The lights go out. The gong hits. The lightning strikes. When the shadowy silhouette of The Undertaker emerges from behind the curtain, chills run down our spines and we get the feeling that we are in the presence of something immortal and supernatural.
It is a presence that only The Phenom instills, a power that only he can lay claim to.
The reality is that for the past 19 years, The Undertaker has made the WrestleMania ring his ghastly playground, using his superior striking ability, uncanny top-rope technique and unmatchable power to defeat a variety of superstars.
He has taken down legendary fan-favorites such as Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. He has beaten big men such as Giant Gonzalez, Diesel, Kane and Big Show. He has conquered Attitude Era-stars, such as Mark Henry, Batista, Edge and Big Boss Man.
So what’s left for The Undertaker to prove? The answer is, nothing.
At least, he has nothing to prove to us as fans. He may have something left to prove to himself though, and at WrestleMania 28 he will get his chance when he meets The Cerebral Assassin, Triple H for the third time on the grandest stage of them all.
Assuming The Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania record will remain intact after April 1, 2012, the question remains: How should The Undertaker’s story end, and who should be the last man to challenge “The Streak?”
If Taker chooses to continue his one-match-per-year career after WrestleMania 28, WWE owes it to him to hand-deliver the most worthy and notable opponents until he decides to call it quits. Rumors and whispers of a possible match against WCW legend and TNA superstar Sting have been floating around for some time now, and I think we can all agree that Sting is a worthy opponent.
Like The Undertaker, Sting’s unique aura gives wrestling fans goose bumps every time he enters an arena, and as a 12-time World Heavyweight Champion and a veteran of the business who seems to get better with age, Sting bears the credentials to be considered exceptionally relevant in the eyes of both the WWE universe and The Deadman.
Should he be The Undertaker's final human obstacle though?
Sting would be a great opponent for Taker at WrestleMania 29 next year, and the battle of WCW legend vs. WWE legend would surely keep us fans on the edge of our seats, but in order to cement his legacy in the WWE as the most feared and most dominant superstar of all time, The Undertaker needs to finish his career against a man with a WWE resume as impressive as his own.
A man who is known for raising hell, backing down from no one, and who is viewed in the eyes of many as the most popular professional wrestler of all time. That man is Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Of course, we know that Stone Cold was forced into early retirement due to recurring medical issues revolving around a serious neck injury sustained at Summerslam in 1997, so the possibility of The Rattlesnake getting back in the ring and taking WrestleMania-like punishment from The Undertaker seems unlikely.
However, recent reports suggest that Stone Cold claims he has more left in the tank after spending nearly a decade away from action, allowing his neck injury to heal. When asked about a possible return to action during an interview featured in the latest issue of Power Slam, Stone Cold replied:
“Awww, man. Look, I’ll tell you this much: If I was going to do anything in WWE, I’d do something with Punk...Like I said, I love what he’s doing, and there’s a lot of parallels. I’m not saying it’s definitely going to happen, but if I could cherry-pick my opponent, and all the stars lined up, I’d love to work a program with him.”
If Austin is planning to return and face CM Punk, it would make sense for the match to be contested next year at WrestleMania 29, allowing time for Austin to train and shake off any ring rust he may have.
This would also allow The Undertaker’s WrestleMania 29 opponent slot to remain open for Sting. Stone Cold should defeat CM Punk to prove he can still go in the ring, Taker should come out on top against Sting at ‘Mania 29, and plans for the Taker/Austin battle at WrestleMania 30 should go into effect shortly thereafter.
Maybe it’s a long shot, and maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but if indeed Austin’s injury has repaired itself and he is medically cleared for action, he would be the perfect opponent for Undertaker’s final showdown at WrestleMania, providing a serious threat to “the streak” and yielding a true end to the greatest era of all-time in professional wrestling.
Tyler Lutz is a new contributor to Bleacher Report for all things WWE. Please provide your thoughts, suggestions, and support for him in the comments section below. You can follow him on twitter at: @TheRealLutz