Released as part of the ongoing partnership between WWE and Netflix, Escape The Undertaker presents a new choose-your-own-adventure interactive movie experience featuring current WWE Superstar Kofi Kingston, Big E, Xavier Woods, and professional wrestling icon The Undertaker. The story, just in time for the Halloween season, sees the trio arrive at "The Phenom's" mansion to try to acquire The Urn, a MacGuffin that was often part of Undertaker's presentation during his 30-year run in WWE. But Undertaker isn't going to give up his prized possession without a fight, so E, Kingston, and Woods have to try to navigate their way through various traps all while avoiding getting jumped by "The Deadman" and possibly losing their souls.
If this all sounds like something that might've been a Cinematic Match during WWE's Pandemic Era, you'd be exactly right. This will likely draw a lot of comparisons to Undertaker's Boneyard Match from WrestleMania 36 and after playing through the movie several times, you can see where a few simple editing tricks could have turned this into a short film without the interactivity. In fact, that might have been the better option.
During your first playthrough, you're going to be presented with a few rounds of choices that give the illusion that certain events will play out in particular ways and have a direct impact on the movie's ending. But Black Mirror: Bandersnatch this is not. Play through the movie again and you'll quickly realize none of these early choices (except for a gag option that cuts to the credits right at the beginning) have any real impact as certain story beats are locked into place. Getting the movie's "true" ending isn't all that difficult on your first try and any big deviation from the main story gives you the equivalent of a "Game Over" screen rather than any alternate endings. It's at that point that you realize this movie is walking you by the hand to the finish line.
Despite its clunky format, there is quite a bit to like about the movie. The mansion has a lot of nods to the lore of "The Phenom" — a particularly great usage of Paul Bearer footage and a nod to Kane both come to mind — and Undertaker is clearly having fun getting to go all-out with the character again, with the charisma and comedic timing that made New Day this generation's definitive WWE tag team on full display. There's even a great character moment involving Kingston that I sincerely hope gets translated to WWE programming in some form.
I don't know if the interactive movie format is necessarily the way to go for future WWE films. But if Escape The Undertaker and 2020's lineup of cinematic matches have taught us anything, it's that you can make some really entertaining short films with WWE Superstars. This one gets a recommendation for wrestling fans, but you should probably only play through it once.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Escape The Undertaker is available now on Netflix.