The perception of The Undertaker has changed quite a bit over the last few years. He has always been one of the most respected veterans – a mythical figure of sorts. One of the last few larger than life characters that still exists in WWE. However, with each passing match of his, a growing sense of dread has emerged.
The physical condition of The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX after the end of the streak clearly indicated that he was past his prime and that it should have been the end of the road for him. However, each passing year, he has carried on and his physical condition began depleting year after year.
Perhaps the prime example of it was the main event of WrestleMania 33 – a non-title match that was supposed to be the end of The Undertaker’s career. He faced a young, capable athlete in Roman Reigns, but the problem with the match emerged when Reigns had to do all the heavy lifting.
It was then that The Undertaker really looked like a shell of himself. But in one way, it was the perfect send-off. The story was that of the old gunslinger trying to hang on with the younger generation, only to find that he is far past his days of glory. Accepting his defeat, he walked off and would likely never be seen again.
But that fairytale ending was ruined in 2018 when he returned to the ring at WrestleMania 34 to squash John Cena in a 165-second long “dream match”. This would mark his in-ring return and from there, he would proceed to wrestle at the Greatest Royal Rumble, Super ShowDown at Australia and Crown Jewel, the second Saudi Arabia show. While he did admit in an out-of-character interview that he wanted to be more selective about his dates, that didn’t stop him from constantly returning and having matches that were painful to watch.
When looking back, the last time he really had a great match was his 2015 series against Brock Lesnar, where they main evented both SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell. However, on July 14th, 2019, The Undertaker teamed up with Roman Reigns to take on Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre. For the first time in four years, fans can actually say that they witnessed a really good Undertaker match.
But how did it happen at the ripe age of 54? There are a few factors to consider.
Firstly, it should be remembered that prior to this, The Undertaker’s last match was against Goldberg at Saudi Arabia for Super ShowDown, a match that left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth – from The Undertaker and Goldberg to the fans. It seemed quite clear that The Undertaker’s unusually quick return to the ring had to be a result of the disaster that was Super ShowDown. There’s no doubt that he was determined to right his wrong as much possible.
Secondly, the match had Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre on either side – two contributions that played a far bigger role than people thought. For one, since The Undertaker wasn’t the sole focus of the match, it allowed to protect him quite a bit while Roman Reigns did the main heavy lifting for the team. Reigns is reliable like that.
Moreover, to add to it all, The Undertaker did seemingly tease a rivalry with The Scottish Psychopath Drew McIntyre. Given that a potentially fresh, new and exciting match-up emerged from it, there was certainly an added level of hype. It helped that Shane McMahon was the one who got pinned and not McIntyre, as the fan perception of Shane McMahon’s character is at an all-time low. Seeing him get destroyed and pinned added a sense of satisfaction.
To top it all off – a good, solid story was told in the ring. The Undertaker was essentially utilized to his very best limited ability at this stage and we got the perfect formula. When he tagged with Kane at Crown Jewel, it didn’t help because nobody in the ring had the level of pace that they once did.
With that being said, we still have no idea what The Undertaker’s end game really is. Perhaps he will be one of those superstars who just retires without us ever really knowing it at that point. However, we do hope that he does all he can and wrestles as less as he can to preserve a legacy that he spent decades of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears to build.