-- Chris Van Vliet recently interveiwed The Undertaker on INSIGHT. He talks about if kayfabe is dead, lessons he has learned from Vince McMahon, the match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33, training for the match with John Cena the following year and why it went shorter than planned, people trying to get him to break character and more!
On the death of kayfabe:
"I think, yeah, I think kayfabe died for sure when I came out and started talking as Mark Callaway. I shouldn't say that, no, you know what, because there are a few guys that are out there that are, they're living their gimmick, and doing a really, really good job at that. And I think, obviously, we go out of our way now to let everybody know what sports entertainment is. But I think, and we did that even while I was working, right. But the way I approach things and even with my character and my over-the-top gimmick as, you know, as The Undertaker, especially the last probably 10-15 years of my career. I really, the way I set my matches up and I tried to, I always tried to suspend that sense of reality. I didn't want people thinking, like, I wanted people, when I threw a punch, I wanted people to go ooh, that's different. Or the things that I did to make sense, even like before I do old school, which is a stretch for somebody to grab someone's arm and to be able to walk [the top rope]. But so, I would take the time to work that arm over and it hit that shoulder with the shoulder tackles and the shoulder tackles and this and that. I tried to have things make sense, and I always tried to get people invested and to forget everything else that we've told them about what sports entertainment and wrestling is, and try and let them immerse themselves into what's going on. And that's the way I approach things, and I think there's some of that that is still applicable if you make the effort to do so. I think enlarge there's just this okay, everybody, everybody's in on it, and, you know, this is the way it is. But I think, I think there is room for kayfabe still. I just, I know everything's evolving, and people have different perspectives on it, but that's mine. And I'll be the first to admit, I'm a dinosaur."
On lessons learned from Vince McMahon:
"Um, there's several. You know, and I mentioned it last year in my speech at the Hall of Fame, perception is reality. And, you know, I think sometimes he may have forgotten that, but I never did. And so that went a long way. Perception is reality and how I dealt with people through my career. I always, I didn't want anybody to ever think that, you know, that I swerved them or that I had to go behind their back or do anything. What they saw is what they got, and I think that was probably a large factor in people always considering me the locker room leader. Everybody knew my relationship with Vince and Bruce and all of those, Pat Patterson, everybody knew my relationship there. But those same guys that I was on the road with, that I was hanging out with and partying with, you know, they knew what happened there was safe, and there was never going to be any crossover. Don't let what we're doing at night get in the way of business. I mean, that was a, that was a really strong rule with me. I don't care what we do, don't be late, and work hard. That was, that was the only thing that I [told people], don't get in trouble, don't make us late, don't embarrass us, don't be late to work and work hard. And I think that was why I garnered, I guess the respect because people trust me. And they knew that the two never the two never cross, I was going to do what was best for business, and that's something that I learned from Vince. With Vince, regardless of what anybody thinks, deep in his heart he's one of the boys, he really is. And he has that mentality. Things had to change, obviously, whatever, things changed, when the business, when the company went public, there were a lot of changes that had to happen, changes for the better. Everything's, you know, we've evolved into a whole I mean, it is a, I think, I think WWE is in a lot of [ways], a lot more now is regarded in the same way as as other major sports franchises, you know, NBA or the NFL, we're on that, if we're not on that level, we're really close, and the company is run that way. It is not that circus, you know, carny kind of thing anymore. It is a big, huge business, as everybody knows. And that's the way it's treated. The product has evolved, and it's evolved for the better."
On the loss to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33:
"Yeah, so I was extremely beat up. And, you know, I had toyed with the idea of hanging it up. I knew it that year when I got to the Rumble, I wasn't going to be ready, I wasn't gonna be ready for Mania, but I'd already committed to the programme. Didn't know that, didn't know what we were going to do yet, I just knew that I was going to work with Roman, and we got there that day, and I was like man, I knew I was in bad shape. And my hip, my right hip, which I had surgery right after that, to have it, a Birmingham hip resurface done after that. You know, it was just the right thing to do. Not knowing if I was going to be able to come back again, and work anymore. So, there I was, he was on the, you know, he was coming up, and he was going to be the face of the company, and it was the right thing to do. And I didn't, you know, I'd already [lost], the streak had already been beat, so it was the right thing to do business wise, because I didn't, like I said, I didn't know that I was going to come back again. I mean that all that hat, the hat on the coat, all that being placed in the ring was 100% legitimate. At the end of it, I was done, and that was my way of saying goodbye. And yeah, it wasn't, it wasn't a plan or staged thing. And then I get my hip fixed, I get a call, and they want me to work with Cena. I'm like oh crap, man. So, I trained, I know I've given you more than you asked for, but it was like, Okay, this is my chance for redemption. Because I was so just, if you watched The Last Ride, you know how disappointed I was in my performance, and that I put myself in that situation because I just couldn't physically get to where I needed to be for Roman, and how important that was. And just as hard as I tried, I mean I trained like a like an animal, but I mean my hip just, it just, it held me back and I'm not making excuses, but that's, that's the extent of it. So now I've got a new hip, and I'm like oh man, and it's Cena and I was like, oh crap. So, Vince called me and said what do you think? And I was like I don't know, I don't, I haven't really, I've rehabbed my hip and I'm working out again, but I had no plans of getting back in the ring. And so, I said, give me, give me a few weeks. So, I get a ring shipped down here to Texas, and I rent a place and I build this, I put the ring in this building, and I start training and lo and behold, I can move again. So, probably the hardest that I've ever trained, not ever I trained, but the hardest I've been able to train in probably 10 years. And I was ready, man. I was, my cardio, I trained for like a 45 minute [match]."
On the John Cena match being shorted than The Undertaker intended:
"Yeah, I didn't know it was gonna be short till I got there that day. So, I've trained for a 45-minute war, right, and all right, here's redemption. I'm gonna, man, I am going to light this place on fire, I felt good. And Vince calls me into his office and he goes okay, he says it's just gonna be about five minutes, you know, you're gonna squash him. I'm like, what? What? And, you know, Vince, he just thought that was the funniest [thing], because he knew how hard I'd been training. I mean, he, and I'm like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I said, I'm going. I said, I'm doing 30 or I'm not going out. And he's like, Mark, that's not what we need. And I'm like no Vince, I was like, Where's John? Where's he at? So John comes in he goes, Oh no. He goes I talked mad smack about you dude. Yeah, you need to beat me quick and get this over with. I'm like are you kidding me? It's like we've never worked on pay-per-view are you [serious]? And this is WrestleMania, give me a break here. And they both, they ganged up on me. I was finally, I threw my hands up. I was like, I can't believe [it], and Vince just thought that was the funniest thing because like I said, I trained like an animal, I was so unbearable at home. I mean, as far as my diet and the training and just all my protocols of you know recoup, rehab, I was a nightmare. I get there and yeah, five minutes. And it was like that was it."
On multiple WWE Superstars trying to get The Undertaker to break character:
"I do. You know what, I always thought that was the hokiest ever, but iconic, right? And always to get me to laugh. There was such a time period there where, I think that was the company's goal was to see who could get me to break. I mean, it was nonstop. We spent an hour and a half one night after a TV event in Seattle trying to get me to the Spinaroonie. Booker T swerved me, we've been doing this same match after TV tapings that was our advertised dark match. We've been doing it for weeks, and, you know every night I'd get on there and say let's have Booker do a Spinaroonie, everybody go crazy. Well, Booker gets the microphone one night and completely swerved me, which was all set up. Vince was in on it; everybody was in on it. You know? He tells his sold-out crowd in Seattle that he wants to see a Takeroonie, and I was like you son of a bitch, I was p*ssed. And here they come, one after another, just I mean everybody on the roster, everybody, Rock comes down, Triple H comes down, Big Show's down, everybody's down and doing these absolutely awful Spinaroonies. and I remember, I remember seeing my spot to leave because the ring is full of people now, right? And the crowd is going nuts trying to get me, everybody's chanting Takeroonie and all this. And I finally saw my spot and I jumped out of the ring and I headed back to the back. And I looked over my shoulder and here comes Big Show, Vince had sent Big Show to come get me right and he came through that curtain. I said, I said you may kill me and eat me, but I'm gonna punch you in the face if you touch me. Vince, never forgive me. Because I always told him, I don't care who you are, what you do, you'll never get me to do that. And you don't tell Vince that you can't or won't do something, because it becomes his passion in life. But I can honestly say he never got me to do a Takeroonie. So, I won. That's the one battle I won with Vince."