The Era Has Ended
I can’t believe I’m doing a second WWE feature in less than a week, but my God, this deserves it. The Undertaker’s loss at Wrestlemania was indeed shocking, but perhaps even more mind-blowing was the fact that nobody (and I literally mean nobody. I’m yet to see one person that predicted a Brock Lesnar victory) saw this coming. It just didn’t make any sense, and because of that, it made all the sense in the world. The WWE, to their credit, were able to shock even the most hardened fans. But was it the right move?
There is no question in my mind that something had to give at some point. Undertaker’s body couldn’t handle the punishment that WWE performers put themselves through. Yes, the matches are predetermined. We all know that. But the impact and toll that it takes on these performers is legitimate. Fans know this, and this is why they are so respected. The Undertaker has put his body through so much over the years, and it had caught up with him. But I remember saying after Shawn Michaels lost to him in 2009 (in what I consider Undertaker’s best match during the streak), that they should let The Undertaker retire with the streak intact. This was reinforced with The Undertaker’s victory over Michaels in their heavily hyped rematch the following year, and that ended perhaps the greatest career in professional wrestling. The following two years, he had everything thrown at him from HHH, and then last year against C.M. Punk, it looked like he simply couldn’t be beaten at Wrestlemania. To a non-wrestling fan, it would be like Michael Jordan losing in the finals. It’s just something we aren’t programmed to see.
And that’s why fans are simply shocked. The WWE did a flawless job in creating that perception that he could not be beaten. In late January, my friend Scott was visiting from New Zealand and we ended up having a great conversation about pro-wrestling. We discussed The Rock’s return, and The Undertakers streak. We both agreed that this year was safe, and the only scenario that it could be in jeopardy is if he faced John Cena next year in a build up as Undertaker’s last ever match, and creating a torch-passing situation. But the reality is the timing was perfect. For the first time in years, the WWE has actually developed talent over long and well thought out storylines, and the Undertaker match wasn’t the priority. Fans were more interested in seeing what would happen with the Daniel Bryan/ Authority storyline, and they just assumed The Undertaker match was a given.
But what happened is a result that will make the most educated fans question everything in the future. There will be an element of doubt with every prediction and expectation for at least the next 10 years now. Fans won’t forget this soon, and despite some of them being upset, I bet they will tune in. The WWE took perhaps their biggest gamble in their history with this. They had spent 23 years building The Streak up, and in order to create suspense for all their storylines, they needed to shock everyone. This was Hogan/ Warrior all over again. It needed to happen, and they played the biggest card they had up their sleeve. I respect them for having the balls to go through with it.
The only problem I have with is the guy that actually got the victory over The Undertaker. Now, I accept that it had to be someone like Brock to surprise 99.9% of the audience. If it was any of his previous 6 opponents (Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels, HHH or CM Punk), there would have a much larger percentage that would have predicted an Undertaker loss. But Brock? Look, I like Brock Lesnar. I think that outside of Kurt Angle, he is the best athlete the WWE has ever had. But is he deserving of it? The streak alone elevates The Undertaker into the Hall of Fame, and to have essentially a part timer in Brock Lesnar to end it, ahead of HHH, HBK, Orton, Edge, Ric Flair, CM Punk, Batista, Big Show, Kane… I don’t think he should have been the one. But as I said before, they needed to create that element of unpredictability to their matches.
And they’ve done it. Kudos to them. And in doing so, they’ve just elevated not just Brock Lesnar, but also Paul Heyman, into the very elite of the business.
But what has been somewhat lost in all of this, there are some very serious question marks about The Undertakers future now. He’s looked fragile and slow ever since the 2011 match with HHH, and fans had noticed. If this isn’t his last match, next year will be. And the loss doesn’t hurt his legacy at all. In the podcast on Thursday with David and Kareem, I listed him as number 5 of the top WWE performers of all time. This loss changes nothing. And if he does indeed retire on RAW tomorrow night, he deserves the biggest send-off we’ve ever seen (yes, even bigger than Flair’s in 2008. If he does stick around one more year, soak it up and appreciate it. We’ll never see an angle like The Streak again, and we’ll never see a wrestler like The Undertaker again.
The Era, my friends, has truly ended.