Pro Wrestling Powerhouse
Wrestling’s Weekly Rope Break #2 (SPECIAL ‘RANT’ EDITION) : Explaining The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Loss
Believe me, this was NOT the article I had planed to write this week.
I really questioned if i wanted to join the angry mob that emerged following the events of WrestleMania 30. I had my rant on twitter (@WrestlingRBreak). I could of left it at that. But, 24 hours removed from WWE‘s “Show of Shows”, I continued to see screenshot after screenshot of fan’s faces showing absolute shock and horror at what they had witnessed. Then, this cult-like reaction went viral, popping up at nearly every major news web site in the world, be it Fox Sports to even International Business Times!
I had to voice my opinion.
The underlining tone from these articles is that the world outside pro-wrestling is scratching their heads. Why are fans so distraught over The Undertaker loosing to Brock Lesnar , clean, in the middle of the ring, at Wrestlemania 30?
“You know The Undertaker’s Streak is FAKE, don’t you?” they say.
“You know Wrestlemania 30 was SCRIPTED, right?” they point out.
“So what’s the PROBLEM!?”
Where was the Epic “Final Chapter” ?
Every great story needs a great build up and an even better payoff. WWE has stayed true to this formula. In fact, they have made a career of delivering such effective stories throughout Wrestlemania’s 30-year history. Hogan vs Savage at Wrestlemania V? Classic. Austin vs Rock at both Wrestlemania 15 AND 17? Doubly Incredible. Hell, The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels twice, Triple H twice AND CM Punk at Wrestlemania 25, 26, 27,28 and 29? All of them, enthralling and logical.
With the right story comes the right “money match” that fans will pay to see. Why? Because they know the end result will be something special. It’s clear that history shows us that the proper build up and the proper pay off complement each other when all is said and done.
This year, unlike any other year, a majority of the fan base struggled to EMOTIONALLY INVEST in The Undertaker’s Streak Match. This lack of emotional connection to the match’s lead up made people immediately expect nothing special to come out of its finish. Sure, this was a ‘big match’ on paper, but it definitely didn’t feel like a “money match” where something unheard of was going to happen. Hell, The Undertaker’sundefeated streak was on the line! If he was going to loose, you would think that his program with Lesnar would of been front and centre on WWE TV. Instead, the company was light on impactful angles leading up to the match and thus, were light on attaching true emotion to story of The Undertaker eventually loosing at Mania 30.
Maybe it had to do with WWE portraying Lesnar as a “Chicken-Shit” Heel instead of the “Destruction Machine” we thought he was? Maybe it had to do with the formulaic structure of the story (Heel challenger is confident he can beat the streak/Taker disagrees/ Taker scares Heel challenger/ Heel challenger lays out Taker one week from Mania)? Regardless, fans went into New Orleans having little to no expectation in Brock Lesnar being the 1 in 21-1.
A Main Event slot for a Main Event moment.
I understand that Wrestlemania 30 was “The Daniel Bryan” show and rightfully so. The guy deserved his time in the sun. But having Brock Lesnar end the legendary streak of The Undertaker in the middle of a 4-hour broadcast greatly detracted from the impact of the loss. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding Taker’s decision to end The Streak. But if this loss was planned all along, Taker being defeated in the MAIN EVENT of the show he helped put on the map should of been a no-brainer.
Like Shawn Michaels ‘s legendary exit from Wrestlemania 26, The Undertaker deserved to have all eyes on him as the cameras stoped rolling for Wrestlemania 30. His Wrestlemania career has spanned 22 years. His undefeated streak has, not only become more important than most WWE Championships, but also become one of the major reasons for why fans go to Wrestlemania in the first place. If this is considered a universal fact, then why present this match “4th from the top” of the card!?
If WWE put this match here to evoke complete and utter shock from their audiences, then mission accomplished. But after the shock subsided and fans began to consider what they have just witnessed, its clear to fans that Taker’s streak was treated like a complete afterthought to the rest of the broadcast. Sure, we got replays of the loss. Sure, we got Taker’s long walk to the back as everyone stood and clapped. But then, it was business as usual as we witnessed a complete clusterf**ck of a match for the irrelevant Divas Championship (Sorry AJ Lee).
Brock Lesnar: Not the Animal we thought he was.
I was front row for RAW when Brock Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012. He F5′d Cena out of his boots and kicked his green hat out of the ring for good measure. It was obvious that night that ‘The Beast’ was back…and i emphasise the word BEAST.
Fast forward 2 years later and it was obvious leading up to Mania 30 Brock Lesnar had lost ALOT of his initial steam. Yes, he was still one of the coolest monster heels out there, but losses to Cena at Extreme Rules 2012 and Triple H at LAST YEAR’S Wrestlemania had tamed his beast-like aura. In short, he was seen as a beatable competitor as he stepped into the ring against The Undertaker at Mania 30.
If what they say was true – that The Undertaker had chosen Brock to be the man to end The Streak 3 years prior to last Sunday – then why did no one believe Brock worthy or able to put Taker down for the 3-count? The answer is that Lesnar had a lack of credibility and believability behind his character pre- Wrestlemania 30.
Look at Shawn Michaels first match with Taker at Wrestlemania 25. The reason that match worked so well is that fans went into the match BELIEVING Shawn had what it took to topple Taker. Furthermore, it was a logical presumption: surely if Michaels could end the career of Ric Flair, he could do the same to Taker because HE’S DONE IT BEFORE!?
Brock is generally presented as an rabid animal with Paul Heyman as his leash. However, we were never reminded of Lesnar’s animalistic tendencies going into Mania 30. We didn’t see him rip down doors or massacre every single competitor he ran into. Instead, all we got was a singular beat down of the Big Show at Royal Rumble 2014 that went way too long and segment after segment involving Lesnar acting scared of Taker’s theatrics.
We saw no historical video packages putting over Lesnar’s ability to defeat Taker (such as Lesnar’s bloody 2002 VICTORY over Taker in a HELL IN A CELL match for the WWE Championship). We saw no footage of Lesnar training for Taker ala his 2002 WWE Championship Match with The Rock at Summerslam. NOTHING to make us think Lesnar had any chance of toppling The Man From the Darkside.
If there was to way to believe that Taker could loose at the hands of Lesnar, then why would there be any reason to get into the match and its possible outcomes!?
Now you know some of the main reasons why we, as professional wrestling fans, are angry following the end of The Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania streak. We aren’t just angry for ourselves. We are also angry that Mark Calaway the performer put his heart and passion into making something in pro-wrestling mean something…only to have it mean so little.
Sure, Mark is a very private individual. Always has been. He may have wanted to go out this way without the fanfare and the pageantry. He may have realised “business is business” and didn’t want to overshine on the same night Daniel Bryan was ascending to super-stardom. But still, that doesn’t change the fact that we, as fans, invested in The Streak.
Do you know what did we got from our 22-year investment?
A lousy “4th from the top” Wrestlemania match that had a lacklustre build, a finish that came out of nowhere and, in the end, a finish that meant NO WHERE NEAR as much as it should of.
The Undertaker character, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and the fans that have followed The Dead Man for his entire career deserved better than this.
Stereotypical, pro-wrestling “mark” rant over.
#ThankYouTaker…no matter what went down at Wrestlemania 30.
Be sure to follow Joel O’Brien at WrestlingRBreak for daily updates, analysis and critiques of all things pro-wrestling!