An Interview with the Author Kevin Sullivan
Q: How did writing Undertaker: 25 Years of Destruction differ from the previous WWE books you have written?
Sullivan: With the exception of the 2009 book chronicling the history of the WWE Championship, most of my other books have revolved around multiple topics. For example, the WWE Encyclopedias featured hundreds of Superstars, and the WWE 50 book touched on various different topics from both behind the scenes and inside the ring.
The Undertaker book, on the other hand, allowed me to dive into one singular character throughout the entire writing process. By having this luxury, I was able to develop a dark and macabre writing style that was used throughout the 200-plus-page book. You can’t do that when you’re writing the WWE Encyclopedia. One day you might be writing about Bruno Sammartino, while the next day you could be working on The Gobbledy Gooker. When that happens, you obviously can’t use the same tenor. You have to do a lot of shifting gears. With the Undertaker book, I was able to attack each writing session with the same mindset I had during the last session. As a result, the end product features a true Deadman vibe throughout on every page.
Q: What is your favorite Undertaker moment?
Sullivan: I know it’s cliché, but you really can’t pick just one, especially considering the character has spanned 25 years and continued to evolve and change throughout the entire time. I guess if you’re just looking at the period from his debut until the time he became the American Bad Ass, I would say my favorite moment would be the time he elevated from a casket at the 1994 Royal Rumble, followed closely by the Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994.
Post-American Bad Ass, I came to appreciate Undertaker’s in-ring skills much more. And if true in-ring competition is your thing, it really doesn’t get much better than Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25.
Q: Talk about the writing process?
Sullivan: Well, unfortunately, because of the Undertaker book, I probably wasted dozens of hours on WWE Network over the past year. Any time I would log on to take notes on an Undertaker match, I would find myself clicking on a completely unrelated show. Before I knew it, I’d find myself hours later down an endless rabbit hole of sports-entertainment content. I vividly recall settling in with my notebook with every intention of watching Undertaker vs. Bret Hart from SummerSlam 1997. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to that match until I watched WCW Beach Blast 1992 in its entirety. Truth be told, the cartoon-like thumbnail image of Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude caught my attention. Once I hit play, names like Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin and Ron Simmons had me hooked. So to answer your question, the writing process was a lot longer than it needed to be, thanks to my continued desire to relive the past.
Q: What type of research did you have to for this project?
Sullivan: Luckily, I had already done a lot of the research well before I ever even knew about this project. From 1998 to 2008, I worked in WWE’s digital media department, most recently as director of content development. During this time, we must’ve done countless Undertaker features that required deep research. And me being the packrat that I am, saved all the notebooks from my 10 years in the department. So when it came to researching sections such as Undertaker’s pay-per-view record, title history, and greatest rivals, I had a decade’s head start, which helped considerably.
Q: Out of all of the Undertaker’s rivals which one do you think is the most significant?
Sullivan: Kane. Without a doubt. No other narrative in sports-entertainment history can boast such a long and complex level of storytelling than that of Undertaker and his little brother, Kane.
Q: In general what makes you a WWE fan?
Sullivan: The storytelling. For years, I wondered why I was never attracted to combat sports such as boxing, MMA or even football to a degree. Then I finally realized that those sports lack what makes WWE so amazing: The story. Just look at the fallout from Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 25. For one full year, HBK agonized over his loss to the Deadman. He played the final moments of the match over and over again in his head until he became obsessed with climbing back into the ring with Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI and finally defeating the Phenom and shattering sports-entertainment’s greatest spectacle, The Streak.
There was just one problem. Undertaker refused to compete against Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI. In any other genre, that’s where the story would’ve ended. But not in WWE. Hell bent on getting his rematch, HBK cost Undertaker the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber. As a result, Michaels successfully got the Deadman’s attention and his match at WrestleMania XXVI. On top of all this, Undertaker and Michaels put on yet another instant classic. From beginning to end, the entire 12-month journey told such an amazingly compelling story.
In addition to the storytelling, I’ve always been a sucker for the larger-than-life personas. I remember in the 1980s, being completely captivated by guys like The Iron Sheik, Road Warriors, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. You don’t get those characters in any other form of sports or entertainment.