I have a confession to make. I do not want The Undertaker to have another match in the WWE. For too long, this meaningless pursuit of a perfect farewell match has affected his performance, consumed fans and most importantly, is starting to hurt a near 30-year-long legacy.
I want The Undertaker to leave respectfully, not turning out once a year, hoping to rekindle the days of yore. The guy is 54, has undergone 16 surgeries and achieved everything in the world of professional wrestling. Showing up once in a blue moon hoping to give his career a “five-star” end, while his body outrightly refuses to is a desire better put on the backburner. I’m not ready to see him go out concussed, limping or god forbid, on a stretcher.
Losing to Roman Reigns at Mania 33 could have been the perfect exit for the Undertaker. As AJ Styles put it – it was a powerful moment – perhaps the only way the WWE could have bid adieu to the Undertaker character. Mark Calaway nailed the ending when he left his gear in the ring in Orlando – the greatest ending for the Greatest of All Time. But he returned a year later in New Orleans, in a squash match that didn’t even last the duration of his entrance. A match planned to make Taker look strong instead highlighted his physical limitations.
It’s painful to watch Undertaker move slowly in the ring; his once agile, healthy body is beginning to wear down. It’s not what a Hall of Fame worthy career such as his deserves. My thoughts gain more validation after watching the docuseries ‘The Last Ride’, which again is so unlike The Undertaker. Correction, Calaway – the man behind the gimmick, who allowed the WWE to document the last few years of his career.
Despite a delightful viewing, the one thing the Undertaker stresses on is his biggest fear – becoming a parody of himself. In a perfect world, the End of an Era Match at Wrestlemania 28 would have been the perfect match for him to walk away. Given how splendid the match was, the temptation to return after a dream match is understandable. Undertaker’s comebacks were valid till the streak was alive, the responsibility of defending it year after year, in gruesome matches adding an exclusivity to Wrestlemania. But now that it’s over, is there really a need for Taker to risk his body?
The Undertaker character is big, perhaps even bigger than the WWE. In today’s era, it is virtually impossible to develop a unique in-ring persona, let alone it becoming a success. However, the WWE don’t need a 54-year-old veteran serving them anymore when there is no dearth of faces to take the company into the future. When Undertaker went missing from the Wrestlemania 35 card, as tough as it may be, the world seemed ready to move on. But the match against Goldberg, which nearly killed Calaway last June, marked the beginning of another one of Undertaker’s cycles where he has a bad match and feels the need to rectify by having another one, hoping it turns out well. Is this really what the Undertaker needs after a career second to none?
The Undertaker has done things no human being should be able to do. He’s ducktaped a flap jacket to himself because he had fractured multiple ribs and was still ready to go to the ring. He’s wrestled with broken bones and torn ligaments. One half of his entire face was crushed due to a botch by a 400-pounder and Taker still wrestled the following night. One of his eye sockets came off in the middle of a match; he was caught on flames while walking down the ring and had his nose broken more than once.
No man has put his body on the line as much as the Undertaker. Now is as good a time as any to let those bruises heal. The sight of The Undertaker taking syringe shots to combat the burning, searing pain running through his body is just not the memory I want to have of the greatest of all time. For all the work he put together to return after a drowsy Wrestlemania 33 main event, at 50-plus, irrespective of how good a shape the body is in, it’s not ready to endure the hardships of a wrestling match.
It’s no longer the 1990s. The Monday Night Wars are long gone. WWE has no competition, no matter how much fans keep clamouring for AEW. It’s not going to dethrone WWE, not now, not in another 10 years. The WWE does not need Undertaker, Vince McMahon certainly doesn’t need Undertaker, and most importantly, Calaway doesn’t need The Undertaker. The boneyard match between Taker against Styles got a lot of people talking; however, despite its success, as long as the option of doing proper wrestling matches exists, WWE or Undertaker are unlikely to bank on cinematics going forward.
Which is why, do not rule out the possibility of a Styles vs Taker 2.0 taking place inside a ring. Personally, I love the idea, because Styles can wrestle with a cardboard cut-out and still put on a five-star match. But one bad bump, or a botched move, which may come out of nowhere could signal another cycle for Calaway to embark upon. Like a true Texan, The Deadman should go out swinging, rather than raising a tired fist at the end of a match.