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As time ticks by, we're edging ever closer to the inevitable end of The Undertaker's wrestling career.
Spanning a monumental time of 26 years, the retirement of the Phenom (real name Mark Calaway) is likely to be one of the most emotional ever, having given so much to the fans.
All the way back in 1990, when he made is official on-camera debut at Survivor Series, no one could have predicted that he'd go on to achieve what he has in an amazing time in the ring. He's chopped and changed the 'Deadman' image on numerous occasions, keeping it fresh without stepping too far away from its origins. While there have been many title belts wrapped around the waist of 'Taker, it's always been far more of a priority for him to put on a show and entertain.
Now, at the age of 51, The Undertaker is obviously not the man he used to be. His television appearances are very sparse, with his matches being much more infrequent. It doesn't take a genius to work out that his last match will have come and gone soon enough.
The job of coming up for an ending to Big Evil's career will fall at the feet of a few people, and an awful lot of pressure will be forced down upon the shoulders of the creative team who have that responsibility. You'd imagine that the man himself will have a say in what happens, giving him that 'on his own terms' ending that WWE very rarely grants to its roster.
Of course, the most entertaining way for him to bow out of the squared circle would be to throw several people off the top of Hell in a Cell, set someone's coffin on fire, bury Vince McMahon alive and then ride off into the night on a motorbike while Limp Bizkit play and Kane holds an urn. But that ain't going to happen.
The company have many options, with a huge singles feud being the obvious choice. Given that he's already been defeated by Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania - ending his unprecedented streak - it'd make little sense to revisit that debacle. There's far too big of a gulf in physicality, health and age for it to be made believable that Taker could actually defeat him.
Over at WhatCulture Wrestling, who are always great to watch when it comes to anything to do with WWE, they've previously said John Cena could be The Undertaker's last opponent. While Cena has gone from a prodigy to a bit of an annoyance to an internet meme over the years, the thinking behind the idea is great. It's not a match up that has been killed to death in recent times and he's biggest guy in the company. The whole thing would draw a huge audience, and the build up would be great.
About a year ago, if the ending of this great career was being pondered, people would be falling arse over tit to make sure the Lord of Darkness met with Sting at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, after a injury troubles, Sting announced his retirement from wrestling, following a short and rather underwhelming run in WWE. So, the dream match will never happen.
The men who spring to mind when facing The Phenom for his last match, which will most likely be Wrestlemania 33, are Cena (as mentioned before), Triple H (because he's selfish), and the recently returned Bill Goldberg.
Goldberg vs The Undertaker would be interesting, as both are getting on a bit, but, given that it'd be Bill's biggest event in 12 years, and 'Taker's last, it'd mean both would have a lot to prove. They're both veterans at cutting promos, and are brutal in attack. It wouldn't be something to be sniffed at.
Triple H, who has already faced the Deadman three times at Wrestlemania events would easily be able to get himself the match, given his status as COO in the company. As good as it could be, it's not really something that needs to be seen again. They've wrestled each other a lot since the heydays of the '90s.
Regardless of who the 51-year-old former world champion faces in his last match, it needs to be a spectacle.
The announcement that it'll be his last match will have to come in a typical smoke-filled ring while the arena is tinted by a blue light. There would probably be room for the legend to ever so slightly break character, to really hit home with the emotional reality of the situation. Then, as the feud boils up, there are many references to what he's done over the years, the people he's defeated, the titles he's won, and what he's given to the fans - before claiming that his last match will be for the WWE Universe.
Eventually when the company's flagship event rolls around, the biggest of entrances is set up for The American Badass' walk to the ring. In the match, everything happens - chairs, tables, fire, Old Schools, Hell's Gates, Chokeslams, Last Rides and Tombstones - right up until (hopefully) the future Hall of Famer can stand on his own two feet in the ring, and soak up the moment.
As rapturous cheers and chants fill the stadium, superstars, former enemies, old teammates and admirers fill the top of the entrance ramp, applauding an iconic career. He walks back up the ramp one last time, and, with his back to the ring, takes one last look back before raising his arm for the final time. The Undertaker's last ride is complete.
Featured image credit: PA/WWE
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