The Undertaker went 21-0 at Wrestlemania. That is a feat that will never, and can never, and should never, be replicated. But last night at Wrestlemania, it all came crashing down in the most controversial moment since the Montreal Screwjob…
21-1. Still a remarkable record, and itself is highly unlikely to ever be replicated. But that doesn’t matter. The streak is over. And for years I’ve thought that when the streak was over, Undertaker’s career would be over. It was something most of us never thought we would ever see. And you could tell. When Brock Lesnar got that three count, everyone watching was stunned into silence. It was an appropriately deathly quiet for the Deadman, and the death of the streak.
Personally? I get sucked in to his matches at Mania. I thought Triple H had done it after a Sweet Chin Music into the Pedigree. I thought Triple H had done it after a Tombstone. There were countless times I thought Shawn Michaels had done it. I remember when I was younger not being able to take not knowing who won between Taker and Edge as I watched it the next day. And last night, with that F5, I instinctively thought it was all over.
Little did I know I was right. 3 seconds later, it was.
Amazement quickly turned to… I wouldn’t even call it anger. But there was a lot of swearing. I can say with 99% certainty that was the most emotional I’ve ever been after any wrestling match. I thought about calling it quits, turning Wrestlemania 30 off, and just going to sleep. But I kept watching. And was rewarded with the divas…
There are so many questions about what happened last night. Why did the streak end? Why did it end like that? Why did it have to be Lesnar? And, as far as I see it the most intriguing one: what’s next?
In some ways I’m kicking myself for being so shocked. It was rumoured months ago that the streak would end. The whole storyline being that Heyman couldn’t beat the streak with Punk, but he could this year. It was apparently originally supposed to be Ryback. I remember everybody laughed at the ridiculousness of that, or else was horrified by the prospect. But that’s essentially what happened, just with Lesnar instead of Ryback.
Only in the WWE can a 36-year old former UFC Champion defeating a 49-year old man come as a surprise. If anybody has the believability to defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania it’s the guy WWE keep’s pushing as a legitimate fighter. And there’s the old saying amongst smarks, “lose on TV, win on PPV”. Well, Lesnar only won a single week of the build. He was running scared for most of it, something that I thought was a mistake. I expected it to be the other way round, Lesnar looking dominant in the build, with Taker coming out on top in the end.
That’s touched on why Lesnar, but the bigger issue is why that way? Taker looked so weak. I commented to a friend during it that Taker had aged, he looked so much slower than I had remembered him. After the match finished I wondered if that was deliberate. Then I read reports that Taker was taken to hospital after the show ended, with a neck injury and a possible concussion. That makes some sense. Taker may not have been physically able to put on the match he wanted to, it could all have changed once that happened in the ring. Whatever the reason, it was not a great match.
Perhaps the reason for Taker looking so weak was to give it all a sense of finality. If he had lost a close contest, people would be waiting for him to come back and get his revenge. The way it went down, Taker would be mad to go through that again, and we as fans shouldn’t want him to. Finality. That’s what it all screamed of. The commentators after the match talked about Taker’s career like it was over. The Twitter trend was #ThankYouTaker. And the kind of moment he had, where he stood in the ring, before slowly retreating back up the ramp, was he taking it all in for the last time? It certainly felt like a farewell.
Please God don’t let it be a farewell.
Imagine that was the last time we saw Undertaker. Beaten… Broken… That’s not Taker. He needs to go out standing tall. Even just a promo on Raw. He needs to go out walking out on his terms.
Hypothetically, if it’s not the end, where does he go? Well, the obvious answer would be after Heyman/Lesnar for revenge. The next, just as obvious answer is Sting at Wrestlemania 31. Now the streak is over, we can have a competitive dream match without the winner being obvious from the start. After that… the sad thing about the Undertaker’s character is so ironic. It’s that the thing that has given him so much longevity – his character – also means he can’t do a Hogan, or an Austin, or a Piper, or a Flair, and return every time they need a legend to fill a spot. If he does, it certainly can’t be as The Undertaker. Can you imagine, in 10 years time, a nearly 60 year old man trying to play the role of The Undertaker? It just won’t work. Once Taker’s gone, we’re not going to see him again, apart from a handful of appearances in extremely special circumstances.
Where will Lesnar go from here? I can only hope he makes more regular appearances. That for me is the only way this result makes any sense. There’s no point having someone beat the streak, then disappear for a few months when he should be capitalising on it. They (of course I’m including Heyman in this) need to stick around for the foreseeable, maybe taking a few months off between SummerSlam and the Rumble. Jim Ross predicted last night that Lesnar would walk into Wrestlemania 31 as WWE Champion. It could happen. But he needs to be here to do it. Just imagine for a moment the heat Heyman will be able to get having this feather in his cap. There’s also the possibility of a feud with a returning CM Punk, since they were using Punk’s failure last year as the basis for the original storyline where the Streak ended. That is of course, presuming Punk does actually return…
But back to The Undertaker. Wrestlemania 31 is going to be weird. We may get to the end of February with no sign of The Undertaker, and no reason for him to come back. There has been a streak match at every Wrestlemania for the last 13 years. There have only been 8 Wrestlemanias ever that haven’t featured The Undertaker, and 6 of those Manias took place before Taker ever joined the company. I’m not sure whether to say Undertaker, and the streak, is Wrestlemania, or Wrestlemania is Undertaker and the streak. Either way it’s true, and either way it has become an institution on the wrestling calendar.
The sad thing is it kind of made sense to end the streak. If it never ended, every year the fans would be getting their hopes up for another Undertaker match, even when he was past the point of physically doing it. And Taker is as old school as it gets right now, and it’s a wrestling tradition that on your way out, you lose. You put over the guy that will take your spot, you will help get them to that next level. I don’t think anybody would have batted an eyelid if Taker was the exception to that rule, but that’s the way business has always been done. Maybe he wanted to end it. Maybe he wanted Lesnar to be the one to do it. A few years back at a UFC event, Taker was doing an interview and Lesnar walked past him. Taker said “You wanna do it?” Who’s to say he wasn’t talking about ending the streak? Plus, I mentioned in my Mania Musings post that every 10 years at Wrestlemania, something happens that starts a new era. Now we can move on without the streak. This is the post-streak era. For 80% of the year we won’t know a difference.
What does this mean for Undertaker’s legacy? The man went nearly two years undefeated in the early 90s. The man went undefeated for over 20 years at Wrestlemania. He was the first man to enter the Royal Rumble at #30 and win. He pioneered some of the greatest match types ever – Hell In A Cell – and some others – Casket Match, Buried Alive, Last Ride, and the Inferno Match. He led the dominant Ministry of Darkness, which then turned into the Corporate Ministry. He is a 7-time Tag Team Champion, with Kane and Big Show, and his alliance with Paul Bearer was one of the most recognisable and formidable pairings ever. He has re-invented himself several times in his 23 and a half year WWE career.
He has given us some of the greatest moments in wrestling history. He has given us some of the greatest matches in wrestling history. He is a 7-time World Champion in the WWE. Because of his longevity, his ability, his character, because of everything, he is for my money, the greatest of all time.
I really hope this isn’t the end of the Undertaker. I quite desperately hope this isn’t the end of the Undertaker. I will hopefully look like an idiot when he shows up on Raw tonight. I don’t want it to be, but if it is the end of the Undertaker…
Thank you Mark Callaway.