A few months ago, the WWE Network aired an absolutely amazing documentary entitled The Last Ride. In it, The Undertaker was followed by a camera crew for the first time in his entire career spanning the last few years. He had always been super protective of his aura, character and overall magic of the industry. The simple fact he was allowing this to take place was so cool, yet very puzzling. The obvious question was “Why now?” A lot of us suspected that we already knew the answer but just didn’t want to admit it.
The Undertaker was retiring.
This was his last moment to give back. This was his goodbye to all of his fans for the past three decades. Finally, he was giving us an inside look at everything about The Deadman that he held private during his in-ring days. With them seemingly behind him, there was nothing left to hide. He was an open book now and willing to reveal any secrets or mysteries we may have had from the 1990’s to 2020. Just remember his last WrestleMania appearance. He main event Night One of Wrestlemania 36 against AJ Styles in a critically acclaimed Boneyard Match. After the match, he rode off into the sunset…
Taker hopped on his motorcycle, gave us one last salute, and that was it. Months later, we were treated to the great documentary, The Last Ride. It was perfect all the way around and definitely HAD to mean what we all thought: Taker was done. He was simply choosing his own special way of saying goodbye to everybody. First in the Mania match and then with the behind the scenes “show” – all for his fans. Similar to the ESPN/Netflix gem about Michael Jordan also airing earlier this year, The Last Dance. This was for all the long-time fans that had always wondered and pondered about the psyche of a living legend.
Now with Survivor Series right around the corner, WWE is billing this as the Final Farewell for The Undertaker. For the first time since his memorable match versus AJ Styles and apparent sign-off, he will appear live inside a wrestling ring. Wrestling historians are well aware of the fact that The Undertaker debuted at Survivor Series 1990. Do the math folks. Exactly 30 years for The DeadMan, with his farewell match happening at WrestleMania in April 2020 and then of course the followup documentary discussing his career and ride off into the sunset. Adding on to all of that is reports that many old, long-time friends of Taker will be on hand for Survivor Series, November 22nd.
With The Undertaker now being an open book and letting everybody in on his mystique, he has been hitting the interview circuit hyping up the big Final Farewell. Again, this ia super rare of him and clearly his subtle way of telling fans he is finished wrestling. You can go and Google any headlines you want: “The Undertaker Retires” or “The Undertaker Speaks On Career” or “The Undertaker’s Final Farewell” or whatever fancy headline you find. However, one thing has struck me as off throughout 2020 that very few people want to admit.
The Undertaker never announced his retirement.
Never during The Last Ride did he outright say he has wrestled his final match. Never once during any number of media appearances has he made the news official. Even when asked straight forward, his wording was he had “no intentions” of getting back in the squared circle, followed up with a cryptic note that he knows the phone may ring from Vince McMahon again. Heck, go back and watch The Last Ride. He has indeed TRIED to retire numerous times already.
I was live at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. I was there ladies and gentlemen. I made the flight from Wisconsin to Florida JUST for this sole purpose. All weekend, the talk of the town was The Hardyz returning and The Undertaker being done. Most ‘smart’ fans knew he was there to lose to Roman Reigns in the main event. His family was ringside (completely out of character for him). His favorite commentator and WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross was brought in specifically to call this one match. If that’s not it, he left his ring gear in the ring afterwards. A truly emotional moment and one I just got goosebumps re-living in that stadium three years ago. It’s as if we all knew what was coming but then to see it taking place live, we COULDN’T believe it.
He came back though. Repeatedly. The old saying is wrestlers never retire, they just take a break. Shawn Michaels came back after 8 years and then again after another 8 years. Edge is back as we speak, unbelievably after his health forced him into retirement in 2011. Daniel Bryan is wrestling! Mick Foley gave an impassioned speech about wrestling his final match after a memorable 15 year career and was back three weeks later. Then went on to wrestle another decade. I could go on and on here. Most wrestling fans know the deal.
This brings us back to The Undertaker, a guy who many are calling retired, yet has never actually retired. Survivor Series is supposedly his Final Farewell, a nice round number of 30 years after debuting at that same very event. Sure seems like a story book ending, right? Well, time will tell. Until then, this Final Farewell may as well be called The Final Storyline because these retirement speeches rarely end in tearful handshakes and hugs. I will leave my guard up for a WWE Superstar to interfere or call out The Undertaker come Survivor Series. Him leaving like this without fans allowed in arenas or any of the usual pomp and circumstances just doesn’t seem right.
Personally, I hope Taker is done at Survivor Series. He had the WM farewell match. He had the revealing documentary. Now he gets his friends and family gathering at the very event he debuted at 30 years prior. As mentioned, that is a story book ending. Above all else though, two facts remain: The Undertaker still has not confirmed his retirement despite all the hoopla, and this is the world or professional wrestling. Never say never…
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)