So it’s a week and a bit after WrestleMania XXX, and the Internet Wrestling Community is still on a massive downer after the ending of The Undertaker’s vaunted ‘Streak’.
I understand that disappointment, and upset, and frustration. To be a wrestling fan is to know these things all too well. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming Vince McMahon for The Worst Booking Decision Ever, since he’s the boss and nothing goes on the show without his approval (and by golly, he’s approved some clunkers over the years).
But that’s to assume the Phenom himself had nothing to do with it. And that’s just plain crazy talk. This is The Undertaker we’re talking about; the locker room leader, the elder statesman of WWE. Nothing happens to his character without his say-so. Make no mistake about it, the end of The Streak was his decision.
And more to the point, can anyone seriously say they didn’t see this coming?
Let’s look at the evidence. We know Taker’s an MMA junkie, and he’s even gone into business for himself teasing a clash with Brock Lesnar in the past, so it seems pretty clear he views The Beast as a peer. If he was going to drop The Streak to anyone, Lesnar makes perfect sense from his point of view.
Whether the fans rate Lesnar or not doesn’t even come into it. And I think that’s because Taker has a blind spot when it comes to mixed martial arts. You could even say he’s a mark for MMA. That would explain his persistence in diluting his ‘Dead Man’ persona with logo-emblazoned MMA gloves, and his giveaway stand-up fighting style; and that Hell’s Gate submission finisher, which simply doesn’t work psychologically as a pro wrestling move (the aggressor should never be on his back, Jushin Liger‘s surfboard excepted).
On top of all that, the build-up to this match was pretty weak compared to previous years. Suspiciously so.
When the pre-match video package was running it dawned on me how this, above all of the bouts that counted for The Streak (which they’ve only really cared about since WrestleMania XX), was the least threat to Taker’s record. Sure, he and Lesnar had their confrontations on the weekly shows in the lead-up, but there was no real narrative spark to them (that was left to Paul Heyman and his magnificent promos) and the pervading feeling was that the result was a foregone conclusion; you know, let Taker have his MMA jollies with his buddy Brock and get back to business another year.
But think about it in wrestling terms, The Streak aside, and they were telegraphing the result for us weeks before the event! Who was the one who took the big bumps whenever they clashed on Raw? Brock Lesnar, that’s who. And that’s usually a big, billowing flag: that the one who gets beat down is the one who goes over when it counts. But the IWC had it in their heads that The Streak is some pure, divine thing that is to be untouched.
You can be sure this was all in the minds of The Undertaker and WWE alike when they agreed to this decision: if they wanted to pull off a shocker, this was the best time for it.
And they did.