For years wrestling fans have wondered why The Undertaker returned to action after what seemed to be his retirement at WrestleMania 33. In chapter two of “Undertaker: The Last Ride” airing this Sunday on WWE Network, we finally get the most in-depth answer.
At Camping World Stadium in 2017 in front of seventy-five thousand fans, and millions watching at home, the legendary Undertaker (real name Mark Calaway) laid down his gloves, coat and hat in the center of the ring after losing to Roman Reigns to signify the end of his career.
In chapter one of the documentary series last week, we got to see how “The Deadman” was feeling at the time and learn that he truly seemed intent on retiring once the match was over.
As we all know, however, that didn’t happen. Undertaker returned the following year at WrestleMania in a match against John Cena and has continued to appear in matches since. But why?
With the wrestler finally letting his kayfabe guard down and allowing behind the scenes footage of him to be featured in this documentary, the answer shown in chapter two may appear to be as simple as you’d think. Taker just wants one last good match that he feels is worthy of ending of his career on. However, when you see him living that out and hear him talking about his dedication to the wrestling business throughout the episode, the answer is clearly more complex.
The second chapter takes you back to the night of WrestleMania 33 and shows Calaway saying “that was 100% real, and me saying goodbye” regarding the end of the show. He then explains that he plans to go on vacation for a little bit before getting surgery on his hip to relieve the pain he was in.
The gruesome elements of the surgery footage will certainly make you wince. One part though, while small, gives a unique glimpse into how the Undertaker’s character is so intertwined with Mark Calaway, the person, that even a serious moment such as surgery won’t stop their worlds from being mixed. At one point, Taker is shown preparing to go under the knife and being loaded with anesthesia. As this happens, the medical staff blares his WWE theme over the loud speaker to help him fall asleep and, yes, rest in peace during surgery.
In a world where kayfabe has been dead for years, it’s amazing to see the guy whose whole character is built around being dead keep the concept alive … even during surgery. For decades the man has had to live in his character’s body to preserve something that people had long since given up on.
And that, in itself, is a main factor at play in Undertaker needing one last good match.
It’s not about the star ratings or the adulation from fans.
The heart of the matter is that it’s about two people, Undertaker and Vince McMahon, and what they mean to each other due to their passion for the WWE.
Chapter two pulls the curtain back even further on the relationship between McMahon and his most trusted, loyal Superstar. Footage going back as far as WrestleMania IX is shown, as well as post-WrestleMania footage in more recent times which shows Vince crying after one of Taker’s matches and the two friends with their arms around each other saying “I love you” to the other a different year.
It goes so deep we even learn Undertaker gave his son the middle name of Vincent.
Here McMahon is asked what Taker means to WWE, and with tears in his eyes he instructs them to cut the camera. “I can’t do that,” the WWE Chairman says while shaking his head and removing his mic.
The documentary shows Undertaker and Vince meeting to discuss his contract in August of 2017. McMahon wouldn’t let cameras film the meeting, but Taker says his boss asked if he thought he’d be good to go again after retiring months prior. Taker replied saying if he didn’t get back in the ring again, he was ok with that. However, due to their close relationship, he told Vince that he’d train again as if he was going to step into the ring again at Mania. But would only do so if someone got hurt or the company needed him.
Four months later at the Royal Rumble, while there to support his wife Michelle McCool in the first women’s Rumble, McMahon brought up the idea of Undertaker facing-off against John Cena. At this point the wrestling legend was left with no other choice but to finally watch his match against Roman Reigns. “It really wasn’t a thought until I actually finally watched the match back,” he says while being interviewed in the documentary. “When I watched it back, it reaffirmed tenfold everything that I thought. I looked old, I looked slow, I was overweight, I couldn’t move and it just wasn’t Undertaker-esque, I guess, in any sense really.”
While watching the match, he even likens himself to “bloated Elvis.”
That’s when the wheels of redemption started turning.
The rest of chapter two largely focuses on Undertaker’s in-ring comeback, which includes training in an abandoned jetki warehouse with Michelle McCool and Primo Colon, and shows footage of the moment he realized he was ready to step into the ring again.
Unfortunately, once again, the match does not go the way Undertaker wanted and once again he’s faced with a big decision regarding his in-ring future.
Chapter two of “The Last Ride” features tons of additionally noteworthy comments and footage. This is required viewing for any wrestling fan who wants to have a full understanding of Undertaker’s decisions over the past few years. It will also undoubtedly make you feel sad, in a way, for how hard he’s struggled in the years that have followed to get the match he’s looking for. As it’s incredibly evident in both chapters of this documentary that he’s looking to finish his unrivaled WWE career in a meaningful way.
He just hasn’t been able to find a way to do it yet.
“Undertaker: The Last Ride” hits WWE Network Sunday morning at 10am ET.