There is something about fantasy heroes that connects with people, especially when we grow up revering them. I have started watching WWE in and around the Attitude Era and at that age it was the skill, power and intensity of the wrestling on display that excited me. However, as I grew up, I started understanding the full meaning of Sports Entertainment. Now, I consider it to be like any other TV show, with the stark difference being there are no second takes and despite the safety measures, the wrestlers actually put their bodies on the line.
As a self-professed Shawn Michaels fan, I definitely did not see this coming. As Roman Reigns claimed his win over the Deadman and walked away, the crowd showered their appreciation on one of the greatest workers ever. However, when the Phenom decided this was his Last Ride and with his theme playing in the background, he removed his gloves, then folded his coat and placed them at the centre of the ring along with his hat, the emotion was just too much to bear.
(Image courtesy – Postard)
When Shawn Michaels retired at WrestleMania 26 after failing to overcome Taker at the Showcase of Immortals for a second time, the wrestling geek in me died a bit that day. I took a sabbatical from watching the sport until a new era came in a few years later. Despite knowing Michaels was very likely gonna lose as Taker still had his undefeated streak going on then, saying goodbye to the greatest story-teller in the ring after giving his all in two epic matches at WrestleMania 25 and 26 was really hard to take. But not this hard.
The Undertaker’s retirement has been a constant point of discussion in recent years as all the years of fighting gimmick matches and putting his body on the line had battered his body and he could wrestle only one match per year. Further, the quality of the matches suffered as well with Taker unable to match his dance partners anymore. With the Undertaker still expected to have that dream match with John Cena, this year’s clash with Reigns was supposed to be another Mania match.
(Image courtesy – WWE WrestleMania Twitter account)
The match in itself was unworthy of a main-event as Taker struggled badly once Roman speared him through the announced table, that included a major botched spot where the Big Dog tried to reverse Taker’s finishing move, the Tombstone Piledriver and failed despite making 3 attempts. Reigns did his best to carry the Deadman, but could not save the match. Thoughts started swirling in my mind on why this is the reason Taker should retire. When Taker exactly did that at the end, I could not fathom the tears streaming out.
Here was a man who has fought for more than 25 years in WWE, thrilling fans with his matches, sending chills up the spine with his entrance and never ever bothered about the spotlight, despite being the most respected man in the business. It just dawned on me that Taker’s true strength is in telling a story, he is half the reason Shawn Michaels had those epic matches before his retirement and in a flash, I knew I will miss him.
(Video courtesy – WWE YouTube Channel)
As he went down the ring, broke character to share a moment with his wife, walked back, made the half-turn and raised his hand one final time, more than a decade full of memories flashed in front of my eyes. In those final moments of seeing Mark Calaway as the Undertaker, I realized that he was there all along, doing his part in putting on great matches, building the greatest streak in sports entertainment and utterly dedicating his life to maintaining the myth and aura around the character.
Maybe that was why every wrestling fan in the stadium and around the world could not control themselves as the feeling sunk in, the Undertaker has fought his last match.
There is no doubt that the legend of the Undertaker will live on for generations and there will never ever be such a character in any book, TV show or movies ever.
Thank you Taker.
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Featured Image courtesy – WWE Twitter account