Taker got very emotional as he went to the ring/stage to accept his ring. Before he spoke, he hugged Vince McMahon and he got a very long standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
After thanking the fans, wrestlers, and his family, he donned his attire and fans chanted for one more match. Before leaving the ring, Taker said “never say never” to a huge pop.
So apparently, the door is open for him to wrestle at least one more time.
Here is the full recap of The Undertaker’s speech:
WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon is introduced by Braxton and Graves. The “No Chance” music hits as Vince struts to the ring and fans cheer him on. The ring has several tall life-size mannequin-like silhouettes standing up, which look to be dressed in his various looks from over the years. Vince says even including holidays, this is his favorite night of the year because we as fans and performers have the chance to say thank you to the inductees. Vince says on this night we can reflect on the Superstars who have so mightily contributed to WWE success and entertaining people around the world, and touching our lives for the better. Vince says many have left a huge mark on the WWE Universe and the business itself. Vince says of all the performers inducted in the past, there is no one more deserving of the honor than the one we’re about to induct tonight. Vince says for 30 long, hard years this man has performed, through surgeries and everything else, it’s safe to say he’s been through hell and back. Vince says Taker has been in the ring with a long list of opponents. Vince says he’s going to name the list, but he will probably forget some. He jokes that he will read the list quickly so fans don’t interrupt him. “What!? What!?,” Vince jokes and fans respond with a few “What!?” chants.
Vince names Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel/Kevin Nash, Sid, Kane, Big Boss Man, Brian Lee or Taker himself, Ric Flair, Big Show, Bill Goldberg, Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, Kama, The Great Khali, Mabel, Yokozuna, Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Bret Hart again, JBL, Booker T, Kamala, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Goldust, Vader, The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Shane McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Steve Austin, John Cena, and The Rock. Just to name a few, he adds, and there was one name I missed there. Vince says there were some other challenges outside of the ring, like the time they were shooting Shotgun Saturday Night. He recalls how they didn’t get permits back then, and jaded New Yorkers were shocked at the sight of Taker and Triple H fighting in the subway station. Or the time Taker spent 5 hours in a cemetery under freezing weather, waiting to get the right shot. Vince recalls a
Vince names some important qualities Taker has, such as integrity, and he has more integrity than anyone he’s ever known. He names loyalty and says WCW never bothered to call during the Monday Night Wars because they knew Taker wasn’t leaving WWE. Vince names respect next and says Taker has never demanded it but he commands it the way he carries himself as a man. Leadership – God knows Taker has set an example there. Toughness, athleticism, discipline, and so on. Fans respond with “What!?” a few times and Vince stops, turns and looks at the crowd and says he will have Taker come out and kick their asses. Vince says the one quality Taker has more than anything else is he’s the most feared WWE Superstar, and the greatest quality he brings is love, because you can’t accomplish what he has in 30 years without love for the business, and love for the performers past and present, and love for each person over three generations that has watched him perform. Vince says it is now his honor… fans start cheering. Vince says it is his honor to introduce us to the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame – Mark Calaway, The Undertaker. The lights go low and the bells start to toll as the signature music starts up.
Taker comes marching down the aisle to a huge standing ovation from the crowd. He hugs Vince and says he loves him. The lights come back up and the massive ovation continues as Taker gets a bit emotional. The entire arena chants “you deserve it!” now. They chant “Taker!” next. After several minutes Taker finally speaks. He says for the past 30 years his identity has been The Undertaker, The Phenom, The Dead Man, The American Badass, and The Taker of Souls. Tonight he’s going to take us behind the curtain and let us meet the man under the black hat, Mark Calaway. Taker says it would’ve been easy to keep that man hidden until the day he died, but he wants to show the same respect that he’s been shown for so many years. Taker loves the business with all his heart, but it doesn’t come without sacrifice, in the form of family, health and privacy. He wouldn’t be where he is today without all the people, not only that helped him in the ring, but outside of it. Taker’s first thank you is to the WWE Universe. He says the fans are loyal passionate, and the motivation he needed on many nights, to get off the training room table, work his way to the ring and push through the pain to perform. Taker says tonight isn’t just about him, it’s about each and every one of the fans.
Taker recalls being miserable as he was about to graduate school, sitting on the floor of his brother’s home years ago. He didn’t know if he should graduate and go overseas to play pro basketball as he’d just spent 10 years playing, and his opportunities were promising. But basketball wasn’t what he wanted to do, and his heart was already into wrestling. He had just started his training but he already knew this was what he wanted to do with his life. He knew his teammates would be disappointed and didn’t even want to begin to think what his parents would’ve said. His brother David told him he can’t live his life for what his parents or teammates want him to do, he can only live his life for himself. It was in that moment that everything became crystal clear – no matter what it took, he was going to become a professional wrestler. Was it glamorous? Not unless you consider living in your car, busting heads in bars, and wondering if you’ll eat anything that day. It wasn’t glamorous but it was the way he was going to find his true identity. He respected his parents so much he didn’t want to disappoint them, but he couldn’t live his life for what they wanted, he had to find his own identity, be accountable for his own actions. His dreams led him to become The Undertaker.
Taker says we all know his moves like The Tombstone and The Last Ride, but tonight he’s going to reveal some of his mental moves. One of the earliest and most significant lessons he learned came from Vince himself. They were taping TV in Rochester, NY, early in his career, and he’s working a squash match, no, an enhancement match. He was working with this kid, who was more nervous than Taker could imagine, getting his only shot on TV. Taker recalls how the guy messed up his own move so Taker started working him over. Taker went back through the curtain and saw an upset Vince standing there. Vince told him perception is reality, and the reality is that everyone in the arena and everyone backstage thinks Taker is an asshole. He says in that moment he knew Vince was right. Taker isn’t proud of his actions that night and he had to learn the hard way that perception really is reality. This became his first mental move and throughout his career he always reminded himself, in or out of the ring, that actions matter.
Taker says when he thinks of perception he can’t help but think of WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon. He says she isn’t as big of a brat off-screen, she’s actually bigger, and he’s often thought of her as the little sister he never wanted. Taker jokes that he’s probably stuck with her, but in all seriousness, he loves her and her family. And he didn’t forget about Shane, mentioning their time on the road and how Shane wore him out always wanting to do big moves in his matches. Taker brings up The Godfather next and says he was an influence, joking that he was not necessarily a positive influence. They have been friends for over 30 years, drank gallons of Jack Daniels together, fought for hats and watches, you name it, but Taker always knew Godfather had his back. When he thinks of someone having his back he can’t help but think of The BSK. Fans pop for The Bone Street Krew (Savio Vega, The Godfather, The Godwinns, Rikishi, Yokozuna). He says he will take the stories to the grave but he hopes they know how much he loves them. He brings up the late Yokozuna, the co-founder of BSK. They had memories in the ring but his favorite memories were outside of the ring, drinking whiskey and playing dominoes, going up and down the road. Photos of these people are shown on the big screen. Taker brings up Brian “Crush” Adams and says he’s another person took too soon from us, and says not a day goes by where he doesn’t think of Adams. He talks about Brian ribbing him and going to learn to break bricks with him, right after being cleared, and little did he know that was the last time he’d see Brian because he got one of the worst calls he’s received weeks later, informing him Brian had passed. He didn’t know why he went to break bricks but it made sense to him then.
Taker brings up the late WWE Hall of Famer Paul Bearer and the importance he had on his career. Bearer was also a great friend, and another person who always ribbed him. Taker jokes about how Bearer would always put cucumbers in his drink if he walked away from it. He brings up WWE Hall of Famer Kane next and fans pop. Taker says their story is the greatest wrestling story ever told and it stretches over years as the Brothers of Destruction. Taker says Kane is the most genuine person he’s ever known. He jokes about Kane stealing his moves and doing them better, and says Kane has a gift of making everyone better around him, including Taker. Taker says this brings him to his second mental move, which he learned over a piece of cornbread. He had just won his second WWE Title, and was eating a piece of red beans and rice in his parents kitchen. His dad asked him if he was paying his taxes, and he was. His dad asked if he was living beneath his means, and he was. His dad told him that the toes you step on, on the way to the top, are connected to the same asses you’ll have to kiss on the way back down. His dad instilled in him right then and there that no matter who he comes across, treat them with respect. Taker realized he was no different than the security guards or the catering workers, and how you never know that a handshake or a smile can change someone’s life or even save it. Taker’s second mental move that helped him anchor his true identity is – respect and loyalty go a long way.
Taker said speaking of respect and loyalty, he’s thought it was always an extreme honor to step in the ring and perform. He says it’s thanks to guys like Dusty Rhodes, Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, and a few others. He thanks them for paving the way for his generation and the generations to come. Taker brings up Terry Jackson, and says he wouldn’t be where he is without him today. He brings up Bruce Prichard, who was an advocate for him and got him in front of Vince. Taker names a few other behind-the-scenes people, including Terry Anderson, a woman who is responsible for every one of his iconic looks. Taker individually thanks the team of amazing doctors he’s had. His final and most significant mental move comes into play the day before WrestleMania 25, where he faced WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels. He recalls sitting and talking to Shawn about the match when he turned to WWE Hall of Famer/Producer Michael Hayes and asked what spot they were in. Hayes made an uncomfortable pause and told them they were on third, and had around 30 minutes. Taker looked at Shawn and Shawn knew what he was thinking. They were at the levels in their careers where they had nothing to prove, and it was WrestleMania, but this was an insult. Taker says after a little, or a lot of, hell raising, they got their spot moved to later in the show and he’s sure everyone wishes they could’ve gone before he and Shawn. Taker says he and Shawn left it in the ring that night. He thanks Shawn for his friendship and for giving him one of the best matches of his career. The other mental move is to never be content, which is how he tries to live his life like every day. He tells everyone to dream big and always strive to be bigger, never be afraid to fail. He brings up WrestleMania 27 and WrestleMania 28, and says these matches would not have been possible without this guy – he points out Triple H. He says it was always a pleasure to share the ring with Triple H, it was effortless and undeniable. They’ve been good friends in and out of the ring, but he’s thankful for Triple H boosting him up when he was down and out, and at his lowest. Triple H’s words that day got him through that match and through the rest of his career. The moment he shared with Shawn and Triple H on the stage at WrestleMania was one of the proudest moments of his career, truly the end of an era.
Taker says he’s mentioned this job is full of sacrifice and no one knows that more than his family. He’s very proud of the man his son Gunner has become, and he loves him more than he will ever know. He misses his twins and loves them dearly, and says they are such a part of him and always be. He talks about his youngest daughter, who we see sitting in the crowd with Michelle McCool. Earlier he asked her what she wants the world to know about her and she said she doesn’t care what the world thinks. Taker tells her to never change because she is perfect the way she is now. He mentions the newest member of the family, Kolt with a K, and says he is making Taker a better man, and he promises he will be the best dad for him. Taker brings up his parents being his biggest fans. He recalled wrestling Sid one night while his family members, parents, nieces and others were in the second row. He mentioned to Sid earlier that his family was in the crowd. Later on Sid talked some trash to Taker’s mom and she tried to come for him, so much that she had bruises on her arm from people holding her back. Taker jokes that this is how his mom got banned from wrestling. Taker says he misses his dad every day. He knew his dad was always at his side every time he stepped in the ring. He asks everyone to give it up for his dad, who was pretty awesome. Taker says his mom has been on him for years, asking when was he going to get that “damn ring.” Taker shows off his WWE Hall of Fame ring and says mom, we did it. Taker says he loves his mom. Taker brings up his beautiful wife Michelle now – his rock, the foundation their family is built on, she makes him want to be a better man and husband just when he’s near her. Taker says it was funny how things work out because when McCool first came to WWE, there were two people she didn’t want to meet – Kane and Taker. She would come to find out that Kane is probably the nicest man she’s ever met, and she married Taker, after a long exhausting chase… Taker jokes he finally had to say yes. Taker says the greatest thing she has ever done for him is restore his relationship with his Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Fans applaud. Taker remembers the first time McCool asked him to go to church with her. He joked that if he walked into church, the rafters would start shaking and lighting bolts would hit him. She told him not to be silly but he jokes that she made him sit on the other side of the room. Taker says she’s a great mother but when WWE calls, she can still lace up her boots and get in the ring with the best of them. Taker says he loves McCool with all his heart and she is his soul mate. Taker is relieved that he got through that one.
Taker brings up Vince next. Vince wasn’t completely sold on him at first, but when WCW gave up on him, Vince was willing to give him a shot. Taker is standing here today because of Vince, and Vince changed his life. Vince taught him so much about the business, and has been an important friend and father figure, especially after Taker’s father passed away. Taker says Vince always seemed to know what he needed, whether it was a pat on the back, a hug or a swift kick in the ass. Taker jokes that Vince says he loves him, but look at some of the matches he’s put him in – Inferno Match, Boneyard Match, Boiler Room Brawl, Buried Alive Match, and so on, and even a Punjabi Prison match that almost killed us all. He jokes that Vince has been trying to get rid of him for years but he wouldn’t take the hint. Taker says Vince never got him to do the Taker-Rooni and he will take that to the grave. Taker goes on about how the lessons from Vince will direct him through the rest of his life. He thanks Vince for The Undertaker, but more importantly for his friendship.
Taker says there is no one like the WWE Universe. He thanks fans for their unwavering support over the years, and tells them they can’t live their life for anyone but themselves. Taker tells the fans to wake up tomorrow and live by these three moves – perception is reality, respect and loyalty go a long way, and no matter what, never be content. When you do use these mental moves, you can find your own identity and be unapologetically, you, even if that means you spend the next 30 years sitting up in caskets burying people alive, and taking souls and diggin’ holes. Fans pop again. Taker thanks fans for taking this journey with him for the last three decades. He says we can rest assured that now that The Undertaker has entered the WWE Hall of Fame, that he will… Rest In Peace.
Taker thanks everyone again and bows to the crowd as they stand and applaud one more time. The music starts back up as Taker receives another standing ovation. He starts to exit the ring but stops and re-enters, walking up to one of the mannequins. Fans cheer louder as Taker removes his leather jacket and black hat from the mannequin. He puts them both on and says, “Never say never!”
Fans pop one more time and the music starts back up as Taker exits the ring. He stops and kisses his daughter at ringside, then marches up the ramp to the stage. He stops where the Superstars and Legends are sitting, right in front of RAW Tag Team Champion Randy Orton, then looks back at the camera and raises his fist in the air as the thunder echoes over the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Taker marches to the back as the 2022 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony goes off the air.
The Undertaker Says “Never Say Never”