Hindustan Times, Delhi
I have a confession to make. I do not want The Undertaker to have another match in the WWE. For too long, this meaningless pursuit of a perfect farewell match has affected his performance, consumed fans and most importantly, tarnished a near 30-year-long legacy he’s worked so hard to achieve.
I want The Undertaker to leave respectfully, not turning out once a year, hoping to rekindle the days of yore. The guy is 54, has undergone 16 surgeries and achieved everything in the world of professional wrestling. And yet he decides to show up once in a blue moon hoping to give his career a “five-star” end, while his body outrightly refuses to. I do not want to see him go concussed, limping or god forbid, on a stretcher.
Losing to Roman Reigns at Mania 33 was the perfect exit. As AJ Styles put it – it was a bloody powerful moment – perhaps the only way the WWE could have bid adieu to the Undertaker character. Mark Calaway nailed the ending when he left his gear in the ring in Orlando. It would have been the ideal end. But he returned the following year. And through what… a squash match that did not even last the entire length of his Wrestlemania entrance. A match that was planned to make Taker look strong, instead highlighted his physical limitations.
Frankly, I’m tired of seeing Undertaker trying to cover up what once was an agile, healthy body. A Hall of Fame worthy career like his does not deserve this. These thoughts gain more validation after watching the docuseries ‘The Last Ride’, which again is so unlike The Undertaker. Correction, Calaway – the man behind the gimmick, who allowed the WWE to document the last few years of his career.
Despite a delightful viewing, the one thing appearing time and again in the series is the Undertaker saying his biggest fear is to become a parody of himself. But the truth is, Calaway continues to ensure that fear turns into this bitter reality he cannot escape. In a perfect world, the End of an Era Match in 2012 would have been the perfect match for him to walk away. The itch to return after a perfect match is understandable, coupled by the passing away of William ‘Paul Bearer’ Moody in 2013. It was even valid till he had streak, the responsibility of defending it year after year, in matches more gruesome than the previous year adding an exclusivity to Wrestlemania. But now that it’s over, is there really a need for the Undertaker to risk his fragile body?
The Undertaker character is big, perhaps even bigger than the WWE. In today’s era, it is hard to develop a gimmick as unique as this, let alone get it over. But the WWE needs to realise they don’t need a 54-year-old veteran serving them anymore when there is no dearth of faces to take the company into the future. When The Undertaker went missing from the Wrestlemania 35 card, as tough as it may be, the world seemed ready to move on. But the match against Goldberg, which nearly killed Calaway last June, marked the beginning of another one of Undertaker’s cycles where he has a bad match and feels the need to rectify by having another one, hoping it turns out well. Is this really what the Undertaker needs after a career second to none?
The Undertaker has done things no human being should be able to do. He’s ducktaped a flap jacket to himself because he had fractured multiple ribs and was still ready to go to the ring. He’s wrestled with broken bones, torn ligaments. One half of his entire face was crushed due to a botch and Taker still wrestled the following night. One of his eye sockets came off in the middle of a match; he was caught on flames while walking down the ring and had his nose broken more than once.
No man has put his body on the line as much as the Undertaker, and now, it’s as good a time as any to let the bruises heal. The sight of The Undertaker taking syringe shots to combat the burning, searing pain running through his body is just not the memory I want to have of the greatest of all time. For all the work he put together to return after a drowsy Mania 33 main event, at 54, irrespective of how good a shape the body is in, it’s not ready to endure the hardships of a wrestling match.
It’s no longer the 1990s. The Monday Night Wars are long gone. WWE has no competition, no matter how much fans keep clamouring for AEW. It’s not going to dethrone WWE, not now… not in another 10 years. The WWE does not need Undertaker, Vince McMahon certainly doesn’t need Undertaker, and most importantly, Calaway doesn’t need The Undertaker.
Personally, I may love the idea of a Styles vs Undertaker 2.0 – this time in a proper wrestling match because let’s face it: Styles can wrestle with a cardboard cut-out and still put on a five-star match. But one bad bump, one botched up move, which may come out of nowhere could signal another cycle for Calaway to embark upon. Like a true Texan, I want The Deadman to go out swinging, instead of raising a tired fist at the end of a match. I cannot bear another sight of a struggling Undertaker panting his lungs out while delivering The Last Ride.
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