This seems to be the Undertaker at last – and he deserved a better farewell.
After weeks of hype and anticipation, WWE closed Survivor Series on Monday (AEDT) by celebrating the Undertaker’s iconic 30th birthday with the company and its retirement.
The ceremony, which seemed uncertain of what it wanted to be and at times confusing, defended the character to the end – giving none of the Mark Calaway we’ve blitzed with during series documentary “The Last Ride” and the lead- up to Survivor Series.
Instead, we saw Calaway in full Undertaker gear making a full Undertaker entrance, giving a very short Undertaker promo and ending with an Undertaker full walk after saying, “My time has come to let the Undertaker rest in peace . ”
Very little of this felt different from what we have seen before.
Undertaker leaving his coat and hat in the ring after losing to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 and kissing his wife, Michelle McCool, on the way out felt like a much more compelling moment than what he and WWE presented here in about 30 minutes.
Sure, there were some poignant moments. Watching Vince McMahon fight back his emotions while paying tribute to Undertaker before delivering it felt special. He called it “the end of life” and “a career that will never be duplicated.”
“Today we say goodbye,” said McMahon. “They say nothing lasts forever. I think they are wrong because the Undertaker’s legacy will live on forever. ”
Undertaker going to knee and pointing to hologram of former manager Paul Bearer, who died in 2013, pointing to the strings. Even Taker had to stop a few times before delivering his farewell lines. Apart from that, it all felt confusing, rushed and inconsistent with Undertaker having broken character so often lately.
WWE brought many of Undertaker’s closest friends and members of the Bone Street Krew backstage clue, including Savio Vega, The Godwins, JBL, Rikishi and The Godfather, along with the people he had some of his greatest moments with in Kevin Nash, Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Shane McMahon and Triple H. Kane even appeared in full costume! They all appeared in the ring together (I wouldn’t even go into all the coronavirus best practices that weren’t followed) and interact with each other. Then 15 men disappeared while WWE played a video tribute to The Undertaker. They did not interact with him once. When the camera came back into the arena, we saw McMahon (who had no entrance) in the ring on his own.
There had to be a better way to use these myths. Let them circle the ring as the Undertaker enters or ask them to wait for him on stage to clap for him and welcome him into retirement. Anything was better than what we had. Undertaker didn’t even know their presence in his comments. Interacting with someone like Bray Wyatt’s “The Fiend” would have been ill advised if this is the case.
It was almost as if WWE wanted to ignore the fact that they and Undertaker had allowed us to see the real compelling person behind the character for months. If he hadn’t done that, what happened on Sunday night would make total sense. But he was even photographed for People magazine cooking in his kitchen with his family. Let’s hear from that guy – not just the character.
I guess they want a moment where the character has to write himself off television and keep The Undertaker larger than life on the WWE wrestling program. But that’s not how wrestling retirements should work. Now is the time for that person to finally tell the audience how they feel. The performer – not the character – should say goodbye. The last image of The Undertaker could easily have been riding away on his motorcycle after the “Boneyard” match at WrestleMania 36. That was badass.
There was also no need to rush “last farewell.” Let Undertaker have that moment in front of real live fans – who will now have to wait until his eventual WWE Hall of Fame set up program. He had to settle for virtual fans in the ThunderDome. Instead, we were left with something that certainly hit the nostalgia in all the right places, but failed to achieve something deeper than that.
Nothing of that detracts from the previous Undertaker leaving behind. He is the greatest character in wrestling history and one of the best to ever step between the ropes. Sunday night’s Survivor Series seemed to finally bring him full circle, which is close to his career.
He deserved a better farewell.