undertaker wrestlemania

The Undertaker is gone. Our childhoods may officially be over.

The WWE usually telegraphs retirement matches pretty well. When it was Ric Flair’s time to go in 2008, he went on a Winter of Flair. Over 40 years of his career got one last swan song, culminating in a Hall of Fame induction & one final classic with Shawn Michaels.

Michaels time would come two years later, under similar circumstances. Fueled by his obsession to beat The Undertaker, Michaels brought drama to the final two years of his career. A masterwork of bringing people into the spectacle, Michaels’ made his final match feel bigger than life itself. Ultimately, he would bow out too – albeit on his own terms.

Last night at WrestleMania 33, The Undertaker would make that final bow too.

It’s said by plenty of smart fans and casual viewers alike that the older a performer gets, the better they are at their craft. AJ Styles at 40 is currently the best wrestler in the world. John Cena, nearing 40 just finished off the best two-year in-ring streak of his life. Taker found the fountain of youth beginning with WrestleMania 23 against Batista and wouldn’t let go of it for almost a decade. He was 42 that night he won the World Heavyweight Title in Detroit.

He was 52 when he laid down the round brim hat for the final time.

There was no “better” opponent for Taker’s final salute, because he’d already exhausted most of them.

The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns was built as a match over yards, both well-manicured and filled with headstones and buried souls. Reigns continually seeped over into that entitled Samoan Prince that dwells within him throughout the build and Taker felt like Old Man Logan. All of the bite was there, yet the body was unwilling. What wars he put himself through for one night a year, it all finally came ahead.

For some reason or another, The Undertaker has been part of my life in weird machinations. Dreams about him hitting both of my parents with a Tombstone Piledriver? Yes. Watching my then girlfriend mark out when we watched him and Michaels square up at WrestleMania 25? Yes. Watch as another ex realized that the Undead Mortician Cowboy facing off against the perfect avatar of what Donald Trump wishes he were was a thing thousands of people were into? Ditto. That’s nearly three decades of my life right there spent watching a “character” originally from the Northside of Houston, Texas captivate people. He was homegrown — and ridiculous.

Had it been John Cena to square off against Taker, the Internet Wrestling Community probably would have enjoyed it. As would I. That’s mainly due to the trust Cena’s gathered over the last few years in-ring wise. Reigns? Reigns’ battle has never been in-ring work, even if he wrestles in a goddamn flak jacket. No, our Samoan named Joe’s main battle has always been with the same fans who know he’s being positioned as the Next Big Thing. But I saw Taker’s brief stay in the Royal Rumble in person. He lumbered around, pulled off a few moves and then was eliminated by Reigns. It didn’t matter who would “retire” Taker. His greatest foes had already went back and forth with him for years. Cena was too busy trying to get a wedding proposal off. It had to be Reigns.

“It was X-24 vs. Logan … but sadder.”

The greatest dogma to the idea of the Undertaker is that there isn’t a true perfect way to say goodbye to him. It should have been a year or so ago when he and Kane teamed against the Wyatts. Or WrestleMania XXX when his one sticking point, “The Streak” was put to rest.

Try as he might, Taker didn’t move the same. Unlike Flair’s swan song and the same for Michaels, Taker was in the middle of both. He acted in defiance of Reigns, echoing all their masculinity talk in the lead up to Mania. Once the two tried a Taker classic in the reverse Tombstone Piledriver and failed … it happened. That was the last gasp. We knew it, Taker knew it.

He probably knew it the night he turned his back to Reigns, as if the inevitable was to occur. We were going to lose him somehow. Only that it came with a whimper, rather than a thunderous action.

Hat off. Gloves off. Jacket off. It was time. We may have wanted better for the Last Outlaw but it wasn’t to be. It couldn’t be. A career far too summed up in mysticism and athletic mastery even at advanced age had to die in the most in-Taker way possible.

He finally became mortal.