The Undertaker is about to wrestle for the first time in a year, against the best heel in wrestling, and it's hard to believe how underwhelming it all feels.
The past four years at WrestleMania, The Undertaker has put on four classic matches.
Not only were the matches fantastic, but the build to his showdowns with Shawn Michaels and Triple H were also among the best stories each year.
There were high hopes for another stellar setup for this year’s program. Fans waited for confirmation of the Deadman’s return. We didn’t even know until just a few weeks ago if he’d be back at all.
Things got more interesting as rumors spread of CM Punk being named Taker's opponent.
Sure, if Punk still held the WWE title, a streak vs. streak match would have sold itself. Still, WWE shouldn’t have had to do very much to get this program over.
All we needed was a vindictive Punk trying to get back into the spotlight after high-profile losses against The Rock and John Cena. He could find redemption in setting his sights on the one aspect of sports entertainment that is actually bigger than any title: ending Undertaker’s streak.
It’s too bad that WWE decided to get real.
William Moody, best known as Paul Bearer, passed away in real life. Granted, this put WWE in a hard position. Should Undertaker mention it? Should they just honor him with tribute videos? Should the storyline be incorporated into Punk and Undertaker’s feud?
WWE chose the latter option and went all in.
The first Raw after Moody's death, we had Punk interrupt The Undertaker. He then made a couple of brief mentions about Paul Bearer. It was a bit tasteless but not completely out of place in wrestling.
By the end of the episode, though, he stole the mystical urn that had been a part of Bearer, Kane and Undertaker's relationship for years.
This week’s Raw showed that the Bearer aspect of the story is going to remain the focus of the feud.
Instead of one man hell bent on ending a streak and the other defending it at all costs, we’ve been subjected to the best heel in WWE getting cheap heat by pretending to talk as if he were Paul Bearer's ashes inside an urn.
Even if Undertaker and Moody’s family are completely cool with WWE involving his death in a storyline, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best business decision.
If the fans' interest level on Monday’s Raw is any indication, then this direction was not the right one to head in. It was the first time we had heard Undertaker speak in nearly a year, yet the crowd just wasn't into it.
Some may simply just feel put off by Moody’s real life death being incorporated into a story so soon. That doesn’t mean they’ll stop watching, but they may feel less inclined to pay $60 to see Undertaker get his revenge.
There have been arguments that Punk is simply doing his job and getting fans upset. The thing is, there's good heat and bad heat. Angering fans over the decision to exploit an actual death or making them feel genuinely uncomfortable is not good heat. That just gets people to turn the channel.
With this week's show down more than 500,000 viewers from the previous week, WWE may be generating the wrong kind of heat as we head into the biggest show of the year.
WWE also made the strange choice to go with Punk announcing out of nowhere that if Taker is counted out or disqualified, the streak ends. Sure, it’s true, but if the company wants to make the most money, shouldn’t they just go with building up Punk as an in-ring equal?
The supposed best in the world shouldn't have to plant the seeds that he may win by count-out.
Time is running out to make this feud meaningful, and based off of the past two weeks, they’d have to do a reset to get this thing on the right track.
The streak sells itself; adding in a real-life death just feels unnecessary.
We watch wrestling to forget, not to be reminded that someone we cared about for years is really gone and that two men are fighting over an urn which may or may not carry his ashes.
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