WWE: ‘The wheels have fallen off’, The Undertaker finally says goodbye after 30-year wrestling career
Veteran WWE superstar The Undertaker announced he has no intention of getting back into the ring after defeating AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36.
"Run 'em until the wheels fall off."
That's what The Undertaker told Stone Cold Steve Austin backstage at a WWE show. And it seems that, finally, the wheels indeed have come off.
Those words between two wrestlers that entered the brand when it was WWF, (World Wrestling Federation) and have seen it turn into WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is a pretty accurate description of their longevity and their willingness to keep going on. Austin said goodbye to the ring a long while back, bar the occasional guest appearances. But Undertaker stuck around.
Until now it seems. Or 4 April, 2020 to be more precise. A WrestleMania showdown — as fitting as they come — more so for The Undertaker.
In the fifth and final episode of Undertaker: The Last Ride, the 55-year-old confirmed he has no desire to return to the ring. "If there was ever a perfect ending to a career, that right there was it. If (WWE Chairman) Vince (McMahon) was in a pinch, would I come back? I guess time will only tell there. In case of emergency, break glass, you pull out The Undertaker. I would have to consider that. Never say never, but at this point in my life and in my career I have no desire to get back in the ring."
— WWE (@WWE) June 21, 2020
— Undertaker (@undertaker) June 23, 2020
This isn't the first time The Undertaker (Mark Calaway) has hinted at retirement. After WrestleMania 33, he left his iconic trench coat, hat and gloves in the ring after losing to Roman Reigns. While it wasn't publicly acknowledged, it seemed to be goodbye. It seemed to be the 'last ride.'
Except it wasn't. The running of the match, the supposed ending to a glorious career, didn't match what he had achieved. It didn't match what 'The Phenom' had come to be. The man who made his debut at 1990 Survivor Series as part of The Million Dollar Team against The Dream Team and then featured in the traditional elimination match, would go on to script legacy at WrestleMania.
The streak at biggest show of 'em all — WrestleMania — would begin with a win against Jimmy Snuka in 1991 and would go on until 2014, a staggering 22 years or 21 matches. In the way would be big names in Kane, Big Boss Man, Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels and CM Punk before eventually losing to Brock Lesnar.
Over the course of 30 years, The Undertaker's character development has seen as many changes as his nicknames or theme songs. The central aspect, however, has been the horror and the scare factor. The entrance would become iconic too. Darkness would surround the arena, a commentator would mutter 'uh-oh!', the crowd would go ballistic, The Undertaker would walk down the ramp alongside an urn-holding manager Paul Bearer.
During the late 1990s, wrestling would witness a surge in fan following in what would be called 'The Attitude Era' with The Undertaker leading the 'Ministry of Darkness' storyline. Proclaiming himself as 'The Lord of Darkness', he would take on Austin in a 'Buried Alive' match. If that wasn't creepy enough, he led Bradshaw, Faarooq, Mideon, Viscera, Edge, Christian and Gangrel in a feud with the McMahon's — including an attempt to marry Vince's daughter Stephanie in a bizarre segment that had her tied to a crucifix. “I think probably trying to kidnap Stephanie and marry Stephanie and all that that I did. That was out there when I started putting Stephanie on my symbol,” The Undertaker had said in an Instagram chat with Nine Line Apparel.
As a youngster in the 1990s fascinated by the finishing moves of WWE stars, led strongly by The Undertaker, the earliest memory, probably, is of the 1998 King of the Ring. The 6-foot-10 Undertaker would throw Mick Foley (another of WWE's legends who enjoyed a long and illustrious career) off the steel cage and through the announcer's table. If that level of brutality wasn't enough, the match would also see Foley get choke slammed through thumbtacks!
For a sport that has undergone a serious change over the 30 years in its storylines, in its production, in its themes, in how it showcases wrestlers, what hadn't changed was The Undertaker and what he meant to the fans.
Maybe now, after all, The Undertaker finally gets to ‘Rest in Peace’.
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