The Undertaker, real name Mark Callaway, is one of the all-time greats of professional wrestling. The Taker is now 51 years old, though, and people have been speculating about his pending retirement for a very long time. It appears that the deadline may have been pushed up a bit for the Deadman. A photo recently published online of a battleworn Callaway using crutches to get around in public. Nobody knows for sure why he's wearing crutches, or even if they were actually his. And people are worried they're a signal that his days in the ring might already be over.
Undertaker's last match was at WrestleMania 32, against Shane McMahon. Many wrestling fans already believed that it might have been his final appearance in the WWE. But rumors are still circulating as to whether he's got one last headlining match in him.
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The photo in question, which shows Callaway standing at a Starbucks counter with a barista, is disputed as authentic. Some people, perhaps wishfully, insist that the crutches actually belonged to the barista, and that Taker was holding them as a joke. But many others believe that his decades of hard work in the ring may have caught up to him in a big way.
If he were to return to wrestling for a farewell match, it would most likely be at WrestleMania, where he prosecuted his legendary Streak of 21 consecutive victories before eventually losing to Brock Lesnar. But even before the crutches, fans were already guessing that he might not be up to fighting shape.
Taker's late career is not that far off of his character's narrative - the man who can never be killed, who rallies back to life, emerges from his coffin, and lays waste to his foes. And even though he's slowed down, he still commands the ring in a way that no other wrestler does. It has as much to do with his charisma as a performer as it does with his size, appearance and remarkable skill. It's hard not to admire the man. Even the fans who make noise about how he's tarnishing his legacy by continuing to wrestle past his body's expiration date have to concede that Callaway has earned the right to end things on his own terms.
Hopefully he still gets that chance. Although McMahon's acrobatics at the previous WrestleMania were remarkable, The Undertaker needs a real farewell match. Hopefully, bad luck has not robbed the wrestling universe, and Callaway himself, of this closure.