WWE – Undertaker – The Last Ride (Cert 12)
1 Disc Blu-ray / 2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 283 minutes approx.
Release Date: November 23th
There is no question The Undertaker is a legend in modern day pro-wrestling, which for a gimmick that shouldn’t have worked beyond maybe a few months at best to run for 30 years, is beyond remarkable – it’s phenomenal. Indeed, early into his run announcer Gorilla Monsoon used to refer to The Undertaker as “the phenom” long before it caught on and become one of the many epithets attached to his name.
Yet, there was always an air of mystery about The Undertaker. As the man behind the icy cold stare and lank hair hanging over his pallid face, Mark Calaway was intensely private and seldom broke character in public. But now, with his career apparently winding down and father time catching up with him, Calaway decides to pull the curtains back and let the fans get a candid look at the man that is The Undertaker.
Originally running on the WWE Network, The Last Ride is a five part series that is NOT a career retrospective but a look at the last tumultuous few years of the Undertaker’s career, or more accurately Mark Calaway’s career. For someone who has kept his private life exactly that, his decision to be the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary like this caught many people off guard, but the rewards are there for everyone.
It begins with the supposed retirement of Undertaker at Wrestlemania 33 after his loss against Roman Reigns in the main event. It was meant to be the passing of the torch from Taker to Reigns, but fans hated Roman so much they refused to accept it, making the final image of the match – Taker’s hat and coat left in the middle of the ring – quite upsetting for different reasons, but still nonetheless poignant.
Speaking openly in the first episode, Calaway admits he hadn’t watched the match back as he was disappointed with himself for his poor performance, his dodgy hip and knees preventing him from working harder, and for Roman too. This prompts the decision for Calaway to have a hip replacement operation so he can return to full health and make amends for this match at the following year’s Wrestlemania.
And so we have the theme of this series – will Undertaker/Mark Calaway ever be able to walk away from WWE? In each episode, Calaway talks about being happy to end things at a certain point, only for forces to draw him back into the ring for one, then two, then three more matches. These include helping Vince McMahon, personal redemption, or in some cases, the money, and each time the results vary.
With total frankness, Calaway talks us through his mindset, feelings, and backstories of the various events and timelines whilst the camera is there to document it all, taking us into extremely privileged positions such as the hospital surgery room, backstage at WWE events and even under the stage as Taker prepares for his grand entrance. Whilst this is new for Taker, it is the footage of his family life that is truly unprecedented, providing us with scenes that effectively humanises the Deadman after 30 years.
Mrs. Calaway number 3, Michelle McCool and their two daughters are part of the reason why Calaway is at peace with ending his career, but as a former wrestler herself, McCool understands how the business never leaves you and can only support her husband’s decisions. However, she is mostly portrayed as the concerned wife; during the infamous match against Goldberg in Saudi Arabia, she tells of watching from home and freaking out when a groggy Goldberg drops Taker on his head, fearing his neck was broken.
The push and pull between family and business is the underlying narrative of this series but for fans, it will be the open interviews from Calaway in his own voice and languid, often emotional demeanour that provide the real meat of what this has to offer. Most of the usual suspects are on hand to augment the stories from their own perspective, such as Kane, Roman Reigns, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, AJ Styles, Shane McMahon, John Cena, Big Show, and of course Vince McMahon with his usual hypocrisy.
Everyone is (predictably) hugely flattering towards Taker, yet are also honest in sharing their negative thoughts on any disastrous matches they were also involved in, like DX vs. Taker & Kane from Saudi Arabia which was universally agreed to be a flop of epic proportions by all involved. Younger stars in NXT talk in awe of having Taker present at the PC centre to offer advice, whilst we are also privy to Taker’s own in ring training to get him back into shape.
Calaway has reached, and undoubtedly earned, a status of reverence very few achieve in life let alone wrestling, symbolised by a scene where he is simply sitting backstage at a PPV event and the wrestlers all pay their respects to him as if he was a mafia godfather. But even Calaway isn’t prone to making mistakes – showing up to Wrestlemania without his gear when Vince wanted him to appear at RAW the next night so he had to fly home to get his kit!
Similarly, the cameras are there when Calaway gets a phone call from his niece to say his older brother had died, just as they were on their way to film the Boneyard Match for this year’s Wrestlemania. The irony is chilling given his character and the gimmick of the match, but ever the pro, Calalway still goes through with the taping, though the hurt is palpable in the subsequent interviews.
Had this been any other wrestler this would be a fascinating watch in its own right, but because it is the Undertaker, The Last Ride take on a completely different level of interest and awe in the revelations contained within. Quite possibly the best WWE documentary to date, but is it really the end for The Undertaker? Only Mark Calaway knows…
Tales From The Deadman
JBL’s Memories of The Undertaker
Stone Cold Respect
Make-A-Wish & RAW 25
The Undertaker’s Favourite Opponents
What an Entrance!
Rating – *****
Man In Black