My quick take on “The Undertaker: The Last Ride” (Chapters 1 and 2)

I have been acutely aware that a certain section of wrestling fandom have never accepted the end of the Undertaker’s Streak at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans, nor to those who made that call in the ring that night, whether it was from Vincent Kennedy McMahon or Paul Heyman, or anyone and everyone who was a part of the booking committee like some have alleged; however, as I have previously covered in my article with regarding to that match, spilling death threats to force people to change opinions never solves anything at all, let alone further cemented the contrarian views to those who, let’s be brutally honest, have seen this coming from a mile away even before the matchup happened. To this point, WWE had announced a brand new documentary on the titular character’s journey over the last few years in a never before behind the scenes look at the events that happened between the above mentioned event to WrestleMania 35, if not 36, sheds light as to how our protagonist behind the character, Mark Calaway, is coping with the inevitability of eventual retirement from active wrestler in relation to his declining mobility and health. As someone who had watched Calaway’s career in World Championship Wrestling as “Mean” Mark Callus just months before his debut as the titular character in 1990, and followed his career with the WWE for most of his career, he was the last to break character in an era when kayfabe was a prerequisite. With that said, here’s my take on this documentary so far.

Like I said before, I sort of knew how Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 would have ended just by looking at the history of the rivalry, kayfabe or not, with Lesnar snapped the streak. What was unbeknownst even to me was the extent of how little Calaway remembered the match, which is absolutely nothing, I kid you not. His loss of memory reminds me of former Formula One driver who has also remembered absolutely nothing of the crash at the practice session of the infamous 1994 San Marino Grand Prix that also marked the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying and Aryton Senna during the race, and his name is Rubens Barrichello, who was driving for Jordan Grand Prix when his crash happened. The difference between them was rather obvious as Calaway was still conscious when taken to the local hospital while Barrichello was unconscious with life threatening injuries sustained during the crash, and they both have any recollections whatsoever during the hours of their incidents. Nobody including the ring announcer, Justin Roberts, who was at the corner with the ring bell, nor the referee when he made the count, let alone Paul Heyman, who was at Lesnar’s corner, and everyone who were at the Gorilla position, knew how it happened to Taker, but when Calaway didn’t raise his shoulder up before the third count, whatever plan that could have had Taker won the match, thus extending the streak, changed immediately, and unless it’s from the likes of Bruce Pritchard, who ironically was dismissed from the company at the time and/or me, strangely enough, NOBODY saw it coming. While someone in the arena may have chanted “bull🤬🤬🤬🤬!!!” Others we’re in stunned silence, if not enraged by the decision, to which I wouldn’t have blamed them for that particular moment, what came next should have never been surprised by no one. When Taker got up and struggled to walk towards backstage, it’s rather evident that he was in no condition to walk towards the changing area. To surprise of absolutely no one that when trainer, officials, and his wife Michelle McCool, were called in for assistance by McMahon himself, it was blatantly obvious that Taker had to be taken to the nearest hospital for further examination.

Before I digress, though, here’s a comment that I had made when watching & listening to a clip from “Something to wrestle with Bruce Pritchard” on YouTube on this very subject as a sobering thought, whether you agree with the assessment or not:

“Bruce Pritchard (and Conrad Thompson) had his take with regards to Lesnar’s victory against Taker that gave me some clarity as to why it happened: he stated that it’s the referee’s job to remember the ending that was scripted, but also his job to count when not noticing anyone’s shoulder raises up before the third count, in the case of Taker/Lesnar match at WrestleMania 30, the latter point came true.  While there are still millions who dreaded, if not repulsed, by the call, I couldn’t blame anyone for it. The fact of the matter is that he was almost 50 when the match occurred, still recovering from the hip surgery from a couple of years ago, almost widowed Michelle McCool at WrestleMania 25 with that awkward dive over the ropes, and had to rest at his suite for 2 days after WrestleMania 27 after taking numerous chair shots, all those wears and tears led to Taker’s loss of the streak and his subsequent hospitalization. Try to deny all those facts all you wants, I’m merely a pedestrian and a messenger, but don’t shot the messenger. it’s a matter of “when” and not “if”.”

The documentary further revealed that both Vince McMahon and Lesnar (and Heyman tagged along with the ride) followed the ambulance closely to the hospital, where they checked on Calaway’s condition, and he didn’t remember his name until 4:00 AM the following morning. Also revealed in the first episode was the doubt that has zipped into his mind one year later against Bray Wyatt, brother of Bo Dallas, son of Mike (IRS) Rotunda, and grandson of legendary Blackjack Mulligan, since that loss, forcing Triple H, who had just wrestled earlier in that event, had a prep talk to motivate Calaway to be that character that everyone remembered him as, and not the decrypted person who is beyond crippled with age.  The 2017 Royal Rumble was the beginning of, as he himself said that he should have never been in that Rumble match, especially when having a stare own with Roman Reigns, even with his pre-match workouts showed the wear and tear. The match itself left a lot to desire as Taker/Calaway was clearly not the same man who made the jump in 1990, and when he was pinned by Reigns after the spear, he thought he has had his final match, or did he? I had previously commented about the end of The Streak and instead got threatened with physical violence, and I had to block that individual who refused to think logically. Needless to say, folks like that would rather committing assaults on Vince McMahon or anyone who sided with him, but what they don’t realize that he was on reduced schedule, and his age and aches have caught up with him. That’s the absolute truth, and even he admitted that the match wasn’t even close to what Roman Reigns had wanted to be. During that period, Calaway headed to hospital for another surgery in the right hip, recovering and played back the match, and he began thinking about coming back for one more match, but the main question was whether he could recover, rehab and be ready in time for the event.

The preparation began when he found an abandoned ski jet shop to install the ring in, and due to his physical condition after surgery, the training and warmup took longer than before, particularly with strengthening and conditioning. As the deadline was approaching fast for promoting the event, Calaway later informed McMahon that he would reveal his answer at Elimination Chamber event. Sure enough, the answer was given via his wife’s Instagram account, yet nobody but the boss knew what it was, until after John Cena took his frustration and cut a promo to lure him back in at WrestleMania 34 … at the same arena where The Streak was snapped, Superdome. However, since the response came so late, Cena kept his word, literally, and sit alongside with patrons, since Taker didn’t answer his challenge for weeks. As it turned out, Calaway had arrived in the arena and there he was, raising from the platform, surprised Cena and the impromptu dream match was officially on, except the match was a rout, or should I just called it as it was, a squash match. What came next, though, surprised Reigns as Taker apologized for not giving him the match that he wanted, proving that Taker took pride in the business so much that he placed professionalism above his egos.

I wasn’t exactly certain about this series when the sneak peek appeared on YouTube, but watching how Mark Calaway has been dealing with at the twilight of his career as mounting pains and aches took its toll on him, and I knew his condition wasn’t as good as it was in the past, but it was so much worse. I can’t wait to see the next episode when they discuss the calamity known as Crown Jewel, which includes the utterly unwatchable match between DX and The Brothers of Destructions.

I’ll see you on the next review on this series.