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Undertaker’s advice for ‘the young guys’: Less is more, make it your own

The above interview with Mark Callaway is a fascinating thing. Mostly because it’s with Mark Callaway and not the Undertaker. That will likely become more common as the man behind the Dead Man gets older and steps away from his WWE character more often. But as we head into his Super Show-Down match with Triple H and what looks like it will be a flurry of wrestling from Taker, it’s still really noteworthy.

In his chat with Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas (the first in a series the pastor and wrestling fan will be doing with devout legends like Taker, Ted DiBiase, Sting and (checks notes... yep) Ric Flair), Callaway covers a several topics. But they spend a lot of time talking about the 53 year old’s advice to young wrestlers. It’s similar to feedback we’ve heard from others like Chris Jericho, but with added weight coming from the legendary locker room leader:

“I am a firm believer in less is more. Especially with my character. And when I talk to young guys... they think, ‘okay, well I can do...’ and athletes today? They’re off the chart. They’re just ridiculous - how athletically talented the men and women are for that matter, but they rely - see wrestling and sports entertainment, it’s not about the moves. It really isn’t. It’s being able to evoke emotion in one facet or another. You have to either make people love you, or you have to make them hate you. Either way - and it doesn’t matter really which one. Certainly people like to be hated and certain people like to be loved.

But if you can’t bring that emotion out of your audience? You’re not gonna have them for long. And a lot of times what happens with the young guys is - they’re so athletic, they’re so gifted, they’ll do some kind of double crazy backflip off the top rope, land on somebody on the floor - and that’s what the audience takes away from it. ‘This guy does crazy stuff!’

Well, you can only see that so many times before you’re like, ‘I’ve seen that. I need something new.’ Well, that’s a double backflip full gainer onto somebody, how do I up that? And that’s the position they sometimes back themselves into, like they have to keep upping the ante. And when you up the ante like that, then you increase your potential for injuries and catastrophic injuries at that.

So characters like... The Rock and Cena and Flair, all those guys like that, they had the ability to make you love them or make you hate them. And Cena is such an anomaly because you don’t know one night to the next whether they’re gonna go ballistically crazy for him or they’re gonna boo him out of the building. He’s probably the most polarizing guy that’s come along in a long time - his fan base is crazy. But what happens is, he sells tickets. He works in front of full arenas. Same thing when Rock was there.

But that’s the key. We tell stories, we use moves - the wrestling moves to help tell the story - but it boils down to the character and being able to bring that emotion out of your crowd, out of your audience. And it’s all about love or hate. There’s a lot of guys - it takes a while to figure that part out. And then by the time they do, they’re so beat up and injured and hurt...”

He also gets to another part of his philosophy with a great line about people from other careers who come to wrestling thinking it’s easy, but end up flopping under WWE’s bright lights:

“They’re trying to emulate or be like a wrestler they watched on TV instead of being the wrestler that’s on TV.”

So how do you do it? Get people to love or hate you and put butts in seats while delivering an authentic performance? That’s the hard part. Callaway admits the pointers he gives might not be the same as the ones someone like Shawn Michaels offers. It’s up to the individual to figure out how to turn different people’s formulas into a winning equation for themselves:

“You’ve got to figure out how to take all this information, all these different personalities and formulate your own, and that’s one of the trickier aspects of whether you’re a success or...”

Check out the entire interview (and don’t shy away from the Christianity element - it’s not a main focus and easily identifiable if you want to skip over those parts of Young and Callaway’s conversation). Personally, I wish they’d explored how a supernatural gimmick like Undertaker reflects his personality, and how his experience is transferable to people working more straight-forward characters. But maybe in a future interview.

Like I said, these non-kayfabe chats with the Phenom will become more commonplace as time goes by.

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