It is all over.
The final episode of the greatest documentary series in the history of sport begins, fittingly, at the Mecca of sports-entertainment – Madison Square Garden as Undertaker marvels at his picture hanging backstage right underneath Elvis Presley performing at the arena.
Right from the beginning, you can tell this is the end. Maybe by design, this episode feels more like an obituary than a profile. Maybe it’s suitable for The Deadman. After all, the living can’t star in their own obit, can they?
Seeing some of the absolute icons of wrestling – Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, Triple H and more – pay tributes to Mark Calaway, every frame of this programme emphasises that we we are witnessing a moment. The passing of THE icon of professional wrestling.
We are getting to experience the whole victory lap. Not just the capping moment in the ring but the whole picture of what the retirement of an icon looks like. We see the background to his wonderful interview with Steve Austin on the Broken Skull Sessions interview and if the narrative is to be believed, it is watching this interview that prompts AJ Styles to pitch a potential match to The Undertaker. In his head, ‘Taker was seemingly retired but the lure of a Phenomenal final match is too much to resist.
We also get to see the man himself drop into the Performance Center to impart his knowledge on to the big guys in the WWE’s development system. Can you imagine how valuable that would we to an up and coming talent? We then get to look at the legacy of Undertaker helping the next generation of wrestlers through the years including Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy and others. Hell, how many rookies has Taker helped bring on who have now retired themselves after hall of Fame careers. He’s been at the top of the game that long!
Before long, the decision looms. AJ at WrestleMania or retirement? Well, we all know what choice he made but we also know that things did not go according to plan. Remarkably, after exploring Taker’s lengthy career we are now right up to date as the current event to end all current events, Coronavirus, changes everything for the show of shows. Instead of ‘Taker vs. Styles in front of 80,000 people, we are going to the Boneyard.
The truth is, if this episode had been a one off look behind the scenes of this ‘cinematic’ match it would have been wonderful in itself. Seeing the creativity and the set up behind this unique match was fascinating but half way through the first bomb of this episode is dropped.
Right before WrestleMania, Mark Calaway receives the news that his brother Tim has died from a sudden heart attack.
The emotion pouring from Calaway is palpable. Of course it is. These are incredibly recent events. Seeing ‘Taker like that and knowing that the next day, he will be putting together an action in a graveyard, surrounded by death gives you even more respect for the man and the performance he put in with Styles. Truly, a remarkable human being.
We then get an incredible shift in tone with a 3-4 minute Boneyard highlight package set to the soundtrack of Metallica’s ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ which is, if anything, better than the match itself. It’s just…cool!
Fast forward two months (So literally, days ago!) we see Mark Calaway at peace. Fishing at the river with his wife as he reflects on WrestleMania week that included further family tragedy, with Taker’s nephew being killed in a car accident. It strikes him and we get it. The titular revelation.
The career of The Undertaker is officially over. Finally, after so many false starts, Calaway has found peace with his legacy and we find out that after all the pain, the glory, the triumph, the sacrifice, we have seen the end of the greatest ‘run’ in the history of the business we all love.
Of course we get a tease. It’s wrestling after all so ‘If Vince needed him’…never say never. But clearly, the intention is that it is truly the end. In his own words, the cowboy rides away.
Whilst it did not seem fitting for a career like this to end anywhere other than in front of fans, instead, we have got the greatest retirement of all. This series is a lasting tribute to a man who personifies wrestling to those who truly love it. There are a number of wrestlers who are more well known in the wider world but none that us fans know personify the sacrifices these men make for the business, for us, than The Undertaker.
Truly, there are only three words I want to end this series review with. Three words that sum it up. Three words that allow us to express the thanks and gratitude to a man who has given wrestling his entire life.
Rest In Peace.