WWE's Michelle McCool Prepares for Emotional Finale of 'Undertaker: The Last Ride'
It’s said that behind every great man is a great woman. And for WWE legend Mark Calaway, that’s his wife, Michelle McCool, as evidenced in Undertaker:The Last Ride. The five-part docuseries follows Calaway’s life over three years. A common thread throughout is the wonder if the iconic character he played for almost 30 years has seen the end.
McCool, a multi-time women’s champion and trailblazer, is there every step of the way. She's an important support system, a tag team partner outside the ring, and genuinely concerned for the beloved veteran’s well-being.
“I just want the fans to truly appreciate what it took for him to be this vulnerable. Realize what it has taken for him to get back in the ring these last six or seven years. What it has taken emotionally, physically, mentally,” McCool said.
“I think a lot of people take for granted all it took for him to get back in there. They all had their opinions. ‘Undertaker shouldn’t wrestle this year.’ ‘Undertaker should do one more match.’ They didn’t really know what it took behind the scenes, and it took a lot. I hope they see he does it because he loves the business so much. He does it because he loves the fans. Whether they agree with him or not, he is going to do it his way. I hope they can respect that, appreciate that. I hope they truly enjoyed getting to know the man behind the character.”
Heading into the final chapter of The Last Ride, we had some “real talk” with McCool about witnessing her husband open up publicly like never before — that and if we’ll ever see the 40-year-old lace up the boots again or have a LayCool reunion.
Were you surprised when Mark agreed to have cameras follow him around?
Michelle McCool: The thing is it started out with Mark just wanting footage of himself and his match with Roman [Reigns] at WrestleMania because he truly thought that was his last match. It didn’t start out meaning to be a documentary. He wanted the footage for himself and the family. Obviously, when he came back [to the ring] it was like, “Here we go again.” They brought us this idea. I was surprised he was open to it. I think there were a few times where cameras were filming us and he went, “Stop filming me...Wait a minute. I asked you all to follow me.” He had to remember because even he was surprised. All this wonderful footage became this docuseries. It has been really cool to watch it evolve.
What has been the experience watching all the scenes back?
It has been really neat to watch, not only hearing our stories. Seeing when Vince [McMahon] gets emotional talking about their relationship. Gosh, that got me, and I know how close they are. As far as the two of us, I joke he is not as scary as I initially thought he would be. He is romantic at times. He is not this person people expect. He doesn’t always talk about me like this before on camera.
I tell him, “You know, it’s really not that hard. You can do this all the time, make me realize how much you love me. It’s really not that difficult. Just keep saying nice things.” I give him a hard time about it, but it has been nice. I know how he feels through the years, but there have been fans who truly hated me, like in a bad way. They felt like I’ve taken Mark away from them. Hopefully, those fans now think, “Okay, she is not too bad after all. If he is okay with her, we’re okay with her too."
Some of the most fun parts of the doc is seeing Mark interact with you and your daughter. Was there any trepidation of including her?
Absolutely. We try to keep our children as private as possible. My daughter, the thing is she is almost eight now. This was several years ago when we started, and she is double the size and looks different. There was some trepidation at first, but since it was very little and from so many years ago we okay-ed it. She is a ham. She loves the camera. She loves the wrestling business. So, we wanted to share that a little bit because we have to keep her so isolated from things. She had fun with it, so we enjoyed watching her watching herself back.
What have you taken from the experience?
The biggest thing is honestly I know my husband and have seen him this way, but there are very, very few people he has been this vulnerable with. It really shocked me how vulnerable he is in these interview segments that the world gets to see. I think of maybe two other people who have seen him like this. Now millions are seeing the man behind the character and seeing him be so emotional at points.
How has the chatter on social media been for you?
There are always a few tough trolls behind a keyboard, but overall it has been such a blessing because the feedback has been so positive. I think he was worried how people would accept him showing this much of himself since he has done this character for so long. I think there was a little trepidation on his part like, “Did the fans really want to see me, Mark Calaway?” I think he has been extremely pleased and shocked a little bit how welcoming they’ve been to him as a person. That’s pretty cool to see. It has been really special. I don’t think he gives himself a lot of credit in those areas. He knew fans wanted to see a little bit, but wasn’t sure they wanted this much. Just the outpouring of love they’ve shown has been overwhelming.
You mentioned earlier what a romantic Mark is. What has been the most loving gesture he has done for you?
Let’s be clear. I didn’t say he was a romantic, but he could be a romantic [laughs]. I’m just joking. He does little things like runs my bath every night. It’s small things — I don’t think people picture him doing these things in everyday life. Whether it’s singing and dancing with our little one or running me a bath, cooking me dinner or planning a trip, little things mean so much.
The doc shows how much you stand by him, but it also demonstrates his support of you. He watched proudly as you returned to the ring at Royal Rumble. You can relate to his story as an in-ring performer wanting to come back. Has this series made you take a look at your own career and future?
I can relate to him as far as this has been his entire identity for pretty much all of his adulthood. Leaving anything you have such a passion for, it’s hard. When you have such a passion like we both do, I mean it was a struggle for me to leave. It wasn’t an overnight process. It was a two-year process. So, I understand that aspect of it. When they asked me to come back for the Royal Rumble, my mind started spinning like his does. First and foremost, I have to ask myself if they are asking me back because I’m the Undertaker’s wife? Are they asking me back because of him? Are they asking me back because I may be good enough?
So, as far as the mental tricks that your mind can play on you, I get one thousand percent. Physically, I don’t have as many aches and pains and surgeries as he does. But I still contemplated and felt I was a little bit older, Maybe a little bit more washed up and had a child. Would I be able to hang with these girls?... It was difficult, but I knew it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up or regret later in life. I got to see my little one watch me wrestle, so that was pretty cool.
In the Undertaker’s recent feuds including AJ Styles, we’ve heard your name dropped to help build a personal rivalry. Was there any discussion about bringing you into a storyline with Mark?
No, I was never asked. I’m a little hot about it because I mean they ran me through the ringer. First [John] Cena brings me up, then AJ. I definitely would have liked to be in there, maybe deliver a kick to the face or something similar. The night I was mentioned [on Raw] Mark called me and said, “AJ is doing this promo, and I think it might be a little stiff. I don’t know what is being said.”
Holy moly, I mean we’re good friends with AJ and his family. We actually have a mutual friend we vacation with every summer. So, I’m watching this thinking, “Dang, he is good.” I’m even texting his wife Wendy, “You know I love y’all, but I’m really kind of hating your husband and want to punch him in the face.” Which clearly means he is doing his job. I understand the business. I said that in jest, but thinking, “Dang, did he really go there?” That’s not real smart because even if they didn’t ask me to do anything about it, you know my husband is coming for you.
You were among those who helped build the foundation for what we’re seeing now in the women’s division. What are your thoughts on how far it has come? Does it give you the itch to return for one last big story similar to a Trish Stratus last year?
Thank you for acknowledging that. The landscape has definitely changed over the last 10 years. The opportunities the girls are being given is amazing. We all wish we had that when we were there. We did our best with what we were given. As far as one more storyline, I always say all they got to do is ask. It’s incredibly fun when you have a passion for it. There is nothing like performing in front of live crowd of wrestling fans. There is so much talent on the roster now, you can almost throw a dart and whoever you hit is going to be a good storyline or match. It would be fun. Obviously, my priorities are being a mom and a wife. But never say never.
Now we have the WWE women’s tag team titles. I think back to your great run with Layla in LayCool. We haven’t heard much from her. Do you stay in touch?
Layla and I are still wonderful friends. We talk every once in a while. It’s one of those relationships where we don’t have to talk every day, and when we do, nothing has changed. We pick up right where we left off. I do sure have wished they had the tag team titles when we were a pair or asked us back when they were introduced. You look back, and there aren’t many true duos of girls throughout the years. I think LayCool was definitely recognized as a strong pair. If we had those titles to go after and not cut one in half for our own sake, we could have had some fun with it.
Is there a particular opponent or ideal scenario that you’d like to explore if you returned to a WWE ring?
Every time I went back I always wondered why Layla did not get asked. I do not know that. However, I wish LayCool could have come back. I would love to work the IIconics, Sasha [Banks] and Bayley. You have Naomi, who is one of the most phenomenal athletes you will ever come across. I would have loved to do a storyline with her. Obviously, Becky [Lynch]. People ask me all the time about Charlotte [Flair]. There truly is so much talent I can think of. Nia [Jax], Tamina, top to bottom. It’s strong. To pick one, I don’t know. There is too much to choose from.
We have the last chapter of The Last Ride coming up. I’m wondering like everyone how this is all going to conclude. Does the Undertaker ride off into the sunset or move on to his next battle? Will we get a definitive answer about his career?
I’ll be honest with you, I told him I didn’t want to know. One, because I don’t know if I would believe him. Whatever he has told me the past six or seven years, that he was done, I’m like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I told him I didn’t want to hear his interview on that part of the story. I honest to God don’t know what he said in that last sit-down interview. I stand behind him one hundred percent, but I don’t know what to expect either. I know it will be emotional either way because either he is ending this storybook career or there might possibly be another match. Like he told “Stone Cold” [Steve Austin], he is going to write his own story. Nobody is going to write it for him. However it ends, he will be the author of his own destination. That’s all I know for sure.
Undertaker: The Last Ride: Chapter 5, Streaming, Sunday, June 21, 10 am/9c, WWE Network