The Story Behind The Undertaker And John Cena's Brief, Non-Promoted WrestleMania 34 Match

During their respective runs in WWE, The Undertaker and John Cena crossed paths on several occasions. When Cena first debuted on "WWE SmackDown," it was 'Taker who met him backstage with a nod of respect for how Cena aggressively confronted Kurt Angle on his first night. The two would face each other in battle on six different occasions in unique matches reflecting where their characters were at the time. 


There were several matches between "The Dr. of Thuganomics" John Cena and "American Badass" Undertaker in the early 2000s. They would meet again on "WWE Raw" in October 2006 with Cena taking on the "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect" babyface character at that time and 'Taker maintaining his classic "Deadman" gimmick.

But the final encounter between the two legendary WWE stars that took place at WrestleMania 34 left a lot to be desired. By 2018, it was a given that Cena and Undertaker would be a part of each of the annual WrestleMania events in some capacity. However, the year prior, at WrestleMania 33, The Undertaker lost to Roman Reigns in the main event of the show and his actions post the match indicated that he was retiring from the industry. 


Creatively, the story basically wrote itself. Was 'Taker willing to come back for one more match? Will Cena actually miss WrestleMania because his challenge was left unanswered? This would go on for weeks as from city to city Cena would come out to the ring to give a heartfelt promo about "The Phenom's" legacy and how much he means to the fans.

The story takes a strange turn

Despite each town John Cena visited offering deafening chants for The Undertaker to accept the WrestleMania challenge, it would never happen. The 16-time WWE Champion would be seated in the front row at the event and thought that he was going to take his first WrestleMania off after over a decade of consistent appearances. However, mid-way through WrestleMania 34, an official ran down to ringside and informed Cena that 'Taker was indeed at the event and was accepting his challenge. 


Cena jumped the barricade and prepared himself while The Undertaker made another one of his legendary, slow treks down to the ring. The match itself is what baffled viewers –- 'Taker essentially squashed Cena in under three minutes.

Some light was shed on the entire situation during The Undertaker's "The Last Ride" documentary. "The Deadman" felt like he needed another match as "redemption" for the unsatisfactory showcasing at WrestleMania 33 against Reigns. "I looked old. I looked slow. I was overweight. I could not move. It just wasn't Undertaker-esque in any sense," 'Taker said.

His focused on his training so he could come back and have a lengthy, impressive return match. However, he said that time constraints for WrestleMania are what kept their bout brief as WWE attempted to fit fourteen marquee matches on one night at WrestleMania 34.


Conflicting reports as to why

Conflicting reports about the exact reason The Undertaker and John Cena were given limited time have also emerged in the aftermath. Reports claimed that WWE officials had Cena vs. Undertaker booked for WrestleMania 34 months in advance, but approached it the way they did because they were concerned about 'Taker's physical capabilities in the ring. 


Apparently, the unique build-up to the match that left fans questioning if it was ever going to happen was to downplay how massive the match appeared on paper. This way, the expectations wouldn't surpass what 'Taker was actually able to deliver and what WWE was offering to risk by having him compete for a long period of time.

Whatever the exact reason or reasons, it's unfortunate that fans never got that final definitive chapter in the long-term story of 'Taker and Cena. The following year at WrestleMania, 'Taker would be absent from the show for the first time in 19 years, and Cena would only appear for a segment where he revived his "Dr. of Thuganomics" gimmick for one night only. 

The next year at WrestleMania 36, things would be a lot different. Cena battled "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt in a wacky Firefly Funhouse Match, and The Undertaker would have his final match in WWE against AJ Styles in the first-ever Boneyard Match. Cena would succumb to defeat at the hands of The Fiend, while 'Taker was victorious and rode off into the night on his motorcycle.