With all sports (and sports-entertainment) leagues currently hurting for new content to keep audiences engaged, networks are pulling out the big guns: Multi-part documentaries of some of their most iconic athletes. And what The Last Dance is to the NBA, Undertaker: The Last Ride is is to the WWE Universe. This five-part docuseries, airing exclusively on the WWE Network every Sunday through mid-June, follows the journey of the Undertaker from the days before his WrestleMania 33 match in 2017 until, presumably, present day.
We at With Spandex will be watching along with the rest of you every Sunday and distilling each episode down in our new recap, Ride Or Die. Here’s what we learned from episode three of The Last Ride.
Previously on The Last Ride: We learned that the Undertaker hated his retirement match against Roman Reigns, he had hip surgery to try and recover, and Primo Colon — Primo Colon! — was an essential part of his comeback.
The Undertaker Was Disappointed In His WrestleMania 34 Match
Have you guys noticed a pattern developing yet? Mark Calaway, the man, cannot let the Undertaker, the character, ride off into the sunset because there is always something wrong with his latest match. Maybe he was out of shape. Maybe he found a brown M&M in a bowl of green M&Ms backstage. Or, in the case of his WrestleMania 34 match against John Cena, he didn’t feel like he got enough time:
“Professionally it was fine, personally it left me a little empty… I was prepared to do a 30-minute match. If it had happened with Cena, there’s probably a good chance I could’ve walked away and been okay. It was a three-minute match, whaddya gonna do?”
At least we got to find out that Calaway’s daughter’s favorite wrestler is John Cena, and she was upset her dad “crushed” him. That’s good shit, pal.
The WWE Propaganda Machine Finally Rears Its Ugly Head
It was only a matter of time before The Last Ride got to Saudi Arabia, and like all things Saudi Arabia, it is handled with kid gloves topped with oven mitts covered in bubble wrap. Everybody knows the No. 1 reason why WWE runs these shows is an exorbitant amount of money. Nothing any talent says about it being an “honor to be invited” will ever ring true. They’re paydays, folks. Just own it.
It’s even funnier watching Taker, a guy who is so clearly pro-‘Merica, trying to diplomatically talk about the cultural benefits of going to Saudi Arabia, as if this isn’t what comes up when you Google Nine Line Apparel, the clothing line he so proudly has been dousing himself in:
“IT’S MUCH MORE THAN GETTING DRESSED EVERYDAY, IT’S ABOUT BEING PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE, WHAT YOU WEAR, AND HOW YOU WALK THROUGH LIFE. WE ARE RELENTLESSLY PATRIOTIC. WE HOLD NO PUNCHES, WE DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR OUR LOVE OF COUNTRY, WE ARE AMERICA’S NEXT GREATEST GENERATION.”
Buzz, your girlfriend: Woof.
The Undertaker Isn’t Exactly Friends With Triple H And Shawn Michaels
A huge chunk of chapter three is spent discussing WrestleManias 25 through 28, in which the Undertaker faced Shawn Michaels twice and then Triple H twice, with all three men discussing just how proud they were of these contests. But the episode also makes a point to show that while Taker is friendly with both of these men, they’re not exactly his friends. “We don’t have a day-to-day buddy-buddy hangout,” says Triple H, immediately after mentioning Taker stood up in his wedding. “Do we call each other every day and see how our lives are going? No,” responds Taker, because he probably thinks TRUE PATRIOTS DON’T HAVE FRIENDS, THEY HAVE BROTHERS or something probably equally as silly.
There’s something distinctly beautiful and kind of depressing watching these three legit legends talk about this business, knowing their hyper-masculinity (at least on Triple H and Taker’s part, not so much Shawn Michaels’ anymore) prevents them from being normal people with normal emotions. Everything has to be the most serious thing ever or inane locker room bullshitting (see how mad Taker gets when he gets beaten by WWE trainer Larry Heck at gin). There’s no middle ground for regular, normal friendships. It’s sad, really. I hope Michelle McCool encourages Mark Calaway to see a therapist after all of this is said and done.
Right! So. Taker/Shawn 1. Both men describe the match as “magic,” with Triple H saying, “It was the greatest thing I had ever seen,” and Steve Austin calling it “storytelling at its finest.” They follow it up at Mania 26 with another classic that put Michaels out to pasture — at least until Saudi Arabia came knocking.
“Everybody is amazed that I’ve stayed retired,” says Michaels in a talking-head interview clearly filmed before Crown Jewel 2018. “I’m so envious of Shawn because he was able to walk away from it,” Taker remarks. Of course, blood money pulls all three men plus [checks notes] Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who at one point used to wrestle as [checks notes again] Kane, back together for a so-so main event in Australia and a colossal disaster of a main event in Riyadh.
Everybody Hated The Crown Jewel Main Event
— frank (@TheNextBlGThing) May 24, 2020
While The Last Ride makes no mention of it, Crown Jewel 2018 was especially contentious due to the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi by the Saudi Arabian government weeks beforehand, with calls for the cancellation of the event falling upon Vince McMahon’s deaf ears. Maybe that added more than its fair share of bad juju to the evening, because good lord, this match sucked so hard, even in “highlights” form.
— frank (@TheNextBlGThing) May 24, 2020
At least everyone involved knew it was terrible too:
TRIPLE H: “It couldn’t have gone any worse.”
THE UNDERTAKER: “It was a total trainwreck, it was a disaster.”
SHAWN MICHAELS: “It totally blew.”
For an episode that was largely uncontroversial, compared to the first two, it was nice to see at least some honesty shine through in The Last Ride‘s final minutes. And as always, we can count on Michelle McCool to spit truth:
“It’s a vicious cycle of I know he’s not going to be happy with his performance so he has to redeem himself… Especially after 30 years you want to leave on something that just felt right. I think [WrestleMania 33] could’ve been it. But he wasn’t ready.”
So now we all have to wait until the Undertaker is ready. Ironic, since the the Grim Reaper usually doesn’t wait for anyone.
Also, This Happened
Next week on The Last Ride: Nothing! Apparently, the next episode won’t air until June 14, and it will focus around a performance the Undertaker describes as “catastrophic” – his match with Goldberg. You won’t wanna miss this one.