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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

411’s WWE Undertaker: The Last Ride Report – Chapter 5: ‘Revelation’ | 411MANIA

Robert Leighty checks in with his full report of the final episode of Undertaker: The Last Ride.
Continue reading on 411mania.com

Undertaker: The Last Ride

-Air Date: 06/21/20
-Run Time: 1:09:24

-A slight delay with this report as I spent the day celebrating Father’s Day with family. It’s the end of the road tonight as Chapter 5 closes this amazing series. Let’s get to it!

-We start back where we finished last episode with Taker looking strong in the tag match at Extreme Rules. Taker says it felt great and everyone was wanting to see more. Taker tells Vince after the match that he thinks that was it and Vince told him he thinks he has more left, but it’s his decision. Taker admits it went too good and he may have a couple more left. Shane McMahon says the kid in him wants to see Taker continue, but the friend knows it comes to a point where you have to choose a different path.

-Taker tells us he felt good with the way Philly went and he was content. Michelle wasn’t counting him out yet and always expects him to come back. Undertaker has been his identity for 30 years and he isn’t sure what Mark does next. HHH says he never got the feeling talking to Taker that he was done. “The easiest person to lie to is yourself.” -HHH.

-2 Months Later: Taker is asked to appear at SmackDown from MSG. He talks about the history of the building and all the cool pictures that line the hallways and his first time coming out he saw a picture of Elvis and Ali. He takes a photo of a picture of Elvis that is hanging just above a picture of him dropping a leg on the ring apron.

-Taker gets prepped in the back as he talks about how long it takes him to get to the ring, but now it is taking him longer to leave the ring as he doesn’t know if that will be his last time. He thanks the fans for all they do and how they have kept him going for so many years. Taker cuts his promo on SmackDown as he tells us he has considered the grounds of MSG as his home. He wants everyone to remember the legends that were made and heroes that were created in MSG.

-He calls the moment special and loves the reaction they still give him after 30 years. Personally he is at a spot where he is okay if he doesn’t step foot back in the ring to wrestle. It has taken him a long time to get to this point. Austin is up next and talks about how you live for the crowd and the pops. Then you spend time finding something to take the place of that and it can take a while. HHH talks about how hard the business gets when you have to spend time thinking about what to do next. Taker talks about not worrying about getting hurt when he was younger, but those days are gone. He doesn’t have the reflexes he once did or the strength. He talks about the Goldberg match and says he was 2 inches from having his neck broken. He says there was no blame for what happened, but now he has the thoughts of that he was “2 inches away from making my wife a widow and my kids fatherless.” Damn! “Where am I going to be in 10 years if I keep going. I am okay mentally and emotionally if I am not an in ring performer anymore.”

-What is important for Taker now is to capture these final few years. It was about working to where he is now and being okay with walking away. He wasn’t at that point when they started filming. Funny moment as Taker gets a little emotional and the producer asks if he can do anything for him. Taker says without coming out and saying it he needs something to remove the makeup from his face. He then gets tough and says this isn’t make up, but his war mask. Wonderful! That’s what he used to tell his dad and that leads to a great story where Taker talks about bringing his dad to a show in Houston. Taker did his eyes last and his dad just shook his head and Taker laughs as his dad’s 6’8” son was putting on eye makeup. He says his dad was both proud and upset by his choice to be a pro-wrestler because he was walking away from a basketball scholarship. “I miss him.” No coincidence this aired on Father’s Day! Just awesome stuff!

-Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions debuts with Taker as the first guest. You can find my recap of that here.. Taker says that people have wanted to see him behind the character for years and this was the time. Austin says that Taker loves the business a lot and is still wondering what’s next. Taker tells Austin that he is going to write his own story and ending. That lead to AJ Styles hearing that and he thought Taker had 1-2 more matches in him and he wanted to be one of those two matches. AJ says he knew not to ask Vince because Taker was the one to convince. Taker says he figured what AJ was calling about and he pitched the idea of working at Mania. Taker told him he would have loved to work with him 10-15 years and knows they would have torn the house down, but now he has no aspirations to wrestle. AJ told Taker to think about it.

-Edge says that AJ is the guy that he would want a last match with because of how good he is. He thinks AJ is the guy that can help Taker have that last match he wants. AJ talks about being the same size as Shawn and Taker says he knows how to work with that dynamic. They actually include highlights of his Mania classic with CM Punk, which is nice to see. Austin says that AJ Styles is the best wrestler on 2 feet and is someone Taker can trust out there. Michelle says they have been going on vacations with one of AJ’s best friends for the last 10 years and got to know AJ better as well. Michelle told Taker that with AJ, there was nobody better and Taker was shocked she was pushing him back towards the ring. Taker told AJ to give him a couple weeks and he will get back to him. AJ told Taker no matter the decision it was the right one.

-Orlando, Performance Center: Taker heads down as a favor to Matt Bloom to work with some of the big guys coming up through developmental. Michelle talks about Taker wanting to give back and how he always stops at the PC when they are in Orlando. HHH talks about the tradition of passing down the history of the business. Orton says he got to know Taker on tours in Europe over beers. They show the first Orton/Taker match from Randy’s rookie year and Taker bumped like crazy and Vince questioned what he was doing. Taker told him the idea was to make the kid look good as that’s what they are supposed to do. Bray talks about all he learned from Taker and they cover a few moments of their Mania 31 match. Jeff Hardy talks about their famous Ladder Match that put Jeff on the match as a singles competitor. Great stuff!

-The Next Day: Taker gets in the ring for the first time since Extreme Rules. His plan is to work with the developmental guys and then work by himself to see where he is at as far as a match with AJ. HHH talks about being around the youth and fire of those guys and girls being the Fountain of Youth. That’s what helps keep you from becoming the bitter, old guy. Taker working out and joking with the kids about being the old guy is amazing. He tells us he felt better than he thought and is still torn on what to do. He knows he can do it physically, but doesn’t know about mentally yet. Extreme Rules was a high note and exceeded his expectations. He questions what if he is disappointed in the match and then he is back where he was before Extreme Rules.

-Taker goes back to Mania X-8 and hearing Flair talk about the self doubt after his WCW days. He didn’t know where Ric was coming from as he only saw him as Ric Flair and what pro-wrestling is all about. He even gives a small Wooo which is sweet! Now he knows what Flair was battling and he laughs that this may be the longest documentary ever as he doesn’t know when he will be able to make a decision about retiring. “Making his way to the ring, with a walker….” Nice!

-Taker talked to Michelle and started watching some of AJ’s stuff and it started to pull him back. He decided he was going to do it, but wanted to give himself a few days to make sure. He eventually called Vince and told him the plan, but also wanted to rib AJ so he told Vince to call AJ and tell him Taker was working Mania, but with someone else. AJ says Vince called him and told him a story of Taker wanting to work with a kid in Tennessee to put over and Taker gave the same story. AJ calls bull crap on both of them. Awesome!

-Saudi Arabia for Super Showdown. AJ says he knows this is just another Mania for Taker, but for him he gets to get in a ring with The Undertaker. For him this is the biggest match of his career. He just wants it to be a match that Taker can retire if he wants to. Taker says that AJ is the one guy that could bring him back and the one match he wanted.

-Taker talks with New Day in Gorilla and again, this is all amazing stuff. They bust on Taker for being in the era before high def televisions when things didn’t have to look as good. To the show as Taker returns and chokeslams AJ to win the Tuwaiq Cup. Fun moment as Vince talks to Taker in Gorilla and sitting right next to Vince is Paul Heyman, who has a massive smile on his face seeing Taker.

-Austin, TX: March 10: Taker is back to training and being on a diet. It all felt normal as he was doing what he should be doing this time of year. His trainer, Harry, says that goal is increase lung capacity to be able to go 25-30 minutes. Taker gets a nose bleed early in the training and we get a montage of him training. I mean, it’s no Rocky IV montage but it’s good. Taker mentions he has critics that tell him to retire, but he wants to go out on his own terms and he will make sure it will be the best version he can be come match time.

-March 9: AJ with The Good Brothers cuts a promo on Taker talking about his match with Roman. He says Taker ruined that moment when he came back to the WWE. AJ tells us that he wanted to make the feud personal and wanted it to get to the point that the fans were dying to see Taker beat him. So AJ’s promo focuses on Michelle being the one playing the strings that makes Taker keep coming back. Michelle laughed and said she even started hating AJ after the promo and texted his wife to let her now. Taker talks about the promo and said it resonated because he let AJ cross boundaries that he wouldn’t let others. He watches the promo and laughs that fans might only be satisfied if he puts his hand through AJ’s face.

-Taker says that it forced his hand at what direction to go as he couldn’t go out and be The Undertaker. That leads to him discussing the change in 2000 from The Undertaker to his biker gimmick. He knew he had to evolve the character to keep from getting lost in the Attitude Era. We see the debut of the new Taker at Judgment Day and man do I miss seeing crowds lose it like they did that night. Taker says he could finally talk all kinds of smack and not be handcuffed by the confides of The Undertaker gimmick. Other talking heads talk about how he made the character fresh, but still kept the roots in what The Undertaker character was like.

-Back to the Mania build as Taker starts referring to AJ as Allan Jones. He defends his wife and that’s where it was Mark talking and not The Undertaker. He says his plan was to wrap The Undertaker, American Badass, and Mark all in the same character and match. Man, as much I loved the Boneyard Match it would have been interesting to see what they could do in a wrestling match.

-The match was to be a true match and then COVID 19 shut down the world. Taker calls it bizarre and HHH says they were flying by the seat of their pants. HHH on CBS talking about the show going on for Mania. HHH says they knew they probably couldn’t use Raymond James and the decision was to go 2 nights and use the PC. They then decided to do some of the matches off-site.

-Taker talks about the audience being a major factor in what they do and now they were handcuffed. They told HHH it would be a boneyard match and he asked what that was and they told him to figure it out. They found a 1 acre plot 90 minutes away from Orlando. It wasn’t what they were thinking as it was at the end of a residential area and had a barn at one end. We get some fantastic footage of the crew turning the area into the boneyard. Vince gave HHH the okay to film it as a cinematic match and Taker says they were fortunate to be able film off site. He feels with how personal the story got it needed to be more than a wrestling match.

-Taker was riding with Michael Hayes and HHH on the way to the site and his phone went off. It was his niece and she had to tell Taker that his brother, Tim, had a heart attack and passed away. Wow! Taker breaks down a bit telling the story and it’s surreal to see. Timothy Calaway 1956-2020! All this Mania stuff was going on and he had to call all his brothers and his mother to tell them the news. He knew what it would do to his mom and it hurt that he couldn’t be there with her. It just reminded him how important it is to be there for your family. He calls it an extremely rough day.

-The next day he is shooting in a make shift cemetery with caskets around and yeah, that would be tough. Taker says the show goes on and we get highlights from The Boneyard match and again, just amazing! HHH says it was a 25 minute fight scene and they beat the crap out of each other. The Good Brothers make a cameo with a bunch of druids and this package on the match is set to “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” Nice! They look like they had a blast filming this! Taker shoots off some pyro, murders the good brothers, and gives some props to AJ before burying him alive to end the awesomeness.

-Taker says that although it was a different element you know when something is cool. He also loved the idea of having a hell of a fight and then riding off into the darkness on his motorcycle. It hit him that this might be the last time he would do it.

-It was a rough night as Taker cut himself on the spot where he put his hand through the hearse window. They had to stop filming and clean him up. The match was a long shoot and Taker says the standing in place was the worst as things would start to hurt and the adrenaline would shut down. They finished filming at 5:00 AM. He knew what they were filming was going to be cool, but the final product was even better. He was blown away by the feedback and how everyone loved it. He tells us his specialty is story telling and that’s what that feud and match were about. He was looking for damn good and that’s what that match was for him even if it wasn’t what he envisioned when he agreed to face AJ. “How do you top that?”

-Two months later. Taker and Michelle are at a river as Taker is fishing. Michelle loves being in this place as it is relaxing and she isn’t worried about concussions and injuries. Sunday after the Mania shoot, Michelle’s nephew passed away in a car accident. Taker says that Kobe Bryant’s death also struck home with him as you never know when your number is going to be called. We hear his daughter laugh and she is asked if she cheered for AJ or Taker and she first says AJ before saying “daddy.”

-Taker talks about having another life to enjoy with his wife and children. Michelle talks about his legacy and how he now understands he left one. Taker talks about life post boneyard and had to ask himself if he was happy enough with how that ended. He feels that was a perfect ending to a career if there ever was one. He says time will only tell if Vince was in a pinch and needed him. At this point he has no desire to get back in the ring and then laughs as he says he got a pit in his stomach just saying that. He gets emotional thinking about it and says this time the cowboy really rides away. There is nothing left him to accomplish and the game has changed as there are new guys. He credits the documentary for helping him and he knows his peers care for him and want the best for him. It has been rewarding to see people accept Mark Calaway. He knows he can do more good inside the ring vs outside it.

-George Strait ‘Troubadour’ kicks in as my heart starts to swell and this is going to be be rough to get through. Taker mentions all the guys: Kane, Edge, Bret, Shawn, Yokozuna, Foley, HHH and all the other boys. He thanks all of them and thanks Vince McMahon. Man! All the feels with this ending. Taker considers himself blessed with being able to do what he loves for as long as he has. They could have just ended it there, but apparently there is more.

-All the boys that have popped up as talking heads get a few moments to talk about Taker and what he has meant to the business. Roman calls him The Godfather of pro-wrestling and Kane calls him the rock that withstood the waves and storm. Taker says he wouldn’t have changed a thing and it is all part of his story. It helped shape who he is today. He will still be around, but he is going to miss the guys and most of them he is already missing. Godfather calls him his brother and Foley says he has a different life if he didn’t cross paths with Taker. Batista loves him and respect him. Cena calls him the bar for respect and everyone else is way far below.

-Taker says he always went out to do the best he could. He thanks the fans and how they have been there with him for 30 years. HHH doesn’t think there will ever be anyone like him and his legacy is that there will never be another like him. Vince says Mark has made the best of every opportunity. He knows Mark can look in a mirror and say “I did good.” Taker says the business will always be a part of him and he will leave his way.

-George Strait kicks in one final time as we fade to black on this magnificent series. Just amazing!

-Easily the best documentary the WWE has ever produced and really one of the best sports documentaries you will see. It’s easy to compare it to ESPN’s ‘Last Dance’ and this was just as fascinating and captivating. Taker let the world see behind the curtain and we saw was a man’s battle with aging and the fight to find a way to leave an evolving business he loves. Michelle was great as you could see how supportive she is, but at the same time you could tell she just wanted her husband healthy, happy and at peace with being at home in a post wrestling life. As Taker mentioned you can never say never in this business and I can see him returning even if it is only limited to cinematic matches or even just random appearances where he hits a Tombstone to pop the crowd. If you haven’t checked this out I recommend just binging the entire thing. Just be prepared to see a different side of Taker and be prepared for the ending to play with your heart strings and emotions. George Strait man…just a perfect way to close this one! Thanks for reading!

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