This is my latest review on Aroundtable. You can view the original post here.
The Undertaker aka Mark Calaway has to be one of the last iconic characters that WWE (World Wrestling Federation) had on their active roster that dominated the sports entertainment world for the better part of 3 decades. Also referred to as the “The Deadman” or “The Phenom”, we can place his character with the likes of “The Ultimate Warrior”, “Andre the Giant” and the legendary “Hulk Hogan”. I use to love him for his over the top entrances. You can see some of the most iconic Undertaker entrances below:
Any current wrestling fan would have noticed in the past few years that the Undertaker was slowing down, and that it was just a matter of time that retirement from in-ring action was eminent. The Undertaker struggled with this, and the series documents how he got past this struggle.
The docuseries “Undertaker: The Last Ride” was released this early May 2020 on the WWE Network. The documentary style series has 5 main episodes. In the the bonus episode, the Undertaker reminisces mainly about locker room stories. What is different about this series is that it is a behind the scenes look at not only about his wrestling but of the “Undertaker” character. Mark Calaway was always very protective of his character. We also see him open up about the battle he fought for many years of being in constant pain. The body will start to break down after 30 years in the ring taking bumps, suffering countless injuries, in turn leading to many surgeries. Even the Phenom himself can not escape that chronic pain. In addition, Mark is open about the struggle he had, realizing that the end was fast approaching and that he was having a hard time letting go of an industry that had treated him well through the years.
The docuseries spans between 2017 and 2020. We immediately see a difference between the young Undertaker who was very protective of his character and never broke character for anyone, to this Undertaker portrayed in this docuseries who is open about what he is living through. He agreed for a filming crew to follow him, and we actually see him go through his wins, but mostly his struggles. The docuseries highlights never before footage and interviews with the Undertaker, along with those who knew him well like his wife Michelle McCool, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Edge, Ric Flair, Shane McMahon and Triple H to name a few. He was very well liked, but most importantly respected in the locker room. What really struck me was the father / son relationship he has with Vince McMahon. Often Vince does not look sincere when he gives interviews, but in this docuseries, you see his genuine love he has for Mark Calaway and that love goes both ways. Mark sees him as a father figure, and Vince as a son. That is the impression you get when you see them together. There is a mutual respect between both of them. Some say that bond was created when there was the exodus back in the 90s when most of the talent left for WCW, but the Undertaker stayed. Whether that is true or not, the fact is that through the years, Mark Calaway became part of the extended McMahon family.
What is really great about this series is that Mark Calaway is an open book about his career. He speaks candidly about the early beginnings with Paul Bearer to the last match he had at WrestleMania 36 against AJ Styles. He basically announces in this docuseries that the Wresltemania 36 match was his last match unless there is an emergency and Vince needs him, he will not step back into the ring again. In my opinion, the best quote he has in this series is: “My career, my legacy, speaks for itself. At the end of the day that's really all that matters. I have this other life that I need to go experience and enjoy the fruits of my labour, enjoy the blessings that I have: my wife and my children." One thing is for sure, the Undertaker has lots of pride in the career and legacy he left behind.
I watched the Wrestlemania 36 Boneyard match against AJ Styles. I understand why the Undertaker felt this was the match to send him off to retirement. It basically placed all the different incarnations of the Undertaker throughout the years and placed them in one match. It was a street fight type of match, but with just enough mystique to keep the Undertaker legacy alive. Check out the highlights of the match below:
Combine this match, with this documentary, it is the ultimate wrestler’s send off. No one can ask for more. It is to the testament of the value of what The Undertaker brought to the WWE and the industry. He was the last of his kind and it will be exceedingly difficult to match the phenomenon we called “The Undertaker”.
This is a must see for any wrestling fan. Not only for the entertainment value, but also for the behind the scenes of a professional wrestler's life and that it is not always as glorious as what people may think. They have a gruelling schedule, and they are often live in constant pain. It is a great overview of the Undertaker’s career and what he went through in the last 3 years winding down to his retirement. It was well put together and that is one of the only things that the WWE continue to do well: produce docuseries. In recent years, in my opinion, the WWE has lost their edge on many fronts as if it has stopped evolving. Once upon a time, their strength was their creativity and always being able to be ahead of the curve. The current WWE wrestlers basically look the same. They seem to prioritize street style of wrestling over technical wrestling. The product feels diluted and stale. The Undertaker is one of the last from his era. Unless WWE changes their ways, the “Undertaker” will be the last character of its kind.
I give it a 9 out of 10. A must see for any wrestling fan.