Amid all the speeches during last month’s Slammy Awards edition of Monday Night Raw, one sentence resonated louder than all the rest:
“You have not seen the last of The Undertaker.”
That revealing (yet still cryptic) statement by Triple-H was the first “official” confirmation that, although the Undertaker’s streak-lengthening match at WrestleMania 28 may have been billed as the “End of an Era,” it wasn’t the end of the Phenom.
Of course, the majority of fans already believed (or hoped, at the very least) that the long-absent Undertaker would surface again to continue what arguably has become the most important tradition of WrestleMania.
That said, nobody could rightfully begrudge The Undertaker if he decided to remain underground for good. His Hell in a Cell match against Triple-H at WrestleMania XXVIII was legitimately brutal, and had the uncanny air of a swan song — teary-eyed group hug and all. If the Undertaker were to announce that he’ll never wrestle again, countless fans would be disappointed, but none could justifiably feel shortchanged by him.
But, thanks to a single sentence uttered by Triple-H, we have renewed hope for at least one more ‘Mania match. The big questions now: who will he face, and when will WWE fire up the hype machine?
Long absences from WWE television have become par for the course with The Undertaker. He is in the unique position of only needing to actually wrestle once a year. It adds to his mystique, and heightens the anticipation for his eventual return. Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder.
But if he is indeed committed to defending his legendary WrestleMania streak this April, he’ll need to emerge from the shadows any day now. The Royal Rumble could present the perfect opportunity. It’s one of WWE’s “Big Four” annual pay-per-views, its buyrates should be hefty thanks to the compelling Punk-Rock hype, and it’s the most high-profile on-ramp of the so-called Road to WrestleMania.
So let’s play fantasy booker for a moment and look at some possible scenarios for the Undertaker to reveal himself at the Royal Rumble:
1. A Gong, A Smoke Machine, Some Thunderclaps and Some Creepy Imagery on the TitanTron
This tried-and-true technique is a reliable way for WWE to tease the “presence” of The Undertaker without over-exposing him too soon. Imagine The Rock standing over a defeated CM Punk (or vice versa — you never know) when the arena lights suddenly black out and a familiar bell tolls as the pay-per-view goes off the air. It would certainly get people talking.
2. A Surprise Entrant in the Royal Rumble Match
This seems less likely, as it would require the Undertaker to actually throwdown in a WWE ring prior to his WrestleMania match, but it could happen. If, at the end of the 10-second countdown, a gong heralded the Undertaker as the next Rumble entrant, the crowd reaction would be monumental. If he were to enter the Rumble, he would almost certainly have to win it (or intentionally eliminate himself). As winner, he’d be in line to challenge WWE’s top star (whoever that may be come ‘Mania) in a title vs. streak match.
3. Challenged by a Would-Be Streak-Breaker
The safest, albeit least interesting, option for building expectation for an Undertaker match at WrestleMania would be for his would-be opponent to lay down an open challenge at the Royal Rumble. Maybe the winner of the Rumble match, whoever it may be, forsakes his hard-earned title shot for an opportunity to break the ‘Taker’s streak. This could lead to weeks of unrequited challenges on Raw, until the Undertaker finally emerges in the flesh to accept the challenge.
If the Undertaker is indeed scheduled to defend his mystical streak at WrestleMania, WWE needs to begin building toward the important match. It doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to see this Sunday’s Royal Rumble as the perfect opportunity to resurrect the Deadman.