So, uh, spoiler alert.
Last night the unthinkable happened: The Undertaker's undefeated WrestleMania Streak came to an end. It was easily the most shocking moment on the card, and likely in WrestleMania history. Not only that, but he lost to a part-timer that seemingly wouldn't benefit from such a momentous rub. The immediate reaction from the fans in attendance and the Internet at large was shock that slowly turned into outrage.
However, all is not lost. In fact, it was genuinely for the best. Here are a few reasons why that is.
1) The Streak Has Become a Momentum Killer
The Undertaker's matches have been more hit than miss, but the sad fact is that since probably WrestleMania 21, nobody has seriously thought that The Streak would come to an end. Being the brash new up-and-comer, Orton was the most viable opponent that could believably end Taker's WrestleMania reign. After Taker defeated Orton in the Staples Center though it became apparent that NOTHING was going to stop the Dead Man from adding caskets to his graveyard, effectively creating a situation where every wrestling fan knew what to expect.
Granted, The Streak concept didn't inhibit EVERY match (Taker vs Shawn at 25 is easily the greatest Mania match of all time) but at no point in any match was it believable that Taker wouldn't take the W. But predictability breeds complacency, and unless a real threat of failure looms over a match, it's just hard to get 100% invested into something. Hell, even last night's match was mostly a bore, because I've been conditioned to believe that nothing was going to stop Undertaker at WrestleMania.
But last night changed all that, when the Leviathian did what he promised and conquered The Streak. Most of the social media buzz surrounding the finish was disdain over how a part-timer like Brock was given this ultimate honor, but the truth of the matter is this...
2) Brock Was the Right Guy
Here's an opinion that a lot of people are going to disagree with: Giving a guy like Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, or Cesaro the honors of ending The Streak would do them more harm than good. Not only are you put in a position where you have earned the ire of every nearly wrestling fan in the world, but you now have the momentous task of living up to expectations. The Streak has grown into legend for so long that anyone that ended it would instantly be put under a microscope and scrutinized for the rest of their career. Yeah it's a good short term boost, but how do you live up to that? For a younger guy trying to make his mark, that would be more of a curse than a privilege.
But for Brock, it's no big deal. He's fine with being reviled. He doesn't have any expectations to live up to, because he's already legitimized. The man is a former NCAA and UFC Champion. He has nothing to prove to anyone. What would be better in the long run; a young Superstar forever having the anchor of being the person that ended The Streak, or a guy that can take that burden, laugh in it's face, and F5 into the sun?
The ending of The Streak isn't a passing of a torch, but the final chapter in a saga. There's not going to be a sequel. After 21 victories it was time for someone with a legitimate pedigree to finally end The Streak, because let's be honest...
3) The Undertaker Isn't Getting Any Younger
Let's be objective for a second: Last night's match was not good. It wasn't terrible, but it was a plodding bore that was saved by a surprise finish that nobody saw coming. For a guy that has stolen the show at several WrestleMania's with his in-ring ability, it was disappointing to watch Undertaker pretty much slow walk his way through a (mostly) predictable encounter. Part of that has to do with the fact that Taker is best when against an opponent of a high calibre (compare the two Shawn Michaels matches against the last two Triple H matches as an example), and Brock Lesnar of 2014 simply isn't that guy. Last year's match against Punk was solid but CM Punk is a top-shelf wrestler in his prime. Brock Lesnar hasn't really had it since he came back. He's still an athletic beast, but he lost whatever gave him the ability to have good matches with basically everyone in his decade long absence. If it wasn't for the finish, last night's encounter would go down as one of Taker's worst.
But that's what happens when you're nearly 50 and still trying to perform at a high level. It's been only five years since the epic he put on with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25, but five years is a long goddamn time when you've been alive for almost half a century. At the end of the day Taker wrestled the entire match like a tired old man. Brock, who is basically the Kraken in human form, realistically should've skunked him, and he did. Which is good, because now that the oldest tradition in WrestleMania history is over...
4) WWE Can Move Forward
Last night's WrestleMania was just as much about celebrating it's future as it was it's past. For every Hogan, Rock, Austin moment you had an equal Wyatt, Cesaro, Bryan moment to counter it. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff even showed up, or at least the old prospector who claimed to be him did. At a show that was setting the stage for the next 30 years to come while looking back and nodding at it's history, The Streak coming to an end was nothing if not appropriate.
The biggest problem with The Streak is that it made the creative team's job easy. Opponent claims he can beat Taker's Streak, Taker disagrees, wash, rinse, repeat. Sometimes there's an added element such as a title belt or a dead manager, but the heart of the story is the same. How many times can that be played without it getting stale? How many more years was WWE going to continue playing the same song over and over again? If last night was about looking to the future, it had to go on without The Streak, it just had to. No longer does the WWE have to carry that legacy around, and you know what? Neither does the Undertaker, because....
5) The Undertaker is Finally Free
The Streak couldn't have been an easy chain to carry. Not only are you expected to maintain it, but you're expected to do so at a high level. The Streak was born accidentally, but once it became something it was a runaway sensation. Over the past decade Taker's Mania matches have been built around The Streak, and in every match for 10 years the stakes were gradually raised. Hardcore matches, title bouts, Hell in a Cell. Every single time Taker had to step into the ring on the grandest stage of them all he was expected to deliver, and man alive that's a heavy crown to wear when you're body is starting to give out.
I don't know if this is the end for The Undertaker. I don't know if the end of The Streak means the end of the Phenom. I just know that now that he doesn't have to carry that load on his shoulders anymore and he'll be better off for it, both physically and creatively. If he does come back he no longer has the burden of a recycled story, and if he doesn't than he went out in a fitting manner.
No matter what way you look at it, The Undertaker is finally free. Not only from the expectation of his fans and peers, but of himself as well.
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