On his way to the locker room after his match against Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 33, The Undertaker did something he never has before in his near three-decade WWE career.
“The Phenom” limped over to his real-life spouse, Michelle McCool, and gave her a kiss; a loving gesture to his wife and a symbol for his kiss goodbye to the WWE Universe.
Roman Reigns, the likely final opponent in The Undertaker’s legendary career, did not have it easy. He needed to utilize a steel chair, four Superman Punches, and four spears before handing The Undertaker his second Wrestlemania loss. At times, the former WWE champion seemed conflicted as to whether or not to finish off the most decorated Wrestlemania performer in history.
But a devastating spear was the crescendo for Wrestlemania 33 and seemingly The Undertaker’s career. After Reigns cleared the ring, “The Deadman” donned his trademark trench coat and hat one last time before leaving his combat gloves, coat, and hat neatly placed in the center of the ring. The respect was evident as hours after the show, with a near empty Camping World Stadium, the WWE crew left his gear untouched in the ring.
— DavKind (@DavKind76) April 3, 2017
Sunday’s conclusion should not be a shock, there have been rumblings of The Undertaker contemplating retirement virtually every year over the last decade. He once said a rash of injuries in caused him to contemplate retirement nearly 20 years ago in 1999. Torn triceps, broke orbital bones, and hip surgery have shown him more as a 52-year-old man rather than a superhuman zombie who can withstand being buried alive or set on fire.
During a 2002 appearance on Off The Record, The Undertaker spoke about his future in wrestling. He mentioned his mindset of continuing to perform up until a newer generation feels he’s just taking up a spot.
“The one thing that I don’t want to be is past my prime,” he said. “I don’t want to be out there in the ring with people saying ‘You know, you should have seen him here.’ I don’t want people out there feeling sorry for me. As long as I can continue to stay healthy and I can keep pace with the young bucks, I can keep pace with The Rock’s and those guys, there’s no need for me to leave.”
After that interview, The Undertaker captured the WWE championship four additional times, won the Royal Rumble, and notched 14 wins at Wrestlemania. However, by 2010, he also became a part-time performer, wrestling mainly at Wrestlemania with the occasional appearance at live events and scattered television tapings.
Slowly but surely, The Undertaker’s concern — which he reiterated in a separate interview with The Score in 2003 — was becoming reality.
“My biggest worry in life, as far as wrestling is concerned, is that I’m in the ring and some father who watched me for years takes his son and he goes, ‘you know son, this is The Undertaker here, I wish you could have seen him when…’ That means it’s time for me to hang it up.”
The Undertaker’s appearances in 2017 did not depict the same future WWE Hall of Famer fans became accustomed to. He entered this year’s Royal Rumble noticeably heavier and only lasted five and a half minutes before being eliminated by Reigns. After he delivered a chokeslam to Braun Strowman on the March 20 edition of RAW, he clearly grimaced in pain — seemingly hurt more by delivering the move than Strowman was by taking it.
Even Sunday’s bout was far from an Undertaker classic. Reigns could be heard instructing his opponent to slam his head into the announce table and several visible botches resulted in awkward exchanges throughout the match. Was it ring rust? It’s possible, considering The Undertaker’s last match was a year ago inside Hell in a Cell against Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania 32.
But after a win last year, The Undertaker also left his gloves in the ring, leading many to believe he was retiring a year ago. However, as The Undertaker told The Houston Chronicle in 2013 that despite the injuries, he still enjoys performing — and feels a personal obligation to do so.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2017
“And if I didn’t perform at WrestleMania, in some strange weird way, I’d feel like I was letting Vince McMahon down,” he said. “I’ve been in the WWE for so long, and he’s done so much for me.
“But most of my time is spent healing up … so I can be the Undertaker again.”
The Undertaker can stop healing and start to rest…in peace.
[Featured Image by WWE]