15th May2020

‘Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 1: The Greatest Fear’ Review

by Chris Cummings

If there was ever a wrestler with a more protected character than The Undertaker then I’d like to know about them. It’s been a storied and lengthy run, with a debut at Survivor Series back at the end of 1990, until the current day, and for 99% of that time we’ve seen The Undertaker character kept behind the scenes totally, with no real look at Mark Calaway, the man behind the black hat and the trench coat. Sure, we saw The American Bad-Ass back in the early 00s, which saw a more realistic version of ‘Taker on television, but it still wasn’t a reveal. Now, as The Undertaker approaches the end of his in-ring career, we finally see a documentary series from WWE in which access is granted to the cameras and Mark Calaway opens up about his life, his career and his final run as a professional wrestler.

Wrestling fans have wanted to hear from the man behind “The Phenom” for years. Decades, in fact. It’s about time, and I, for one, am pleased as punch that this series had begun. WWE Network debuted the first episode after their Money in the Bank PPV, and it will likely be released on a weekly basis from here on out. This first episode doesn’t hold back, either, with us immediately seeing Mark Calaway discussing his WWE career, his relationships with various people including Vince McMahon, and talking about his self-confidence, his injuries and his marriage to former WWE women’s wrestler Michelle McCool.

The filming of Undertaker: The Last Ride began a mere few days after WrestleMania 33, where The Undertaker wrestled, and lost to, Roman Reigns in the main event. This, at the time, was thought to be ‘Taker’s final match. He thought so, anyway, and so did fans. That theme will be spoken of at length during this whole series, for sure. It’s nice to see so many people coming out to talk about Mark and what he means to pro-wrestling. Famous opponents such as Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle and JBL appear here, as well as folks like Jim Ross and Vince McMahon himself. Hearing just how much respect and admiration these people have for Mark Calaway really shows just how much he means to the business. It’s lovely to hear these stories.

We get to hear about the end of the WrestleMania Streak back at Mania XXX, with Calaway talking about how his confidence was supremely shaken following the match, a match in which he suffered a bad concussion and still can’t recall to this day. There are behind the scenes clips here showing the concern from wrestlers and management for his safety. Hearing Michelle McCool talking about how The Undertaker didn’t even know his own name in the hospital is rough.

There are, in just this one episode, some real revelations and moving moments. Seeing Mark Calaway peel back the layers of the character we’ve seen for so many years and open up to the cameras is a blend of enlightening and just purely bizarre. I have been a fan of The Undertaker since I started watching wrestling some 28 years ago, two years after the character had debuted. It’s incredible just how many times he’s been able to reinvent the character and remain relevant and enticing to fans. Whether he was competing as the slow-moving zombie of the early 90s, the goth dead-man of the mid-90s, the satanic priest of the Attitude Era, the biker bad-ass of the early 00s, or the hat-and-coat legend we saw have some of the greatest matches of all time in the 2010s, he’s been able to remain one of the biggest names in the business. I’m glad I’ve been able to witness so much of it.

This is a damn good episode of a documentary series which could go down as one of the best things WWE has ever produced. If you’re a wrestling fan then there is simply no reason NOT to see this. Highly recommended.

Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 1: The Greatest Fear is available now on the WWE Network.

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