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TJR Blog: The End of The Undertaker…We Think? More Thoughts on “The Last Ride” Documentary

The five part WWE Network documentary “The Last Ride” about The Undertaker wrapped up on Sunday. It was the most insightful look at Mark Calaway that we have ever seen. I thought the whole documentary was outstanding. The big reveal in the final moments of the documentary is that The Undertaker has likely wrestled his last match, according to him. Here’s what he said exactly:

“At this point in my life and in my career, I have no desire to get back in the ring. (Pause). I’ve got a pit in my stomach right now. (Laughs) This time the cowboy really rides away.”

Moments before that, The Undertaker also said this:

“If Vince was in a pinch, would I come back? I guess time will only tell there. ‘In case of emergency,’ you break glass and pull out The Undertaker. I would have to consider that. Never say never.”

Did he retire officially? He never said those words exactly, but it sure feels that way.

Is he really done or is there “one more match” for him? The answer is we really don’t know right now. The Undertaker saying he’s done in June 2020 during a global pandemic could change when we get to April 2021 at WrestleMania when there are over 80,000 fans in Los Angeles…if fans are allowed to be at shows by then.

What we do know is that The Undertaker is a 55-year-old man that has struggled to say goodbye to the wrestling business and The Undertaker gimmick that he has portrayed for nearly 30 years. It was Survivor Series 1990 when The Undertaker showed up as a 25-year-old kid with red hair that had no facial expressions and absolutely destroyed everybody in his path for several years. Yes, The Undertaker worked in other places before WWE, but he will always be known as this Undertaker that he lived for the past 30 years.

The WrestleMania 33 match with Roman Reigns in 2017 appeared to be The Undertaker’s farewell. After all, Taker put over Reigns clean in the middle of the ring even though the fans hated Reigns. We all know this was a “passing of the torch” moment even if Reigns wasn’t loved by the fans the way Taker was. What we didn’t expect that night was what happened after the match when Taker left his hat, jacket and gloves in the ring as if to say he was never wrestling again. Taker also kissed his wife Michelle (McCool) Calaway after the match. Even Michelle said on the documentary that she thought maybe that was it for him, but it wasn’t.

The reason Taker wanted to keep wrestling was because he didn’t want to end his career on a stinker. That’s what the documentary was about. The Undertaker, like many elite professional wrestlers before him, had no idea when he should retire or what the right time was.

When The Undertaker wrestled John Cena at WrestleMania 34 in 2018, Taker was in much better shape than the year before because he had a hip surgery that helped a lot. However, that match with Cena wasn’t the dream match that it should have been. Instead, they only went 2:45 in a match where Taker didn’t have to bump match at all. In “The Last Ride” documentary, Taker was as frustrated as the fans were that the match wasn’t longer. Anyway, that led to even more matches in 2018.

Even though The Undertaker felt like he was good shape in 2019, he watched WrestleMania 35 from backstage, often sitting beside Vince McMahon in the Gorilla Position. He didn’t feel great about it, so when Vince asked him to wrestle Goldberg at Super Showdown 2019 in Saudi Arabia, Taker said yes. That match was a disaster – one of the worst matches of Undertaker’s career and it made fans want to see both guys retire. It just didn’t look good at all.

In July 2019, Undertaker had a tag team match at Extreme Rules with Roman Reigns against a good friend in Shane McMahon and a rising star Drew McIntyre. The match went very well, the fans in Philly loved it and Taker looked like he had avenged the terrible performance with Goldberg. After that match, there was a scene with Taker and Vince with Taker telling Vince he thinks that is it. Vince said okay, we’ll do whatever you want to do.

The fifth part of “The Last Ride” covered AJ Styles pitching a match with The Undertaker at this year’s WrestleMania 36 event, which was supposed to be in Tampa, Florida. We saw the process of The Undertaker thinking about it and when he accepted, he got Vince McMahon to try to joke with Styles that Taker would come back against somebody other than Styles. AJ wasn’t buying it, but it was funny to see them all joking about it. Styles is the perfect opponent for Taker because AJ is the closest active WWE superstar to a Shawn Michaels and we know that’s who Taker worked best with in his career.

The Boneyard Match at WrestleMania 36 this year with Undertaker beating Styles was a terrific cinematic style match that was similar to something you might see in a movie or a television show. Since there were no fans at WrestleMania, it made sense to try something different. The question is, if they did WrestleMania 36 in front of 75,000+ fans at Raymond James Stadium, would that have been the last match of The Undertaker? We’ll never really know the answer to that because of how crazy 2020 has been.

I took to social media to ask fellow wrestling fans what they think. Have we really seen the last match of The Undertaker?

The poll will be active for two days, so depending on when you read this, the percentages may be different. As I post this around 12pmET on Monday, it’s 62% voting no while 38% voted yes, which means most fans think he has at least another match in his career.

Why do fans have doubts about an actual retirement? Because they know wrestling history. Here are a few examples.

Ric Flair lost a Retirement Match to Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1994. Flair was back in the ring a few months later. Flair was in his early 40s at that point and he looked old for sure, but he still kept going 14 more years until his WWE retirement. As we all know, that wasn’t his actual retirement either because he wrestled for TNA and some indy shows after that too. According to the usually reliable ProFightDB, Flair’s actual last match was in September 2011 at a TNA Impact taping against Sting. That’s a fitting final opponent.

Terry Funk has probably had dozens of retirement matches going back to the late 1990s. According to ProFightDB, Terry’s last official match was in 2014 when he was 70 years old. That’s not a misprint. The guy was 70 years old and still wrestling! It’s crazy to think about. Please don’t take any more bumps, Terry.

Mick Foley lost his retirement match to Triple H at No Way Out 2000 when Mick wasn’t that old because it was a few months before he turned 35 years old. At the next PPV, WrestleMania 2000, Mick had another match because he was asked and it was a great day. Throughout the 2000s, Mick kept on wrestling with some memorable match with Randy Orton in 2004, Edge in 2006 and a solid run in TNA with guys like Sting and Kurt Angle in 2009-10. I actually enjoyed that TNA run. Foley’s last official match was for OMEGA in 2015, which is 15 years after his retirement.

Even Shawn Michaels has to be mentioned in this. I’m not counting 1998 when a back injury sidelined him for four years. I’m talking about when Michaels retired during an outstanding main event match at WrestleMania 26 in 2010 when The Undertaker beat him. In “The Last Ride” documentary, there was a moment where Undertaker told Shawn he should have retired with him that night. Anyway, Shawn came back at Crown Jewel 2018 to wrestle with his best friend Triple H against his buddies The Undertaker and Kane. The match sucked. We all know it.

There are also names like Daniel Bryan, who came back after concussions forced retirement for three years until he could come back in 2018. Edge is a more recent example, who was out for nine years after neck injuries and he came back at the 2020 Royal Rumble.

I could go on with guys that said they were done, yet they kept coming back for more. That’s why fans are going to be hesitant about retirements.

There is a big named wrestler that did stop when he thought it was his last match. Steve Austin at WrestleMania 19 in 2003. There was an announcement before the match, but Austin knew going in that match that he was done. Only a few people knew like Austin, Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and The Rock. Not many others, though. We certainly had no idea watching at home. Sure, Austin has appeared on WWE TV many times in the last 17 years and delivered countless Stone Cold Stunners to huge ovations. There hasn’t been another match, though.

The thing is, there are probably a lot of WWE fans that think Austin could still wrestle again. They see that he’s still in great shape and could believably kick somebody’s ass in a match. Austin has shot down “one more match” rumors for 17 years. Maybe his neck is in better shape when he had to stop at age 38 (far too young to retire from wrestling), but it’s probably not going to happen for him.

Let’s focus back on The Undertaker and the fact that he said that popular wrestler phrase “never say never” near the end of the documentary.

Whenever there are fans back at wrestling shows, whether that’s this year or next year, if Vince McMahon called him to be part of the show to have one more match against AJ Styles or Seth Rollins or some great worker, would Taker definitely say no? I don’t know. I doubt he really knows. In my opinion, I feel like Vince is going to make that call, he’s going to say “I need you” one more time because the fans know by now that if The Undertaker does wrestle again, that may be the last match and if WWE sells it as “The Undertaker’s retirement” then that’s going to draw good TV ratings and a lot more interest in whatever the pay-per-view is.

A lot of fans, including me, believe that The Undertaker’s farewell that happened at WrestleMania 33 in 2017 is what his farewell in 2020 or beyond should be. There should be a crowd there to cheer him and thank him for 30 years of entertainment. That feels right. The reality is, though, at 55 years old it’s a lot harder to get in shape for one more match and deliver a satisfying performance. That’s something that was covered a lot in the documentary.

There are some fans who think, with good reason, that maybe The Undertaker can keep wrestling for several more years as long as they do cinematic matches where he doesn’t have to take real bumps in a ring and instead can have Boneyard Matches. I’ve even had some people bring up Sting’s name even though Sting is 61 years old with spinal stenosis. I have my doubts of Sting ever having any sort of match again, but could Undertaker do another Boneyard Match? It’s certainly possible.

What could happen is we see The Undertaker show up in character, walk out to the ring one last night time and Chokeslam some heel. Then he can leave the way he wants. That way, he doesn’t have to have one more match and instead walk away in front of a crowd that way.

This year 2020 is unlike any year of our lives. The world has been shut down for the most part for over three months. We don’t know when the health crisis is officially going to end. Some people think it’s not a big deal. Others are afraid to leave the house. That’s why fans don’t want to think The Undertaker is really done because they think he’ll only be done when he’s in front of a crowd again. Fans don’t believe that Vince McMahon is going to let his beloved Undertaker character end by riding a motorcycle away from a Boneyard Match.

There are a lot of options here. If he’s done for good, I respect that. I also doubt there are going to be angry people out there if The Undertaker decided to have “one more match” whether it’s at WrestleMania or a Saudi Arabia show where he makes seven figures to make that four-minute walk to the ring. It’s his life and it’s his choice if he wants to keep going.

I’ll end this with a question to myself. Do I think he’s never wrestling again? Right now on June 22 my answer is yes, but I may change my mind…just like he might change his mind. In other words, I have no idea just like I believe Mark Calaway has no idea no matter what he says in a documentary. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s human nature to change your mind, so we shouldn’t put a wrestler on a pedestal if they desire to have…one more match.

For now, let’s end it on a “Thank You Taker.” I like the sound of that.

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

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