About Us  |   Contact

Undertaker 'Last Ride' premiere sets up a potentially great WWE series

In describing his approach to matches in the early part of his WWE career as the Undertaker, Mark Calaway said the approach was "Less is more...then, bang." 

That could also describe Calaway's recent pulling back of the curtain into his life after decades of relative reclusiveness. Until recently, the 55-year-old was a throwback in the social media-driven "look at me" era, choosing not to share his private life with the throngs of wrestling fans dying to know everything they couldn't see for themselves.

In recent years, that changed with a presence on social media, appearances on podcasts, and more public appearances for autograph signings.

The culmination of the change is a five part WWE-produced documentary series called "Undertaker: The Last Ride" which debuts on WWE Network this Sunday after Money In The Bank. While there is part of us that may yearn for the days of some secrets remaining just that, the first episode ("The Greatest Fear") quickly flips that script as we get the most honest and enthralling look at the veteran that we have ever seen. 

The series was filmed from 2017 through 2020, kicked off when Calaway called Vince McMahon three days before his WrestleMania 33 match against Roman Reigns. The skeleton of the first episode is the days surrounding 33 as it was expected to feature his final match. Through the near hour-long presentation, the viewer gets every moment from the minute he steps off the plane in Orlando, Florida, that weekend to the minutes when he leaves the ring and goes backstage after the match itself.

For longtime wrestling fans, it's pure bliss at times to see how a machine like WWE works behind the scenes, especially with a production montrosity like WrestleMania. From the Hall of Fame to rehearsals to the big day itself, you see the stars acting like, well, normal co-workers and interacting like we would when we could actually physiclaly go to an office. 

As a WWE production, there is no shortage of access to legends that give their insights on Calaway the person and the hard decision on when it's time to call it a career. From Bret Hart to Jim Ross to Steve Austin to Chris Jericho to Batista to Vince McMahon himself, nearly 20 different people in Calaway's life are interviewed, giving different perspectives on the approach to the end.

One of the episode's strengths is the look into Calaway's mental state in 2017. Despite what a success he and the character became, he lost his confidence along the way and needed a pre-match pep talk from Paul "Triple H" Levesque to get his head straight. It's the admissions of these temporary setbacks that hopefully continue the rest of the series. It's rare we see industry greats admit serious misgivings about themselves, but in this first episode, Calaway lays everything out on the table including the one belonging to WWE doctors.

The first episode also does a great job at illustrating pain and the physical toll it takes to be a top wrestler. Austin and Levesque lay out why it's hard to do the Undertaker schedule with Austin going into detail of why working several nights a week conditions your body in a way one match a year doesn't.

The viewer also gets details into some of the decision making that went into why that Mania match was going to be the end of his career which includes him being carted out at WrestleMania 27 (Levesque) and the infamous end of the streak at WrestleMania 30 where he was severely concussed and still doesn't remember anything after 3:30 PM that day.

The final part of the documentary closes on the Reigns Mania match, Calaway noticably limping all weekend due to a decimated hip, getting shot up to help ease the pain, the match itself, and the aftermath including an emotional embrace with Levesque. While I could have done without the extended match highlights, I also understand why they were important to help complete this first part of the story, especially one sequence in particular that is examined in the second episode.

If the rest of the series remains as gripping as "The Greatest Fear", it will be arguably the best documentary series WWE has ever done and is so good, it's one that could be sold elsewhere for more general audiences to consume. 

Other Notes:

  • Pardon the english, but it will never not be strange to hear Calaway talk in his regular voice and to do things us normal humans do like drink water.
  • In a scene from a future episode, VKM is wearing an bright orange t-shirt that has to be seen to be believed. 
  • We do get a human side of VKM several times, notably following the Lesnar match. Cameras don't follow the group, but we are told McMahon and Lesnar both accompanied Calaway to the hospital, even with Mania still going on.
  • New episodes air every Sunday night on WWE Network.