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REVIEW: UNDERTAKER WANTS REDEMPTION IN LAST RIDE EPISODE THREE, BUT WHAT MARK CALAWAY TRULY NEEDS IS CLARITY

By Mike Johnson on 2020-05-24 10:33:00

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” - Ernest Hemingway

The third episode of WWE Network’s limited-edition docuseries Undertaker - Last Ride makes it clear that Mark Calaway knows he is walking The Green Mile.   After all, it is titled End of An Era.  His time as The Undertaker is clearly coming to a close, whether he or anyone else wants it to, but like all great performers, Calaway wants to control the narrative the way he has controlled opponents inside the ring.  He wants to be the one to reach the exit door of his own accord and be the one to slam it shut, as opposed to having it slammed shut on him. 

When it’s finally over, one imagines Calaway may muse, he wants to be free on the outside looking back, not trapped emotionally from within, forever tormented by what he sees as a failure to stick the landing of career that has lasted decades.

Unfortunately episode three documents the reality that the harder Mark Calaway fights to make it through that mythical door, the further it becomes out of reach.  Unsettled by his short encounter with John Cena at Wrestlemania 34, Calaway is at the same time in the best physical condition he has been in years, pushing and allowing himself to appear on a most consistent basis inside a WWE ring.

Everyone in life has a vice.  Everyone chases something.  Whether it’s greatness or addiction, the one true factor that equalizes these things, good and bad, may indeed be the thrill of the hunt, the feeling that the satisfaction discovered at the end makes it all worth it.  The true problem, in many of these cases, is that the chase never truly ends until it’s forced to cease.

For Mark Calaway, empowered with a new hip and the belief that he could have done so much more against Cena in New Orleans, the chase is on.  From Madison Square Garden to Saudi Arabia, we witness Calaway pursue that elusive high; it drives him ever-forward.  He wants, no needs, that true moment of redemption where he can look back, exhale deeply and know, within himself, that he’s finally accomplished a job well done and can finally exit The Undertaker and live in peace as Mark Calaway.  

The problem is that Calaway, the perfectionist, may have already defeated himself in the chess game playing out inside his head.  Well into his 50s, the goal he is seeking to attain emotionally may be impossible physically, no matter how hard he tries.  Even with that new hip and a driven passion, that moment of perfection may just never be found.  Reality may have plunged a spear through the heart of The Undertaker’s fictional exploits once and for all, even if Calaway isn’t ready to admit that just yet.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” - Ernest Hemingway

Like previous Last Ride episodes, the relationships that bind The Undertaker drive the third episode of Last Ride, this time his bonds to long-time on-air adversaries Shawn Michaels and Triple H.  In Michaels, Calaway can’t help but to see the fully-formed realization of exactly what he wants for himself - a self-sustaining moment in time to place in the time capsule of memory that leads to eternal satisfaction - something Calaway himself was able to gift Michaels with their legendary bout at Wrestlemania 25.

In Michaels and Triple H, Calaway has two kindred souls, the oldest convicts in the yard.  There is a distinct respect and understanding among the three as they have grown old while WWE evolved around them.  They are not only the last men standing but an argument can be made that they are the pillars that have stood the test of time.

Unfortunately for Calaway, as we all know, the roads of all three (as well as Kane) lead them to Saudi Arabia where all hopes of that final salvation in the ring is all but lost with a bout that goes terribly wrong, something that would never be admitted under normal WWE circumstances but Last Ride, with the curtain pulled back, makes it clear not only what a step back this was for Calaway but a complete trainwreck for all involved.

It is perhaps Michelle McCool, who has become something of the Greek chorus for her husband’s continued attempts to tie the bow on his career, who says it best - Calaway has now found himself trapped in a vicious cycle.  He finds himself nearing the summit of his final mountain climb, only to slide back down, again and again.  Calaway can see the goal line but the game keeps getting reset.  

For someone as proud as he is, it’s almost a fate worse than death for The Undertaker.  He wants what Shawn Michaels has.  He needs to write his final chapter, but the drama he’s envisioned in his head, as Triple H comments about their Saudi tag team encounter, has become a “bad comedy.” 

Parody is the last thing Mark Calaway has ever wanted to be, but he's closer to that at the end of this episode than any other time in his career.  So what now?  How can he ever truly end his era on this note?

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” - Ernest Hemingway

As Last Ride continues to document Mark Calaway, the one thing that may truly redeem him is clarity - but is that something that his drive for that last moment will ever provide? 

With two episodes left, the answer is still left unclear.   

Redemption in the ring is far easier than redemption within one’s self.

WWE provided an advance stream of Undertaker - Last Ride episode 3, which will debut this Sunday on the WWE Network.

Mike Johnson can be reached at MikeJohnsonPWInsider@gmail.com.

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