The Undertaker is the single greatest gimmick in the history of professional wrestling. You ask anyone, they will more than likely agree. A lot of that is due to the man behind the gimmick, Mark Calaway, who spent 30 years living the character to make it as great as it is. In the past few months, WWE presented a special documentary for the man himself, The Last Ride. It was the first-ever situation where Undertaker was out of character discussing his family, career, and future. Rave reviews spread from social media to websites about the docu-series and understandably so. It was the first time “The Deadman” was simply a man to fans. For many that was great, but for others, it could be destroying their long term image of The Undertaker forever.
2020 has been a weird year and anything involving The Undertaker proves that. On television in the lead up to his WrestleMania match vs. AJ Styles, Styles brought up his real-life wife Michelle McCool. This made the program feel real, though it went against the mythos of The Undertaker up to that point. Keep in mind his private life and the character fans saw on TV remained separate entities “Rest in peace, bury a soul,” the whole nine yards. And then that changed. Clearly it was something that interested The Undertaker as his career comes to a close. But did “The Last Ride” documentary and rivalry with AJ Styles kill the mystique for The Undertaker once and for all?
It just may have.
A Sitdown With Stone Cold Steve Austin Marks The Beginning
If we are being truthful with ourselves, the fantastic interview as a part of the Broken Skull Sessions on the WWE Network was the beginning of Undertaker really leaving the character to be more of his true self. It was there that he discussed with Stone Cold Steve Austin his journey through his career and explained his anger when fans always said he should step out of the ring and retire. That was the first time you really realize what the fans say may have actually mattered to him. He didn’t want to be a “parody” of himself, something that he continued to say in The Last Ride docu-series.
Phenomenal Feud Set As Precursor To Humanizing The Undertaker
The feud with AJ Styles was by all accounts perfect considering the match they were able to give the world at WrestleMania. It not only made it personal but gave anticipation to an Undertaker match that had been missing for years. You wanted to see The Undertaker beat Styles to a bloody mess and finish him off like he has his entire career. It’s always been the way it goes for “The Deadman.” And what made it better was The Undertaker mixing some of his personal life into it without completely falling out of the character he built for so long. He was defending his and his wife’s honor, but still, bring the “American Badass” version of him to the show. The Boneyard match in many people’s minds is not only Undertaker’s best match in years, but the best cinematic experience the WWE has delivered.
And yet, it should have shown many that this was the beginning of Undertaker’s slow-rolling retirement where he comes off like an old man ready to move on instead of riding off into the sunset with that aura he built for three decades.
The Last Ride Paints A Picture As To How Undertaker Feels About Himself, Humanizing Him Once And For All
If you watched The Last Ride, you more than likely came out of it as a happy wrestling fan learning about the thinking of wrestling’s most respected individual. But what you also learned was who The Undertaker really is. Mark Calaway and The Undertaker are one person, and seeing him struggle through bad matches after a bad match may have made you look at him differently. He wasn’t “The Deadman” that gave you chills when you were a kid and made you a fan through your whole life. He was a wrestler, 30+ years in the business having a hard time letting go of something he could have let go of a decade ago.
Now, this series and matches aren’t going to ruin his legacy. The Undertaker will forever be remembered for what he did in the business and what he did for the business. But after 30 years, he can finally be seen as a human and not the mystical figure WWE and he wanted you to see him as. That is simply what The Last Ride did. It humanized The Undertaker, killing the longtime mystique once and for all.
Undertaker No More: Mark Calaway Moving Forward
— WWEShop.com (@WWEShop) June 23, 2020
When you see The Undertaker, you will look at him as Mark Calaway more than you ever have considered. WWEShop is now selling a shirt that says Mark Calaway. That tells you all you need to know about the future of his character and who he is portraying. He should be and is believed to be a retired professional wrestler who wants to spend life with his family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But here’s to hoping that Calaway understands that. Walking down to the ring with the trench coat and hat should only be allowed one last time. At WrestleMania as he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. That one last entrance will be the perfect moment. But if Vince McMahon were to need that favor that Calaway eluded to in The Last Ride, it can’t be as “The Deadman.”
It no longer fits. He didn’t even do that at WrestleMania, signaling that we’ve seen the end of the Deadman. And good for him. After 30 years, he should be allowed to live that normal life that so many do once they finally retire. When he makes that Hall of Fame induction speech, he can be himself. The fans know what that version of him is like. They accept it.
The mystique is dead. The legend is forever. That’s how The Undertaker and Mark Calaway should be seen as in 2020. A legend and a retired man.
More From LWOPW
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.