Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 is the culmination of a lot of things.
It’s WWE’s swan song for easily its best documentary production ever. But the entire documentary series has promised one thing. An answer to whether or not we’ve seen the Undertaker disappear into the smoke for the last time.
The Boneyard Match between Taker and AJ Styles at this year’s WrestleMania was the first of its era in terms of cinematic wrestling.
In Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5, we get as close to a definitive answer as possible to the one question the documentary has posed.
Have we seen the Undertaker’s final match?
Planting The Seed
Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5, titled ‘Revelation’ begins where we left off in Chapter 4. The Undertaker and Roman Reigns have had their tag match against Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre at Extreme Rules 2019.
And Taker whispers to Vince, “I’m done.”
We get the talking heads that have become commonplace for this series. Michelle McCool saying that Undertaker can finally separate from Mark Calaway. Triple H and Shane McMahon both saying, “Nah, he’s not done yet.”
You’d think that SmackDown at Madison Square Garden is where the itch to get back in the ring resurfaces. Instead, it’s where the reality of his situation finally seems to take hold. Reflections on the Goldberg disaster. The realization that serious injury is just part of it now. For once, in Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5, it seems like he means it.
But his appearance on The Broken Skull Sessions with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin lit a fire. Not within the Undertaker. But within his eventual Boneyard Match opponent – AJ Styles.
Chasing The Dragon
At this point, Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 becomes less about Undertaker chasing the perfect ending.
It becomes AJ Styles lobbying to be the Undertaker’s perfect ending.
At first, Taker is flattered but says the time has passed. And everybody in wrestling gets on the train. Austin says Styles is the best possible opponent for Taker. Ditto for Edge. Even McCool tells her husband, “You couldn’t pick anyone better.”
But still, Undertaker needs coaxing. It’s this section of Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 where we get a story-within-a-story. Taker takes a trip to the Performance Center to work with NXT’s big guys. That’s just a cool, weird notion to me. Getting coached by the Undertaker.
And this segment segues into Undertaker’s history of working with younger guys. Randy Orton recalls fondly his first match with the Deadman. Jeff Hardy remembers the ladder match on Raw. Again, a neat subject in and of itself. And it weaves in seamlessly with Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 and the story it’s telling.
It’s ultimately the time in the ring, bumping with the NXT guys that sells him on trying. AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker is a go for WrestleMania 36.
Then the world ended.
Changing The Dragon
It was like the build to any big WrestleMania match.
Styles rubbed salt into Taker’s wound. And he rubbed the Roman Reigns match that started everything in Taker’s face. Styles made it real and personal. He put Undertaker’s dignity and mystique on the line. The March 9, 2019 Raw saw Styles make things personal enough to move the needle for McCool.
In fact, the reality of Styles’s promo forced Undertaker’s hand in returning to the American Badass persona. Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 digresses briefly into the creation of that character during the Attitude Era. And Taker correctly assesses that the character wouldn’t have survived without that change.
Then we snap back to the present. Back to the build to WrestleMania 36.
But, like we said, the world conspired to make this different from any big WrestleMania match. The coronavirus pandemic made that impossible.
A live WrestleMania was out the window. And the construction of the Boneyard Match was going to be a chore. Then Undertaker gets word that his brother died of a heart attack. Days ahead of shooting the match.
Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 peeled back the veil on the Undertaker. But this chapter laid all of his frustrations, ideals, and pain bare. And in retrospect, it makes shooting the Boneyard Match that much more meaningful.
Taker took years of doubt, frustration, and pain, and he buried it. And in the process put on a new type of classic with Styles.
Undertaker: The Last Ride, at its heart, asked one question. When is it time for the Undertaker to move on?
And will it, in fact, be a time of Undertaker’s choosing? Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5, finally gives WWE fans the answer. Sort of.
“It was damn good. And damn good is what I was looking for,” Undertaker says of the Boneyard Match. “How do you top that?”
The loss of Undertaker’s brother and subsequent loss of McCool’s nephew put things in perspective for the Phenom. Fear of missing more time with his young family helps him find solace with where his legacy stands.
Taker leaves the door open to coming back if Vince is up against the wall. “In case of emergency break glass,” he says. “But I have no desire to step back in the ring at this point in my career.”
After five episodes, Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5 puts the nail in the coffin. But this is wrestling, so of course it gets qualified with, “Never say never.”
When WWE promises to take us “behind the scenes,” it’s usually pretty superficial.
Yeah, there are cameras literally “behind the scenes.” But it’s guys who haven’t seen each other for a while saying, “Hi.” It’s legends trading inside jargon. Or it’s new faces nervous about their first big match.
Undertaker: The Last Ride, like its subject, is another animal altogether.
And with Undertaker: The Last Ride – Chapter 5, we get things we don’t usually get in wrestling.
Closure. Or at least a close pro wrestling equivalent.
With the documentary in the bag, it seems as official as it can get. The career of the Undertaker can finally rest in peace.
All images courtesy of WWE.
'Undertaker: The Last Ride - Chapter 5,' Revelation
- WWE accomplished something truly special with this documentary
- I didn't expect a definitive ending when this doc started. And it delivered in satisfying fashion.
- Interviews with Undertaker/Calaway are as real as real gets.
- The look at Taker training NXT guys is a doc in and of itself
- The montage at the end was a little manipulative, which dampens the sincerity of the piece as a whole.