The Last Ride

Being a fan of wrestling there is one thing you learn, and learn to roll with.

Change is constant.

Wrestlers come and go.  Sometimes they'll show up in other companies.  Sometimes they fade into obscurity.  They'll get injured or retire.  In a lot of these cases they come back only to have the cycle to start over again.

Growing up there seemed to be one constant.  From the time I started watching wrestling there was....

The Undertaker.

And the Undertaker was always WWE.

I remember first turning on a WWE show and he was there.  He was a lot younger.  Baby faced with red hair, purple gloves and boot covers.  The character never scared me, but definitely held a menace about him.

True he'd wrestled for other promotions before making it to WWE with his over the top gimmick.  A dead man that would never stay dead.  He'd been buried I don't know how many times.  He'd been put in a coffin almost as many.  There was even a time when that coffin was set on fire.  He'd disappear for a while, only to return stronger than ever.

His Wrestlemania streak was unprecedented.  He'd gone 21 Wrestlemanias without a loss.  Something no other wrestler has done, or I dare say will ever do again.  Watching Wrestlemania he seemed to step it up a level every time.  Going all out until they finally worked the streak into story line.  The streak was something to beat.  I don't even think it was planned from the beginning.  I think they kept having him win without realizing it and finally made it into something every wrestler wanted to end.

Through the ever changing world that is professional wrestling, one thing never changed.  You could always flip on WWE and know that the Undertaker would be there.

That is until this last Sunday.

For a while now the Undertaker had been showing signs of age.  He'd wrestle less and less often. Showing up periodically, until it was finally only once a year.  He would always defend his Wrestlemania streak.

A couple years ago he suffered his first loss to Brock Lesnar.  It was completely shocking.  I remembered watching it utterly stunned, most people did.  I thought that the streak would be the one thing the Undertaker could count as his legacy.  He would never have as many championships as some others. His win/loss record overall wouldn't be anything to take note of, but the streak would be forever.

For the next couple of years he would still show up at Wrestlemania.  Rise from the dead if you will, but the illusion seemed to be broken by then.  Each time he'd move a little slower.  Each time you'd read articles about how he had been injured.  He'd pushed himself to the limit for the fans so much. The Deadman became more and more human.

This last Sunday at Wrestlemania 33, Undertaker suffered his second Wrestlemania loss to Roman Reigns.

The match itself wasn't bad.  You could tell he was fighting as hard as ever.  He was putting on the same type of show he always strove to put on each year, but there was something different here.  I don't know if it was his age showing?  He had just turned 52.  I don't know if it was his slow moving gait.  Rumors swirled that he needed surgery that he was putting off until after Wrestlemania. Whatever it was there was something.

Roman had to bring it to the Undertaker.  Even with the slowness and pain Taker was giving as good as he got.  By the end of the match Roman was throwing Superman punch after Superman punch and Spear after Spear at Taker, only to have Taker eventually kick out.  A glimmer of hope shown through in a moment that we were all dreading.  Maybe he wasn't going to lose again.  It took a super charged Spear and Roman finally laid the Demon of Death Valley down for three.

It wasn't as sad or shocking, being his second loss, but it still stung.

It was afterwards that really twisted the knife.

Undertaker stood there to the adulation of the fans.  He donned his long jacket and hat, his customary ring attire and then.....

Took them off.

His removed his gloves as well, and he laid them in the center of the ring.

I remembered thinking that this couldn't be happening.  That it didn't mean anything, although deep down I knew it did.  It finally hit home when, in an act that the Undertaker has never done, he broke character and walked over to his wife and kissed her.

It was a truly shocking and sad moment.  More so than the losses to Brock and Roman.  It humanized the Undertaker.  What was once a strong and powerful force of nature in the world of pro wrestling, was just a man walking up that ramp.

He stopped mid stage and turned back, in customary Undertaker fashion.  One last time he raised his fist into the air as he was lowered down into the ramp.

I never lauded Undertaker as my favorite wrestler, but I can safely say I, like all wrestling fans, held him in high regards.  I enjoyed watching him decimate opponents.  His battles with Kane and Mankind were legendary.  His eerie entrance.  The slow methodical walk to the ring that meant certain doom to whomever was waiting for him.  The sound of the gong that meant death was coming.  He was part of some of WWE's biggest moments and some of my best wrestling memories.

I don't think there will be anyone ever again like the Undertaker.  No one else could pull off what was on paper such a cheesy gimmick and turn it into the most bad ass character of all time.  I'm sure many will try, but like all that faced the Undertaker they will Rest In Peace.

Thank you Deadman.