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When Brock Lesnar connected on his third F5 of the evening, it was purely academic as to when the streak was going to be snapped. For some reason, three finishing moves is nearly the ultimate in ensuring victory. No matter how big the event, no matter who the wrestler is, three finishing moves is the end of the line. With the exception of The Ultimate Warrior, who kicked out at 2 after 5 straight elbow drops from Randy Savage, I can't think of another time when a wrestler took three legit finishing maneuvers and still kicked out. In a big match, the first big move is child's play; the second escalates the tension, but the third seems to always be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Leading up to Wrestlemania, there wasn't a great deal of indication that the streak was likely to be broken. Sure, Brock Lesnar pounded all over The Undertaker on the previous Raw, and Heyman blustered on about beating the streak, but that is all the same stuff we saw in previous years, and The Undertaker went over every single time. Leading up to the show, Brock Lesnar was just another competent challenger to the streak, and for all intents and purposes, didn't stand a chance against The Undertaker.
But for whatever reason, The Undertaker decided that Brock Lesnar was going to defeat him on Sunday. And make no mistake about it; The Undertaker was the one who decided to lose on Sunday. It wasn't Triple H, or Brock Lesnar, or anybody else, The Undertaker holds too much respect backstage to let anyone determine something he is involved in that he was against. And although it was clear that he had sustained a concussion during the match, there is a zero percent chance that The Undertaker was actually supposed to win the match, yet Brock Lesnar flipped the script on him and took advantage of his weakened opponent. The Undertaker's streak is consistently the most marketable thing WWE has going into Wrestlemania each year, and even someone as secure in their position as Brock Lesnar would be foolish to pull a fast one on The Undertaker.
I say these things because many conspiracy theories have been floating around since Sunday, and many of them are obviously too outlandish to ever conceivably happen. The fact is WWE did something so unexpected that it made a lot of fans so skeptical about its occurrence, that the only reasoning behind it must be that SOMETHING went wrong and the wrong outcome transpired. In my Wrestlemania preview on Thursday, I wrote that a good thing about the show was that going into it, there was a lot of possibilities, and that for the first time in a while, the event seemed very unpredictable. A lot of readers scoffed at this idea, and I got some emails disagreeing with me, and that this Wrestlemania was in fact, just as predictable as always. I hypothesized briefly in my preview that The Undertaker could lose on Sunday, but even so, I was just as shocked as the rest of you when he didn't kick out at 2.
The match itself was an interesting debate amongst wrestling fans. Some fans thought the match was very good, and one of the best on the card (myself included). However, a lot of fans felt that the match was bad, and The Undertaker (having sustained a severe concussion during the early stages of the match), looked to be in really bad shape. Despite The Undertaker getting his bell rung, I still felt that he and Brock worked a pretty competent match. Sure there were a lot of rest holds while 'Taker tried to get his bearings, but there were some good spots (Brock taking The Undertaker off the rope while he was trying to do Old School and then plunging him right into the F-5 was phenomenal), and the finish certainly was unique.
A problem for a lot of fans, and they are not necessarily wrong, is that The Undertaker has recently set such a high standard of excellence for his matches that if they screw up, even just a little, it feels like a major letdown. Over the last decade, The Undertaker has had tremendous matches with guys like Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and CM Punk. With Brock's reputation, this was setting up to be another one for the pantheon; except that it wasn't. The match was still good, but it just didn't reach that stratospheric level of brilliance this time around.
The Undertaker lost and the streak is dead, that much we can all expect, but the mystery still remains: Why was Brock Lesnar chosen to be the one who broke the streak? This is a very interesting topic, as ideally, a legend as gracious as The Undertaker, would want the streak to be broken by a younger star, needing something to cement himself as a top player in WWE. Brock Lesnar is a supremely talented performer, but he isn't someone that really needed that victory. Brock is so entrenched as a credible foe that he could probably lose 10 straight PPVs in a row and fans would still take him seriously as a contender for the world title.
My own theory is that Brock Lesnar was not originally supposed to be the one who ended the streak. Sometime over the last year, possibly as late as January, WWE was in contact with The Undertaker about his Wrestlemania plans, and they decided on him working with Lesnar, the presumption being that The Undertaker was going to win. On paper it sounds like a perfectly reasonable scenario. The Undertaker and Brock are both part-time wrestlers that are insanely popular and will most likely work a match that fans will be dying to see. The Undertaker would vanquish Lesnar after a lengthy bout, and then retire again until the next Wrestlemania.
However, once The Undertaker started training, and once he started getting into the ring and back in shape, he might have realized that maybe he doesn't have another year left in him. Maybe he realized that he couldn't guarantee that he would be able to get into the ring a year from now, maybe he saw the writing on the wall and decided that this had to be his last Wrestlemania, or at least the last Wrestlemania that he was currently prepared to wrestle in. By the time The Undertaker realized this, it was already too late for him to get a different opponent, one that could really benefit from breaking the streak, and because it was too late, the parties involved that Brock would end the streak.
The question then becomes, why did Brock have to break the streak? Why couldn't The Undertaker have just retired with the streak intact, the last mark in his over two decade career in WWE? A possible explanation could be that WWE convinced him to let the streak be broken because it would add a big spice to the show. Certainly Wrestlemania 30 would have been less interesting without The Undertaker losing. While that is certainly possible, I like to believe that it was something a bit more romantic.
When Rocky Marciano retired from boxing as the world champion and with a perfect record, it was an amazing achievement. Still though, it felt like by retiring on top, he had left something on the table. If Marciano lost, after being undefeated for so long, the drama that would have come from that fight would have been staggering. Now boxing is different than pro wrestling, as in boxing, the fighters are pretty much only interested in their own careers, and their legacies, and not the well-being of the sport once they leave. Pro wrestling is not a legitimate sport, but it is show business, and in show business, the goal is to extract the greatest amount of drama as possible. Let's face it, The Undertaker losing, whether you were for it or against it, is 10 times more dramatic then another run-of-the-mill 'Taker victory at Wrestlemania. The mightiest empires become the most interesting when they fall.
What is next for The Undertaker? I don't think anybody, not Vince McMahon, not Triple H, and not even the Deadman himself knows right now. Just because he didn't believe he could make it to Wrestlemania 31, doesn't mean that he will not wrestle, just that he couldn't guarantee his return next year. It will probably be a long time before he decides what is plans are, and although it would be great to see him one final time, the fact that the matter is that The Undertaker may not be able to wrestle again, and as fans, we will have to accept that.
The saying "It's better to burn out than to fade away," is especially true when it comes to professional wrestling. Anybody that has been to a few indy shows will know that occasionally you will see an old-timer, like Nikolai Volkoff or Marty Jannetty limp to the ring and wrestle some no-name kid. These are the men that professional wrestling has allowed to fade away. I don't think anybody wants to see The Undertaker wrestle when he can barely move about the ring, and after Sunday, that time appears to be now.
In a perfect world, we would all like to see our favorite wrestlers perform for entirety. But the real world, and especially the wrestling world, is far from perfect. But hey, for a long time The Undertaker fought off father time, turning in an excellent performance at the tender age of 48. The agility and grace of the big man at his age gave off the impression that he really was supernatural, and that he could really wrestle forever. But anybody that has driven an old car, had a pet die or has just gotten plain old will now that one day you wake up and you realize that you just can't do it anymore. Even the best thoroughbreds will reach a point where they just can't race like they used to.
The Undertaker will hit the big 5-0 before Wrestlemania next year. Off the top of my head, only Terry Funk and Ric Flair have managed to be extremely competent performers into their 50's, and The Undertaker has a lot of miles on his body. Believe it or not, having the Hell in a Cell match be one of your trademark matches is probably not the best way to sustain your longevity in the ring. Some fans would love to see The Undertaker take on Sting in a dream match that will likely never happen. The Undertaker has given WWE fans over 23 years of entertainment, joy, fear, enthrallment, anxiety, humor and most of all, a standard of brilliance not only in the ring, but as an overall professional. No single wrestler has as much respect from his peers as The Undertaker does, and if he decides to finally put on his Stetson and ride his Harley into the sunset, we should all be thankful for what he has done.
On a lighter note, with Wrestlemania, Invasion Attack, Supercard of Honor and a bunch of other major wrestling events taking place over the last week, here is a revamped version of my Power Rankings for wrestlers all over the world.
1.Kazuchika Okada-IWGP World Heavyweight Champion
2.Daniel Bryan-WWE World Heavyweight Champion
3.El Texano Jr.- AAA World Heavyweight Champion
4.Ricochet- Dragon Gate & Dragon Gate USA World Champion
5.Magnus- TNA World Heavyweight Champion
6.Akebono- AJPW World Heavyweight Champion
7.Adam Cole- PWG and ROH World Champion
8.Randy Orton- Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion
9.Yuji Nagata- GHC World Heavyweight Champion
10.El Terrible- CMLL World Heavyweight Champion
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