The Undertaker found his end in a lake house.
The Undertaker has been the most enrapturing and revered character within WWE for close to thirty years. He gave us nightmares in our youth as he trounced the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Jake the Snake in the early ’90s. He made the gothic and macabre Monday night fixtures and fueled our angst-ridden, rebellious adolescence for the remainder of the decade as he haunted Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Psycho Sid, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Arenas howled as he rolled through the 2000s on a motorcycle to reign over Kurt Angle, The Rock, and Triple H, and he solidified himself within the pantheon of professional wrestling and advanced the art in the late 2000s as he produced a catalogue of classics with every single noteworthy wrestler to ever grace a ring between 2005 and 2020. But now, it’s time for “The Deadman” to walk away.
Mark Calaway, the man behind The Undertaker proclaimed, “I have no desire to get back in the ring” on his final installment of his docuseries, Undertaker: The Last Ride. The five part series was a chronicle of Calaway’s journey the past few years as he grapples with the looming specter of his retirement, his perseverance as he rages against father time, and his search for the perfect match to hang his hallowed black hat upon. Calaway cites his encounter with AJ Styles this past WrestleMania as that very moment.
Billed as a “Boneyard Match,” the two legends filmed a cinematic encounter that had more in common with a fight scene in an old-western, complete with a musical score, dialogue, and pyrotechnics, than it did a traditional wrestling match the two envisioned. Calaway praises the match and his opponent and goes as far as to say that it left him at peace. He notes that he was able to approach the encounter by channeling the different incarnations of his on-screen persona with the man behind the camera, performed at a level that he was proud of and received universal acclaim from the audience and media, and the ending — which saw The Undertaker, leaving fire and carnage in his wake, riding off into the darkness on a motorcycle to the chorus of Metallica — as the image he wanted to leave upon the industry with. In The Undertaker’s own words, “If there was ever a perfect ending to a career, that right there is it.”
I could talk about all of it. My classmates in fourth grade could not stop trying to throw each other off their desks to reenact how The Undertaker threw Mankind off of and through the Hell in a Cell in June of 1998. I thought Limp Bizkit was the epitome of culture in 2001 because The Undertaker came out to their music. My friend and I manically plastered our dorm in college with signs that said “19-0” after he defeated Triple H at WrestleMania 27. My then-girlfriend could not understand why I was so mad after WrestleMania 30. And, I’ll never forget the thunder that struck Madison Square Garden when I saw him enter the arena live on a summer evening in July of 2018. But now, this fabled hero has apparently laid down his sword and ridden off into the night.
There’s a cocktail of sadness and skepticism swirling within. Professional wrestling fans have been here so many times with The Undertaker — how many times have The Undertaker and his fans believed he is done, only for The Deadman to rise anew? I count four in this five-hour documentary alone, but this feels different.
It feels different because The Undertaker seems at peace in his career. It feels different because The Undertaker seems at peace with his life. And it feels different because as The Undertaker sat in a lake house, surrounded by his wife and daughter, Mark Calaway decided that it was time to rest.
Time will tell if the bell will toll once more, but for now, “the cowboy really rides away.”
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