Unto everything, an ending.
I remember it vividly, being in the parking deck extremely early for WrestleMania 30, to this date the last WrestleMania I have attended. It had been a great weekend. Wrestling, food, coffee, jazz, and friends. An incredible experience up to that point that had made it the best WrestleMania weekend I had yet to have. As we made our way through the parking deck two men waved at us and one said those words that will always draw someone’s attention “You all want some beer?” I didn’t partake at the time, but my two friends did. So we went over and beer was drunk and conversation commenced. These two men were at their first WrestleMania and were rightfully excited for the experience. The match card was run down, and as we went through the card discussing our positive and negative thoughts inevitable Brock Lesnar versus The Undertaker would be arrived at. The one question always asked in these scenarios would get brought up. I was the one to bring it up.
“Will the streak end tonight?”
There was some pause, there were glances. There were a few fleeting moments of sipping beer to waste time before responding. We all responded the same, we laughed. We laughed at the possibility. We chuckled and said things like “Can you imagine Lesnar being the one to end the streak?” Then I’ll remember the quote I’ll never forget. One of the men raised his beer and before drinking said “If Lesnar defeats The Undertaker I’ll walk all the way home.”
Somedays I think about him and wonder if he ever stopped walking.
You all know the result, Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s streak.
If one chooses to go back and watch it now though a lot is lost in the rewatching, the reviewing. A lot is lost in seeing it on the network, or on YouTube. You can understand and get fragments and pieces, but there was only one way to ever get the full puzzle, the full feeling, the full experience. Watch it when it happens, and be there when it is happening.
I achieved both, and to this day it is both one of my most vivid live wrestling memories and my hardest. It is my hardest because it still feels surreal, still feels surreal to be able to say I watched the streak end. I remember us all in our seats. We were having an amazing time at WrestleMania. We had some snarkiest of fans behind us being sarcastic and clearly there just to shit on everything, but we drowned them out as best we could. Even they became silent as The Undertaker’s traditional theme hit. Even from them, I could feel a slight bit of goosebumps as the WrestleMania Legend, with his now-famous streak made his way down the ring to face Brock Lesnar. We expected a slobber knocker. We expected a hard-hitting match. We are expecting a foregone conclusion.
We didn’t get any of it. Due to a concussion suffered early on, The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar is a forgettable match for the body. It’s disappointing in some ways that the match where a hallmark of WrestleMania dies is of such low quality, but in the end, even if the match was approaching five stars the body of the match would not matter. All that would be remembered, discussed, debated, disputed would be the ending. Lesnar hits a third F5. I can see Heyman in the background with a “what more can you do?” expression in his body language. I felt the same. What more could you do? Clearly, after this third F5 failed The Undertaker would finally put Brock Lesnar away.
Then the hand hit the mat for the third time.
No shoulder raise, no kick out.
For a split second, I don’t remember much. For a split second nothing processed, nothing hit, nothing was collected in the memory banks. It was as if my brain was going “error: unable to verify data” at what had just happened. When I snapped back to it I did what both my friends did, what all the snarky remark brats behind me did. I stood the hell up and gasped. I gasped hard. I gasped so hard both at what I witnessed and also because I thought I had just watched the biggest botch in pro-wrestling. I sincerely, my dear readers, thought the three-count wasn’t supposed to happen and this was a major mistake.
Then the graphic popped up. 21-1.
It was then reality chomped down. As another round of gasp and disbelief hit the crowd, I knew this was real. It’s dumb thinking back at it. How hard I reacted. I almost collapsed back in my seat from emotion. I could feel my body shaking as my hands went over my mouth and I muttered to myself “no way, no way, no way.” I even got a text from a friend watching at home saying “it’s okay to cry.”As Brock Lesnar was announced the winner I slowly turned my head to see the reactions of my two friends. One friend was shocked, but I could also see it in their eyes. They were trying to rationalize it. They looked for the best and positive in everything. It is one of his strengths. I knew right then and there through his shock and disbelief he was formulating why this was a good thing, a positive, why it was the right call. Then there was my other friend. He was the biggest Undertaker fan I knew. When I first met him he was cosplaying The Undertaker. The expression of sadness, anger, depression, disbelief all splattered on his face like a Pollock painting. I didn’t even bother looking up at the screen to catch expressions. I didn’t know of the most famous (you know the one) look of shock at The Undertaker losing until I looked at the replay. I had no time to look at the shock of others, I was going through my own. I didn’t need to see shock, I COULD FEEL IT IN WAVES.
It is the most incredible, emotional, and raw crowd reaction I was ever a part of. The kind that shakes you in the way you forget wrestling can achieve at its rarest and hardest impacts. As I collapsed in my seat I realized my emotions hit so hard I was exhausted and had to lean back my head and close my eyes. I’ll never forget how hard the moment hit me. Sure I was a fan of The Undertaker, supernatural silliness and all, but I wasn’t a super fan, I wasn’t a number one fan. I knew the streak would possibly end one day. I didn’t think I would be there to see it. I never thought it would HIT ME though. That’s the live experience for you. I was there live, I Experienced it with a capital E. I’m not saying it’s the best WrestleMania moment I’ve ever been there for, but it was the most unforgettable. Nothing else in wrestling, good, bad, ugly has hit me as hard as the day as I was there to witness The Undertaker’s streak die. There was an uneasiness that hung over As The Undertaker made his way to the back. We had no idea how wrecked he was. “Thank you Taker” chants and claps did happen, but at times they felt like they weren’t done with energy. It wasn’t the lack of respect, it was the lack of us having anything left at that moment to give. Part of me was worried if I would have anything left for the remainder of the show, especially the main event where my favorite wrestler WAS performing and I was waiting for him to be crowned.
As there was tension in the air, the next match was announced for the then-WWE Divas Championship. One lone fan stood up amongst us. This one lone fan had the energy, the ability to speak at that moment. What did he choose to say?
“WHO FUCKING CARES”
On one hand, I felt bad for the competitors, but the truth is I laughed. My whole section laughed. It was the ice breaker, the tension shattered. We needed that moment. I’ll always appreciate that fan because he broke the hold the moment we had watched held over us, except for my friend The Undertaker fan. Sure he laughed, but he didn’t feel better about it. As the show went on though even he too would be standing, cheering, jumping, hugging when Daniel Bryan won the main event.
We got our spirits back, but there was still a pang we could feel.
As we left the arena and made it back to our car, we didn’t see our beer-drinking friends. Always wondered what their reactions to the moment were. This was their first WrestleMania ever and did they ever pick a time to finally attend. Despite my current feelings about WWE I sincerely hoped they enjoyed themselves and went back for others. As for us? We sat in the car soaking in the evening when my Undertaker-loving friend finally took a breath and got it out of his system “GOD DAMN BROCK LESNAR” he bellowed. We let him get it out, sometimes you just have to do that. We then continued the weekend. As the weekend went on the disbelief and shock turned into a discussion and in-jokes. Sure enough, my one friend tried to rationalize it. We debated and disputed it over and over again, just like many of us still do now, and as it went on the moment that had gripped us and shaken us began to lose its hold, began to lose its feeling. We joked about living in a “Post streak world” and that “there ain’t shit we can do now because The Undertaker lost.”
One of the most magical things about modern WrestleMania was dead.
The illusion shattered.
I never looked at The Undertaker the same again. Fair or not. When his streak ended, I always felt, and still do feel, that’s when he should’ve been done. By that point THE STREAK was his career, it was his legacy, once it ended I felt his time should’ve come. Wrestling rarely, if ever, has perfect endings though. He keeps coming back to mixed results, mixed reactions, and mixed feelings. I have never felt from him how I felt pre-streak ever again. I got to see him against Triple H in Hell in a Cell, I saw him against Punk in Punk’s last WrestleMania match, and I got to see his streak ended. I’m glad. I’m glad I got to experience it live as it happened. It was the only way to fully feel the raw impact it had on the thousands of us who were there that night. I will never forget it. The night the streak died. Lower casket, toss in some flowers, shovel the dirt. Rest In Peace.