When the WWE announced 30 Days of the Deadman, a series of weekly shows involving Undertaker content on the Network, I wasn’t surprised. “The Deadman” continues to be a huge draw for the wrestling promotion and this year’s “The Last Ride” documentary was a rare and important look into the life of Mark Calaway.
Starting this Sunday, The Undertaker celebration begins with WWE Untold: The Phenom and The Legend Killer, which looks at the rivalry between The Undertaker and Randy Orton from 2005.
The year-long rivalry took place 15 years ago and Undertaker and Orton’s place in the company were very different. Taker was wrestling much more frequently then and Orton was just coming into his own as one of the top heels in the company after adopting the “Legend Killer” moniker. The documentary does a great job of showing that difference in experience, but a huge takeaway from the 40-minute documentary isn’t so much how both men navigated the rivalry, but how The Undertaker helped bring Orton’s career to the next level. Because of that, it feels much more like an Orton documentary than a Taker one.
The documentary starts with Orton and Callaway talking about an incident on an episode of SmackDown where Randy is set to hit Taker with a steel chair–back when headshots were still allowed. Orton, inexperienced, misses his mark by a few inches and actually tears the skin off of Taker’s forehead down to his nose, leaving “The Deadman” laying with his face full of blood.
Orton explains that’s how he learned what a “receipt” is the hard way, something viewers will see as the documentary goes on.
Unlike “The Last Ride,” there’s no backstage footage of wrestlers interacting, but in typical WWE Untold fashion, Orton, Calaway and other WWE officials and personalities talk about some of the biggest moments of their rivalry and it gives a lot more insight into what was going through their minds during this time period.
“I was back doing what I was comfortable, being a prick, being a bad guy, being a heel in the wrestling business,” Orton says in the documentary after leaning into the “Legend Killer” role. “That’s what I always felt the most comfortable doing and I was right back to where I was happy.”
The documentary revolves around four major matches in their rivalry. WrestleMania 21, SummerSlam, the casket match at No Mercy and the Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon. Each segment offers different takes and how those matches and stories were put together.
“Cowboy” Bob Orton, Randy’s father, is a welcome surprise in this documentary. He gives his take on how the events went down when he began working with his son following the SummerSlam match.
Producer Bruce Prichard is also involved in the documentary giving a peek into how backstage officials reacted during some of the feud’s high-risk stunts like when Randy set the casket–with Taker inside–on fire and Orton almost setting himself on fire, or when Randy was having trouble getting the lowrider, with Taker passed out in the back, through the LED screens.
All of the participants deliver something interesting and entertaining for wrestling fans, which enhances this look back at the feud.
Calaway is still great. The man behind the Undertaker continues his no-nonsense attitude from The Last Ride. It’s hard not to smile to hear Taker poke fun at Bob Orton, or geek out when thinking about the roar of the crowd when he popped out of the flaming casket weeks after losing the Casket Match at No Mercy.
It’s also enthralling to hear his take on the business and why wrestlers do the things they do, especially talking through the Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon 2005. Revealing what he told Orton before the match, and explaining why the match needs to be violent all build upon the drama of the match. Even if you’ve seen the match a thousand times, seeing it with this commentary makes it a must-watch.
While the Untold documentary celebrates a part of Undertaker’s career, it’s Randy Orton who is the star. He is so comfortable with himself, and his place in the company that every time he speaks it feels genuine and off the cuff. Hearing him think about this time in his career and what it ultimately meant to his maturation is something else especially at the very end when he humbly shares a story of one of his immature moments that could have hurt his career.
Untold: The Phenom and the Legend Killer is another must-watch documentary for wrestling fans. While it gives just a snapshot of Taker’s career, it’s a major chapter in Orton’s and shows what “The Deadman” meant not just to the WWE, but to the up and coming superstars.
Untold: The Legend Killer will premiere on the WWE Network Sunday, October 25 after the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view.