Following WrestleMania 33, The Undertaker did not rest in peace.
The second chapter of the Undertaker: The Last Ride documentary, entitled “The Redemption,” airs this Sunday on the WWE Network. It is a 59-minute journey that brings the viewer to Undertaker’s WrestleMania 34 match in New Orleans against John Cena.
And this week’s episode is all about relationships and redemption.
The first relationship is between The Undertaker and Michelle McCool, who viewers see here as Mark and Michelle Calaway. As a partner in marriage and a parent, this is certainly a different look at The Undertaker.
Endearing parts include The Undertaker gushing over the way his wife can spiral a football, as well as the way McCool remained by her husband’s side during surgery on his hip. Two episodes in, and Michelle McCool has added a tremendous amount to the series.
The second relationship is between The Undertaker and Vincent K. McMahon. There are few wrestling personalities more unique than McMahon, and that is undoubtedly on display here in his friendship with The Undertaker.
Before his hip surgery, which was described as resurfacing the hip and putting in metal sockets, ’Taker expressed a concern to his doctor. ’Taker mentioned that McMahon went home the same day following his surgery, and that his boss was giving him grief about being forced to spend the night in the hospital—with the implication, of course, being that McMahon was tougher than The Undertaker.
“Tell him to keep the testosterone in the ring,” said a smiling Dr. Edwin Su, who was the orthopedic surgeon. In a scene only wrestling fans will appreciate, there is footage of Dr. Su walking into the surgery room while the doc dubbed in The Undertaker’s theme music.
A common phrase in wrestling is that the best on-screen characters are the ones where people play themselves but turn up the volume to magnify their personality. ’Taker gave an entirely different perspective when describing McMahon.
“One of the questions I get more than anything is, ‘What’s Vince really like?’” ’Taker said as he was on his way to negotiate a new contract with McMahon in August 2017. “Well, you take what you see on TV and you amp it up in real life.”
In addition to those two relationships, the story is centered around The Undertaker’s redemption in the ring at WrestleMania 34.
Following a disappointing performance against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33, we see the build to the following year’s show in New Orleans against John Cena. There is some outstanding training footage, which includes in-ring partner Primo Colon, and it was interesting to hear ’Taker discuss that he was not a guarantee for that show until just over a month before.
There is no shortage of similarities between the Undertaker doc and ESPN’s Last Dance. There was talk last week that unflattering Michael Jordan footage would be revealed in the Last Dance doc, but more than anything, that was just hype. Jordan is overseeing the project, and just like WWE’s in-house look at The Undertaker, it only makes sense for the heroes to look heroic. Although ’Taker certainly had a better showing at WrestleMania 34 than he did the year prior, a detail omitted by WWE in The Last Ride is the fact that the match only lasted two minutes and 45 seconds.
In addition to McMahon and McCool, we also hear insight from Roman Reigns, Shane McMahon, the Big Show, Bret Hart, Kane, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Primo Colon, Edge and Bruce Prichard. While this episode fell short of the premiere, it is still worth viewing for wrestling fans. ’Taker goes into his medical history and the laundry list of surgeries he has endured, as well as reveals his fear of becoming a parody of himself and tarnishing his legacy.
My highlight was the backstage footage from the 2018 Royal Rumble when ’Taker presciently mentions his biggest regret was never having the chance to work with AJ Styles. There is even a fantastic moment when ’Taker is brought to his locker room at WrestleMania 34 in a veiled golf cart, just to ensure his appearance would be a surprise until the very last moment.
And, of course, the episode ends with The Undertaker again teasing retirement, wondering whether that match with Cena will be his final one. That question will be particularly interesting in next week’s episode, which takes a deeper look at ’Taker teaming with Kane against Triple H and Shawn Michaels in Saudi Arabia at the 2018 Crown Jewel show.
Requiescat in pace? No chance, as the best of this documentary is yet to come.