A little more than one year ago, after WrestleMania 33, we thought we saw the Undertaker wrestle his last match. Beaten and broken down at 52 years old, and with surgeries on the horizon, Undertaker left his hat, coat, and gloves in the ring after a loss to Roman Reigns and then seemingly disappeared, for good.
Fast forward to the present, and Undertaker returned at WrestleMania 34, albeit in an abbreviated match again John Cena earlier this month. Now today, at WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia, Undertaker is back again, this time in a casket match against Rusev.
The ridiculous booking aside — the match was announced against Rusev, switched to Chris Jericho, and then back to Rusev — WWE has found a way to use Undertaker in abbreviated ways. Like his match with Cena at WrestleMania, I don’t expect this Greatest Royal Rumble match to last very long. Undertaker is limited — ok, he’s extremely limited — but that’s because of all he put his body through. At this point in his career, he might need to structure the match a certain way in order for him to protect himself both physically, and to protect the presentation of the match. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a draw.
Look at the crowd reaction today when he makes his ring entrance. Look at the crowd reaction at WrestleMania earlier this month. He’s beloved, obviously, and I don’t think his character is at a point where people feel sorry for him. It’s not bastardizing the character. At least not yet …
I don’t expect him to pull off a performance like he had against Shawn Michaels, or even Triple H, in their WrestleMania matches. That’s not fair to him, not at this point in his career, but he can still put together an entertaining match. It just has to be a specific style. And that’s OK.
WWE is smart to milk every last drop out of the Undertaker character. Undertaker, if he wants some paydays, I don’t begrudge him. The argument that he should protect the legacy of the character and not continue to wrestle if he can only do 50 percent of what he used to is a valid argument. But it’s not my body and it’s not my bank account. If he feels like he can continue to perform, and WWE is willing to compensate him for those performances, it’s up to Mark Calloway if he thinks it’s worth it.
Clearly, so far, he does.