Craig Wilson & Jamie Lithgow
Since defeating ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania VII, The Undertaker has gone on to win every single match he’s had a Wrestlemania creating a streak that has become as important a part of his legacy as it is to the history of Wrestlemania.
Of course, no-one will ever describe every single match he’s had as a classic – far from it – and you could argue that it really didn’t get going until Wrestlemania 13 when he defeated Sid for the WWF Championship. But credit where credit is due; in a lot of those situation he’s done the best he could with a bad hand. He was never going to squeeze a Flair v Steamboat match out of The Giant Gonzalez at Wrestlemania 9 and King Kong Bundy, his opponent two years later, was past his best when they locked horns. But still, you can’t take away from him the fact he has had such a lengthy undefeated streak at the grandest stage of them all. In this Sermon, the team look at the importance and discuss their favourite moments from it.
Craig: Despite not being the world’s biggest Undertaker fan by any stretch of the imagination, I do always look forward to Wrestlemania in order to see who the latest superstar is that is vying to end the streak. In past years it has been a series of superstars in and around the end of their careers that have stepped forward to take him on and that has led in part to it being difficult to see those stars defeating him.
However, it’s quite different this year. I’ve blogged about this one previously and part of me can see Punk defeating him this year or at the very least pushing him more than others have. However, this is not what this Sermon is about. It’s about the importance of it and our highlights, and of course lowlights, from a lengthy run of victories at Wrestlemania.
Our ‘Worst Wrestlemania card’ sermon the other week contained his match with Giant Gonzalez from Wrestlemania 9 which is without doubt his worst ‘mania match if not the worst match in wrestle history. However, it’s run pretty close by the farcical Hell in a Cell versus the Bossman at Wrestlemania 15 which was made worse by the silly hanging of the Bossman post match.
Praise, however, is called for some of his latter matches – surprising in itself considering the toll wrestling has taken on his body – particularly those against Shawn Michaels, one of which James covered the other day.
Jamie: For me The Streak easily tops the WWE Title, it is the most coveted and respected title in all of wrestling. Whoever (assuming someone does) ends it will have achieved something nobody else could. Sounds obvious but unlike the WWE Title such an accolade cannot be lost or diminished, it will stick with a performer for the rest of their career. I bet most people have forgotten that The Miz is a former WWE Champion, do you think whoever claims The Streak will ever fall victim to being forgotten by the booking team? Not a chance, Mark ‘The Undertaker’ Callaway and Vince McMahon would not allow it. For me, whoever claims the streak will be carrying on a tradition and a legacy created by and handed to them by The Undertaker. They would be holding the rump card, outranking the WWE Champion, at least in the short term.
That is how important I think The Streak is, and also how it can be used to help create the next John Cena, Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin. In terms of my highlights and lowlights of The Streak I think my favourite match was probably against Edge. This was the last time Taker was relevant outside of The Streak as he won the World Heavyweight Championship. Ever since this match he has been a part timer facing competitors targeting his Wrestlemania record.
In terms of a lowlight I see his match against A-Train and Big Show as a blot on his record, purely because it was not a singles match. It was a handicap match which was originally booked as a tag (Taker was supposed to team with Nathan Jones). Granted the match is from Wrestlemania 19, before The Streak really became a big a deal, but it still sucked to see The Dead Man take a step backwards by competing in such a crap match so far down the card.
Craig: I’d forgotten about that handicap match. Yeah, that was grim indeed.
Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t particularly enjoy the match against HHH last year. I thought it was very obvious in places and merely going through the motions. Said that after the event, an opinion I stand by, but it was still match of the year.
I agree with everything that you’ve said regarding the prestige of the streak and how important it’ll be for whoever ends the streak. That said, who is to say that anyone will end it? Could you see the situation where The Undertaker retires with the streak intact?
I’d like to throw another bad match into the mix: His bout with Kane at Wrestlemania 14. It went seventeen minutes and despite a nice finishing sequence I felt it was rather boring and slow paced with a lengthy rest hold spot in the middle. Not the most memorable of matches. Not his worst but only worthy of a one out of five in my eyes.
Jamie: Both Kane bouts and his match with Deisel can be thrown into the OK pile actually. They weren’t disastrously bad, just a little dull. I’m actually with you regarding the Triple H match. Of his three matches with The Game I actually rank last year’s effort third, WM17’s encounter was an unexpected gem and, for me, is a better match than the Hell in a Cell match. This may sound controversial but I’m not as big a fan of Taker’s matches with Triple H as most people. Don’t get me wrong, two fantastic matches, but I didn’t think they were as good as what everyone made them out to be. For me both started off as hard-hitting, attitude era style matches before descending into a a near-fall bonanza with both men kicking out of finishing move after finishing move. I won’t lie; the matches had me going just as much as the live crowd. However, when you think about it this was a pretty simple, and some might say lazy, match lay out. With that said, could anyone else on the roster at the time have taken such a simple match lay out and had us on the edge of our seat? But to play Devil’s Advocate yet again, most performers on the roster have not been booked into a Streak which sells itself to fans the way The Undertaker’s does.
In terms of who might end the streak, I still think the most likely candidate is nobody. The end of Taker’s career is in sight but a likely candidate to end the streak is not. It’s not a physical title that has to be on a person, so if nobody fits the bill then nobody will be awarded it and The Streak will retire with The Undertaker. The end of The Streak would surely mean the end of The Undertaker, so who do you see him having a retirement match with? The build up to his match with Punk has not caught the imagination the way I had hoped so I don’t see it happening this year. My bet is that next year will be Taker’s last match, at Wrestlemania 30. Who could he face?
- John Cena – it would be a complete waste to have Cena end the streak and surely WWE must know that.
- The Rock – same as above.
- Brock Lesnar – could Taker’s battered body withstand Brock’s stiff style? Or, would we buy into a match with Brock pulling his punches?
- CM Punk – a second bite at the cherry. Of anyone he’s the most likely, but still not that likely.
Who else could he face?
Craig: There’s always not ending the streak and use him sparingly as he is now. Lot of value for WWE in that and a loss of the streak removes that cash cow. Obviously retirements rarely count for anything in wrestling so a retirement could see him come back anyway. That said, there’s always scope for him retiring someone down the line. A Kane perhaps?
The resentment towards Cena if he ended the streak would certainly turn him heel. The Rock certainly doesn’t need it and it would be pointless booking him into such a match.
I think a second Punk match, based on premise Taker wins tonight and built up over the year ala HBK V ‘taker, but with Punk winning really is only logical option for someone to end the streak. Legitimises Punk and gives him the rub that could get him over to that next level where he is the main eventer.
Jamie: Surely when Taker calls it a day it will be final? It’s not like he’ll be going cold turkey, it’ like he’s already retired 364 days a year anyway. You hear about wrestlers coming back because they miss the rush and/or the money. Taker clearly doesn’t need the cash and if he were that hooked on the rush of performing we would have seen him far more over the last few years, even in a non-wrestling capacity.
I like the idea of him facing Kane in his swansong actually. I can see Taker retiring Kane but I’m starting to view Kane as the most likely to end The Streak. Yeah, of anyone Kane makes the most sense. Granted it wouldn’t help get any younger talent over but it would be the most fitting and poetic way for The Streak to end. A match against Kane would not electrify like his matches against HBK but it wouldn’t need to. If Taker faced Kane at Wrestlemania I, and many others, would genuinely buy into the prospect of The Streak ending. I’m actually sold on this idea, even more than Punk ending it at the second attempt. If The Streak ends, and I still think it will retire intact, then Kane is surely the man to end it at the third time of asking.
Craig: It’d make no business sense for Kane to en streak. Wouldn’t that therefore rule that out as a realistic proposition? It would have made poetic sense to have it this year, considering Bearer like that the two have. Alas it couldn’t be, though.
Jamie: In my opinion it doesn’t make business sense for Undertaker to retire with The Streak intact, but we are told that is Vince’s wish. With that said, we are also told that Taker himself is actually open to losing, to the right person of course. You can dress it up all you want but The Streak is just another of Vince’s creations, it’s not a legitimate sporting record. What good is a retired streak? They’ve already released at least one DVD detailing it, what possible profit could be made from letting Taker retire with it? There is tremendous potential within The Streak after Taker has retired, but in order to fulfil it The Dead Man has to put someone over to let them continue the story, even if it is Kane.
I just think in terms of Undertaker’s career and telling a story then Kane has to end The Streak, it would bring everything full circle. The only other candidate is CM Punk, but not this year. CM Punk makes the most business sense; Kane makes some business sense but is probably an ending that would generate respect rather than heat; nobody ending The Streak is probably the most likely option, which is a nice story but seems silly to create such a profitable angle yet not capitalise on the pot of gold at the end of it.
Craig: I think if there’s someone out there that deserves it and it would benefit the superstar to end the streak – and it wouldn’t result in the superstar receiving adverse heat – then it would make sense to end it.
The only superstar I can think of that would benefit from it would be CM Punk. If he has a strong performance this year and the rematch is built up over the course of a year, then next year’s could be an epic rematch and a huge win for Punk. Needs to be booked right though otherwise it’d only hurt Punk. Beyond him, though, I can’t see anyone else that would benefit from it. If it pushes Punk to the next level then that meets the business sense criteria as well.
Jamie: I’d agree with that. Punk makes sense, I also feel that Kane makes sense, but right now there are no other candidates. I would suggest that the “the 1” should be one of them or nobody at all. I have said that I am fully in favour of ending The Streak, but there’s no point ending it for the sake of ending it. If anything, such a decision could damage someone’s career by thrusting such an accolade on them too soon.