undertaker old school
Can you see the harness? Look close.

Fans of professional sports-entertainment have watched in awe countless times as The Undertaker has defied gravity, striding along the top rope “old-school” style — but most fans have no idea how the illusion is created. 

The Undertaker (real name Mark Calcavecchia) portrayed a supernatural “Phenom” capable of otherworldly feats, but the reality behind the gimmick is much more prosaic than you might think. 

Here’s how The Deadman’s top-rope gimmick works: 

  • When The Undertaker grabs a wrist-lock on his opponent, the referee secretly gives a signal to the ring crew
  • At the referee’s signal, a green carabiner is lowered from the rafters by a green rope. These are invisible to the television audience, having been edited-out during post-production. 
  • As The Undertaker climbs the turnbuckles, he attaches the carabiner to a belt loop. 
  • In the rafters, a crew pulls the rope through a pulley until the Undertaker’s weight is safely supported, allowing him to stride easily along the top rope. 

The illusion requires the suspension of disbelief by audience members, who might otherwise mistakenly assume that The Undertaker’s opponent was cooperating to provide a kind of counter-weight to prevent him from falling. But that, of course, is preposterous. 

Dress for success, mark. 

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