As the lights darkened in stadiums and arenas across the world, fans have been treated to the best entrance in WWE history, with The Undertaker slowly making his way down the aisle as an immortal force that rises from the dead. He’s been doing it for well over two decades now.
From his introduction courtesy of Ted DiBiase at Survivor Series 1990 alongside Brother Love, to his manager Paul Bearer howling in front of him with the urn in his hands, Taker has won some, lost some, but always returned in such emphatic fashion to turn the tide when it came to storylines or enemies preaching in the limelight about his absence.
The Undertaker has competed against the very best inside the ring, and it’s difficult to think about anyone else that could match his career when it comes to the breathtaking encounters he’s been a part of, the titles he’s won, and the sheer beauty of his ambiguous presence, which is the darkest and most effective one WWE has ever produced when it comes to characters and gimmicks.
With WrestleMania 31 slowly approaching, the images of Brock Lesnar pinning the “Lord of Darkness” at WrestleMania 30 will be fresh in the minds of pro wrestling fanatics across the world, being the most shocking result to a match in sports entertainment history. Not only is it difficult to stretch a storyline for Taker to be a part of in such little time, it’s hard to envision the “Phenom” in the ring ever again, for multiple reasons.
Although Taker could probably still hack do a few more matches, it would be best to close the chapter on such a storied career, and let the memories speak for themselves. Here are 10 reasons why The Undertaker should refrain from lacing up the boots one more time, and ride out in the sunset (or darkness).
The Texan will soon turn 50 years of age this upcoming March, and you’d think he’s already well past the midpoint due to the countless matches and memories provided by one of wrestling’s biggest superstars.
Maybe someone like Ric Flair or Terry Funk would disagree with this idea, since those two had some of their best matches well over 50 years old. With that said, there aren’t too many wrestlers that stick around and compete at 50, and you have to wonder if it plays a factor in Taker’s return. He certainly looked that old — if not older — in his war at WrestleMania 30, and he’s had arguably the most storied career out of them all when it comes to careers in WWE.
9. Limited Foes
At this point, it would be incredibly tiresome to have Taker duke it out in another rematch, since he’s bested Shawn Michaels and Triple H (in a WrestleMania trilogy) a couple of times each before losing to Brock Lesnar last year. Even a rematch with the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion would be pointless, seeing how badly Lesnar mauled the “Deadman” at WrestleMania 30.
With the probability of Sting taking on Triple H being strong, even the former WCW juggernaut is ruled out for a match against Taker. That leaves Bray Wyatt as the frontrunner, since the storytelling would be strong, and perhaps superstars such as Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and even John Cena, would fit the billing in a couple of intriguing affairs.
In spite of that, there aren’t many options to truly convince the WWE fans that Taker should be brought back for one last run against someone else on the roster. It would probably look like any other match, and one deemed meaningless unless a rising star is going over.
8. Matches Will Go Downhill
There’s no denying Taker has been a phenomenal worker over the years, but last year’s match against Lesnar was painful to watch. The match ran roughly 25 minutes, and despite the cliffhangers like Lesnar hitting the F-5 multiple times, with the notion that the streak could be broken, it really dragged and affected the conclusion of the match. You could argue the finish was such a big shock because the audience was almost half asleep by the end of it.
If you think Taker will improve when he steps foot inside the squared circle once more, think again. He’s getting older, his body is taking more punishment, and depending on whom he’s matched up against, he may not be able to perform at maximum level. Then again, maybe it can’t get any worse than his outing at WrestleMania 30.
7. Hall of Fame Inclusion Over Wrestling
If you take a minute to think about which active wrestlers could be included in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015, a few come to mind. Of course, Triple H and Sting’s inclusions will be imminent in due time, and apart from John Cena (who presumably will only join the elite group once he hangs up the boots), WWE’s billionaire princess Stephanie McMahon hinted on Monday Night Raw a few weeks back that The Big Show would be inducted as the first-ever active wrestler had he joined Team Authority at Survivor Series 2014.
The “Largest Athlete In The World” could make history by being rewarded with the spot, yet it would make a hell of a lot more sense for Taker to be inducted, since his career is winding down, and at the same time, speaks for itself in volumes. We don’t have to list the accolades of the “Deadman,” including the 15 titles he’s held under the promotion. Just the thought of him going into the Hall of Fame instead of wrestling seems more like a proper fit, since he’s more or less the only WWE old-school guy left to praise (apart from a long overdue shout out to Randy Savage).
6. Let The Young Guys Take The Spotlight
With many of WWE’s younger talent excelling as of late, it seems right to let them take the reigns (foreshadowing intended).
Roman Reigns, the massive superstar touted to take home the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at this year’s WrestleMania is presumably the frontrunner to lead WWE into the future. With his former Shield brothers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose closing out some of the pay-per-view (PPV) events in the latter half of 2014, the so-called “Universe Era” has its new leaders champing at the bit already. WWE diehard followers nearly started a mutiny when the company’s directors were skeptical about giving Daniel Bryan the title, but in the world of wrestling, the fans have more pull if countless voices are being heard. You also have fan favorites like Bray Wyatt and Cesaro doing well, however, they’ll remain lost in the shuffle if WWE keeps on promoting the legends with little to prove over hungry hopefuls.
With Ring of Honor (ROH) and other Indy promotions serving as somewhat of a developmental league for WWE’s future stars, the time is now to make room for the younger athletes to steal the show on the grandest stage of them all, since a handful of them have done that already.
5. Limit The Amount of Part-Timers
Stemming from where we left off with the most recent reason, there has been a mixed reaction when it comes to part-time wrestlers coming back for one last hurrah, and at times, overstaying their welcome.
We’re not talking about Hulk Hogan coming back to promote the WWE Network, or the “Nature Boy” making his way down the aisle for whatever reason. It’s more about guys like The Rock coming back at WrestleMania 28 and 29 to have a series of matches with Cena, when he really didn’t need to. Batista was supposed to face Randy Orton at WrestleMania 30 after winning the 2014 Royal Rumble, yet fans were disgusted with the idea and took it out on him, preferring Bryan in the spot he earned.
On this present day, we have Lesnar as the promotion’s champion, and he’s only defended the title once since beating Cena at SummerSlam 2014. It’s strange to see Lesnar hold the most prestigious title in wrestling without making appearances on regular programming like Monday Night War or even a promo on a PPV. Not to beat a dead horse, but CM Punk really hit the nail on the head with his disappointment in putting over three part-timers (The Rock, The Undertaker, and Lesnar) in the same year, which left many confused and damaged his drawing power before his abrupt exit.
If WrestleMania is a place where legends are born, then it’s time to give birth to the new wave of superstars. Don’t worry… we won’t forget the ones that had such a fairytale run year after year at the biggest event of the year.
4. Lack of Proper Buildup
Since The Undertaker only wrestles once a year, his returns have been regarded as heart stopping and exciting, to say the least. Usually, the “Phenom’s” bell tolls, and the lights go out, paving the way for the enigma to challenge an unfortunate soul in the middle of the ring, while looking above to the WrestleMania sign over the rafters.
It makes for great television, but it’s a bit random more often than not. Unless there’s a story behind his return, like challenging Triple H to a rematch at WrestleMania 28 because he was nearly toppled a year prior, we’re left to assume there’s an existing beef when it kind of comes out of nowhere.
Someone like Punk was pretty great in the building to their match against Taker at WrestleMania 29, simply because he poked fun at Taker’s longtime manager Paul Bearer’s death (which was uncalled for, depending on who you ask). Although, last year, Taker came back at the end of February (it’s always been around the time of the Royal Rumble hangover), challenging Brock Lesnar while most wrestling observers already expected him to thanks to the abundance of wrestling sites that reported the return. There isn’t much time to build a proper story or feud if Taker comes back a month before the big show, and it feels too rushed to truly enjoy his presence once a year.
3. Health/Injury Concerns
Taker showed the damage done at the end of his match against Lesnar last year, having to be rushed to the hospital during the event to treat a severe concussion. There was even video evidence that showed Taker hobbling out of a hotel two days after the event.
There were even rumors of Taker’s health deteriorating this past fall from Limp Bizkit, who dedicated a song to the beloved wrestler at one of their shows. But, former WWE Divas Champion and real-life wife, Michelle McCool, shot down those claims, saying everything was “all good in the hood.”
There wasn’t much room for elaboration, and Taker’s health seems to be normal, hence no further reports. Still, suffering from a concussion in his most recent match can’t be good, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there are lingering issues Taker’s had to deal with after being a major player for over 15 years in the wrestling world.
Maybe he’s doing well now, yet there’s always room for concern, especially with photo evidence that has surface, depicting Taker a lot older and thinner than he normally looks.
2. Streak Broken
Unless you haven’t watched WWE for the past year, or seen the hilarious memes of the faces present in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Taker had his undefeated streak broken by the former UFC Heavyweight Champion in devastating fashion. It is widely regarded as the most shocking outcome to any match in WWE history.
Vince McMahon made the final decision, as he said on Steve Austin’s Podcast a few weeks back. After all, Lesnar was supposed to crush Taker a couple of years ago when the “Beast Incarnate” lost his UFC strap to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, since both men had a “run-in” when Lesnar walked past Taker in the crowd.
Since Lesnar broke the streak, it really nullifies any mystique Taker would have going into WrestleMania 31, since he was already toppled a year ago. A rematch would make sense, but at the same time, would be rather pointless seeing how Lesnar defeated his foe, and how the Paul Heyman guy has been marketed since his huge victory.
With the streak standing at 21-1, it’s a bit of a stretch for Taker to come back in search of another win, since the possibility of him losing is even greater. That could be beneficial, and make for a good story for any wrestler picked out of a hat to challenge the “Lord of Darkness,” but the yearly trip to WrestleMania won’t have the same feel. With Taker coming off a loss in his last WrestleMania contest, now would be the best time to walk away from wrestling, or, at least in-ring competition, since it would make a perfect story to have the hero conquered in the end.
Speaking of his career, his legacy is nearly impossible to match. Debuting at Survivor Series 1990, Taker beat Hogan a year later at the same PPV, earning his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship under the promotion’s banner.
He switched from heel to face numerous times too, and under those circumstances, battled against the likes of Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Kane, Bret Hart, Triple H, Mankind, and Randy Orton, to name a few. He’s won the major championship seven times if you combine his runs as WWE Champion and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, held tag titles with Kane, Steve Austin, Big Show, and The Rock, and partook in stipulation matches designed for him, including the Buried Alive Match, the Casket Match, and arguably the most exciting match in WWE, the Hell in a Cell Match.
Taker brought fear into many hearts as he walked down the aisle with the late Bearer, raised major interest with his conflicts and partnerships with his brother Kane, and his gimmick could very well be the best one in wrestling history.
His greatest accolade would be his WrestleMania run, with a record of 21-1 at the PPV extravaganza. It becomes a question of what he has left to prove, especially after claiming so many souls at WrestleMania and beyond. Wrestlers are known to overstay their welcome, yet this legend doesn’t have to go past his means for the fans anymore. Taker has been a joy to watch and downright special in an entertainment sense. In his case, if he takes off the gloves or closes the casket door shut, he’d go down as an athlete that parted at the right time, and one that will never be forgotten for his contributions to the squared circle.
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