April 2nd, 2017, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. That date and that place are memorable to wrestling fans for a number of reasons; we saw The Hardy Boyz return to WWE, John Cena pop the question to Nikki Bella and who can forget the greatest WrestleMania moment of all time – Mojo Rawley winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. I still get emotional just thinking about it. However, some fans may choose to remember that night for another reason; as the final ever WWE match of one Mark Calaway, aka The Undertaker.
For over 26 years, the Deadman entertained WWE fans with his amazing matches, fantastic storylines and beautifully executed character work. When he lost to Roman Reigns in the main event, symbolically leaving his coat and hat in the middle of the ring, millions of wrestling fans across the world (myself included) applauded the career of a man more dedicated to his craft than most entertainers could ever dream of being.
But, what if this wasn’t Taker’s last match? If rumours are to be believed, then The Phenom could be making a return to the squared circle for one last hurrah – a proper retirement storyline and final match, presumably at WrestleMania 34. Whilst this is all just hearsay for now, let’s do what all wrestling fans do when they hear a rumour and fantasy book the hell out of this situation. This is a big one, folks, so, if it does happen, let’s just hope WWE picks someone from the right side of this list. Here are 8 opponents The Undertaker should face in his final match and 7 he should most definitely not.
15 Should: Roman Reigns
Hear me out.
So, as it stands, The Undertaker’s last match in WWE was with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. Their feud began at Royal Rumble 2017 and essentially boiled down to the old guard vs the new, with each man claiming that WWE was “their yard.” Reigns would go onto defeat Taker in a fairly underwhelming match, but the real story came after the bout ended, with Taker shedding his hat and coat, breaking kayfabe by kissing his wife at ringside and then ascending the entrance ramp, possibly for the last time in his storied career. All in all, this was a pretty rubbish way to end one of the greatest careers in all of wrestling history. But what if we could do it all over again?
Reigns has mentioned his retirement of The Undertaker in promos a few times now, using it as a way of making himself seem like a top contender in WWE. A story could be told where Undertaker, furious with Reigns for boasting about defeating him, comes back to the WWE, interferes in one of Reigns’ matches and issues a challenge – fight me one last time at WrestleMania 34 and see if you can actually retire me. See, there was no stipulation to Reigns vs. Taker at Mania 33, so, in storyline, The Undertaker has no real reason to stay retired. If the Mania 34 match was made into a retirement match, then a story could be told about Undertaker having to overcome his most recent loss to keep his career alive. I personally would let Reigns defeat Taker for a second time, only afterwards, beat The Deadman up, cementing his heel turn, which, you could argue, began when he defeated Taker the first time. It would be a nice piece of poetic symmetry for Taker to have his final match against the man who is already boasting about retiring him and this could be used to drastically change the direction of Reigns’ character, setting him up as WWE’s top villain for years to come. Or Roman could just win clean cause Vince says so.
14 Shouldn't – Shawn Michaels
Because two legends coming out of retirement would just be too much.
Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker have a long and storied history that goes all the way to the Attitude Era. Whether it was clashing in the first ever Hell in a Cell match in 1997 or Michaels’ own retirement match at WrestleMania XXVI, Taker vs Michaels has always been a match worth watching, with many calling their encounter at WrestleMania XXV one of the best wrestling matches of all-time. This is not, however, an excuse to potentially ruin one of the finest moments in WWE history.
If WWE are planning on bringing The Undertaker back for one last match, they’ll probably want to go all out to make it special and there isn’t much that would make it more special than bring the Heartbreak Kid out of retirement for one last match against the man who put him on the shelf in the first place. But that’s the thing – Michaels is retired and has stayed retire for over seven years now, which is about as rare in wrestling as it gets. If Michaels were to come back and face Taker again, there is no doubt it would be worth watching, but for the damage it would do to the Shawn Michaels character and for the mark it would leave against his highly emotional retirement, it just isn’t worth doing. Also, have you seen Shawn Michaels lately? Let’s just say he’s clearly enjoying retired life.
13 Should – Finn Balor
Jeez, you’d need fifteen minutes for the entrances alone in this match.
Finn Balor and The Undertaker – two men with drastically different wrestling styles, but who are both defined by a supernatural gimmick. Balor’s “demon” persona is a force to be reckoned with in WWE, having only been pinned once on TV (Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: The End) and being used by Balor only as a last resort to win big matches since he moved up to Raw. Whilst he may never achieve the same level of success as Taker has with his spooky-wooky character, The Demon King could certainly be a big star, even if his body paint only lasts about two minutes into any match.
Taker vs Balor not only presents an interesting dynamic in terms of character, but also in terms of fighting styles. The Undertaker a is a hulking brawler who relies on power and strength to win his matches (he used to be a lot more agile, but come on, dude’s 50 years old now), whereas Balor is a lot quicker, a lot more agile and lot more technical. Balor’s speed could be the perfect counter to Taker’s power, which could make for some interesting spots if the two ever came face to face. If WWE are serious about Balor as a top star, then giving him the honour of facing The Undertaker in his last match would be a great way to give the Irishman some exposure, before fully pulling the trigger on a main event run.
12 Shouldn't – Bobby Roode
WWE need to avoid this match, even if it would be GLOOORRRRRRIIIIIOOOOOUUUUUSSSS.
Bobby Roode recently made his WWE main roster debut on the SmackDown after SummerSlam. Roode, who has made a name for himself in NXT (and before that, TNA) before joining the blue brand, was received with thunderous ovation and looks set to become a big name player on the show moving forward. However, just because WWE want to push Roode, that doesn’t mean he’d necessarily be the right fit to battle The Phenom in his final match.
If The Undertaker is going to have one last match at WrestleMania 34, then he’d ideally need to begin telling that story in the next few months or so. Bobby Roode isn’t nearly established enough with the mainstream WWE crowd to be placed in such a high-profile feud yet; fans who don’t/didn't watch NXT or TNA have barely any idea who Roode is, so they can’t be expected to believe he is worthy enough to go toe-to-toe with a legend like Taker, let alone participate in his final ever match. The Undertaker needs someone who is already over with the mainstream audience and Roode just isn’t there yet. Another year or so, then maybe, but let’s be honest, we’re not sure if Taker can actually make it to this WrestleMania, let alone the one after.
11 Should – AJ Styles
The Phenom vs The Phenomenal One. It basically writes itself.
Rumours of this match taking place were everywhere in early 2017. According the several sites, the plan WWE were going with was to have AJ Styles, who was WWE Champion at the time, defend the title against The Undertaker at Royal Rumble 2017. According to some rumours, Taker was supposed to win the belt from Styles and then take it into WrestleMania 33, possibly to put both the championship and his career on the line in the same match. As we all know, this didn’t happen, which probably worked out for the best, because Taker might have ended up dropping the title to Jinder Mahal. And that’s a world I don’t want to live in.
Like Balor before, Styles has a totally different fighting style to Taker. AJ’s vast array of aerial attacks would be a great foil to Taker’s ground based strikes and blows. Also, think of the possibilities for counters: a Chokeslam into a Pele Kick, a 450 splash into Hell’s Gate, a Phenomenal Forearm into a Tombstone. Like I said, it writes itself. Obviously work would need to be done to tell the story of this match, but I’m sure something could be worked out; perhaps Taker, a WWE diehard, is unhappy that someone who made his name outside of the company has taken his spot. If the story is good, then this match could be truly something, even with Taker’s age playing a factor. We’re talking about AJ Styles here, people. He carried Shane McMahon to the best match of last year’s WrestleMania. The man is a god.
10 Shouldn't – Randy Orton
The whole Legend Killer thing doesn’t work when you actually become a bit of a legend yourself.
Randy Orton and The Undertaker have met at WrestleMania once before. In 2005 (at Mania 21), Orton and The Deadman did battle in arguably one of the better matches The Streak ever saw. Orton was on the rise in WWE, having won his first world title the previous summer, and was going through a phase of defeating legends, dubbing himself “The Legend Killer.” Orton turned his attention to The Undertaker and his fabled WrestleMania streak, insisting he would be the man to break it. He wasn’t, but the ensuing match was still pretty darn good. Interesting aside, this match was the first time The Streak was mentioned as something worth conquering, rather than The Undertaker being involved in a conventional storyline. The more you know.
Whilst a story could be told about Orton attempting to finish the job he started twelve years ago, that just wouldn’t be something a lot of people would want to watch. Orton doesn’t have the same appeal as he did 12 years ago and I don’t think many people would that interested in seeing him in such a high-profile storyline. I personally find Orton quite boring and I think Undertaker could do a lot better for his final match, especially if he’s going to lose on his way out. Orton doesn’t need the rub of retiring The Undertaker and The Undertaker wouldn’t benefit much from feuding with Randy Orton. This match happened exactly when it should have happened and that’s the way I would like it to stay.
9 Should – Braun Strowman
Remember when this was a rumour? Remember when people hated the idea of it?
Braun Strowman is, and I don’t say this lightly, the biggest star in WWE right now by a country mile. Only Brock Lesnar has the same level of intrigue and interest surrounding him and I honestly think Braun out-performs Brock in the sense that he does something incredible every single week. Flipping ambulances, destroying rings, throwing giants through steel cages, Strowman is a one-man clip show and arguably one of the best things about Raw each and every week. A giant with incredible agility who is one of the biggest draws of his era. Sound familiar?
Taker vs Strowman was originally planned for WrestleMania 32 (according to some rumours), but was cancelled after The Undertaker supposedly stepped in. Whilst this might sound like a pretty jerky move on The Deadman’s part, I completely agree with Taker; Strowman was nowhere near the unstoppable force he is today back in early 2016 and putting him straight into a high-profile program before he was ready would have hurt The Monster Among Men, not helped him. Now, however, Strowman is more than ready for the main event, so a big-time storyline with The Phenom could be a great way to cement the legend that Braun is currently building for himself. Strowman would, ideally, have to defeat Taker to do this, but I don’t think fans would mind too much. The hardcore wrestling fanbase know that old-school guys like Taker accept that you have to put over a younger star on your way out and that’s exactly what The Undertaker would be doing if he lost to Strowman in his final match. I think The Deadman would be more than happy to give something back to the WWE in his final match and that could be done with a loss to Braun. Maybe don’t Powerslam him through a cage wall, though. I think that would actually kill him.
8 Shouldn’t – Bray Wyatt
God, this match was forgettable. Both of them.
Like most of the other people on the “shouldn’t” side of this list, Bray Wyatt has clashed with The Undertaker before, on two high-profile occasions. The first came at WrestleMania 31, when Wyatt became the first man to battle Taker following the ending of The Streak. The match was fine (can’t really rag on it, because Bray was working through an injured foot), but it was entirely forgettable and really not what should have happened with Undertaker’s first match following his most memorable loss. Also, it was too sunny when Undertaker made his entrance, so, rather than the mystique and grandeur of his usual walk to the ring, we got a middle-aged man lumbering through some smoke. Truly a classic moment.
Wyatt’s second clash with The Deadman took place at Survivor Series 2015, which just so happened to be the 25th anniversary of Taker’s first ever WWE match. Sadly, the festivities did not live up to the occasion, as the match – a tag team bout pitting The Brothers of Destruction against Bray and Luke Harper (of all people) – was really boring. The Brothers won and that was the end of Taker and Wyatt’s feud and that is exactly how it should stay. Wyatt had his chance to prove himself against The Deadman and he failed, twice. After two pretty substandard bouts, the WWE audience just aren’t interested in another feud between Wyatt and Taker, and The Deadman deserves better than that for his final WWE match.
7 Should – Kurt Angle
I just want to see Kurt Angle wrestle again. Is that too much to ask?
Ever since Kurt Angle made his WWE return in 2017 to become the new General Manager of Monday Night Raw, there’s been just one question on everybody’s mind – when is he going to wrestle again? Whilst several reports have claimed that Angle is not scheduled for a wrestling return to WWE, never say never in this industry. Just ask Shawn Michaels and Goldberg. If Angle were to get back in the ring, his list of dream opponents is literally endless: Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, John Cena, Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura, I could go on. However, there’s one name that has gone under the radar thus far for a potential Angle return, but I really think WWE could be onto something if they chose to run with it.
There are many big names that The Undertaker never faced at WrestleMania. Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold and many others avoided becoming part of The Streak over its 23-year existence and one of those “many others” was Kurt Angle. Whilst Taker and Angle did tussle a few times during their respective careers, they never went one-on-one at the Grandest Stage of Them All and, with both nearing the end of their wrestling lives, time is running out to change this. This match would be a great way to give the fans something new and something they recognise at the same time – Angle and Undertaker are both bona fide legends, but have never faced each other at Mania, so the match wouldn’t be stale. With the right story and motivation, these two could put on a hell of a show, one worthy of either man’s final WWE appearance. Also, since the whole “illegitimate son” thing with Jason Jordan didn’t go down well. Kurt’s image could really use a boost.
6 Shouldn't – Jinder Mahal
DEAR GOD NO.
So, we’re a good five or so months into the Jinder Mahal experiment and the result have been, let’s say, “mixed.” The matches have been pretty poor, the promos repetitive and plenty of other worthy talent has suffered at Jinder’s hand, but there’s also an argument to be made that the heat Jinder has been getting has been some of the realest we’ve seen in years and there’s no denying that things have been well and truly shaken up at the top of WWE’s food chain. Also, The Singh Brothers are the best. Love those guys.
Since becoming WWE Champion, Jinder has taken on plenty of high-profile opponents that he could have only dreamed of in his 3MB days. May it be Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, or John Cena, Mahal has faced some of the biggest names in WWE, all in a desperate attempt to get him over as a main-eventer and crack that elusive Indian market. Sadly, this has led to those biggest names having some pretty poor matches, so the idea of WWE feeding The Undertaker to Mahal in another attempt to get him over truly terrifies me. The Indian market might be lucrative, but it is definitely not worth having The Undertaker fight Jinder Mahal in his final ever match. Find another way to crack that market, WWE, or I will personally find everybody involved in the decision and make them suffer. You think I’m joking.
5 Should – Brock Lesnar
Did someone say revenge?
Despite only feuding for a relatively brief period of time, Brock Lesnar will go down as one of The Undertaker’s greatest rivals. Their matches in the early 2000s and mid-2010s are all pretty special and Brock will forever be known as the man who changed The Undertaker’s career forever. For those of you know don’t know (who I have to ask – why are you reading this?), it was Brock who defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX, handing him first defeat at WrestleMania ever. Since his first appearance at WrestleMania VII, no one had pinned or submitted The Deadman on The Grandest Stage of Them All and it was a truly heart-stopping moment for everyone who was watching. The Undertaker’s Streak was one of the last truly real things wrestling fans had and, in taking that away from us, WWE created a truly special moment. However, doesn’t mean that a repeat of this moment wouldn’t be equally as special.
The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar officially finished their rivalry at Hell in a Cell 2015 in a brutal Cell match that saw Lesnar walk away the winner. Losing to Lesnar again must have left a pretty sizeable chip on The Undertaker’s cold, dead shoulder, so there’s every reason the character would want one last shot at taking on the man who ended The Streak and what better place to do it than in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – the site of both WrestleMania XXX and the upcoming WrestleMania 34. The story of Taker trying to overcome his most humiliating defeat would be one wrestling fans could truly get invested in and post-match scenes would be incredible, regardless of the outcome. If Taker wins, he goes out with his head held high. If he loses, he goes out having fought the toughest match of his life and with thousands of people cheering his name as he walks down the ramp one final time. This idea might cause controversy, but, in my opinion, this would be a very fitting way to see off one of the all-time greats. Maybe have less German Suplexes to Taker, though. The guy’s falling apart as it is.
4 Shouldn't – Triple H
You had your chance, Trips. All three of them.
No one had more attempts to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania than Hunter Hearst Helmsley. At WrestleManias X-Seven, XXVII and XVIII, Triple H tried (and failed) to end Taker’s Streak in, admittedly, three of The Undertaker’s best showings at Mania. The match at X-Seven was wild and saw Trips get chokeslammed off some scaffolding onto a hilariously-visible crash mat. Their second encounter ten years later was a brutal No-Disqualification affair that left Undertaker unable to leave the arena under his own power. Finally, their third encounter was the “End of an Era” Hell in a Cell match, with Shawn Michaels serving as special guest referee. All three matches were pretty darn good and all three times The Game failed to kill The Streak. Now, I know you’re the COO now, Hunter, but come on, three attempts is more than enough.
WWE might think that putting The Undertaker in another match with Triple H would be a good send-off for The Deadman, but it’s just been done far too many times before. Whilst the two had great rivalries throughout their careers, that time has well and truly passed now and fans would absolutely not be interested in seeing these two fight again. Triple H has found a nice new role putting over younger guys (or trying to put them over, in Roman Reigns’ case), whereas Taker is a special attraction and another match against The King of Kings would not be special. These two men had their matches at exactly the right time and that’s why they were so good. To try and recreate that success, well, that would just be silly. Not that Triple H has never looked silly in WWE. Just watch his match at WrestleMania XII with The Ultimate Warrior.
3 Should – Sting
Come on, just give us this damn match, already.
In terms of dream matches, perhaps none come bigger than this one. With the exception of maybe Ric Flair, no one was a bigger WCW diehard than Sting during the Monday Night Wars. Sting stayed with the company through thick and thin, right up until they closed down, never once entertaining the idea of jumping ship to the WWE, even when so many others were doing the same. Even after WCW went under, Sting refused to join Vince McMahon’s company, instead spending his last good years in TNA of all places. Loyalty to their company, a spooky gimmick and career longevity. Sound like anyone else we know?
Sting vs Taker would be a spectacular match, but there is one small problem with this plan – Sting is retired. Yes, The Icon of WCW hung up his bat and trenchcoat after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016, following a severe neck injury sustained during a WWE title match with Seth Rollins at Night of Champions 2015. Now, I would never put the safety and wellbeing of a wrestler at risk for the sake of a match and WWE shouldn’t either. However, Taker has proven himself to be an extremely safe worker (especially at his current age) and, if Sting thinks he can do it, I think this match should take place. It could be billed as both men’s last ever match (seeing how Sting never got a big retirement match either) and would finally give fans of both WWE and WCW a chance to see a dream bout that should have happened years ago. This is probably the least likely option on this list, but it would so cool, right?
2 Shouldn't – Kane
Whilst Triple H had more attempts at Taker’s WrestleMania Streak, no one fought The Undertaker more times overall than his kayfabe half-brother, Kane. Since Kane’s debut in 1997, the two men have fought 19 times on Pay-Per-View, with Taker coming out on top 14 times. Two of these clashes have come at WrestleMania; Kane’s Mania debut in 1998 and a second meeting in 2004, which saw The Undertaker return to his Deadman persona for the first time in four years. Now, I don’t want to use hyperbole here, but if The Undertaker takes on Kane again, in his final WWE match ever, it would literally be the worst thing to happen to anything. Ever.
Yes, I know that no two characters in wrestling history have been linked like Kane and The Undertaker have. Yes, I know that Mark Calaway and Glenn Jacobs owe a lot of their success to one another. Yes, I know that it would poetic for these two men to do battle one last time with Taker’s career coming to an end. But, come on, 19 times! Whilst it might have been special once upon a time, The Undertaker vs Kane just isn’t a big money match anymore. Both characters have come a long way since The Brothers of Destruction (for better or worse) and Kane is not the main event talent he once was. Whilst The Brothers of Destruction have been one of the greatest pairings in WWE history, their time has well and truly come to an end and to try and bring them back for one last match would do way more harm that it would good.
1 Should – John Cena
I mean, obviously.
John Cena and The Undertaker are two of the most famous wrestlers in the world. Ask a non-fan of wrestling to name five wrestlers and I can almost guarantee that they will say one, if not both, of these names. These two men are icons, for one reason or another, and yet, somehow, in the decade plus they have existed in the same company, they have barely ever crossed paths. They fought on TV a few times before Cena became the mega-star he is today and have even teamed with each other, pairing up to face DX and Jeri-Show in an exhibition tag team match on an episode of Raw, but since Cena became the face of the WWE, the two men have not squared off one-on-one. As the old saying goes, time waits for no man, so maybe it’s time for WWE to stop waiting as give us the match we so desperately want to see.
The story for this match writes itself – The Undertaker has one final match in WWE and he wants it to be against the biggest star of the last 15 years. Cena, being both humbled by the offer and eager to prove his worth against The Deadman, accepts the challenge and hey presto, you have yourself a bona fide money match for WrestleMania 34. Win or lose, Taker would come out of this match with his head held high and wrestling fans across the world would finally get to see the dream match they’ve been so desperately after for years. If Taker was to come back for one last match, WWE would need to take a lot of care with it and there really are no safer pair of hands in the WWE right now than those of Mr. John Cena. Please come back for this match, Deadman. We miss you so much already.