When it was revealed that The Undertaker appeared at a house show in Waco, Texas on Saturday night, most WWE fans figured it was a foregone conclusion he would show up on Raw in Dallas. That wasn't the case, but delaying his return was actually an intelligent tactic by the WWE.
The WWE had fans hooked on Monday whether The Undertaker was present or not, so why waste his return? The show already had a great opening with Brock Lesnar and Triple H brawling, and it also closed in a big way with John Cena and CM Punk putting on one of the best matches you'll ever see on Monday Night Raw.
On top of that, I'm sure there were some fans who tuned in simply to see The Undertaker. There is no doubt they were disappointed when the show came to an end, and Taker was nowhere to be found, but saving Taker's return may cause those same fans to watch next week. It is obvious at this point that he'll be back eventually, but the WWE is at least creating some mystery by not telling us precisely when.
I'm sure the WWE also impressed a lot of Taker fans with what it delivered in the main event. Perhaps those fans weren't interested in Cena vs. Punk since most figured that Cena would come out on top, but the match itself was absolutely spectacular and could have easily convinced fringe viewers to watch a bit more religiously moving forward.
There are many theories out there regarding why The Undertaker didn't come back on Monday as expected, but the truth is pretty clear to me. Even if the vast majority of fans knew that Cena was going to beat Punk, it was still a big deal from a storyline perspective. Cena had been chasing Punk ever since Money in the Bank 2011, and until the most recent episode of Raw, he was never able to beat him.
Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that beating Punk in the main event of Raw was Cena's moment, and it wouldn't have been right to overshadow it. Even if we get Punk vs. Taker at WrestleMania, as I am anticipating, Cena vs. The Rock remains the big-ticket match. Because of that, Cena and The Rock need to be featured above all else. Cena winning on Monday made it official that he would be facing The Rock at 'Mania, and the WWE absolutely had to make that the story.
Now that things are settled on that front, the WWE can shift some of the attention in Taker's direction. Since Punk is officially out of the WWE Championship picture, there isn't much for him to do. That is likely to lead to Punk cutting a scathing promo on Raw about how he got screwed out of the title. He'll also probably talk about being above the title, and I'm sure that he'll once again call himself a god, just like he did on Monday.
This will, in all likelihood, lead to The Undertaker intervening one week later than most anticipated. It would be a perfect venue, as well, since next week's Raw has been branded "old school" Raw, and there is no current superstar more old school than The Undertaker. It's only a matter of time before The Undertaker confronts Punk, and it stands to reason that it will happen next week in order to start the build toward WrestleMania.
Even if the WWE decides to delay Taker's return another week, though, it could get away with it. The fact that The Rock will be back in the fold next week will certainly draw viewers, as will the old school theme. There figure to be quite a few legends at the show, and nostalgic fans always enjoy seeing that. It might annoy some of the more impatient fans out there, but waiting until the week after next to bring back The Undertaker could be a savvy move.
Was WWE smart to delay The Undertaker's return?
Whatever the case, saving him was ultimately the right move. Fans are going to go crazy and love it whenever he comes back, but there was no reason to do it on Monday when we were already treated with a match of the year candidate to close the show. The WWE needs to make sure that Taker has the spotlight all to himself, and it will be able to do that at some point in the coming weeks.
I'm sure some of the more pessimistic fans will misconstrue Taker's absence on Monday and say that it means he isn't coming back. There is no way he would have wrestled at a house show if he didn't have plans to return, though. The Undertaker is clearly going to be back in the fold very soon, and he will almost certainly face Punk at WrestleMania, so fans should anticipate that rather than complaining about when he'll be back.
Many fans were upset that he returned at a live event, as they believed that it made his television return predictable, but the WWE surprised a lot of people by not having him appear in Dallas. Next week's Raw will emanate a long way from Dallas in Buffalo, N.Y., and it represents the perfect opportunity for The Phenom to make his presence known once again.