With just weeks to go until The Undertaker’s big Hell In A Cell showdown with Triple H at WrestleMania XVIII, we ask whether it’s time to finally put The Dead Man’s famous streak to rest…
On 24th March 1965, Mark William Calaway came into this world. Since that day almost five decades ago, he has gone by many names: Mean Mark Callous, The Phenom, The Deadman, The American Badass … but for wrestling fans around the world, there is only one true name for this 6’10″ behemoth, and that is simply The Undertaker.
Throughout his twenty-plus year tenure with the WWE, The Undertaker has accomplished many things and has been involved in some of the most helacious, and memorable, matches in the company’s history. But, without question, the one thing that The Undertaker is now truly known for is his WrestleMania undefeated streak, which now stands at an unprecedented 19-0.
I am not going to look back at this steak in detail as that’s been done to death over the years; instead, I am going to focus on the here and now and ask: is it time for The Streak to come to an end and, if so, who should be the man to end it?
In this humble writer’s opinion, the opportunity has now passed for it to end. If anyone was going to achieve this, it would have been Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV in what was a truly memorable and epic match which stunned fans and critics around the world, but ultimately resulted in The Undertaker leaving the ring with an unscathed streak of now 17-0.
The following year’s Wrestlemania XXVI build up truly began with Michaels costing The Undertaker his shot at the World Heavyweight championship inside the Elimination Chamber on the PPV in February 2010. This resulted in these two men putting it all on the line once again, but this time in a Streak versus Career matchup, with The Heartbreak Kid vowing to retire should he be defeated on ‘The Grandest Stage Of Them All’ once again.
While the match at WM26 did not quite live up to the hype and expectation of their previous WrestleMania bout, the two seasoned veterans gave it all they had, and in a scene closely resembling Ric Flair’s ‘retirement’ (whose WWE career was ended, somewhat ironically, at the hand of Michaels two years previously), The Undertaker pinned a very dazed HBK, bringing to a close the career of one of, if not the most, gifted man in the history of sports entertainment, and furthering The Streak to an incredible 18-0.
Fast forward to WrestleMania XXVII last year, and we had the foundations set for Triple H versus The Undertaker, with a very determined HHH seeking revenge on The Phenom for retiring his former D-Generation X teammate, as well as looking to prove that he is the better man.
To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting to be literally on the edge of my seat throughout this encounter – but that is exactly what happened. Wtching this match with fellow CollarAndElbow.com columnists Ben Veal and David Blackburn-Clarke, I don’t think any of us quite expected the carnage that unfolded before our eyes – bearing in mind that this match took place in today’s PG-friendly WWE, with the Attitude Era all but a distant memory, talked about fondly by fans the world over as one of wrestling’s golden ages.
This, however, was one of the most brutal matches (by WWE PG standards) that I can recall in a number of years from WWE. An abundance of weapons were used to full, excruciating effect, and both gentlemen were actually fined after this match for the use of unprotected chair shots to the head – very much a no-no in WWE today.
In a moment where fans around the world must have thought that the streak would come to an end, Triple H tombstone piledrove The Undertaker into the mat and covered him using The Dead Man’s patented crossed-arms-tongue-out signature pin – but only achieved a very, very close near fall.
It was at this point that I realised: if Michaels couldn’t get the job done and HHH couldn’t do it using The Undertaker’s own move against him, then this night was not going to be the night that The Streak came to an end; and sure enough, moments later, The Undertaker gained the victory – but had to be uncharacteristically carried out of the arena due to the punishment inflicted on him during the match.
So, will the story be any different this year?
Now we are just weeks away from WrestleMania XXVIII, when Triple H will challenge The Undertaker for the third time, with Shawn Michaels acting as the special referee inside the demonic structure known as Hell In A Cell. Yes, that’s right, the third time: for whatever reason, WWE are trying to rewrite history by not acknowledging the pair’s clash at WrestleMania XVII, a personal favourite match of mine.
Can Triple H be the man to end The Streak? I personally don’t think so, and I believe that Vince McMahon may have clocked that, by now, the hardened fan does not believe that The Undertaker will ever be defeated at the big show, and so is doing all he can this year to try to stack the deck in Helmsley’s favour to make the end result seem like more of a surprise to those in attendance in Miami – and, of course, the millions watching around the world.
In my opinion, I believe that if Vince McMahon had wanted anyone to end The Streak, it would have been Brock Lesnar during his brief but eventful WWE run. At the time Brock was young, hungry, and furthermore was a legitimate force to be reckoned with within the WWE – and I was a huge fan as a result. He had the looks, size and speed of somebody half his size, but could do it all in the ring. A win over The Undertaker would have consolidated Lesnar as the new face of the company and the future of professional wrestling, but sadly he decided to to walk away from it all, after a diabolical match with Goldberg at WrestleMania XX. Whilst there were rumours of a Taker/Lesnar bout a couple of years back, it never got off the ground, and now the opportunity has well and truly passed.
With Lesnar’s departure still in mind, who could McMahon trust enough to end the streak, and still be with the committed to the company in five years time after being given such a great, career-making privilege? The answer – nobody; so instead the big match ever since has gone to just two heavily-established stars, who have both had no intentions of going anywhere.
As we head into WrestleMania XXVIII, only time will what difference Hell In A Cell will make to the outcome, and whether Michaels will call this one straight down the middle, or will let his personal allegiances get in the way and take over.
In my heart of hearts, I can’t see any possible ending other than a big 20-0 appearing on the screen at the end of the match, but when it comes to professional wrestling, you really never can tell.
There is now only one time and place to find this answer out – April 1st 2012 in Miami, Florida. I’ll be watching …. will you?