Modesty. Depending on one’s predisposition, it can either be the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden (which is apparently bad), or a mode of behaviour valued throughout society as proper and attentive (which is definitely good). In contemporary times, it has become a more precious commodity. The lavish, grotesque and disingenuous command our eyes and ears with increased frequency, and we have forgotten the pleasures of taste and restraint. That is what made the actions of Mark Calaway – The Undertaker– at the conclusion of the main event of WrestleMania 33 so striking.
It wasn’t the fact that this was only his second loss in twenty-five at ‘Mania. It wasn’t even the simple fact that the curtain had seemingly fallen on as grand a career as could be imagined. No, it was the manner of how it was conveyed. A proud man calmly signaled the end had come and, with dignity and the enduring admiration of his peers and fans alike, took his final bow. There were rumors, naturally, that this was to be a finale, but in keeping with the demeanor of the man the contest wasn’t billed as such. Some cynical sorts have concluded this was done to spare Roman Reigns the opprobrium of the masses, but I prefer to believe this was the mark of a man who knew the climax should be swift and sans fanfare, and ultimately in defeat. No undue hype or gaudy post-match flotsam and jetsam, just a quiet time-tested acknowledgement and then the ride into the sunset. Modesty personified.
Wrestling fans have been aware for some time that the career of The Undertaker was coming to a close. The pressure to produce a classic WrestleMania match – year upon year – as a continuation of his iconic WrestleMania Streak, had long since started to take its toll. The decision to end the Streak was primarily a financial gamble on the viability of Brock Lesnar. However, it was also taken because the ‘Taker was starting to lose his battle with numerous injuries and the inexorable passage of time. There is after all only so long one can wage such a brutal war; especially on two fronts. The use of Hell in a Cell, coupled with the then-novelty of Shane McMahon’s return, successfully masked the flaws in ‘Taker’s performance at last year’s WrestleMania. His repertoire had dwindled and his conditioning was well below his sky-high standards, and he was in obvious pain throughout. It was a simple but wise precaution to indulge the egomaniacal Shane and in the process, safeguard the existing credibility of The Undertaker at WrestleMania.