WWE Undertaker documentary: Review of 'The Last Ride' - Sports Illustrated

WWE’s ‘Last Ride’ Documentary on The Undertaker Lives Up to the Hype

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WWE's Undertaker: The Last Ride documentary is set to debut on the WWE Network following this Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view, and it is 55 minutes of appointment viewing for wrestling fans.

Still a massive draw three decades after his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series, The Undertaker is WWE’s greatest creation. Like with any compelling act in show business, there is the desire for one more pay day for both the promoter and performer. And that makes Last Ride so poignant, as the essential question covered throughout the first episode of the five-part series is whether The Undertaker should still be actively performing in WWE.

The documentary starts with the opening chapter, “The Greatest Fear,” which looks at behind-the-scenes footage leading up to WrestleMania 33 with never-before-seen footage from 2017. The Undertaker is out of character, speaking as Mark Calaway, and he admits to feeling a heavy load of pressure as he approached his match against Roman Reigns. He doesn’t embellish or exaggerate his physical limitations, and he was honest in his assessment that he couldn’t keep up physically with Reigns. The documentary provides a lot more clarity as to why The Undertaker left his gear in the ring following the match, which he believed would be his farewell match.

The interviews obviously make the documentary special, but it simply cannot compete with the footage. There is a tremendous scene of The Undertaker checking in to his hotel ahead of WrestleMania 33, and just a moment later, Reigns also slides up to the counter to check-in.

An annoyed Taker turns to Reigns and says, “You can’t kayfabe for 10 minutes?” Fortunately for the viewers, footage of Reigns was not edited out of the documentary as WWE did with other Reigns footage this week on Raw.

For Undertaker fans, this doc is the equivalent of ESPN’s extraordinary The Last Dance series. Just like the series on the 1997–98 Bulls, which had all of its content approved by Michael Jordan, this production was made in-house by WWE and is more hagiography than true documentary. Nevertheless, the content is rich.

WWE brought in star after star to provide insight on The Undertaker. Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Shane McMahon, Mick Foley, Randy Orton, Jim Ross, Batista, Edge and even Bret Hart are all on-screen within the first 10 minutes, sharing their insight. And there are interesting anecdotes throughout the doc, like the origin of The Undertaker’s eye roll, memories from the WrestleMania classics against Shawn Michaels and a brief but touching interaction between The Undertaker and the late Bruno Sammartino.

A focal point was The Undertaker’s difficulty in working only one match a year, which traditionally took place at WrestleMania. He discussed dealing with exceeding expectations while rapidly approaching his wrestling expiration date. A fascinating part of the doc also revolves discussion of the WrestleMania 30 match against Brock Lesnar. Calaway reveals he no memory of that day after 3:30 in the afternoon as a result of his concussion suffered in the match against Lesnar. That concussion sent Taker to the hospital in an ambulance, and it was also interesting to learn he was met at the hospital by both Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar.

With Monday Night Raw ratings on a steady decline, part of me is surprised that WWE didn’t opt to run this special as a Raw exclusive. It is some of the more compelling content WWE has ever produced within its documentary series, and the timing of the release is perfect with people craving original content. If you are a fan of WWE’s stories from behind the curtain, especially of The Undertaker, carve out time to watch Last Ride.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.