The road to WrestleMania hasn't truly started until Undertaker returns to WWE, stalking his next opponent.
Circle Feb. 24 and March 3 on your calendars as those are the two most likely dates for Undertaker to reappear.
Looking back at when he has reentered the spotlight in the past and his rumored WrestleMania foe's schedule erases some of the mystery of when fans will see "The Phenom" stepping through smoke once again. Since 2011, he has essentially become a WrestleMania-only wrestler. Last year, he did compete on both Raw and SmackDown after the marquee event, but those were both rarities.
Undertaker slipped into the shadows after losing to Kane at Night of Champions 2010.
Since then, his return has been the moment that rings in WrestleMania season. In 2011, he came back on the Feb. 21 episode of Raw. He strode toward the ring where he soon met Triple H.
Triple H went on to face Undertaker at WrestleMania, losing, but leaving Undertaker unable to stand. The following year, those two met again on Raw.
Jan. 30, 2012 marked Undertaker's return from hiatus. He confronted the man who put him out of action. Eventually "The Game" would battle Undertaker at WrestleMania for the second straight year.
After the match, Undertaker disappeared again. He was making a habit of defending his undefeated streak and then hibernating. It wasn't until March 4, 2013 that he appeared on Raw again, fog billowing around him once more.
CM Punk won a Fatal 4-Way match that night to earn the right to face "The Deadman" at the event where he remains unbeaten. Undertaker soon entered the ring to stare Punk down.
The time frame for his past three returns give fans an idea of when to expect him to be back in 2014. Jan. 30 is the earliest he's come back and March 4 is the latest. It's too late for him to match when he came back in 2011, so count on the next Undertaker sighting to be in February or early March.
There's also a definite pattern to point out here. Undertaker has returned to confront his eventual WrestleMania opponent.
This year, word is that the man who gets that honor will be Brock Lesnar.
According to F4WOnline, via WrestleZone.com, "Brock Lesnar's currently planned WrestleMania 30 opponent is The Undertaker." Other names from Daniel Bryan to John Cena have been tossed around in the rumor mill, but the majority of reports name Lesnar as the man to next challenge the streak.
@AndyArmstrong88 Could be, but all along they've had Lesnar vs. Taker at WM30.— Mike Mooneyham (@ByMikeMooneyham) January 1, 2014
If that's the case, we can bet on Undertaker showing up on a night where "The Beast" will be there.
Lesnar's next four advertised dates, per WWE.com, are as follows:
- Feb. 24 in Green Bay, Wis.
- March 3 in Chicago, Ill.
- March 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
- March 31 in Washington, D.C.
Of these appearances on Raw, the last two feel too late for it to mark Undertaker's comeback. WWE is going to look to build as much hype as possible for the match and that requires more time. The company isn't going to wait until a few weeks before WrestleMania to make this match official.
That leaves Feb. 24 and March 3, the former being the more likely option.
Besides being the day after Elimination Chamber, it also marks the day of the WWE Network's launch. Post pay-per-view editions of Raw are often spots for memorable returns as Lesnar proved the night after WrestleMania 28.
The launch is expected to be one filled with marquee names like Shawn Michaels and possibly Hulk Hogan, per F4WOnline, via WrestleZone.com. That leads one to believe that WWE would look to make the night as special as possible. Bringing in The Undertaker does that in a major way.
The biggest reason to doubt that coming to pass is that the company may want to wait for Undertaker to come back when he's not overshadowed by Hogan, the WWE Network and everything planned for the launch. That makes the Raw on March 3 the other most plausible option.
Either way, it appears that fans won't have to wait too long to see the future Hall of Famer enter a WWE arena again. Lesnar and Paul Heyman will surely be waiting for him, promising to end Undertaker's storied WrestleMania run.