The fifth and final installment of Undertaker : The Last Ride aired Sunday on WWE Network and focused primarily on The Undertaker’s Boneyard Match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36…
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The fifth and final installment of Undertaker: The Last Ride aired Sunday on WWE Network and focused primarily on The Undertaker’s Boneyard Match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36.
Everything that went into making the match a reality from Styles reaching out to Taker to the coronavirus pandemic forcing WWE to think outside the box was touched on.
The biggest takeaway from the episode and the docuseries as a whole was The Undertaker’s declaration that he is ready to call it a career following his critically acclaimed match against The Phenomenal One:
“If there was ever a perfect ending to a career, that right there was it. If Vince was in a pinch, would I come back? I guess time will only tell there. In case of emergency, break glass, you pull out The Undertaker. I would have to consider that. Never say never, but at this point in my life and in my career I have no desire to get back in the ring.”
The match that may very well turn out to be the final one of Taker’s illustrious career came about after Styles called The Deadman to discuss the possibility of them facing off for the first time.
Styles said he decided to reach out to The Undertaker after watching his interview with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on Broken Skull Sessions: “I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna give it a shot.’ All he can say is no, it’s not a big deal. I didn’t ask Vince because if Taker doesn’t want to do it, then it’s not gonna happen, so I called Taker and we just started chatting.”
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The Undertaker was hesitant at first and initially told Styles that he would have loved to have wrestled him 10 or 15 years ago. One thing that made Taker begin strongly considering the match, however, was his wife’s opinion.
Taker’s wife is former WWE Superstar Michelle McCool, and a common thread throughout the series was McCool expressing her hope that her husband would retire and save his body from further punishment. McCool recalled what she told The Undertaker when he brought up the possibility of wrestling AJ: “There’s nobody better. There’s absolutely nobody better to get into the ring with. If you’re gonna do it, it’d be good. … It’s AJ; it could be magic.”
The Undertaker said he was “torn” about facing Styles since he knew he could do it physically but had to get there mentally. He ultimately decided to go through with it and insisted there was “nobody” else he would have come back to wrestle.
The initial expectation was that Taker and Styles would wrestle in the ring at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, with thousands of fans in attendance, but the coronavirus pandemic forced WWE to move WrestleMania 36 to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, with no fans in attendance.
As a result, their bout became a Boneyard Match, which was a cinematic experience that played out in a graveyard-like setting. Taker referred to it as “turning chicken s–t into chicken salad.” The Phenom also said it was the “best thing that could have happened” for him and AJ.
Taker and AJ put on what was the most entertaining match of the event and perhaps one of the best matches of The Undertaker’s career. Styles tweeted about what it means to him to have faced Taker in what may have been his last match:
Still floored by the experience and reaction to the #BoneyardMatch at #WrestleMania.
If it was the last time @undertaker laced up his boots, I’m honored it was against me. #TheLastRide https://t.co/qzofoKEn2Q
The success of the match was remarkable for so many reasons, including the fact that WWE had to call an audible and turn a barren plot into a set that fans could believe in and get invested in.
Additionally, The Undertaker was informed by his niece one day before filming the match that his older brother, Timothy Calaway, died at the age of 63 from a heart attack. Taker did the match with a heavy heart and still managed to knock it out of the park.
The Undertaker called his match with Styles “storytelling at its best” and noted that even though it was different from a normal match, “You know when things are that good.”
Given the way the match went and everything he has done in his career, Taker suggested that now, at the age of 55, is the right time for him to step away:
“I’m at a point where it’s time the cowboy really rides away. There’s nothing left for me to conquer. There’s nothing left for me to accomplish. The game has changed. It’s time for new guys to come up. The time just seems right. I think this documentary has helped me discover that. It’s really opened my eyes to the bigger picture.”
The Undertaker got to merge himself, The Undertaker and The American Badass into one character for the Boneyard Match and got to ride off into the darkness on his motorcycle, which is just about the perfect visual to wrap things up.
Taker discussed wanting to move fully into the next phase of his life and focus on family, and if WrestleMania 36 against Styles truly was it for him, then he should be nothing but proud of everything he did during his 30 years in WWE.
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