All good things must come to an end.
That is, of course, provided that they were all that great to begin with.
The Undertaker's "undefeated streak" at Wrestlemania is respected in many circles for being one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of professional wrestling.
The reality, however, stands in stark contrast to the public's perception of it.
The streak has been perceived as indicative of one Hall of Famer's dominance, yet in reality it is representative of the WWE's corporate strategy to keep the fans interested in Undertaker's continued existence.
While you might not think that a performer of Undertaker's caliber would need to resort to such tactics, it has certainly aided a character that has only continued to grow stale over time.
Not stale as perceived by the masses, mind you—which is WWE's main concern to begin with, and rightfully so—but stale in the sense that his character has failed to evolve, and has since been relegated to the position of corporate attraction.
'Taker is established to the point that seeing his presence is enough to quench the thirst of hungry fans who hope to see even a slight glimpse of this living legend.
Keep in mind, of course, that I'm not proclaiming this reality is bad, but rather unique.
When it comes to Shawn Michaels, things are a bit different.
To an extent, of course, Michaels is also the beneficiary of his own earned star power to the point where his presence alone is enough to ignite a live audience. And while this might be true, there is also a greater expectation when it comes to his actual live performances.
Today, Shawn Michaels could never get away with having his presence alone become enough to satisfy the fans.
Undertaker could wrestle the likes of Mark Henry and still bring the crowd to its feet simply because he's the Undertaker.
The audience might hope for a thrilling match, but the reality is that if 'Taker were to deliver a few choke-slams and tombstones, and win the match, the fans wouldn't make a fuss of much.
Shawn Michaels could never pull a Bret Hart.
Shawn Michaels could never walk into Wrestlemania and deliver an average match to the satisfaction of 60,000 strong.
Shawn Michaels has to be "Mr. Wrestlemania," and anything short would eventually result in no less than a major disappointment.
The fans count on Shawn Michaels to deliver a five-star match.
The fans know that so long as his name is on the card, they will get to see at least one quality performance.
And now we have Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker, take two.
"The streak vs. the career."
As if the two are even remotely equivalent.
On one hand, you have the career of the greatest performer in wrestling history; and on the other, you have an impressive marketing ploy.
I realize the streak is a bit more than that, but I'm personally much more impressed with the fact that Undertaker has competed in 17 Wrestlemanias than the fact that he has "won" all of his matches during that span.
Wrestling is pre-scripted: This 17-0 record is only as impressive as the WWE dictates it to be.
You could go through the laundry list of the guys Undertaker has defeated at Wrestlemania (and it would be an elite list) but the reality is more that his victories were a result of creative and marketing direction than it is that Undertaker is so "tough to defeat on the grandest stage."
For starters, he's only "undefeated" by default, seeing that the Giant Gonzalez lost by disqualification during his match with 'Taker at Wrestlemania IX. Of course, this does technically fit in line with the "undefeated" concept. However, it does shed some greater light on the WWE's original intent.
I do not feel that the company went into Wrestlemania VII ('Taker's first) with the intent of building an undefeated streak.
I think that it's harder to have a big "monster" lose to begin with; add the fact that he's popular (as either a face or a heel) and it makes it even more difficult.
When you also begin something that can later be used as a marketing tool, the most intelligent decision to make would be to continue to utilize that technique until the appropriate time comes in which you can gain something greater by putting an end to it.
The WWE was desperate to create another five-star quality bout that would entice viewers, and they'll get it out of Michaels and Undertaker.
But they also realize that they can only live off of this "streak" gimmick for so long.
Since they didn't start to heavily promote the streak until Wrestlemania XXI, they've since been able to live off of it for as long as they could.
The reason that Shawn Michaels will win on Sunday is rather obvious. His career is more valuable than the Undertaker's gimmick.
The streak is only relevant so long as someone has the opportunity to end it.
When they paired Undertaker up with Shawn Michaels last year, they dug themselves into a hole from which they now cannot climb out.
Their match last year was so good; they now simply cannot end the streak during a match that fails to perform at half the level of Wrestlemania XXV's bout.
The only person who has even the potential to bring a Wrestlemania match to that level is Shawn Michaels.
They're incorporating the "no-holds-barred" concept, which, if nothing else, should provide a different flavor that might help compensate for things in the event that this year's match fails to reach the same heights as last year's.
So what I see forthcoming is one of two different scenarios.
The most likely is that Shawn Michaels will rightfully put an end to Undertaker's undefeated streak.
The second (and less likely of the two), is to see a draw of some kind, which would be very hard to execute.
You cannot have a double count-out, as the match can only end by pin-fall or submission.
The only other option would be to create something reminiscent of Undertaker and Kurt Angle's questionable Undisputed title finish in 2002, where one performer is tapping while the other is being pinned.
You could have them both submit at the same time, but I have a feeling that a finish in that fashion would make both competitors come across as weaker than the WWE would like to have them portrayed.
So the only logical conclusion would be to have the better man win, and to see Shawn Michaels' standing triumphantly.
It would be a true shame to see his career come to an end too early. While he could have easily retired a Hall-of-Famer over a decade ago, I'll keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that the WWE doesn't put to sleep the career of the greatest performer in wrestling history.
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