I was thinking the other day about re-packaging. So many things today are re-packaged and sent out into the world. Automobiles are re-packaged; food is re-packaged; household items are re-packaged. Almost anything you see has at some point been re-packaged. Now I’m not talking about re-positioning. That’s more of a “changing the use” of something or changing the target audience. I’m talking about simply changing the “wrapper”, as it were.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this. Well wrestling has seen its share of re-packaging. Steve Austin was re-packaged from a “Hollywood Blonde” to a “Stone Cold”. The Rock was re-packaged froma clean-cut all-American boy to a “pie eating, jabroni beating….”, well you get the point. Even Hulk Hogan was re-packaged from a narcassstic fashion plate to the “Real American” we have all come to know as one of the greatest of all time. All of these are examples of where re-packaging worked to bring us some of the legends of our sport. But……
What about the Phenom? Many years ago, Vince and crew tried unsuccessfully re-position The Undertaker from the Dead Man to a biker. Based on fan reaction and how fast the experiment was abandoned, it was a failure. Now Vince is at it again, trying to re-package The Undertaker from the Dead Man to “The Last Outlaw”. The Last Outlaw? OK, he wears a black hat, and he is from Texas. But his character is from Death Valley, which is in California. And he’s not an outlaw. He is, in fact, one of the most popular Superstars of all time.
Let’s examine this a little closer and see what the thought process is. Wrestlemania is less than a month away. “The Streak” is at 19-0. He is returning after a several month absence, and he’s fighting another legend Wrestlemania. In fact, he’s fighting the best friend of the guy he “forced” into retirement after Wrestlemania XVI. Who better than Triple H to take the spot his DX buddy Shawn Michaels has had the last two Wrestlemanias taking on the Undertaker. The hype alone, including the infamous silent promo on Raw a couple of weeks back, will help sell the show as much as any title match will. So why change now?
The only answer I can come up with, short of simply “because he can”, is the same reason grapplers are re-packaged and re-positioned at a rate never before seen in the industry……merchandising. Anyone who has kids can see it. Why else would every new group of action figures have a John Cena and a Randy Orton (They don’t all, but it seems like it)? Fans have an Undertaker shirt. Some even have a “Streak” shirt after one of his many Wrestlemania victories. Would a 20-0 Streak shirt sell? It probably would. But who has a “Last Outlaw” shirt? Take a look at wwe.com. Go ahead……I’ll wait. Did you see it? It’s a great shirt for only $24.99. I’m sure some will like it. I’m sure some will buy it. But at what cost?
Vince would never dare change Steve Austin to “The Bald Avenger”. And I’m sure we’ll never see The Rock nicknamed “The Samoan Smackdown”. Nobody has a greater presence than the Undertaker. When the lights dim and the bells gong, we know what to expect. We expect to see the Dead Man walk slowly and methodically down to the ring. That combined with the music would give you goosebumps. The clothes are still the same, and the walk is still the same. But the music is more out of a Waylon Jennings revival concert.
So yet another of the greatest Superstars in the history of professional wrestling has been re-packaged in the name of merchandising. I hope this doesn’t tarnish his legacy like the biker image did. As long as there’s money to be made, the WWE will keep running The Last Outlaw merchandise out there. Well I’ll tell you……I’m not buying. I say long live the Dead Man!