One thing has become abundantly clear in recent weeks: WWE desperately needs The Undertaker right now.
CM Punk has left, and it doesn't look like he's going to be back any time soon. The Authority is all over television—to the point you have to wonder if Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are becoming more of a burden than a help for WWE.
Dave Batista's heavily hyped return has been a disappointment—every time he participates in a major event, the fan reaction to him seems to get more negative. At Elimination Chamber, the crowd even chanted for hated heel Alberto Del Rio over him. Ouch.
And John Cena is gearing up for a feud with newcomer Bray Wyatt, which may or may not be a success. We'll have to wait and see.
WrestleMania season is supposed to be the most exciting time of the year for WWE, and usually it is. But this year, doesn't the buildup feel rather flat and inept?
It’s not just the abysmal booking.
Not having The Rock around—like in the past two years—hasn't helped. Rock's name value has managed to compensate for less-than-spectacular booking, but the company doesn't have the luxury this time around.
It's also possible, maybe even likely, that Vince McMahon's focus has mostly been on the network launch. Amid all of the hype and fuss over the new channel, the on-screen product has seemingly taken a backseat. No doubt the current television negotiations with NBC Universal are also a big distraction.
McMahon is obviously under considerable pressure right now.
Regardless of the reasons, WWE desperately needs The Undertaker back right now to help boost its WrestleMania buildup. As one fan noted on Twitter after Elimination Chamber went off the air:
Thankfully, as PWI (via WrestlingInc) noted, the veteran is expected back on Monday’s Raw. We will likely see step one of the heavily anticipated Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker feud.
Yes, WWE television just got interesting again.
The Undertaker’s star power and presence is such that it can triumph over even the most mediocre of booking (remember last year’s debacle with Paul Bearer?) and make anything he is involved with feel like a big deal.
And at a time when titles change seemingly every week and match stipulations mean little or nothing, The Undertaker’s infamous streak is one of the few things that still have any real meaning. It has managed to remain a big deal.
OK, so no one truly buys that the streak will ever end, but fans are solidly invested in it nonetheless. It’s become a cornerstone of WrestleMania.
His return also gives WWE a rare chance to be wildly creative.
Yes, we will again get to see fake thunderbolts, the lights going on and off and ominous, spooky music. Oh, and don’t forget the druids. (The company’s smoke machine budget will also double, too, presumably.) Even if these tactics are rather ridiculous, it’s difficult not to find some amusement in them.
That said, the company can’t rely solely on Undertaker to carry things as it heads into New Orleans.
As terrific as he is, he’s not a miracle worker. The rest of the card will have to be somewhat decent too, although with Batista vs. Randy Orton as the main event, that will be a struggle.