by Jeremy Ackman
Most of you that are reading this, have been or have become a wrestling fan. For those who are reading this without much knowledge, this is kind of an important part of the year.
It’s Wrestlemania season, it’s no secret. Time for rumors galore! It really gets out of hand at points.
The absolute hotbed of rumors at this juncture is the opponent of The Undertaker.
The Undertaker can be classified as one of those pop culture names, or one who has been recognized without even being a fan of sports entertainment. The Phenom, The Deadman, or any other nickname you want to give, is one of the most eerie figures to grace the promotions existence.
Each Wrestlemania, “Taker” puts on performances that have consistently taken match of the year nominations, and usually honors. Even though he does wrestle just once a year at this point in his career, each Mania he has made the anticipation well worth it with memorable performances.
Taker lives for these matches. For those unaware, he has been going hard since Wrestlemania 7, missing just a few of this annual event. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania (now you know why he is down to one match a year). Also, for those who are oblivious to Wrestlemania as Zack Ryder is to his ailing career, the Deadman is undefeated, as in 21 and 0 at the iconic event.
Personally, I have witnessed in person three separate Wrestlemania showings by the Undertaker, and always walk away stating that was the “match of the night”, or “that was the best match I have ever seen in person”. I expect the same this year, as I attend my fourth.
This year’s Wrestlemania, it’s the same. It’s the same build up, it’s the same talk, and it’s of course, the same plethora of rumors surrounding such match. I have heard four thus far, and as I expect more to somewhat trickle through, these four seem to have the most momentum as we approach the Road to Wrestlemania. Let me take the fan (and business) approach to how these could occur.
The one that is the biggest “going to happen” rumor, is the match of The Undertaker versus Daniel Bryan. Why is this the “going to happen” rumor? Well, because Undertaker has requested it. 9 times out of 10, Taker gets what Taker wants. After all, late Fall of 2012, Taker requested to work with CM Punk. Spring of 2013, Wrestlemania 29, Punk versus Taker. Taker can see the momentum that Bryan is riding right now, and the talented wrestler he is. It’s no wonder Undertaker requested such match. Can you imagine how that could unfold? Daniel in ring, doing what Daniel does best….YES! YES! YES! YES! GOOONNGG, cue Taker. The two can joust words and we have ourselves two of WWEs biggest faces, square and ready to do battle. My goodness would I love to see the crowd for this one…Wrestlemania 6, Hogan versus Warrior anyone?
The next is one that I like to think I started, is the match with Roman Reigns. Reigns is from WWE’s most potent recent factions, The Shield. The talent from the members Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns is deafening. Although the others show serious potential to be something once this faction goes solo, Roman by far has the most momentum with skill, appearance, and fan base. Many forget, but Taker hung around for just a bit, post-mania 29. How’d they write Taker out? By an ambush from the Shield of course, led by Reigns. It resulted in a beat down and Undertaker being power bombed through the announcers table by Roman. What better way to avenge such beating. Another way this can be scripted is currently the members of the Shield are jockeying for who is the best. Why not have an argument escalate to each one trying to top another, and Reigns state he can take on the Deadman’s streak? Classic stuff… not to mention, potentially one heck of match.
Third, is one that fizzled out quickly, so I won’t spend much time on it. It’s the match of Undertaker against the “Beast” Brock Lesnar. This one had a lot of steam all year, and even during the rumor mill last year. However, it quickly extinguished once people realized something. The Undertaker is no young guy and Brock, he’s a former MMA heavyweight champion. However, Brock and Taker can easily be worked in. Paul Heyman, former manager of CM Punk (last years opponent), current manager of Brock Lesnar, brings new ammunition to Mania in hopes of breaking the streak. Verbally, led by Heyman of course, Lesnar and Taker could get pretty good. However, if you haven’t seen Brock wrestle post MMA, he is VERY physical. The match ending a bit quickly could cause for concern which leads to this being scrapped. That, and it appears Lesnar is ready for a title run.
Finally, THE rumor. The one that occurs every single year. The Phenom versus The Icon, Undertaker versus Sting. This year though, seems more promising than ever, because Sting is not held with any contract…he is unemployed. Sting has even been written out of his former brand “TNA”. Each year this rumor happens though, I get a bit upset because I really haven’t thought this would be a good match. However, for some reason, this year two of my friends and I discuss this frequently. My best friend Jason has hyped this match for months, even predicting a “Stinger” upset, but between my friend John and me, it’s kind of been scripted. John helped me picture this one unfold with events such as “The arena is engulfed in darkness and the crowd awaits the ominous tolling of the bell that has come to be synonymous with the icon, The Undertaker. Suddenly the screen begins to flash from white to black images of a single scorpion”. Sting can then make his presence known just to be interrupted by the Deadman. The two have a war of words, powered by egos, with a line from Sting like “Since when in our line of work does 21 matches define a body of work that stretches of 30 years” to Takers rebuttal of “This is where the big dogs play”. Of course we can squeeze in the cliché Mania logo sign point, but we can lead it to Sting using his bat, and then leaving it at Takers feet. I feel verbally, the buildup, and surprise this one could be the best.
Now, the business side of things.
First, Taker has been quoted that if he is to lose, it will be his last match and it will be to someone who could use it for his career. This eliminates the likes of Cena, Orton, or even rentals of Batista and Lesnar. For physicality and being a rental, I write out the Lesnar rumor. This approach though, makes the Reigns and Bryan rumor tempting to believe. Bryan at this stage in his career doesn’t “need” a gigantic upset over Undertaker, being the hot commodity that he’s become alone, but it is still tempting. As for Roman, what better launching pad for a singles career than to not only call out and/or predict a streak breaker, but to succeed.
Next, Undertaker in his past years (especially when he’s going one match a year) has practiced religiously with his opponent. That why you saw the work of Punk get cut back a tad during that stretch last year. This, only fuels the Sting dispute. Right now, Sting is unemployed. If WWE really wanted to keep a Sting signing quite they could. If you have an “unemployed” Sting, he’s not fighting or in any storyline is he? He’s not doing house shows for WWE is he? He is not on Raw every single week is he? Sting can use his limited schedule, to be getting into shape WITH Taker, setting up a flawless match.
When it’s all said and done, the best match possible via contracts, other possibilities, other matches and storylines, will be decided. WWE will not mess this up. Personally, they haven’t messed up a Undertaker Mania match in quite some time. It’s way too early to predict who will take on the streak, and to be honest, it’s damn near impossible to even feel confident on a prediction. Personally, buildup and awe has to go to Sting/Taker, but for in match potential, D-Bry and Reigns are neck and neck. However I do know that at Wrestlemania 30, whoever fights Undertaker, win or lose, needs to prepare for a Slammy nominee for the Match of the year, because once again, The Undertaker’s Mania match is “trending” and it’s not even February. This only leaves me to believe, it will be one of his finest performances, and possibly, his last.