The Hulk Hogans and the “Stone Cold” Steve Austins of the professional wrestling world can lay claim to being the most well known grapplers to ever step foot in a ring. From a marketing standpoint, there have been no bigger WWE Superstars than Hogan and Austin, as their t-shirts and other merchandise sold itself and you didn't even have to be a wrestling fan to know their names and faces. It was wrestlers like these two who helped launch the WWE into the mainstream, something which had global implications as it changed the industry all around the world.
There were other WWE Superstars who can say they’ve breathed the same air as Hogan and Austin, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and, in recent times, John Cena. But none of them can lay claim to the immense respect commanded by one Mark Calaway, known professionally as The Undertaker. There are men like “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and "The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels who built a reputation as some of the absolute best wrestlers in the business, known less as the face of the wrestling world and more as the muscle, but The Undertaker is the apex of iconic status.
The Undertaker has longevity unrivaled by anyone to ever step foot in the ring. What makes him special is not just the number of years he’s wrestled, but the quality of product he has consistently put out and his unfaltering spot in the main event scene for almost thirty years. His undefeated streak at WrestleMania became as legendary as the man himself, but now that it’s been ended and "The Deadman” only wrestles once a year, it’s assumed The Undertaker’s wrestling career is soon coming to a close. Here are 15 WWE Superstars who could be the final opponent for this future WWE Hall of Famer.
15 Braun Strowman
During the build to WrestleMania 32, rumors began swirling among the internet wrestling fans that The Undertaker’s opponent for the big stage in 2016 could potentially be Braun Strowman. Strowman got his start on WWE television as the newest member of The Wyatt Family in 2015, alongside leader Bray Wyatt and teammates Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Vince McMahon was reportedly very high on the big man and was grooming him for a monstrous WrestleMania debut against the most notorious WrestleMania competitor of all time.
Fans, to say the least, were not totally sold on Braun Strowman. The word making the rounds was that Strowman was actually quite athletic and just hadn’t shown the audience his true chops yet, but viewers had no reason to believe it and they wanted a much bigger opponent for their beloved Undertaker. That rumored match never happened, but now that the wrestling world seems to slowly be warming up to Braun, even if it's very slowly, it could conceivably happen in 2017 or 2018, putting the monster over in what could potentially be The Undertaker’s final showdown.
14 Brock Lesnar
At WrestleMania XXX in 2014, The Undertaker’s annual victim was set to be "The Beast Incarnate,” Brock Lesnar. Most everyone in the professional wrestling world had long grown comfortable with the idea that The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania would never be ended and he would retire with it fully intact, but that comfort was misplaced on this fateful night. Brock Lesnar had certainly seen many men fall at his feet since returning to WWE a few years prior, but when he soundly defeated The Undertaker and officially conquered The Streak, he would instantly reach heights no other WWE Superstar could dream of.
Lesnar went on later that year to completely squash WWE’s golden boy, John Cena, in a very one sided bout for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the accolades just kept rolling in. To this day Lesnar is the most feared man on WWE’s payroll, but even though he and The Undertaker battled several more times (including inside Hell in a Cell), their lackluster WrestleMania contest left a sour taste in a lot of mouths. Perhaps there’s one last chapter in this story?
13 Jeff Hardy
In 2002, Jeff Hardy challenged The Undertaker for the WWE Championship in a ladder match on Monday Night Raw. Jeff was going in as the underdog and the fans in the arena and watching at home all knew there was no way he was going to finish this night as the new WWE Champion, especially if he had to go over the legendary Undertaker to achieve it. Everyone knew it, but everyone became less and less sure as the match went on. If Jeff Hardy was going to beat The Undertaker, after all, a ladder match would be the perfect environment to do so because The Undertaker wouldn’t need to be pinned.
Jeff’s star was on the rise at this time and people started to think that maybe WWE was going to swerve them. What resulted was one of the most exciting matches in WWE history and one of the best of each wrestler’s career, despite the fact that Jeff didn’t actually win. Jeff Hardy has been away from WWE for a long time now, namely wrestling for TNA instead, but he has said in interviews he’d love to end up back in WWE someday. Could there be a more exciting final opponent for The Undertaker than The Charismatic Enigma known as Jeff Hardy?
12 Bray Wyatt
In 2015, at WrestleMania 31, a travesty befell one of WWE’s brightest up and coming Superstars in Bray Wyatt. The man, who was calling himself “The New Face of Fear,” had an obvious path paved before him, a passing of the torch that could have established the leader of the cultish Wyatt Family as the new era’s version of The Undertaker. Everything was falling naturally into place as his match for WrestleMania organically came together and he was scheduled to face The Undertaker at the biggest show of the year. Wyatt looked all set to dethrone The Deadman on his own turf and take the crown as WWE’s resident horror villain.
Unfortunately, everything else worked against him. Whereas WWE was willing to end The Undertaker’s WresteleMania undefeated streak one year prior for the sake of making Brock Lesnar even more of a monster, they weren’t willing to do the same to make a new star out of the much younger Bray Wyatt. Instead, Wyatt suffered another in a long line of defeats at the hands of top stars and he fell from potential greatness. Perhaps he could reacquire that momentum if he were given a rematch against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33?
11 Shinsuke Nakamura
Wrestling fans have waited years for Japanese wrestling sensation Shinsuke Nakamura to have the opportunity to showcase his abilities on the worldwide stage offered by World Wrestling Entertainment. In 2016, it finally happened as Nakamura was signed to NXT and instantly became one of the most popular stars on WWE’s developmental program, rocketing straight to the main event picture and receiving one of the most magical entrances in the entire company.
It likely won’t be too long before Nakamura is moved up to WWE’s main roster and is integrated into the main event scene there to mingle with main event stars like Seth Rollins and John Cena. If it happens soon enough, pro wrestling fans could potentially be treated to a dream match of sorts if Shinsuke Nakamura is given the opportunity to wrestle The Undertaker at WrestleMania. "The King of Strong Style” would likely mesh very well with The Deadman and the two could possibly wrestle the match of the year.
10 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle was once known as a “wrestling machine” during his time in WWE and wrestled just about every major player in the company in high profile, often classic bouts. After leaving WWE in 2006, he moved on to TNA Wrestling where he would stay for an entire decade and he eventually was inducted into that company’s Hall of Fame. Angle’s career is in its closing years these days and the Olympic gold medalist and former WWE World Champion has expressed interest several times in returning to the place his professional wrestling career got started.
If Kurt Angle were to make a return to WWE to finish out his wrestling days, a potential match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania would undoubtedly draw major bucks. Both men are veterans and can go the extra mile, especially in big match situations, and they’re both fan favorites. It would be somewhat of a nostalgia trip, but neither man wrestles like they’re about to retire.
9 Samoa Joe
To talk of Kurt Angle might bring to mind Samoa Joe for some hardcore Impact Wrestling fans. Angle and Joe have gone to war in TNA, with their smash mouth styles mingling perfectly, and to say that Joe could give The Undertaker the fight of his life could be an understatement. Since finally signing on with WWE in 2015, a happening wrestling fans have waited years for but thought would never happen, Joe has mostly been running the show in NXT, holding the NXT Championship for a time and feuding with the likes of Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura.
It would be an insult, however, to call Samoa Joe a rookie because he’s been in the business of pro wrestling for a decade and a half. Joe could more than hang with The Undertaker on the grandest stage of them all – he could easily be the man to retire him and be one of the guys to help carry WWE into the future.
8 Dean Ambrose
When the trio known as The Shield debuted in 2012, fans were instantly buzzing about Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. The WWE Universe got behind all three men initially, but no one thought in a million years WWE would ever be in the place where the company would give a fair shot to them, especially Ambrose and Rollins who were big indie stars before making it big. The unthinkable happened, though, and now all three men have been Heavyweight Champions and are potentially the top three stars in all of WWE.
At WrestleMania 32, Dean Ambrose wrestled Brock Lesnar in a match that failed to live up to expectations, but the career trajectory of Ambrose didn’t seem to take any sort of detour as months later he became the WWE World Champion. There could be few better options for The Undertaker’s final opponent than the very popular Dean Ambrose.
7 AJ Styles
There is a very exclusive group of wrestlers who have signed with Vince McMahon and WWE and brought with them a fan following as big as AJ Styles. In fact, Sting and Goldberg are two of the only men to have accomplished something similar and that’s nothing to sneeze at. AJ’s lengthy and successful career in TNA, as well as his time in other organizations like New Japan Pro Wrestling, made him a worldwide megastar, something nearly impossible for anyone who hasn’t competed for WWE.
AJ Styles is one of the most popular wrestlers in the world among fans, and it’s something of a dream match for him to square off against The Undertaker at some point in the future. There’s no better stage than WrestleMania and what a way to send off The Deadman! There is no denying that a potential “Phenom” versus “The Phenomenal One” contest could be the match of the year.
6 The Rock
The Rock is probably one of the top five most popular Superstars in the history of WWE, something that was the case even before Dwayne Johnson went to Hollywood after retiring from wrestling and became one of the film industry’s most in demand action and comedy stars. His battles with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Mick Foley are the stuff of legend and during his part time comebacks in recent years, he’s had a couple of dream matches with CM Punk and John Cena.
The Rock has certainly wrestled The Undertaker before, but never on the grand stage of WrestleMania. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion and it would likely be enough to sell out WrestleMania all on its own if fans knew they were going to see such a clash of legends. Both men have had careers worthy of the WWE Hall of Fame, though neither have been inducted as of yet. They’re in similar places in their wrestling careers, which would make the monumental showdown all the more exciting.
5 Roman Reigns
During his first months on WWE’s main roster as a member of The Shield with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns was actually a fan favorite. He was cheered by the WWE Universe because the audience loved the faction as a unit, but once the fans noticed WWE was obviously going to push Roman ahead of the other two, everything went south. It’s safe to say now that Roman Reigns is the most polarizing figure in wrestling since the rise of John Cena. In much the same fashion, Roman Reigns is WWE’s chosen one, but the fans refuse to accept that.
Despite the controversy, the company has gotten behind Roman Reigns for a reason. He’s had plenty of great matches and shines in a brawl, utilizing a style that would meld perfectly with The Undertaker’s own fighting style. Both are big, athletic men whose strengths are big spots and if WWE is serious about making Reigns their new John Cena, then a match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania is the perfect place for him.
4 Kevin Owens
In recent years, WWE has finally embraced the idea that the independent wrestling scene has plenty of talent to offer, even to his highness Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Known as Kevin Steen before coming to WWE, Kevin Owens has become one of the company’s most reliable WWE Superstars, enhancing the undercard while able to hang in the main event at the drop of a dime. It was clear from his first moments in NXT that Owens would be a huge star for years to come.
The fans adore Owens despite the fact that he’s a natural villain. He proved in his first few months on the main roster in a series of classics with John Cena that he can go with the best of them and he’s destined to square off against plenty of other wrestling icons during his time in the ring. Could there be any safer bet than to invest in Kevin Owens’ future through the match that finally retires The Undertaker?
3 Seth Rollins
Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns would both be excellent choices to retire the legendary Undertaker once and for all, but it’s hard to argue the success of their former Shield brother Seth Rollins. Ambrose and Reigns have both been to the top of the mountain and it appeared WWE was grooming Reigns to get there first, but the sheer power of the fans’ support of Seth Rollins, even as he worked so hard to get them to boo him, saw him surge straight to the WWE World Championship picture.
Despite an injury that cost him months of his career, Rollins has consistently been in the main event in WWE. He was the first draft pick for Raw in the 2016 brand extension, a telling sign of the company’s faith in him to carry it into the recently established “new era.” Having been in the hunt for Championship gold for so long, it could be a lucrative detour for Seth Rollins to enter a rivalry with The Undertaker in The Deadman’s final program before retirement.
2 Finn Balor
The man once known as Prince Devitt on the independent wrestling scene is a big deal. In case you missed his lengthy stay in NXT, Devitt debuted for WWE’s developmental territory as Finn Balor and instantly took the mainstream wrestling world by storm. He’s the longest reigning NXT Champion of all time and, within weeks of debuting on the main roster, he became the inaugural WWE Universal Champion in his first ever pay-per-view match at SummerSlam in 2016. There’s no doubt that WWE has placed a great deal of responsibility into the lap of Balor in a very short time and that means they’re prepared to make a major investment in him.
For special occasions, Finn Balor is known for painting himself up as a demon and transforming into a more vicious version of himself. It is for this reason that the story of a program between ""he Demon King” and "The Demon from Death Valley” practically writes itself, and with the company obviously counting on Finn Balor as one of the faces of the company’s future, it could be a very wise decision for him to be the rising star to put the final nail in the coffin of The Undertaker’s career.
1 John Cena
A decade and a half of consistently wrestling classic matches in high pressure situations while never leaving the comfort of the main event picture and bringing in monstrous profits from merchandise sales means that, despite all the negative fan reactions in the world, John Cena is without a doubt WWE’s most valuable Superstar. WWE’s been criticized over the years for having made the decision so many times to have John Cena defeat up and coming youngsters, thereby “burying” them, but the fact that the company’s in the midst of a new era packed full of top new stars and John Cena still manages to be the go-to guy would seem to indicate Vince McMahon has known what he’s been doing all along.
John Cena’s staying power is reminiscent to that of the most respected man in all of pro wrestling, The Undertaker. The two had a few bouts early in Cena’s career but nothing on such a huge platform as WrestleMania. It’s been so many years since these icons have locked horns that it has become a bit of a dream match and Cena is widely speculated to be The Undertaker’s final opponent before retirement. There’s good reason for that, as neither man fails to impress in big match situations and there’s no safer bet than the face that runs the place.
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