What I’m about to say, I say with a heavy heart. I don’t want to say it, but I will: Guys, it’s time to let Undertaker go.
Now, before you all get the pitchforks sharpened and the torches lit, let me say this: I have been an Undertaker fan since I was eight. I still remember being terrified of that huge man in the black hat who beat up all the good guys and didn’t break a sweat. I remember the good years and the bad years, but it’s time all of us Creatures of the Night accept that our hero hung his boots up last year and isn’t coming back.
As much as many of us probably don’t want to admit it, WWE has been preparing us for Taker’s retirement for several years; at least since his feud with Triple H after the retirement of Shawn Michaels. The ‘End of an Era’ match seemed to herald the end of Undertaker’s career, when it actually heralded Shawn’s departure and Triple H taking a more backstage role in the company.
Then there was the end of the Streak at WrestleMania 30, which seemed to be not only the end of the Streak, but the end of Taker’s career, but he came back a year later to face Bray Wyatt, then Brock Lesnar, then Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family. In 2016, Vince said outright that if Taker couldn’t beat Shane in Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania, his WrestleMania career(and his actual career, given that he’d only been working WrestleManias for a few years) would be over. Vince has been warning us for at least four years that Taker’s career was winding down and that he’d soon be riding off into the sunset of a well-earned retirement.
Then, last year, the big moment came. Vince gave us Undertaker vs Roman Reigns, the passing of the deed to the yard from the original Big Dog to the new Big Dog. Let’s be honest, that match was brutal to watch and not even close to the best Undertaker WrestleMania match, especially when compared to the matches he’d done just a few years previously. Think about all the quintessential Taker stuff we didn’t see in that match: Old School, the leaping clothesline, the standing dive onto the floor. Taker’s arsenal last year was punches, kicks, guillotine leg drops, and Tombstones, not even half of his moveset. Roman Reigns, who doesn’t have the most extensive moveset in the world, had to strip down his own moveset to the bare minimum in order for Taker to keep up.
Watching that match last year with tears streaming down my face, I finally admitted to myself that after that match, I had no desire to see Undertaker wrestle ever again. I still love him, I still wear my Undertaker ‘Taking Souls and Digging Holes’ shirt, but I don’t want to sit through another match like that again. I want my memories of Undertaker at WrestleMania to be the great ones: the matches with Edge, Orton, Batista, Michaels, Triple H. I don’t want my memories to be of a broken down old man trying to move like he’s 30.
There are people out there who have their hearts set on Taker’s ‘real’ last match being against John Cena, but I think it’s safe to say that the window for that match closed years ago. Cena is pretty much a part timer now and both men have already passed their particular torches to Roman Reigns. After last year, I don’t believe that Taker/Cena would live up to the hype it could’ve done a few years ago.
Now, I know a lot of you want to point to the fact that Taker’s new hip seems to have given him a new lease on life, but I have had three relatives who have had one or both hips replaced, and while it will give you some mobility back, you’re not running marathons on it.
I know WWE has state of the art physical therapy, but physical therapy can’t turn back the hands of time. Taker is 52 years old and has been wrestling for over thirty years. Yes, Flair’s career went longer, but I don’t think anyone could honestly say that the last years of Flair’s career were great in-ring wise (at least, not with a straight face).
This hurts me to say, but it’s time to let Taker go. He’s given us everything he had and then some for 27 years, and as fans, we owe it to him to not ask for more.