The series finale of Undertaker: The Last Ride hits the WWE Network on Sunday morning, recapping Mark Calaway's return to WWE programming in early 2020 and his lauded Boneyard Match with AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36. Before the episode airs, Calaway sat down with ComicBook.com on Thursday to discuss his thoughts on the finished product as well as various aspects of his career, including why he chose not to make the jump to WCW as well as why a match between he and "The Icon" Sting never materialized.
Calaway started off by revealing that he still hadn't seen the final episode and that the editing process is still ongoing.
"To be completely honest? I have seen many different variations of the last episode. We're still making edits and trying to figure out how we want to put the content altogether," Calaway said. "So yeah, I've seen a lot of versions of the last episode."
ComicBook: Do you think the series has accomplished what you and the WWE set out to do?
Mark Calaway: I'm just going to give you a little history into it. So I had the camera start following me... Let's see, was it (WrestleMania) 33 with Roman. I was pretty sure at that point or at least I had myself convinced that I was sure that that was going to be it and so I wanted the cameras around just to capture some of the atmosphere around WrestleMania so that I would have it for down the line, obviously it was going to be a pretty emotional weekend. And I just wanted to capture a lot of the interactions with my colleagues and so that's how it originally started. We had no intention of doing a documentary and then just as things progressed, we just kept every time that I was around was at any kind of WWE event, we had the cameras there and then one thing led to [another]. And so the next thing, we're three years into this.
And then we realized okay, we really have something here. So I'm very happy so far with everything that's [aired]. All the other episodes, I think we've really been able to get into my mindset of where I was at particular moments in the last three years, whether good, bad, or indifferent. And then just being and doing most of it away, you get really raw, unguarded answers from me, which obviously everyone knows how well I've protected this character and never let anything like this stuff get out. I've been really pleased and excited with how it's come out and the reaction from our audience.
The series covers some of the craziest stuff you got to be apart of throughout your career. Was there anything that was pitched to you where you said, 'That's too crazy, I've got to say no?'
The only thing that I can think of, and we all know how this story turns out. I wasn't on board really for throwing Mick Foley off the cell. I mean, I knew where he was coming from... but I wasn't really sold on it. And many times I told Mick, I was like, "Mick, we don't need to do that." I said, "we can make this great." And he was dead-set. And then we got Vince on board with him and I was like, "okay. I just want to go on record as saying that I'm not really comfortable with this," but obviously I wasn't the one getting thrown off the cell.
WWE made a "What If?" video a while back where they theorized what would've happened if you jumped to WCW in late '97-'98. If you had made that jump around that time, how do you feel that would have affected the trajectory of your career overall?
I honestly don't think we'd be sitting here having this conversation right now. I think I would have... Just with my own personal drive and my love of the business, I think I would have bounced back. And Vince being the businessman that he is and to his credit, a more forgiving soul than me, I'm sure that I would have probably come back at some point. But the legacy and everything wouldn't have been the same if I had left.
I would have had to start over and thinking about it now, it seems like it would have been a catastrophic mistake if I had really entertained it and made that decision. I was never anywhere close to making that decision. I mean, I listened to some conversations, but every plus that I could come up with I can come up with five minuses. And I always knew at some point, Vince and the WWE were going to turn it around and they did. And I'm glad that I stayed and everything worked out, but I don't think my career would have been what it is if I had made that jump.
What do you say to the fans who, to this day, still hold out hope for a match between you and Sting?
Well, in this world, you never say never, but I think as great as it sounds on paper... And it does, I mean obviously that is a super marquee match, right? But where I kind of differ from a lot of people is I look past the marquee value and I look on the ability to deliver. So like you said, there's so many people that are clamoring for that match that I just don't know that the match could deliver on the people's expectations.
And the only reason I say that, I'll take full [responsibility], I don't have the mobility or the same skill set that I once did that I would need to make that match great. So there's just certain things, it's better left to the theater of the mind to actually put it out there. And then with the expectations being so high and the match not delivering, it would be a bigger disappointment than the match never happening at all. It's different, but in the same sense of like who's the greatest: [Michael] Jordan or LeBron [James]? I mean, you're never going to know because they're never going to have the opportunity to play against each other.
And it's the same thing. That's a great match, but 10 years ago I think it could still happen and it could still be a stellar match. I'm just not sure at this point that it could deliver on the hype.
I know there were rumors of the match floating around WrestleMania XXVII. Has there ever been a time where it was seriously considered or talked about?
Not to my knowledge. I know the temperature got turned up on that I don't remember which Mania it was, but Sting and I were on the same flight after a Mania. It was well after 27, but anyway we were standing in line together talking and someone obviously in this day and age, everybody has a camera and someone snapped a picture as we were just having a casual conversation. ... No one ever approached me with any serious like, "Hey, what do you think about Sting at this?" or it's never been presented to me other than by our fans.
You brought back some aspects of the American Badass gimmick for WrestleMania 36. Were you surprised by how well that was received by fans?
You know, not really. I think we cut that off. We cut that off kind of early when we did the American Badass the first time. I think we could have got a little more mileage out of it, but, it was a different variation. It was an older iteration of it. The American Badass has got a few more years on him. He's a little more grizzled even. And there were still so many I think, aspects of The Undertake you could see in there, so I think it was just like I've wrapped everything all together. And I think those people were really excited.
During the series, you mentioned how you and John Cena only every wrestled on pay-per-view twice. Was there ever a reason given why you were kept apart for so long?
No, honestly it was just the booking. And that time period when I was still working all the time, we were both babyfaces so you didn't really want to do that. And then it just came down to at the end there, John wanted to work with me and do something and it was fresh. And like I said, at this point in the career, it's hard to come up with fresh matches. It's just difficult because you have to cycle through everybody so many different times, but no there was never really reason why, it was just the way things were booked.
Do you think wrestlers should go back to protecting their characters like how you did or is it just not possible at this point?
I've had this conversation a lot, a lot with Vince and I've had this conversation a lot with Triple H and Shawn [Michaels.] ... I can't remember who, I think it might have been Triple H use the analogy: it's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube. That being said, I do think the reigns should be pulled in a little bit. I think due to the amount of... One: the amount of content and then couple that with the amount of social media that our talent does, it's just hard for me to see guys on TV trying to be one thing, and then they're on their personal social media pages and they're something completely different. It's such a huge disconnect for me. Obviously I'm not saying that the way I did things was absolutely the right way to do it. It was the right way to do it for me.
But I think there's more of a, and this is just my thoughts, but there's more of an emphasis the talent's putting on their social media than they are in their characters or whatever they're trying to do on TV. And I think that's a big disconnect with the audience. I think they should just pump the brakes a little bit on the outside stuff and figure out what it is they are and what they're going to do on TV because really that's what people are watching
... It's such a weird world now that everybody wants to know everything that's going on behind the scenes, but that's great. But just because they want it, they don't necessarily need to get it. They don't need to get everything. There needs to be some sense of mystery, some mystique, some kind of something that's not given.
Who makes your Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling?
You got to have [Ric] Flair. You got to have [Hulk] Hogan. Stone Cold [Steve Austin].... That fourth one's tough. It could be Harley [Race]. It could be Dusty [Rhodes]. It could be Bruno [Sammartino]. And I base that on contributions to the business. Not so much if they were a great worker or this or that, but... Oh, I know my fourth, it's Andre [The Giant]. I don't know why I forgot Andre. So yeah, it would probably be Flair, Hogan, Stone Cold and Andre.
How do you feel when people put you on their Mount Rushmore?
Well, obviously I'm flattered and honored and my legacy is what it is and I guess that's another one of those conversations of who's better, Jordan or LeBron? In that conversation, I always put Kobe [Bryant] in too so... I'm flattered and obviously I know what my contributions to our industry is, but I think when you look at those four guys and I think they really captivated... I think Flair was the standard and then obviously when WWF took off, it was Hogan that was at the top, and then we had the drop off. And then when it came roaring back, it was Stone Cold. And then Andre is just the 8th Wonder of the World.0comments
So I'm humbled and honored to even be in the conversation, but I think those are my four.
The Undertaker: The Last Ride series finale will be released 10 a.m. Sunday on the WWE Network