Undertaker: Last Ride – Review

To seek out closure in any aspect of life is a truly rare thing. For any performer to willingly let go of the spotlight and a sold out audience is something rarer. In professional wrestling many have never been able to close the door on their own terms and to be able to do that, to end a legacy and tenure on one’s own terms is something that doesn’t get seen very often. 

For those who know me will know that the pageantry and mystique of professional wrestling has had a place in my heart since before the years I ever aspired to pen any book, or write any blog but still to me wrestling is story telling. When it’s good, it’s awesome and of course many will laud the bad’s of an industry that once upon a time I aspired to get into. We’ve all heard of the premature deaths, or various scandals of new and old, most of us have even done a few laps on the whole ‘fake’ contemplation racetrack. The truth is wrestling is a performance; something I always dreamed of doing.

WWE The Last Ride: Who Should Be The Undertaker's Final Opponent?

Of course I itched my performing scratch big time by swapping out the ambition of stepping between those ropes to treading the boards and taking in the spotlight via theatre instead, and even though my ten years as a performer don’t compare anywhere near to most who have any type of career in pro wrestling, I can fully relate to the addictive nature of what performing is. For me and quite fortunately I had always been eyeing up a way off the stage, to have my day and be done, then to find a way to escape the pressure of learning lines, wearing goofy costumes, dealing with performers who don’t take things as seriously and of course risking my own mental health to stand up in front of strangers. That escape came in the form of script writing and so I haven’t fully turned away from performing but taken a diagonal turn towards new challenges. But most importantly my escape from performing was both peaceful and final. It was the ‘Star Wars’ ending, it was closure.

The Undertaker is a name that sits in the very upper echelons in the realms of pro wrestling. It’s a character that has never really been broken or had any type of backstage lid lifted upon it. There hasn’t been any ‘shoot’ type interviews over the many years by the man behind the ‘gimmick’ Mark Calaway who has operated, since 1990 mind, when the likes of Hulk Hogan headed match cards. Luckily for me I managed to see the Undertaker way back in 2009 when at a Smackdown taping in London where he faced off with the Big Show and yes his entrance is as awesome as it looks, even from the nose bleed seats…

Quite recently the WWE network has premiered 5 special and ever so candid documentary style interviews with the Undertaker in the form of a series called ‘Last Ride’. Each episode follows the Undertaker who, without many realising this really is his final ride and crowning piece to a thirty year career. It goes into depth about the feelings of a man who has gone round and round in his time in the squared circle.

Much of the theme focuses on family. The Undertaker has kids and a wife, Michelle McCool – a name fans of the female wrestling movement will know and you can see the strain it is putting on her concerns for a man who might not know he is at the end of his career. During these 5 episodes we get a roller coaster ride as it covers his final years and matches with have been rare occasions of recent, from his initial ‘retirement’ moment against Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania to the few special exhibition matches that didn’t go too well; Bill Goldberg comes to mind. There is even some in depth look at the ‘streak’ where the Undertaker went 21 years without a loss at Wrestlemania – something that should have never been broken in my mind. In a sense it just goes round and round on a somewhat damning repeat for the Undertaker who is either looking for redemption in one match or finality in another. This vicious cycle is something he must break to find some finality.

10 Things We Learned From WWE's Undertaker: The Last Ride (Final ...
Without giving much away because even on this blog spoilers matter, the whole docu-series is well worth watching, even for the casual fan of wrestling, like me I don’t tune in much these days. You’ll see wrestling in a different light and through the eyes of a man who has been there the longest. ‘Taker’s interactions with others backstage is seen for the first time along with his emotional journey of seeking closure, it really is gripping. Those with their ear on the Twitter verse ground will know the Undertaker has used this show to laud his perhaps final retirement, and whether or not he is going to stay away from the spotlight and squared circle, this show has been the vessel for a great ending of a great career in performance, sports entertainment and the culture of wrestling. For the Undertaker it has been closure.

 

 

‘The Devil Next Door’ – Netflix Review

In quite recent times Netflix have led the way in creating some truly gripping and informative documentaries. Over the past year I’ve kind of become obsessed with the stack of true crime programs that the now giant of streaming has to offer. Even though many of these stories are harrowing, chilling and disturbing; I find myself fascinated sometimes.

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Last week I came across a new release and at the time it appeared in the #1 trending thingy that Netflix have recently introduced – a feature somewhat better than ‘stuff you might like’ – in terms of television shows and their popularity the masses don’t lie most of the time.

‘The Devil Next Door’ happened to be sitting in that #1 trending spot and the trailer began playing before I could do anything and I was instantly hooked on the premise. That premise being the story of John Demjanjuk a retired Ukrainian who lived in America and was an American citizen until he was arrested for being identified as a Nazi war criminal.

Even now the subject matter is pretty heavy and to this day there isn’t a definitive answer why so many Jewish people lost their lives in what was a mass extermination during world war two. For me, even thinking about it and how much those people suffered is enough to first make me angry and then upset. So some of this 5 part documentary not only covers some harrowing subjects but it also shows some footage of what is probably just the tip of a sinister iceberg – this one isn’t for the sensitive types.

John Demjanjuk or ‘Ivan the terrible’ as he used to be known as while working in Nazi death camps finds himself extradited to Israel and what unfolds is a lengthy court case which could lead to conviction and possibly execution. The whole thing is spread out over a long time and throughout I found myself asking have they got the right guy here? Evidence isn’t as definitive as it would be today and this court case took place in the 80’s. Photo’s of him as a younger man are from identification papers from the world war era and it’s obvious to see he’s a lot older. This is just one of the many variables in what is a gripping account of court room footage and angst amongst the people this man might have committed vile acts against.

The whole morale dilemma runs parallel to a battle of identity along with right versus wrong. If this is the right guy should they be entitled to execute him? Would letting him live be a compassionate act that rises above what all of those people suffered? Should the court case have taken place on neutral ground? The whole concept is layered intricately with these questions and a roller coaster ride that I couldn’t look away from. The outcome might come as a shock which I won’t share but recommend you watch.

 The Devil Next Door is an enduring watch with a heavy subject matter, a subject matter that history cannot and will not ignore, it’s graphic in some places but it has to be because what we are shown is nowhere near as bad as what the real people suffered. It’s dramatic and even shocking in places but will hold your attention throughput.