Type "Undertaker Wrestlemania" into Google and you will be provided with a haul of articles debating whether or not ‘The Phenom’ will return on March 29.
Wrestling fanatics all around the world are arguing who he should face in San Francisco in what would be an incredible 23rd Wrestlemania appearance.
Some, including Chris Jericho, want to see him battle who many see as his natural successor Bray Wyatt. A feud between the two would certainly be an intriguing battle of mind games and the supernatural and it could indeed serve as a passing of the torch to the man who will surely be a WWE champion in the next 12 months.
Many want to see a legends super-match between The Undertaker and Sting, two of the most iconic figures in the history of professional wrestling who are intrinsically associated with WCW and WWE respectively. There is no question that it would be a must-see for long-time fans of both promotions, one that would have been seen as an impossibility years ago.
Incredibly some people are already talking about him wrestling at Wrestlemania 32 (Stone Cold Steve Austin too) in his home state of Texas!
As mouth-watering as these feuds may seem at first glance on paper, people wanting to see this happen at Wrestlemania this year need a reality check and are in most cases probably guilty of gross hypocrisy.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first of all. The guy will be 50 come the big day and he hasn’t wrestled a minute since Brock Lesnar defeated him almost a year ago. How can he realistically be expected to deliver the goods to the high standards he has set and that we have come to expect on the biggest night of the wrestling year?
‘Taker bamboozled me as a kid in the early nineties, flying majestically through the air in a way that completely contradicted his imposing 6ft 10 in frame. He appeared to be a genetic freak, a ‘big guy’ displaying the elegance of a ballerina gliding across the top ring rope. Yet also strong and viscous, bouncing opponents heads off the canvas with his sinister tombstone finishing move, his eyes rolled back in his head like a possessed demon.
But that was 20 years ago and just like I can’t grow a full head of hair anymore, The Undertaker can’t move around like he did back then. Professional wrestlers have a very limited lifespan (unless your move repertoire consists of only a big boot and a leg drop and you also happen to be booking the matches arf!) and no matter how good your character is or your mic skills are, you shouldn’t be near the top spots if you can’t deliver the goods in the ring. Undertaker hasn’t wrestled in so long we have no idea what shape he is in so therefore should not be in consideration for a spot in the biggest PPV of the year.
The next reason is protecting the value of ‘The Streak’, preserving its unrivalled legacy and the fascination people have with it. Personally I wanted to see it end with CM Punk but with a “title streak vs ‘Mania streak” match, sadly for me the complete opposite happened with Punk dropping the title at the Royal Rumble to The Rock (don’t get me started on THAT one) and then losing the match at Wrestlemania with ‘Taker going 21-0.
If it wasn’t to be that year I agree that the loss to Brock Lesnar last year was a good decision by McMahon. Whether or not it was still the case last year it is widely believed that The Undertaker had hand-picked Lesnar to be the man to end the streak back in 2011 and the internet was going crazy after Mark Calaway attended UFC 121 and appeared to challenge Lesnar to a duel. If this is true then I have even more respect for ‘Taker for wanting to bring the streak to a conclusion. It now needs to be buried and respected and so it can be talked about and reflected on for years to come.
As things stand ‘The Phenom’ ruled Wrestlemania for 21 years. 21 YEARS! It is a feat that will surely never be replicated, nor do I want it to be. There will probably never be anyone in the business with the dedication and loyalty Calaway has shown McMahon and WWE. He seems to be king of the locker room and have an unrivalled level of respect from his peers, respect you only get from being the face of a company for 25 years and being able to put ego aside and appreciate what is truly “best for business”. In fitting with this ‘The Streak’ was ended by arguably the most incredible athlete in the history of pro-wrestling, the fighter with the most credibility, a man who has earned the tag of ‘The Beast’ in and out the WWE (where he is still the youngest ever champion) by winning the UFC championship, an incredible feat.
What happens to this legacy if he comes back? It starts to lose its value, its sense of allurement and will either way end up becoming a joke and 22 years of creating something magical is lost. A win and it is either unrealistic or a kick in the teeth for another competitor, another defeat and there is no longer the shock value and it is just another nail in the coffin.
Fans have been in uproar about Roman Reigns getting the main event spot at Wrestlemania to the extent the WWE has gone against one of its core historical stipulations. “It’s too soon”, “he’s not ready” people cry, well how are these guys ever going to be ready if we insist on The Undertaker dragging his beaten up body to the ring to headline a PPV for the millionth time?
WWE won the Monday night wars because when WCW regurgitated the same old faces in the same old spots, the WWE developed fresh new talent and characters and gave them the chance to headline. It would be naïve to think that now the big competition has gone people won’t go elsewhere and WWE going down the same path as WCW wouldn’t be catastrophic for business.
Bray Wyatt is a character who has been criminally underused and misused. . It is easy to see why he has drawn comparisons with ‘Taker, he has undoubted charisma, he has aura of mystique, he plays on the supernatural and he has moves in his arsenal that seem to defy his physique. But while he is in Taker’s shadow and he is denied the big storylines and matches how can he ever take over?
The people that worry and complain about wrestlers they love on NXT being misused when they make the step up to the ‘big leagues’ should be the ones demanding that we don’t see ‘Taker and we don’t see Sting. It is dead simple, you will always lack the amazing array of superstars from the Attitude era if you keep going back to the superstars of the ‘Attitude era’!
We need to see young talent headlining PPV main events regularly so the company can move on and increase the network buy rates the company are so obsessed with. As CM Punk stated in his now infamous podcast just before Christmas, by bringing back the ‘real’ superstars for Wrestlemania every year you devalue the product for the rest of the year and create a situation where the more casual viewer only buys Wrestlemania.
I have been a fan of The Undertaker all my life but let’s not have him back at Wrestlemania, instead lets get him in the Hall of Fame and celebrate a magnificent unique career. Leaving at the end of ‘The Streak’, and the end of Wrestlemania as we know it, will do more for the enduring legend and the mysticism of the character than coming back ever will. This is why we should let ‘The Phenom’ rest in peace.