were able to conquer Constantinople in 1453, the Janissaries simply appeared on a hill overlooking the city some days before, not moving towards the city itself, and many of the citizens fled the city in fear of the demon Janissaries. The Janissaries then led an assault on the city, leading to the death of the last small corner of the once mighty Roman Empire.

Neither were the Janissaries the only force that would use these tactics, rather their use seemed to spur a number of copycat fables in Christendom and recycled Janissary movements in Islam. Groups such as the "Roshaniya" in Islam would dress in black as a symbol to the outside world that they were the bringers of death. The religious group Hashshashin, created in Alamut in the 11th century, also dressed in black, to represent their holy mission as "angels of death". The legends of Count Dracula were created by the terrified Christians of the border towns of the Ottoman Empire, as a way to counteract the threat that they felt at the presence of the world's largest, longest and most powerful force ever on their doorstep. Dracula, for instance was not a vampire at first but simply a dead king who lived on as a means to protect his country from the Turks. He was in fact, worshipped by the people of what was then Transylvania. It was only long after the threat of the Ottoman Empire had disappeared that the stories of a vampire count emerged.

While the real life examples of Black seems to be death, in literature the colour black takes on a different meaning. While Black is the colour of evil, it is also the colour of vengeance. This could have something to do with the idea of the colour black as being the absence of a soul. Most of the characters that are seeking vengeance in these novels have lost everything; in essence they have lost all the things that have made them human, those things which by their very definition are the building blocks of our souls. Dracula, the Bram Stoker version, has lost the love of his life, and has turned away from God as a result, taking his vengeance out on humanity (God's Children) for what was taken away from him. The same applies to Edmond Dantes/ The Count of Monte Cristo in Alexander Dumas's novel: he has seen his entire life taken from him and has returned from what seemed like certain death in order to take from them what was taken from him. Whilst the personification of Dracula as a servant of the Devil explains his dress in black, Dantes is a lot more complicated. He has travelled the world, with a seemingly in depth knowledge of history and customs of the world. It is also suggested at a number of points in the novel that The Count of Monte Cristo has become a Muslim, such are the ritualistic formula that he seems to follow to ensure that his vengeance is seen as mere providence in the eyes of a higher power, at least as far as a Muslim Scholar would interpret these things. In fact Dantes uses the imagery of black to inspire fear in his enemies, his hair and beard are dyed black, and his dress consists of mainly black and red so as to appear slightly Satanic, to create the image that he may not be entirely human, an idea that he reinforces throughout the novel through his speech and actions, something I will be addressing later in another section of this. A number of the characters in the novel, unsure of the exact nature of the Count, seem to link him with the popular vampire myths of the time from Lord Byron.

Dantes refers to himself as Providence a number of times during the novel, and it is possible that he is dressed to give off the impression that he is. The image of black dress has long been associated with the image of powerful supernatural forces, even when the supernatural power that existed beyond them was nothing more than a figment of the minds of a scared populous. Of course the fact that the Undertaker was originally tagged as, well, an undertaker is the most likely explanation for the black costume. His evolution of that character has probably brought the attention and dissection of the character that you are currently reading rather than any deep and hidden meaning to the factors that make him up. As I said before these factors are not revealing some esoteric understanding of the Undertaker, but an example of how these things affect our opinion of the world around us and lead us to make associations even when we don't truly understand where these connections come from.

This is an understanding of how when we would think of a character in the mould of the Undertaker, even if we didn't know who he was we would picture something pretty much along the same lines as the Undertaker character.

Undertaker: The Entrance

The most important part of the mind games that the Undertaker plays with opponents is the entrance. I personally believe that it is the best entrance in the history of professional Wrestling. The idea of the music is I suppose that the slow deliberate pace of it is in keeping with the image of the Grim Reaper, moving ever so slowly toward his target, knowing that there is no way that they can escape the inevitable.

It's the same with the Undertaker walking to the ring, slowly, deliberately allowing the fact that something that is inevitable is about to happen to them, and that there is no force that can stop it. Think of the Terminator in the first film. He doesn't need to rush because there is a certainty to his mission that he cannot be stopped and whatever is going to happen will happen. The Undertaker is the same, for when you move as slowly and as certainly as he does, it creates the image of inevitability. It also creates an atmosphere of panic. As the slow but sure warrior moves closer and closer, it also allows the prey to ponder just what it is that they are about to face. With the first germs of doubt that exist by the very nature of our humanity, the slow movement and the growing sense of panic combine in the time that it takes for the Predator to close in on the prey, those elements create a heightened level of fear that may not have even been present up until that point.

Another part of the entrance is the control of light and darkness. The Undertaker's presence causes the light in the arena to disappear. The arena remains in darkness until such time as the Undertaker reaches the ring, at which point the lights come back on and his opponent is able to grasp the full force of what is about to happen to them. It's an interesting part of human psychology from our own evolution; Animals sitting at a food source, blissfully unaware of the predator lurking in the shadows. They maybe able to sense some sort of danger, but they really can't know.

The point that they finally realise that the predator is there is when the predator steps out of the darkness and into the light. At that precise moment, it dawns on the prey that they are about to die, and yet they are also aware that there is no way out for them. Some animals, such as gazelles, suffer paralysis when they catch sight of the predator in the light for the first time, in a very literal sense they become paralysed with fear. Some of the Undertaker's opponents probably know that feeling all too well.

I talked a little at the start of this part about the entrance music. This is probably the most important part of the whole entrance. The music is in sync with the Undertaker's walk to the ring, which we've already discussed. But it holds a much more important part than just that. Music is believed to hold many more properties than simply the power to entertain. The Janissaries (them again) as part of their never-ending search for a psychological edge over their opponents, later incorporated the use of music into their efforts. They would have a squadron of drummer boys, who would play a tune that had come to be representative of the approaching Janissaries. They actually used this technique at Constantinople, although it didn't seem to have much of an effect until they actually showed up. It was more effective elsewhere, where the superstitious locals, rather than seeing the sound as a warning to get the hell out of dodge, believed it to be a method of witchcraft to summon the Janissaries from whatever circle of hell it was that they inhabited. When the sound of the Janissaries drew near, it was the sound of certain defeat, as with the Undertaker. Witch doctors and druids in olden times use to use ritual chanting and drum banging as a way to control or call forth evil forces when they needed them. Some ancient Egyptians used to bury living singers and musicians with their pharaohs, as they believed that music was necessary to open the gates to the next world. Nor was it only the ancient civilisations that placed music in the realm of the supernatural. People such as Galileo, who believed that the entire world could be reduced to the level of a mathematical formula, gave rise to the belief that certain music could affect the very movement of the earth and affect the appearance of night and day. Hence the darkness that ensues could be attributed to not just the Undertaker but to the music itself. And the fact that the music begins before the Undertaker appears could be assumed to be because the music actually summons the Undertaker from some part of another plain. At the February 1996 In Your House, the Undertaker was billed as being from the gates of Hell, not to mention the fact that he has being constantly billed as being "the man who walks with the Angels". Under these circumstances, it would seem that the music could be the link between the Undertaker's dimension and this one. Of course it is entirely possible that the only real reason for the music is to scare the living hell out of his opponent, as well as any small children in the crowd. It might surprise you to learn that the idea of music as a mood alteration device has a long history. A minister in 1735, Jonathon Edwards, used techniques that would increase tension, as well as induce guilt and apprehension.

Science did not catch up, however, until the 1900's when a Russian scientist by the name of Pavlov explored the states of human emotion and how they can be conditioned into certain states. His findings were later adapted by Lenin when the October Revolution happened and to try and get the populous on his side against the "White Russians" later on. By using a repetitive beat ranging from 45 to 72 beats per minute (around the same as the human heart); the person listening enters an altered state of consciousness in a high percentage of people. During this time they are 25 times more suggestible, and that's before you take in the intensity factor which can increase the suggestible state even more. This is a technique that, believe it or not, is actually quite commonplace in Evangelical meetings across America. You know when you hear how someone went to one of these meetings as a sceptic, only to find that the pastor seemed to be speaking to them directly, they find God and dedicate their lives to him. It's not a miracle, it's a technique. The affect is lessoned if you are prepared for this technique. As part of the Undertaker character, it may be to make the opponent buy into the idea of him as a demonic force. What does this mean to us as the viewer" Well I wouldn't be listening to the WWE commentators while the Undertaker is coming to the ring in future, especially regarding anything that is going to cost you money. That's if you listen to them at all. You may not be as susceptible after this, but watch out for those around you. Don't trust the B*****ds.

The Undertaker: Persona

The most obvious way to explain the persona of the Undertaker would be to equate it with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein monster, especially in his first incarnation. Big, dumb, powerful, dead animal which wanders around after its master, obeying his commands without question, feeling no pain and an inability to be stopped. However the urn added some intrigue to the whole character. What was the urn" Why did the Undertaker care about it" How did it fit in with the whole character" In the novel Frankenstein, the monster did not care about anything, so the presence of an object to which the Undertaker's continued existence seemed to be symbiotic with separates him from the image of the emotionless monster of Frankenstein. Of course the fact that it is connected with Frankenstein at all would seem to equate him with the inspiration for the Mary Shelley novel, the Golem creature of ancient Judaism. The Undertaker has a lot more in common with the original incarnation of his persona (the Golem) than with the latter (Frankenstein). The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person got, however, the being they created would be but a shadow of one created by God. Early on the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the Middle Ages. In many tales the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing the name of God on its forehead, (or on a clay tablet under its tongue) or writing the word Emet ('truth' in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter in 'Emet' to form 'Met' ('death' in Hebrew) the golem can be destroyed. Golems were used mainly as a means to protect the Jewish communities that had spread across Europe during the Diaspora and had encountered Anti-Semitism.

As a result of their design, Golems couldn't be destroyed by any form of physical means, and didn't tend to feel any pain. It would also explain the Undertaker's total devotion to Paul Bearer, as a Golem he would never disobey or question the will of his creator. As for the urn, well, maybe, the Golem, with no understanding of life or death, would continue to protect his master as long as the Golem remained animated. What condition the master was in would not be something that would worry the Golem. So, Paul Bearer, possessing the urn would raise it up to let the Undertaker see that he was about to fail to protect his master. At this point, the Undertaker would suddenly find himself empowered by the fear of failure to rise up when it seemed impossible to do so. Or maybe the urn was simply a symbol of death, a reminder of the fate that would await any Golem that failed its mission. This would also explain the theory that it wasn't Paul Bearer that controlled the Undertaker, but the urn.

As for the Undertaker and Satanism, well that's a lot easier to explain. In the earlier versions of the Biblical books, the fallen angels (B'nai haElohim) mate with the human women to produce offspring that were said to be taller and stronger than pure human offspring as well as living for hundreds of years, although they did have the disadvantage of being impure in the eyes of God. That would explain the strength and size, although not the powers. However, there is also the possibility that the Undertaker is actually one of the fallen angels rather than the offspring of one. The episodes in the Bible where the B'nai haElohim are banished from Heaven is not completely clear about what happens next. Some of the reports have that they were banished to Earth rather than Hell, with them being condemned to walk the Earth among humankind until the Day of Judgement, at which point God will decide whether they should be allowed back into Heaven or be wiped out like the rest of Humankind. These Angels have a huge advantage over other humans in that they were originally given certain diverse powers in order for them to be able to carry out the will of God. Any of you who know your bible will know these powers by their appearance of miracles in the bible, such as the sky turning to night on Good Friday, the parting of the seas, and appearing inside tombs. Despite looking human, Angels are not, which brings me to the Undertaker. The man who apparently walks with the angels probably should be billed as one.

Well I hoped you liked this column. I will be back soon with another column, provided of course that Kirsty Quested thinks that it should be. I am currently working on articles on such things as the Monday Night Wars and Scott D'amore, among other things. Hopefully you will all be patient, as I also have feature articles to finish for work (not on wrestling), so I'm trying to write these a little bit at a time after I'm finished work, but it can be hard to get motivated after writing and researching all day. I do enjoy these, they are a great stress relief, and I hope you enjoy them too. I'm pretty good with deadlines, so I will deliver when I say I will.

by Ketheach O'Daillaigh ..


John (Long Island, New York) wrote:
As entertaining as this article is, it's really absolutly rediculous. The dead man's gimmick DOES NOT HAVE THAT MUCH THOUGHT put into it. True, it's an amazing gimmick with incredable detail and depth that we've discovered over the years. But I really, HIGHLY doubt it has that much thought put into it. None of those guys in the back are that into religion that the gimmick could have came from that. I don't know maybe I'm missing the point of this article, maybe this is just for "If the Undertake was real" kinda thing...But i figure it really doesn't have anything to do with Golems or anything. I think they figured "Ya know what..if this guy walks down the Isle in all black and really slowly, taking his time...it might scare the shit out of some kids and make people look twice" I don't know..maybe I'm read into too much
Eric S. wrote:
I have to agree with John from Long Island about the lack of thought in the gimmick. It really just seems to be a collection of whatever occult trappings the writers can think of each week. A good example is the Urn you mentioned. I believe it was originally theorized that the Urn contained the ashes of Undertaker's dead parents, and that's why he was subservient to it. Of course that later turned out to be false since Kane actually brought the dead bodies of Undertaker's parents to the ring. Besides which, over the years, the Urn had been stolen, melted down, and crafted into golden chains for Kamala. How would the contents of the Urn have been saved and brought back as an Urn later" The truth is, WWE obviously changed the story over the years and didn't expect anyone to remember back more than a few months (something that they tend to do with any story or feud from more than a year back).

You can also compare Undertaker to a Golem under Bearer's thrall, with no personality, but that's not totally true either. You say that like a true Golem, 'Taker could never disobey his creator Paul Bearer, yet Undertaker and Bearer have found themselves on opposite sides on many occasions. Bearer has also handed the Urn over to others such as Kane and Mankind, I believe, and Undertaker still had his powers despite the lack of an Urn. There are no absolutes at play here, just someone who decided to create a dark character using whatever occult bits seemed cool at the time, whether they fit together or not.

No offense though, I liked your analysis, I just think that you probably put more thought into this article than the WWE writers put into the character of Undertaker, at least in terms of making him a character with a consistent backstory.
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