Prior to the advent of the WWE Network, I was an avid wrestling DVD collector. Things have changed, and change can be good. Undertaker: The Last Ride is a great example of that.
I have hundreds of WWE DVDs, with the documentaries being among my favorites. There are probably a half dozen Undertaker specials included among those, but there was always a glaring omission -- a full-length Undertaker feature.
There was a bit of a problem in that anyway. It's like ordering the giant steak that you have to finish in order to get it for free. Where do you start? How do you approach it? At 30 years in the WWE alone, where is the first cut? Undertaker: Last Ride took that first bite with episode one, then episode two cut the whole steak in half and gnawed away. It got heavy.
Outside of a 2001 production that was only one-third the way into Taker's career, there weren't full documentaries on "The Dead Man." This new multi-part effort is the first step into what hopefully are a more concentrated approach at looking into his life and career.
For years, you've heard the stories of Undertaker commanding respect within the locker room from his peers. It's clear based on episode one he also had the respect of Brock Lesnar and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon as they accompanied him to the hospital following a WrestleMania 30 concussion. However, episode two saw Undertaker struggling to maintain respect for himself.
Fightful was able to gain an early look at the episode, which opens with Taker cringing as he watched his WrestleMania 33 match with Roman Reigns. Clearly dejected, Undertaker had planned on retiring, but felt that redemption was required for his performance to not define his legacy. A closed door meeting with Vince McMahon regarding his contract further motivated Undertaker, when McMahon didnt' seem eager on the then-52 year old returning to the ring. Taker, real name Mark Callaway, used this as motivation, and even suspected that was the intention in the first place.
We see a rare look at a gritty Vince McMahon getting emotional. Bret Hart, Shane McMahon and others with extended relationships with both men recounted the professional and personal courtesy between the two. One would have assumed that was the case based on the first episode, but seeing Vince get teary eyed and calling for a cut to the footage highlights the admiration he has for someone who never left for MMA, never left for Hollywood, and technically hasn't retired.
Michelle McCool's support is also evident, but it goes both ways. Undertaker's role is reversed at Royal Rumble 2018, when his wife is competing in the first ever women's Rumble match in the midst of him training for an in-ring return. The two worked out aside one another in a ring WWE had sent to them and put in an old shop. Watching Undertaker's motivation to return to the ring further fueled by his wife's success in her return accentuates the aforementioned admiration that helps fuel their relationship. Another cool look was to see WWE sent Primo Colon in to work with the white bearded Undertaker ahead of his brief match with John Cena.
The match with Cena itself isn't as ground breaking as the words we hear from Cena himself, as they're getting rarer under the auspices of WWE by the day. WWE did a great job making the match seem longer than it was, but there was no beanstalking the importance that match had on Undertaker psychologically. It was crucial to everything that we've seen unfold the last couple of years, to the point to where he immediately told McCool he could wrestle another one when returning to Gorilla position.
As good as episode one was, episode two was even better. It seems as if the pendulum is set to swing in the other direction once again, as episode 3 was shown to cover the heavily criticized Crown Jewel match in Saudi Arabia that featured Shawn MIichaels returning to team with Triple H against Kane and Undertaker. Taker himself refers to the match as a "train wreck" in the preview.
The second episode of Undertaker: Last Ride releases on WWE Network Sunday morning at 10 am EST.