AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Film Festival teamed up with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to produce "Brothers of Destruction," a documentary that gives an in-depth look into a 20-year story between wrestling’s most dangerous brothers, The Undertaker and Kane.
KVUE Photojournalist Andrew Sanchez sat down with The Undertaker to talk about his career and the documentary. Here's what he told Sanchez in a Q&A.
Sanchez: Today we have a very special guest here to talk about his new documentary, Brothers of Destruction, debuting Oct. 29 at the Austin Film Festival. From Death Valley and residing in Austin, Texas. the Phenom, the Deadman, The Undertaker!
Undertaker: Well, thank you for having me. Thank you for that introduction. I was starting to feel pretty good like I might need to lace the boots up one more time.
Sanchez: Before we get to the documentary, I need to ask you this: It's been about six months since you announced your retirement from in-ring competition. How has life been for the Undertaker been since the announcement of your retirement?
Undertaker: Well, you know, that's where Vince [McMahon] and I have discussed a little bit of a disagreement there. Vince's motto is "Never say never." But to answer your question, retired life is good. It's kind of weird right now because this is normally the time that I'd be getting ready for WrestleMania. So I would be in full-on, in camp, trying to get in shape to have a [Wrestle]Mania match. So my days are free up. Fortunately, my daughter's in school so I'm just hanging out. Get ready to go hunting soon enough. Deer season starts here next week.
Sanchez: Let's talk Brothers of Destruction but before we get into the meat of it, let's go all the way back to the beginning of your career. When you debuted in 1990, around that time WWE had very cartoon characters like trashmen and hockey players. When you have presented the idea of the Undertaker, were you ever worried that this character may not even work?
Undertaker: Look, I was just so happy that I wasn't the egg man coming out of the giant egg that they were also promoting at the same time. People think I joke about that, but I'm being completely serious. You know, there was this huge promotion involving this giant egg. And I just knew every day I was going to get the call from Vince saying that I was gonna be coming out of this egg and I was going to need to shave my head and my eyebrows and I was going to be egg man. So when I heard Undertaker, although I had no clue what that meant, or, I knew what an undertaker was, but as a character, I had no clue what [McMahon] vision was. I was like, yeah, I'm definitely the Undertaker because Undertaker is not egg man. I'm good with it, I was very excited.
Sanchez: How long did it take you to know the fans had accepted the Undertaker as a credible character and legitimate threat?
Undertaker: It kind of took off right away. I debuted on November 22nd of 1990, which was at Survivor Series. So the following year 1991 Survivor Series, I was wrestling Hulk Hogan for the World Championship. That's a really fast turnaround to go from a debut to winning the World Heavyweight Title. Strangely enough, it was even more telling that the fans were actually turning me to a good guy without any effort of my own. They were so enthralled with that character and the mystique of it, I guess. I think everybody's got a little dark side to their personality and I think my character kind of brought that out of people. That was one of the things that I remember most about the night that I beat Hogan. It was like 60-40 my way as far as the fan reaction. And then when I won, the place went crazy. It was Survivor Series '91 I knew that I had arrived.
Sanchez: And just seven years after your debut, WWE decided to add a family member, your little brother Kane. With all the work that you put into the Undertaker character, did you ever feel like you had to put even more work into the character of Kane?
Undertaker: No. I've no clue at that point. I was so focused on what I was doing and keeping what I was doing fresh until I met Kane. At that level, you're always looking for your next opponent. And the thing with the Undertaker is, the fans wouldn't accept just anybody getting in the ring with Undertaker and expecting them to have any chance whatsoever. So, when I met Glenn (Jacobs) [Kane], I was like, yeah. This is somebody that I can do a lot of things within the future, down the road. [Glenn Jacobs] had a couple of trials and errors there with different characters until Kane. When Kane was given, it was like, now this is fun. Now there are so many different layers to this story. When I first debuted, not at Survivor Series, but the TV's, I was called "Kane" the Undertaker. So now here's Kane, everybody is going to come to find out that it's my half brother that I thought was dead for all these years. And now I'm coming face to face with him after all this time. It was so good. It was you know, it was so much fun helping develop his character so that it made sense with my character. That storyline has gone on for, what, 23 years now? And still, if we're together, people, they lose their minds when the Brothers of Destruction are together. It's really fun.
Sanchez: The storyline of Undertaker and Kane has gone on for two decades, over 20 years. Most wrestling feuds don't go for a couple of months. What do you think it was about a story of the Undertaker and Kane that kept fans coming back?
Undertaker: Well, I think initially you had this character in the Undertaker, this mythical character, he's got to be the sole entity. And then to come to find out that he's got a half brother. And then you hear that story of what happened in the funeral home. I won't get into all the details of it, but wow, it's so compelling. And then after all these years, you know, now he's come back to exact his revenge. We ran through all that and then it's only natural, like, OK, well, they're brothers, they're going to make up. And now you put them together. You put two, you know, indestructible forces together as a tag team. What are they going to do to everybody else? Obviously, we annihilated just about everybody and it was just like, whoa! Because we were so similar in our look and our build. Everyone was just like, "Well, these guys are going to decimate everyone". So we took that for a while and then obviously we're brothers, so we're going to have another falling out. And there's going to be a betrayal. It's just so good, it's just one of those rare times in history where a story, with a couple of things happening, can flip from, you know, having your best day to your worst day just like that.
Sanchez: Within the wrestling community, the story of Undertaker and Kane has been widely accepted as the best storytelling wrestling has ever produced. And as you mentioned, all of these different layers in this story when it comes to betrayal and trust and revenge and brothers as a tag team and as enemies. What do you want the fans to remember about this story in 20, 30, 40, 50 years?
Undertaker: Obviously, the longevity of it. How it maintained its interest between generations. Whether you were a kid at the beginning of it [or] an adult at the end of it, you were still intrigued by what these brothers are going to do. Are they going to be together or are they going to fight? One of the coolest things we ever did was in a Royal Rumble match where we were in there cleaning the house together. And then he turned his back on me and I chucked him out. It’s like, who does that to their own brother? It was so cool. I just want people to remember just how rich and deep that story was and how it lasted the test of time, regardless of the era. The Brothers of Destruction went all the way through it and they were always a compelling part of it.
Sanchez: Let's talk Texas wrestling. Texas has produced some incredible talents over the years. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Mark Henry. And including wrestling families like the Guerreros, the Rhodes family and Von Erichs. What do you think it is about Texas that produces incredible wrestling talents?
Undertaker: Texans are tough, brother. It just ingrained in them. (...) I just think wrestling is so big as culture in Texas that it just spawns the kids that were fans growing up [to say] "that's what I want to do." Think about the Von Eriks up in Dallas. I mean, they were, my gosh. Were they royalty or what? Obviously, they self-destructed but when they were all together, I don't care if you were a wrestling fan or you're not a wrestling fan; you knew who the Von Erich's were. I mean, they were just wrestling royalty in Texas. And [Texas] had such great promoters. I remember being a kid thinking, yeah, I think I want to be a wrestler someday. And as I got into other sports, I moved away from it but sure enough, I came back to it. I think probably the same thing for Steve [Austin]. He was a wrestling fan as a kid, went and played college football; he got back into it. I think it's just instilled in a true Texan. There's some connection with the wrestling industry if you're from Texas.
Sanchez: Before you made the Brothers of Destruction documentary, you did a five-part series where you ultimately announced your retirement. One thing that really stood out to me in that series was a story that you told about a promoter who looked at you and said "no one would ever pay money to watch you wrestle." What advice would you give, not only to young wrestlers but to people who are chasing their dreams and are told no?
Undertaker: It's not just wrestlers, it's everybody in life. You can't just let someone tell you that. If you have a dream and you put your work into; you've got to give it your best effort and not worry about the haters because the world's full of haters. And the world is full of people that are going to tell you, "You can't do this. You can't do that." A lot of people, unfortunately, in this world of social media and people not having to own up for the things that they say. There are so many bullies out there that want to hate on you and tell you that you can't do something. You got to believe in yourself first and foremost. If you believe in yourself, you can almost accomplish anything. And fortunately for me, I used it as fuel because I knew. I didn't know that I was going to become the Undertaker and have a career that stretched three decades. But I knew that there was a lot more in me than what they were able to see. And I just use that as fuel to make me work harder. Study more. Figure out what I was doing better. And I think that part applies no matter the time period or where we are with social media or anything else, you've got to have confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself. Give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance to fail. And give yourself a chance to succeed. Don't be afraid to get a door slammed in your face and told the word "no". It's gonna happen. Accept it. Learn what you did wrong. Fix it. Move on. That's the same advice that I give my kids.
Sanchez: Brothers of Destruction premieres Oct. 29 at the Austin Film Festival. You can catch it again on the WWE Network, Nov. 15. All this information and more you can find on our website KVUE.com. Undertaker, thank you so much!
Undertaker: Thank you for the time, man. I hope everybody enjoys the documentary.
Catch the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Undertaker at WWE Survivor Series on Nov. 22 streaming live on WWE Network.
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