The Undertaker’s farewell to in-ring action was not a slow death of a career coming to an end, but an ascension of WWE’s most beloved and feared characters to a well-earned rest in peace.
The Undertaker’s farewell is the end to a busy year. There was the Boneyard Match against A.J. Styles that catapulted WrestleMania 36 to great success. And then there was the documentary “The Undertaker: The Last Ride”, which laid the foundation for The Undertaker’s slow descent from WrestleMania main eventer to WWE retiree and soon to be Hall of Famer.
Fast Forward to Survivor Series 2020. No one really knew what to expect from The Undertaker. What was there left to do? To say? Was there a last match? Maybe Sting will run in and stop this end from coming. Was this really the end for The Undertaker? Sunday night the world sat, watched, waited, and hung our head in acceptance: This was truly The Undertaker’s farewell. Even in his exit though, the storytelling left a chill down your spine, a tear in your eye, and a smile on your face. We experienced with him the stages of death and ascension.
Stage 1: Denial
If you watched The Undertaker: The Last Ride then you knew this day was coming, but even then you probably thought he’d make it to WM37. Who knows, maybe that dream match against Sting might still happen. That’s the mindset of every WWE fan right now, but I don’t think it’s his. This was hard, and you could tell from the moment Vince McMahan came out to introduce him. Vince was slow, far from the “No Chance In Hell” persona we grew up with in the WWE Attitude Era. Vince really didn’t want to call ‘Taker out, but he had a job to do. He stared around the WWE Thunderdome searching for words to say to help fight a complete breakdown in tears. He was moving constantly, obviously nervous, happy, and sad. Vince was the fanbase last night. None of us really wanted him to call ‘Taker to the ring, but his time had come.
Stage 2: Anger
In this stage reality kicks in and the inevitable begins. The lighting bolts sing the sounds of The Undertaker’s famous entrance music and the WWE Thunderdome turns into his world, filled with fire, blue hue, and fog. Viewers are immediately taken in by the sight of his emblem, the random fire explosions, and the portal at the top of the ramp. The portal was significant, symbolizing how The Undertaker was always from another realm, only visiting when channeled properly or when a wrong needed to be made right in the WWF or WWE. The anger? The anger is found in the long, drawn-out entrance of The Undertaker, an elaborate, glorious well-constructed silent protest mixed with an obedience to complete the ending of his own soul.
Stage 3: Bargaining
It took forever for ‘Taker to speak. It was almost like he was trying to make the final decision up to the last moment. Would he announce one more match? Was a plan in place that if he announced that one more match someone would run to the ring? And would that someone finally be Sting??? In my opinion, I do believe the WWE planned for two endings. In those moments Taker was wrestling himself in his mind as he looked out at the arena, paced the ring, and made sure cameras didn’t get too close to his eyes. He stretched this moment out for as long as he could, resulting in his theme music looping a few times to keep pace.
Stage 4: Acceptance and Ascension
It was at this point The Undertaker’s Farewell would be solidified with a few words and some help from an old friend. In the midst of the blue hue and fog, he looked around a few more times. In the end, that that could be said was said. He said, “My time has come to let the Undertaker rest…in…peace.” That statement was big because, for the first time, the character of the Undertaker was verbally separated from Mark Calaway, the man. But this was far from over! In fact, this was the actual beginning of the Undertaker’s farewell!
Everything up to this point was very WWE centric from the smoke, the lights, the fire, and the lightning bolts. This moment here was where Mark releases the spirit of this character. How do we know? As he spins to take the knee, another classic Taker pose, the lights go dim and we see none other than the holographic spirit of Paul Bearer.
For at least 10 seconds there is a pause in the ring as both men glare at each other one last time. Taker’s eyes roll in the back of his head as he knees towards Bearer, who is holding out the famous Urn that would accompany them both. It was then I realized Paul had returned to collect Taker’s soul: Two iconic characters back together again.
The Undertaker’s Farewell was the end to a 30-year possession. Even in his exit he never broke character to thank his wife, kids, or the WWE. All he did was admit that it was time, give up the ghost, and walk back up the ramp, raising his hand one last time to the chant of the fans shouting “Thank you Taker”. I don’t think he ever wanted you to know Mark. Hell, I didn’t need to know Mark. He was nothing more than a vessel to WWE’s greatest character, and if he was cool with that, I’m cool with that. Let imagination take care of the rest.