Running Time: 330 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 23 2020
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
In a strange year for WWE (and the world, to be fair), perhaps one of the more unusual story arcs has concerned The Undertaker. He is one of the biggest stars of all-time, but he’s someone who has remained private, even maintaining his character beyond the ring during recent years when kayfabe seemed to be long dead (no pun intended). However, recent times have seen him lift the veil and reveal himself to the world, so to speak.
Indeed, we’ve known about The Undertaker for 30 years come this Sunday, but how much did we really know about Mark Calaway? The answers came in a WWE Network docuseries which was first shown in May and June of this year. Now, The Last Ride has come to DVD, and it’s easily the most compelling release this year.
There are five episodes, approximately an hour long (some dip below that timeframe slightly), and each covering a different chapter of Taker’s recent history. Ironically, it was only meant to be a one-off, with Taker originally planning to retire after losing to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. At that point, though, he simply wanted the cameras to document his final days as an in-ring performer, with the footage being used in some form at a later date.
Little did we know in April 2017, however, that his struggle to go out with a bang would roll on and on. Episode one is presented as if it’s the end of the line, but by episode two, he’s gearing up for a return bout against John Cena at WrestleMania 34. Even then, the feeling is that if he could steal the show in a big-match situation, this would be a great swansong. But the brevity of that contest led him to continue his personal quest.
The third episode covers The Brothers Of Destruction waging war with DX in Australia and Saudi Arabia, but this time the big climax at Crown Jewel 2018 is a calamity, with age and injuries catching up to all involved. Episode four sees things go from bad to worse: his willingness to sit out WrestleMania 35 eats away at him on the night itself, before a Super ShowDown battle against Goldberg almost sees him break his neck (due to a concussed Goldberg dropping him on his head while attempting a Jackhammer).
Fortunately, Taker was okay, but this only highlighted his problems. Fortunately, a strong showing under tag team rules at Extreme Rules 2019 rekindles his belief that he still has it, before the stage is set for him to battle AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36. In his mind, if anyone could allow him to leave on a high note, it’s the Phenomenal One. Sadly, the Covid pandemic alters the dynamic so that, while they still managed to put on a hell of a fight under Boneyard Match rules, there was no live audience there to see it.
Nevertheless, Taker’s message as the docuseries ends is that he’s satisfied with calling it a day after that battle with Styles. It makes for a fitting end to The Last Ride, except that he’d already stated this after the defeat to Reigns in the first edition. Is Undertaker definitely done or not? Survivor Series this Sunday is set to mark his final farewell, and all the signs are that he really is wrapping things up. However, I personally believe that he will still have one final match, once fans are back in arenas and stadiums (even if it isn’t until WrestleMania 38 in 2022). Nobody deserves to perform the full entrance, hear the noise of the audience, and receive the appreciation of his peers more than him. And it’d be a damn shame if he goes out without the crowd being able to say goodbye along with those who Taker has waged war with since 1990.
The Last Ride is a truly gripping docuseries, probably the best that WWE has ever produced. The subject matter is pivotal, as well as the fact that much of the information (such as Taker’s confidence issues, which dated back to his loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX) was genuinely unknown. There is a tinge of sadness throughout, though. To see a proud legend like Undertaker struggling to even have one final epic clash under the correct circumstances is almost heart-breaking to those who watched him steal the show at seven consecutive WrestleManias when his vaunted Streak was at its peak.
To me, it’s also a sad thing that many have already watched this on the WWE Network. If we were still in an era where DVDs were the priority, this five-part series providing all sorts of candid footage and revelations would be one of the greatest releases in company history. As it is, the presentation is still highly fascinating, but something is lost by the fact that most will have already seen it. Mind you, we do get bonus features, including out-takes and extra stories that aren’t on the Network.
Overall, though, The Last Ride is a must-own. It remains to be seen as to whether we really have seen the last of The Undertaker come Survivor Series 2020, or if (as I suspect) he will still have one final clash, even if it’s a ten-minute affair that is carefully controlled with the right opponent. But even if he doesn’t, The Last Ride receives a major thumbs-up from me, and it’s the most appealing WWE DVD release in a long time. Hopefully, we get a full DVD dedicated to Taker, with a career-encompassing documentary of similar candour once he finally does prove that he’s retired (say in 2022 or 2023). Before then, though, enjoy The Last Ride as we say goodbye (or at least we begin to say goodbye) to the greatest character in wrestling history.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding