The big news that happened over the weekend in wrestling was that World Wrestling Entertainment legend The Undertaker returned at a house show on Saturday in Waco, Texas. He teamed up with Sheamus to beat the team of Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow. It wasn't advertised, yet there he was in the ring. Or better yet, his yard. Home sweet home.
(Credit @RickWWESignGuy for the photo.)
I know Undertaker looks bigger (in the gut) than he did before. Guess what? He's going to turn 48 years old in a month. He had hip and shoulder surgeries in the last year. Why did he have surgeries? Because he's been busting his ass entertaining us in a WWE ring for over 22 years now. If he wants to get out in that ring to perform for us then I welcome it. I think he'll be in the best shape he possibly can. I doubt we'll see him looking like a shell of his former shelf.
Why do I believe in him so much? It's simple. He hasn't let us down before. I'm not saying every match or feud was great. I can rattle off names like Giant Gonzalez, Yokozuna, fake Undertaker, Sid, Great Khali and others as awful feuds he had in his career. But none of them hurt what he's done over his entire career. To me, the good outweighs the bad. I don't think it's that close either. I think returning at a house show is a smart move. He wants to work off the ring rust and the fact that the show was in Texas probably felt like home to him since that's his home state. It was a great moment for the live crowd. I don't think his return on television will be ruined by this. The number of wrestling fans that read about wrestling online is probably 20% of the viewing audience and that might be a high number.
While there is no way to actually prove it, the chances are that most fans watching Raw won't know that he came back on Saturday although WWE did release a Tout video showing his return. It's merely a 15 second clip of his entrance, which is a nice tease that should make fans want more. If you go to WWE.com you won't see a picture or video of Undertaker's return. However, on the @WWE Twitter account (with over 2.1 million followers) they linked to this video that is on the WWEFanNation youtube channel.
As you can see it's a video that lasts for 47 seconds and you can only you see when he emerges from the shadows. Listen to that ovation. The fans didn't expect him there, so when that happened what you heard was a general reaction of surprise from that crowd in Waco.
That brings me to the next point. Now that those of us on the internet know he's back, will it hurt his return because it won't be a surprise?
To some people I'm sure it will hurt it. Not me. I look at it with the perspective that he doesn't have a lot of matches left in his career. His bump card is full as they say in the business. Just like with Shawn Michaels in 2010 or Ric Flair in 2008 (TNA doesn't count do they?), my advice is to enjoy it while it lasts. When you have an all-time legendary performer like Undertaker the best thing you can do is remember the good times while also marking out like a 15 year old that sees him for the first time because you don't know when the last time is going to be. That's how I react to this news.
The other thing I like about Undertaker returning is that it will create buzz on the internet for two days as we head into Raw tonight. That's not a bad thing. It's going to keep people tuned it to see when he might appear even though that moment may not be until three hours into the show or maybe the week after. Nobody knows when he'll be there exactly. Remember last year? They told us when he'd be there. It didn't ruin it at all. It's not as though it has to be a surprise. I think he'll wrestle at WrestleMania, I think he'll be in good shape for it (he has six weeks to get ready) and I'll mark out for the "GONG" like I usually do.
To those that are negative about a part timer getting big match at WrestleMania, I point to the reactions he gets every year. The crowd loves him. I was at the last two WrestleManias and I can still remember how loud we were for the entrance, the high points of the match and when he ultimately beat Triple H in the end. The nearfalls in the last two years were great too. If you go back to WrestleMania 25 against Shawn Michaels it was a match that I'd consider to be the best in WWE history. Undertaker was 44 years old during that match. Most wrestlers are done by that age. Not him. His durability is unparalleled especially for a man that's over 6'8" and nearly 300 pounds.
If Undertaker faces CM Punk at WrestleMania 29 as has been rumored for many months now (I believe it will happen), I expect them to give us a very entertaining matchup that gets over 20 minutes. The question is who wins that match? I'll pick Undertaker. I always do. I wouldn't hate to see him lose, though. My feeling is that the WrestleMania streak is something that will not end even though Undertaker will likely retire for good within a few years.
Tonight on Raw we might see The Undertaker. There's that huge John Cena vs. CM Punk match that will main event the show. I fully expect Cena to win that match. Also advertised is a "fight" between Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon. I know Brock Lesnar is advertised, so perhaps that will lead to the return of Triple H to set up the rumored Lesnar/HHH rematch.
Where does that leave Undertaker? He could save John Cena from a CM Punk attack or simply return to scare Punk, who would complain about how unfair things are only for the "conscience of the WWE" (one of many Undertaker nicknames) to return to shut him up. There are a lot of possibilities that could happen. It's too hard to guess. Like I said above, let's try to enjoy it.
There's a chance Undertaker won't be there on Raw. Keep in mind there are six weeks until WrestleMania, so there's plenty of time to set up his match. However, I think Monday in Dallas will be the best time since it's his home state, they're always a good crowd in that city and now that the buzz is out there the reaction to his return will be enormous.
The first time I saw Undertaker in person was 1991. He was an emotionless heel that scared the 11 year old me. The last time I saw him in person was 21 years later at last year's WrestleMania in Miami. This time he didn't scare me. Instead, he gave us another great performance that we'll never forget. We gave him a standing ovation. That's one of the best memories I'll ever have of him.
I'm excited about The Undertaker's return. I have no doubt that he'll perform at a high level because for the majority of his career that's what he's done. After all, nobody has earned our respect and trust more than him.
Welcome back, Deadman. Thanks for the memories and for coming back to create even more of them. We'll be watching.
Two years ago I wrote a column called The Legacy of The Undertaker. It's one of my favorite columns I've ever written. Check it out here if you haven't read it or need a reminder.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org