What is WrestleMania? So many things define the legacy of wrestling's greatest show, though there may not be one name more synonymous with the epic pay-per-view than The Undertaker. His streak, which has now reached 20-0, a truly unmatchable milestone, has become an integral part of what makes WM special.
Yet, time does not wait for anyone, even a Deadman, and The Undertaker finds himself now on the wrong side of 40. At Taker's age, most guys would retire and certainly not be going out to wrestle 30-minute show stealers on WWE's Grandest Stage.
Each year now, the question becomes more and more open to discussion: When will Undertaker retire? At the rate he's still able to perform, Taker could probably go several more years, but the same could have been said of Shawn Michaels, who could probably still go if called upon, when he retired.
The problem isn't that The Undertaker hasn't earned the right to retire, but rather that the streak has become too integrated into the legacy of WrestleMania. WWE and probably the fans themselves don't want to see the legacy disappear.
But does that dependence mask the fact that the streak has no more meaning? When Randy Orton introduced people to the idea of Undertaker's streak before WrestleMania 21, it was something special, a mark that could be broken. Ending the streak would be akin to winning the WWE title, more prestigious even.
Nowadays, it lacks a focus. 20-0 is a nice number, and it's never going to look better no matter how many extra ones are added to it. WWE has already made The Streak DVD. Now that Triple H and HBK almost combined couldn't end it, what more is there to say about the streak?
Taker coming out each year and winning is fine if it means a great match, but there's no more impact. It doesn't mean anything anymore. It has reached its apex and can never rise.
There is only one way that the streak can have any more impact—if someone were to break it. If anyone were deemed worthy of adding that one to the right side of the record, it would mean more than any other one added to the other side.
It wouldn't hurt The Undertaker. If the streak was broken, it would still have been the longest and greatest streak the WWE had ever seen. Taker's legacy and the streak's legacy are already set. Ending the streak would only affect the one who broke it.
It could be the ultimate passing of the torch, an exoneration of the past for the future. It would be the point where WWE could definitively declare that that the shadow of The Undertaker no longer lingers in WM history. It could even be used to hand over the mantle, as then it would live on through whoever defeated The Undertaker.
It would make for a great final chapter to the story of Undertaker, an ideal send-off for The Phenom. They could say that The Deadman's life was tied to the streak and that with its fall he could finally rest.
The problem is that breaking the streak would put a horrible burden on whoever ended up succeeding. He would be hated by many fans for being the one to ruin the greatness of the streak, to somehow blemish The Undertaker's career.
If so many greats couldn't give Taker his loss, who else could? Taker will wrestle CM Punk this year, who, while being a great wrestler of his time, seems unlikely to end it all with how little build he has been given to set up the match. If not for Paul Bearer's death, it's unlikely the feud would be notable at all.
The only real challenge left to the streak is the one man who has been adamant at every turn that the streak will never end: John Cena. And I would expect that Cena has way too much respect for Taker and the streak to ever want to be the one to end it.
This is almost a Catch-22 except for one easy escape. If the streak continues to play out at WrestleMania, it almost certainly has to be ended by someone, except there's no one left who would dare bear the weight of that accomplishment. The easy option may be for WWE to simply let it go.
While I for one would love to see Taker face Cena at WrestleMania XXX with the streak still intact, there is nowhere to go after that, and even that match is unnecessary for the solidification of either man's career.
Whether it is after WrestleMania 29 or 30, it is time for them to finally let The Deadman rest in peace—streak or no streak.
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