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Super Show-Down made me wish we’d seen Undertaker wrestle for the last time ever

Watching Super Show-Down as it aired live on WWE Network this morning (Sat., Oct. 6, 2018), the main event between Undertaker and Triple H struck me as a plodding, overly serious affair which would have been a tough sell if all four men involved were ten years younger.

But that was only one-viewing, fueled by nothing but coffee and a sense of duty - an opinion formulated on one watch after getting up too early. I wondered if that wasn’t fair. So I watched it again.

My opinion is largely unchanged. If anything, it’s been downgraded, because on a second viewing, I now wonder if some of what I thought was selling in service of a standard Triple H “epic” wasn’t partially due to the fact the 49 and 53 year old performers weren’t actually out of gas and unable to do some of the stuff they attempted.

Don’t get me wrong. Story-wise, this is great. Shawn Michaels recently said he’s stayed retired out of respect for Undertaker. After Hunter finally pinned Taker, HBK and Triple H offered the Dead Man and his brother Kane their hands in friendship and, yes, respect. The Brothers of Destruction used that as an opening to attack them. Michaels can now say he’s lost his respect for the Phenom, allowing him to break his retirement vow and opening the door to the tag match which has been reported for Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia and a one-on-one match between the legendary rivals at Survivor Series.

There’s nothing wrong with the angle. And maybe Shawn can still go with the best of them - we don’t know. He wasn’t called on to do much more than bump and superkick in Melbourne.

But it doesn’t matter. The focal point of the whole program is Undertaker. And every time we see that character, we’re reminded Mark Callaway is a gifted performer whose body’s paid a heavy toll for the entertainment he’s already given us. Ever since his famous WrestleMania streak was broken, there have been moments in all of his matches that were painful to watch - because it looked like he was laboring with exhaustion and discomfort, and because an image of the Phenom in his prime was being replaced in our memory by one of the Dead Man in decline.

It’s not going to get better. His last handful of bouts have been delivered after months of recuperation time. Maybe there’s some ring rust which comes with that, but if the rumors are right and he’ll wrestle two more times in the next 45 days - likely in similar lengthy sagas like this one? The aches and pains will probably take more out of him than recovered muscle memory adds to his performance.

When he was interviewed for the behind-the-scenes WWE Network special on WrestleMania 33, Callaway said:

“They say fighters can grow old in one fight, so, you know [laughs] hopefully this isn’t that fight. Dealing with the numerous injuries that I work around - I have not prepared physically as well as I could.

That’s kind of the big issue is making sure that there’s always enough gas in the tank. One of my biggest fears is kind of becoming a parody of myself.

They happen to buy a ticket to see Undertaker wrestle, they should get the best Undertaker I can give ‘em. You always wonder when you walk in the dressing room, ‘Oh, here comes the old guy again.’ [Laughs] Yeah, it’s just an old guy who’s not afraid to put a size fifteen up your ass if you get out of line.”

I wouldn’t say Taker’s become a parody of himself - and not just because I have no doubt he could put a size fifteen up my ass without burning much fuel. And this may be the best Undertaker he can give us.

But it’s not the Undertaker we all hope he’ll be able to summon one more time when they announce he’ll be appearing in another match.

So I’m gonna stop getting my hopes up.

Probably until they announce him for Crown Jewel.

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