The second episode of this remarkable ‘limited event series’ (As WWE clearly wants us to call it) has dropped this afternoon.
After the absolute magnificence of last week’s episode (reviewed here), the second instalment had very large shoes to fill indeed. The impact of the first chapter was ultimate.
With it no longer being a shock in seeing Mark Calaway open up so completely, would it make this follow up pale in comparison? Not a bit of it!
The episode picks up in the immediate aftermath of the WrestleMania 33 match between Taker and Roman Reigns. The first revelation of the episode was that as many suspected at the time, this was indeed supposed to be the final match of The Undertaker’s storied career.
The hat and coat left in the ring….kissing his wife on camera….They all seemed the acts of a man calling it a day. The one fly in that ointment was that Taker felt the match stunk. Seeing him watch it back sat on his sofa, the embarrassment is written all over his face.
The story of this episode is how Taker went from the shame (in his mind) of this performance, to bringing himself back to being a version of himself he could be proud of, culminating in his match the following year at WrestleMania 34 with John Cena.
As per last week, this review is not going to be a blow by blow account of the events of the hour long episode. What’s the point?
You’ve either watched it, so you don’t need the details recapping. Or, you haven’t seen it. In which case, immediately stop reading this article, get it watched and come back and finish this afterwards. Savvy?
Instead, lets touch on a few of the key moments and revelations from the episode that captured this reviewer’s attention. Needless to say, there were a lot of them.
This series is simply crammed full of moments that make a wrestling fans jaw drop. It dawned on me whilst watching it that this, really, is the culmination of how many of have pursued our wrestling fandom over the last couple of decades. Sure, we have been glued to the screen for the content the various wrestling companies have served us.
But really, there has been as much interest in what has taken place off screen in the private dramas behind the scenes. This series is the culmination of us wanting to peek behind the curtain. It is a true and approved peek behind the heaviest of curtains. Undertaker: the forbidden knowledge.
We saw many superstars play out their real life highs and lows for us all to see, but Taker always alluded us and we accepted that.
Now, not only have we got that access but we are seeing the most private moments of his professional life. These are the moments we have always wanted to see and now hear they are. Filmed, produced and packaged for us with the official approval of WWE and the man himself. It’s no less remarkable than it was in the first chapter.
So to some of those key moments:
- The first part of the episode follows Undertaker for hip replacement surgery at a private New York Hospital. It’s hard to pick a highlight of this stretch. Is it seeing Calaway laying in hospital in a floral surgical gown and his black biker cap? Is it the revelation he has had around 50 surgeries? It’s certainly not the idea that Vince McMahon would text Taker in hospital to wind him up about how he has to stay on the ward overnight after his surgery. That’s not remotely a surprise, is it pal? No, surely it has to be Undertaker talking about how the surgeon played his theme in the surgery as he fell under the effects of his anaesthetic. If that’s true, that is sensational!
- The episode then moves on to Calaway’s trip to Stamford, Connecticut for his meeting with Vince McMahon over a potential new contract. Again, it’s all filmed and documented right up to the two men getting down to brass tacks on the specifics. More widely though, this part of the doc goes deeply in on the relationship between Taker and Vince. A relationship Calaway describes variously as father/son, brotherly and mentor/student. One suspects it has been all three at various points. It is truly affecting see this bond writ large. Huge amounts of archive footage illustrates their bond over the years. The capper is seeing McMahon unable to express himself over his feelings for Taker and asking the camera be shut off. This is a genuinely wonderful look at Vince McMahon the human being. How few times have we seen that over the years?
- One other brilliant little tidbit is seeing the sign that Vince has pinned to the door of the room in each arena he uses as an office. It’s safe to say it’s not grand. In fact, it must be an inside joke just how crappy it is. It’s literally a no smoking sign and his name with one of those naff Microsoft Word borders around it. In this case, a load of shamrocks. A nod to Vince’s Irish roots of course. A pointless note but one a funny one nonetheless.
- The show then documents Taker’s training in the run up to his WrestleMania match in New Orleans. It’s fair to say it’s fairly low tech. He commanders a run down jet ski warehouse in Austin, Texas (Where he lives) and fills it with a WWE ring, a bunch of old PPV banners, some heavy rock music and Primo Colon, who comes in as his training partner and it has to be said, looks thoroughly miserable throughout. Even with the basic facilities, it still looked a darn sight better than the old Florida Championship Wrestling facility documented on another recent WWE Network production!
- The documentary, as expected, ends at WrestleMania itself with his match against John Cena. This part goes as one would expect with the match being seen to be good enough to not only complete Taker’s self-sought redemption but also to prompt talk of how he might have one more match left in him. We obviously know that he has several. Unfortunately, not all of them lived up to anyone’s expectations, much less his own.
- On that note, the tease for next week’s chapter covers the next year or so of his career, covering his match against Rusev at Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia but also more notably, his match teaming with Kane against D-Generation X at a later Saudi show. It’s fair to say that nobody involved had any higher opinion of this match than us fans at the time. It should make for a great car crash next week.
Overall, another utterly wonderful piece of WWE television and a must see for anyone who’s ever shown the faintest interest in wrestling. This is genuinely becoming the entertainment highlight of our year.