Great Scott! It’s time for “Cowboy” Bob to go back to the future all the way from the distant past of April, 2017. No, this isn’t Back To The Future Part III, despite me being a “Cowboy”. Instead, it’s a segment where Bob will look back on infamous matches throughout history and give a very Bob perspective on it.
Considering Undertaker and Goldberg’s absolutely horrendous match from Super Showdown that will be memed in infamy until the end of time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on Undertaker’s “true” retirement match, in which good ol’ “Cowboy” Bob himself was an attendee of in person at Wrestlemania 33, live in Orlando, Florida.
This match has a pretty awful reputation. It’s considered to be a poorly worked, highly botched match that would be a disgrace to actually end Taker’s career on. Despite the hype and pageantry of a full-on 20 minute goodbye in the Wrestlemania main event, surely signifying his retirement, when Undertaker came back for shameful ongoing encores (Rusev, Degeneration X, Cena, Goldberg), the prevailing thought among the internet was “at least that Roman match gets washed away”.
The truth is, the Roman Reigns vs Undertaker match was the perfect, most beautiful way to end the career of an unquestioned legend. In an odd way, the poor workrate and embarrassing botches help the match in a way I have never seen. A little background going into this:
As recent as the day before Wrestlemania, this match wasn’t even thought to headline the show. There was no “Career on the Line” stipulation. There were no allusions to the end of the Undertaker. Most assumed Brock vs Goldberg would have gone on last.
So going into the match, while conventional wisdom of course suggested The Big Dog would get the clean-as-Mr.-Clean’s-bald-head victory, there was still a little bit of wiggle room. Can Taker score one last big win at mania? This match is headlining. They can’t be THAT tone-deaf to their fans to know this won’t get booed out of the building…right? Perhaps a Taker win to set up one last big money feud before he hangs it up?
Are these stretches? Perhaps. But it was at least possible. One of my many pet peeves with pro wrestling is that “Career on the Line” almost always spoils the winner.
What I remember most about this match is the energy throughout the stadium. About halfway through, as Undertaker could barely pull off basic moves in his arsenal, the most embarrassing botch was when he and Roman could not pull off the Tombstone reversal. I remember looking both ways and seeing the looks on strangers’ faces that conveyed the same thoughts: “Wow, this is truly it. This is the retirement match. Undertaker simply cannot go anymore if he wanted to.”
The ending was absolutely poetic. (by wrestling’s standards, again this is the same medium that gave us a leprechaun as Vince McMahon’s long-lost son and Triple H pretending to have sex with the corpse of Kane’s dead high school girlfriend.) You had Undertaker go up for his iconic zombie sit-up…and just crash right back down. Not this time. The Deadman simply doesn’t have the magic anymore.
You have the young superstar Roman, who doesn’t want to be the one to take out the old legend. Only doing so when Taker has to goad him (“You don’t have the balls…”). And then, the wonderful finish, as Roman effortlessly runs the ropes as the old, washed up, tired old legend spins around helplessly, unable (literally and figuratively) to keep up with the young star, and getting speared and effortlessly pinned by Roman right in the middle of the ring.
Roman leaves, turning back one last time as eerie vibes fill the Orlando stadium. And finally, we get the perfect storybook ending.
Undertaker gets up in his old gear, and removes his hat, his coat and his gloves, leaving them in the ring. As he walks up the ramp, he turns back, one last time, at an exhausted crowd roaring for him, as he sinks into the entrance ramp with a tear in his eye.
“THANK YOU TAKER” chants reverberate through the midnight air as the stadium goes dark and the bell tolls for the final time.
This. Was. Fucking. Perfect.
And then…he came back. Again and again.
In my mind, and yes, I suppose it’s because I selfishly want it to be this way, and want to tell myself that I was there for Undertaker’s retirement, this was the definitive end. This was the final chapter of the book, and then the Undertaker of 2018-present is the shitty epilogue.
Perfect ending, “oh yeah, and then eventually Undertaker came back, took a fat wad of cash from Saudi Arabia, and had a collection of utterly forgettable matches and slinked off into obscurity forever.”
The Goldberg Embarrassment
The Undertaker vs Goldberg match at Super Showdown could have, and should have, been great for what it was. It should have easily topped out at 2.5, or possibly even 3 Bobs. “Bobs” are like stars. Very much like stars, in fact, however different.
This isn’t complicated, mofos. Everyone does their “greatest hits”. We get the spears, the chokeslam, the “Old School”. The problem is, these are 2 men combined at 106 years old, both covered in sweat at 100 degrees. Plus, Goldberg has the IQ of Rain Man and headbutts the dressing room door on the way out. We can’t do a Tombstone Piledriver, or a Jackhammer. I understand these are fan favorites, but I’m sorry, they physically just can’t be done.
Make the story of the match that both have “scouted” each other, and they can’t pull their finishing moves off. So Undertaker has to resort to deep into his bag of tricks and break out a Last Ride powerbomb to get the win. Everyone is happy. Fireworks. Get out of town before the Saudi prince slits someone’s throat.
Instead they book a fucking Tombstone-reversal spot. Seriously?! I just detailed out above how even Roman, a superior conditioned athlete in his 30’s couldn’t pull off that spot with Undertaker, but Goldberg and his white beard is going to flawlessly do it without paralyzing someone? For Christ’s sake.
They way over-complicated this match and was embarrassing, and most importantly, unbelievably dangerous for all involved. There are at least 2 spots where each could have paralyzed each other – that botched Tombstone and the botched Jackhammer. Let’s all be thankful it’s over and regroup for Crown Jewel II when we get Hogan vs Flair.
I am positive this Goldberg match will not be Undertaker’s last, just because it was so embarrassingly shitty, and that Hall-of-Fame look on his face after the final bell screamed that he was unhappy with it. Seriously, that look mirrors what is on my face everytime a meaningless 6 man tag ends Monday Night Raw. So I am guessing we’ll get one more very short match, hopefully with a younger star like Bray Wyatt or Finn Balor, to minimize the embarrassment. And hopefully this time there will be no over the top pageantry to say goodbye. It’s time to just leave with dignity. He got his farewell. Anything more would be pandering.
And if he tries one more match against a senior citizen, I think the Undertaker might Rest. In Peace.