I’ve taken some time to think about this five part series. In The Last Ride, the Undertaker is interviewed over the last few years of his career. The ups, downs, injuries, negotiations, all of it. It is an interesting look at the Phenom as he heads towards his (hopefully) last match. Then his next last match. Then another. And that is the problem.
Undertaker is stuck as a character of myth and legend. This takes two forms, both of which are ultimately damaging to what’s left of the real person portraying the character.
First is a battle between Jekyll and Hyde. Mark Calaway is a big guy who was average in other wrestling promotions. He signed with WWF and was blessed with arguably Vince McMahon’s greatest creation – the Undertaker gimmick. Over the years the character evolved and changed so much he was able to bring back previous versions of himself for nostalgia. He lived the gimmick all of the time. His clothes, his demeanor, his interviews, his travel. All of it. There was no turning off the Undertaker character, and honestly, why bother? Mark is just a dude. A tall dude but just a dude. Undertaker is a worldwide Superstar. He has respect, power, love, fame, and more. Strangers scream Undertaker, not Mark. Over the years it probably became tougher to be Mark. Undertaker probably became truer to reality than whatever was left of Mark. An even better example might be Batman vs Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne died when his parents were killed in the alley, and the person that stepped out of that crime scene is now Batman. Bruce is the mask. An alter ego necessary for certain functions of society. But Batman is where his reality resides. Undertaker needs Mark for things like signing checks and doing taxes. Other than certain functions of society, what use is Mark compared to the Undertaker?
Now that he is retired, or about to be, the harsh reality cannot be held back much longer. Once Undertaker is no more, who is Mark Calaway? Who is this under developed other person that has been pushed down for 25 years? He’s being introduced to a stranger in his own mind. Having one more match, despite how bad it hurts and despite how close he is coming to injury, is less painful then resolving this split consciousness.
Mark Calaway also needs to come to grips with his power. There’s a Marilyn Manson interview that I’ll never forget. He said his latest record at the time made him feel like a god. A man named Brian created this persona of Marilyn Manson that grew so large and became it’s own entity. Now he feels that creation has run it’s course and it might be time to end it. He created life and now must destroy it, which is an emotion only a god would feel. Mark knows he needs to end this creation and is possibly overwhelmed with the strength that will require.
It also leads to a realization that there are greater and lesser gods. For every time the lesser god that is Mark wishes to end his creation known as the Undertaker, a stronger god by the name of Vince McMahon has the final say. Constantly through this series the bond between the two men is mentioned. Undertaker would do anything for Vince. Including tarnish his legacy over and over again. His match against Roman Reigns should have been the end. His Mania match against John Cena was a joke. Australia. Saudi Arabia. He’s lucky that this year’s WrestleMania couldn’t take place in front of fans and led to the Boneyard Match. Which he still hurt himself filming. All because a larger god calls him up and asks for a favor. One more appearance. One more match. Come on, we’re friends, what’s one more? That one more will at some point be the last one. A guy who made millions sitting up in the middle of the ring is dangerously close to never sitting up again.
After watching all five episodes I want him to be allowed to ride into the sunset and away from the ring. Enjoy his wife, kids, property, and however many years he has left. I would be fine with him never making another appearance. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. Yet he’s going to apparently always want to do one more thing for Vince. Undertaker will always say yes to Vince but Mark needs to learn how to speak up.