Have we finally reached the point where The Undertaker, his streak and the aura of ‘Taker at WrestleMania doesn’t mean anything to us anymore?
Personally, I haven’t been less interested in an Undertaker WrestleMania match since WrestleMania 19 when Undertaker went against A-Train and The Big Show. Yeah, it’s been that long.
He hasn’t been perfect since then, his casket match with Mark Henry at WrestleMania 22 was a big “meh” and I didn’t care much for his WWE Championship match against Edge at WrestleMania 24.Since WrestleMania 25 though, The Undertaker’s aura at WrestleMania reached immense heights. Still regarded as one of the best matches ever, his match with Shawn Michaels put him on a different stratosphere and more importantly, put his undefeated streak on a legendary level.
Yet here we are, a few weeks from WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans and the buzz surrounding Undertaker defending his streak against Brock Lesnar just isn’t there. This is of course not scientific and relies heavily on my subjective opinion and what I hear from our readers and Twitter followers.
Here’s a sampling of what I received when I asked for a number 1-5 of emotional investment/anticipation people had for the match:
@voiceswrestling I’d say 3, solely because I’m guessing it will be very good based on their past matches and their recent track records.
— Jason Mann (@wrestlespective) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling I think am just over Taker at Mania. “I am going to end the streak vs Rest in peace” just doesn’t do it for me anymore
— Pat Sheehan (@MidwayPat) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling 1: Finish is foregone conclusion (wouldn’t necessarily say that with every other opponent option) and Taker is too limited
— Chad Campbell (@chaddie151) March 19, 2014
@MidwayPat @voiceswrestling people complain about the build every yr. Come match time, all’s forgotten and everyone gets swept up in story.
— TV Time Remaining (@TVTimeRemaining) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling 1. There isn’t an ounce of brain matter in my head that thinks Brock wins.
— Taylor C. Mitchell (@LuchaNerd) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling I’ve wanted it ever since Brock came back.. So 4.
— Matthew Macklin (@MatthewMacklin) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling like most, I’m at like 2. Then on the night I’ll be at 50 because the atmosphere makes it killer.
— Barry (@TheBarrylad) March 19, 2014
@voiceswrestling ….Interested in seeing how MMA “driven” the match will be. Story is greater than the outcome, IMO.
— BushidoBlog (@BushidoBlog) March 19, 2014
A recent poll on the Wrestling Observer Forum asked readers “What match is your main event at Wrestlemania?” the caveat of this poll wasn’t exactly what match will close the show but “but the match that you personally think is the main event of the show.”
This, again, is very subjective but you could make a reasonable case Undertaker and his battle to keep the streak was the hypothetical main event for WrestleMania 25, 26 and 27. 28 and 29 were over-shadowed by The Rock and John Cena but it wasn’t but five years ago when Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels Streak vs. Career was not only the “main event” but literally, the main event of WrestleMania 26.
So, how well did Brock vs. Undertaker do in this poll? It received a measly 10 votes. An equal number to the jokesters who voted for the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. But removing a bit of the “getting myself over with a stupid poll choice” noise, that’s still an insanely low number for a match and a stipulation (Taker’s streak) that’s been a huge deal in the past.
The triple-threat title match received 57 total votes or 59%, while second place went to Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H with 16%. Undertaker vs. Lesnar received only 13% of the votes, again, this isn’t scientific but how did we get to the point where The Undertaker defending his streak is only the third most anticipated match on the show?
It’s a combination of things.
For one, his opponent Brock Lesnar. Remember when he returned the night after WrestleMania 28 and was the buzz of the wrestling world? That was cool, right? Sadly, that’s the highest point he’d ever reach in this run. His match with John Cena at Extreme Rules 2012 is still one of my favorite matches of the last decade in WWE but the result, Lesnar losing to Cena, ultimately set the stage for Lesnar’s regression not only in the fan’s eyes but also a PPV draw. He popped a pretty good buy number against Triple H at SummerSlam 2012 but since then he’s seen diminishing buys which each subsequent PPV appearance calling into question his value given the massive deal he signed.
He’s just not that intriguing anymore. We’ve seen him lose multiple high-profile matches, we’ve seen him have crazy renegade matches but we’ve also seen him disappear for months at a time. But isn’t THIS the match we all wanted out of Brock when he returned in 2012? This matchup against The Undertaker was the payoff for Lesnar, the build off their previous tension when Lesnar was in UFC, the first time a true monster would try to destroy The Undertaker to beat the streak. Yet, we’re here and where’s the buzz? WWE has nobody to blame but themselves. In not protecting Lesnar, they’ve built a scenario where there is literally no chance in anyone’s mind that he beats Undertaker for the streak.
Sure, there was no way CM Punk did it last year but what if WWE wanted to make Punk a mega-star? There was probably no way Triple H was going to beat him, but I mean, he’s a legend and he’s calling the shots? Shawn Michaels put his career on the line, he can definitely beat him and keep the career alive. I mean, sure, none of these were plausible in hindsight but you could lie to yourself. You can’t do that this year. There’s no chance Lesnar beats him. Not a single chance and there’s no way to justify it or lie to yourself. It’s not possible, there’s no scenario and no insane fantasy booking that gets us to that point.
In-ring, who knows. The Undertaker takes the year off to prepare for this match, the two have had incredible chemistry before and Lesnar has been nothing short of spectacular in his return but something still seems missing. Perhaps we don’t think Taker can do it again. Like the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, we’re all just waiting for the last straw, the last run, the final moment where we say “Oh see, he can’t go anymore”. We’ve been thinking that for six years now, but this year feels different, this year feels like it could really be the realization that he’s a 48-year-old.
Perhaps it’s cautious optimism. He don’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment so we’ll just temper expectations and if it ends up being great, we’ll all love it. I personally did that last year against CM Punk and left thinking that was the match of the night.
Maybe we’re all just scared what Lesnar is going to do to Taker when they get into the ring. HBK, HHH and CM Punk are all guys with a reputation of being easy to work with, guys that will protect you along the way and definitely not guys with a history of stiffing or injuring their opponents. If they are the prototypical safe workers, Brock Lesnar is the antithesis. A reckless monster who may drop you on your head or shoulder, he may hit you too hard with a chairshot, who the hell knows what he’ll do with you when he’s in the ring. That’s part of his appeal and has made his matches must-see since his return, however, you have to wonder how much he’s going to reel that in to ensure he doesn’t legitimately injure Taker.
Overall, the build just isn’t there. There’s not enough on the line, there’s no repercussions, it’s just a paint-by-numbers Undertaker WrestleMania match. Perhaps if WWE protected Lesnar and had him stay undefeated, we could build to an undefeated monster vs. undefeated at WrestleMania match but it’s too late for that. Instead we have guy who sometimes beats guys up vs. undefeated at WrestleMania. There’s not much there. They were grasping at straws for a build to last year’s match with CM Punk so there’s precedent here.
In the end, it may not matter. As a number of our Twitter responses said, once the match starts how much they anticipated it previously flies out the window.
It’s WrestleMania, it’s The Undertaker — they’ll mark out like little kids again. I’m hoping I do too.