The first part of Sunday’s premiere episode of Undertaker: The Last Ride (read our spoiler-free review of it here) focuses on his main event loss to Roman Reigns at 2017’s WrestleMania 33 in Orlando.
As part of the promotion for WWE Network’s five-part documentary series, Taker - or I guess I should say Mark Calaway - is doing interviews. And in his talk with ESPN, he goes into detail on something we only see in the teaser for May 17’s part two of The Last Ride... his reaction to the match with Reigns.
On the show, we’re set up to think that reaction is why Calaway changed plans and didn’t retire after putting Roman over. These quotes confirm it:
“That was one of those times it was tough having the cameras there. That was the first time that I watched that match back. I was so disgusted with it that I didn’t want to watch it back...
[Watching that match], I’m battling with it. I was so disappointed for Roman. Even after Brock Lesnar beat the streak, for guys coming up to have a match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania — especially where Roman was at — it was important for his career. Especially because he was going over. For me, in that role, I wanted to do the very best that I could do for Roman. I think the world of him. You want to be able to do the best you can for him, and you know you have no business being in the ring.
Yes, I could have mailed it in. Protected myself. Only done a couple of things that I knew that I could do. But that’s just not the way I work. And it wouldn’t have been fair to him. So I just tried to do the best I could. The harder I tried, the more I did — at least in my perception — it was not a good night. It was really disappointing. Watching it back finally, and watching it back in front of a film crew, it was like ... I didn’t have to say much. You could just tell from the expression on my face that I wasn’t really pleased with it.”
Shoot Taker will take some getting used to - for us and for him. But it’s fascinating to experience him this way.
The Reigns match seems to be the fulcrum on which The Last Ride rests, and might end up being the most analyzed, discussed and argued over piece of business from the end of his unparalleled career.
Should he have accepted that “disappointing” performance as the end? He could have played it off as at least somewhat intentional, a way to tell the story of the old gunslinger being put down one final time by the young gun. It would have saved us from the Saudi matches, which didn’t happen at ‘Mania, but that “disgusted” a whole lot of people.
But it would have deprived us of WrestleMania 36’s Boneyard Match, which is the kind of triumphant career capstone that no one thought was possible back in the world of just a few months ago.
It’s an intriguing question. And with The Last Ride and this new fangled Mark Calaway gimmick it introduces us to, WWE and Taker are inviting us to wrestle with it just like they did.