The Undertaker’s legendary streak should end on April 7, 2013.
Blasphemy? In the eyes of many, yes. But since when has WWE shied away from blasphemy, especially if it will inflate viewership and revenues?
Amid all the lore and tradition that surrounds WWE’s flagship event, perhaps nothing is considered more sacred and unassailable than the Undertaker’s annual victory.
And maybe that’s the perfect reason to shatter the tradition.
A streak-ending loss for the Undertaker would be a game-changer, and would catapult his opponent to an unprecedented position in wrestling history.
Plenty of fans would be upset – some might feel disillusioned or even betrayed. The social media chatter and debate would reverberate for weeks.
In short, it would be great for business.
Properly written and promoted, the lead-up to the Undertaker’s match at WrestleMania 29 – and the fall-out that would follow his loss – could make for some of the most compelling TV WWE has produced in years.
There are plenty of reasons for WWE to seriously consider putting an end to the streak this April:
1. The Undertaker needs to retire eventually. In most cases, a retiring wrestler is expected to “do the honors” by going out on his back. The lore of the Undertaker’s streak complicates this noble notion, but doesn’t necessarily prohibit it. The key is for the Undertaker to lose the match without “losing face,” and there are ways to make that happen.
2. WWE needs to think of the future, not necessarily maintain a beloved tradition. The company stands to benefit more from a young star attaining an unprecedented victory than from continuing the streak.
3. It’s a fact of life that heroes sometimes lose. Sports fans don’t abandon their beloved team after a big loss, or even a pathetic season. A loss at WrestleMania will not diminish fans’ respect for everything the Undertaker has done in WWE. Ric Flair got superkicked into “retirement” with tears in his eyes, and fans showed him more love afterwards than perhaps ever before.
4. Undertaker will still have an unparalleled 20-match “streak” at WrestleMania, even if the tally becomes 20-1 this year. Nothing can diminish the enormity of what he has already achieved.
5. One more win at WrestleMania – or even three or four more – wouldn’t contribute any significant value to the streak. After the 20-0 milestone, more victories will offer diminishing returns (unless he makes it to 30, which isn’t likely).
Ending the Undertaker’s streak would surely require some clever planning by WWE, since it is too big an opportunity to squander. And it would require the perfect opponent.
There’s the tricky part. Who should break the streak?
Only a handful of candidates qualify, and fewer seem currently poised to achieve such an important milestone. Then again, the big event is still months away, and WWE has a track record of building great stories when it truly matters.
A few candidates:
1. John Cena
Despite being essentially indestructible for years, WWE’s golden goose has been directionless and saddled with cheesy soap opera theatrics lately. A victory against the Undertaker at WrestleMania would be the perfect opportunity for Cena’s long-awaited heel turn. Fans would surely make signs reading “If Cena Wins, We Riot.” In this case, they’d probably follow through on the threat.
2. The Rock
Although he’s one of the few men with the star power and in-ring abilities to be a convincing threat to the streak, he’s also unlikely to hang around WWE after WrestleMania. So ending the streak would not serve the purpose of elevating a WWE roster mainstay.
3. CM Punk
The man who feels chronically disrespected gets a shot at the most respected man (and arguably the most respected milestone) in WWE? Now that’s a storyline. Is Punk considered a viable contender? Probably not, and that’s what makes the notion compelling. A victory for him would be a victory for every undersized, disenfranchised underdog – and he wouldn’t be shy about repeatedly saying so.
4. Triple H
In a way, this makes sense, given the history between these men, and The Game’s position in the company. But really, who on earth wants to see this match again?
Yes, he’s steamrolling through the competition in WWE, and yes, fans seem to be gobbling it up. But is he ready for the Undertaker? Probably not. He’d be a good opponent to lose to the Undertaker, but ending the streak? Ryback’s not there yet.
Our pick: Punk
It would make a great story, especially if Undertaker made a gesture of “passing the torch” to someone he sees as the next leader of the pack. It could go down as one of the most important and controversial WrestleMania moments ever.
Will it happen? Hope so, but don’t hold your breath.