It was at WrestleMania XXVIII last April that the WWE witnessed the end of an era.
Triple H would face The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match, with Shawn Michaels as the special referee. It was more about the story being told than the actual action inside the ring, as the long battle resulted in The Undertaker defeating Triple H to become 20-0 at WrestleMania.
The trio went up the ramp, hand in hand, and went into the back. The curtain had fallen. The screens faded to black. The era was over.
One year later, The Undertaker is back at WrestleMania, as is Triple H. Shawn Michaels even decided to stop by. What happened to the era being over?
Last year, The Undertaker made it to a round number of 20, Triple H couldn't defeat him again, and Shawn Michaels was able to go back to hunting in the woods. Now, Triple H has Michaels in his corner when The Game puts his career on the line tonight against Brock Lesnar.
As for The Undertaker, the streak has a chance to end at 20-1, unless he can defeat CM Punk in an emotional matchup. The era didn't really end last year, but it can finally end tonight at WrestleMania.
Explaining why Triple H's career will end is pretty simple. In his match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, Triple H's career is at stake. A loss, and that is simply it. It paves the way for Triple H to headline his own Hall of Fame class and shift his attention outside of the ring.
Triple H has done a lot more behind the scenes of WWE than he is probably given credit for. It was known that Triple H is one of the reasons Bruno Sammartino agreed to go into the Hall of Fame this year, and his role behind the curtain will only grow once his in-ring career ends this Sunday.
On the other side of the coin, it helps if Brock Lesnar gets to be the one to finish off The Game. Lesnar signed an extension with WWE and could use the heat to go into another major payday, perhaps reigniting the Brock vs. Rock matchup we saw many years ago at SummerSlam.
Selling fans on The Undertaker losing is a lot more difficult to do. After 20 successes, isn't he bound to lose eventually? After this long of a career and having his career essentially gravitate toward WrestleMania season, the only real way for The Undertaker to leave the business is through a WrestleMania match.
There's no payoff to The Undertaker winning yet again at WrestleMania, only to hang up his boots then and there. The only way to remove The Deadman from WrestleMania is to defeat him and his streak.
With the rising stars WWE has been cultivating in recent years, they are trying to prepare themselves for life without The Undertaker. It has been 13 years since a WrestleMania didn't feature The Phenom. The cord needs to get cut at some point.
WrestleMania can go on without The Undertaker, and the sooner that WWE can prove that, the better.
Besides, after Punk, does WWE have another formidable foe for The Undertaker? Unless it's John Cena, which would only anger everyone, the one to end The Undertaker's streak is CM Punk.
Punk has been trying to dig into WWE history and carve out his own place among the rest of the pack. Punk isn't really like the others, and he likes it that way. Whether he was booed or cheered, the idea of Punk has always been to be respected.
There's plenty of respect heading his way if The Undertaker falls because of him. Punk has brushed off the idea that Paul Bearer's death may have changed the outcome of this match. Punk's incredible mind games are unlike any we have seen before. If Punk wins this match, consider his Hall of Fame ticket punched.
If The Undertaker and Triple H both end their careers at WrestleMania XXIX, there won't be much more remaining from the Attitude Era.
The Rock may be WWE Champion now, but he will be back to making movies soon enough and only come around for the bigger events of the year. Chris Jericho and Mark Henry are both facing younger superstars in Fandango and Ryback, respectively. Jericho and his band, Fozzy, are expected to tour in late April, while Henry has been rather injury-prone lately. This could be the swan song for Henry.
All three of these men are predicted to lose tonight at WrestleMania.
So, even though it was a selling point last year, it sounds like an era truly can end at MetLife Stadium tonight. Five long-time veterans all compete at WrestleMania in situations where they are all predicted by some to lose.
Main-event spots stand to be lost. Legacies can be changed. Careers are literally at stake in some cases.
This may very well be the end of an era tonight.
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