Many of us, here at Bleacher Report, have tried to figure out the mystery of the 2/21/11 promos seen on Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown. At first, we all freaked out that it could be "The Icon," the man they call Sting.
After this past Monday's updated promo, ending with the same Johnny Cash tune that promoted a confrontation between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania, some of the Sting buzz has died a little. Some hopefuls are staying hopeful, some fatalists are laying their dreams to rest, but of course, there are those optimists, like yours truly, who attempt to see the good in most things they encounter.
While I would proverbially "mark out" at the sight of Sting on Raw, probably fly off my couch, grab and wildly shake my fiancee, then grab and wildly shake my 40" flat screen, screaming "STING! AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!! STING IS ON RAAAAAAAAAAW," holding my breath is only going to bring on suffocation.
Let's lay down some brass tack caltrops here: the top two suspects as the surprise to be revealed behind the 2/21/11 promos are Sting and the Undertaker.
We know two things: 1) Undertaker is, at this point, practically guaranteed to be back by Wrestlemania. He's reported to be doing everything possible to be part of the event, and these promos make it look very likely that he will make good on that effort. 2) While news has broken that Sting has been removed from TNA's roster page, solid and reputable reports to suggest any definite and public relationship between Steve Borden and WWE should be considered muddy and unreliable at best.
So, I've decided to present Bleacher Report with a set of possibilities for The Undertaker to come back to. If we can't count on Sting making our dreams come true, we should make do with what we have, right?
Regardless of just how epic the macabre staredown between Sting and Undertaker would be, the second most obvious answer is that Undertaker's return marks the moment he finds and exacts revenge on Wade Barrett for aiding his little brother in burying him at last year's Bragging Rights PPV.
While reports have just surfaced to suggest that plans for Barrett/Taker at Wrestlemania are now off, if this is how Undertaker makes his return, that gives WWE almost a month and a half to build something FROM him exacting revenge on the 21st.
Before you say it, allow me to take the words right out of your mouth. "But February 21 is a Raw event and Undertaker's on Smackdown."
Let's forget show allegiences for now. For one thing, February 21 is the night after Elimination Chamber, which is an interpromotional PPV. Things could very well change drastically before, during, or after one or both Elimination Chamber matches. Trades have been made off television. People jump from show to show. Happens all the time.
Besides, Undertaker is a massive star, who's caused problems for both Raw and Smackdown superstars. Undertaker could very well make an appearance on Raw on the 21st, and appear on every single episode of every show until and beyond Wrestlemania if he wanted to.
Thus, one possible avenue is to have The Corre invade Raw under the pretenses that they intend to battle Nexus, however in reality, it would allow Undertaker's "unexpected" return to give him the jump on Barrett, after which they can work towards a different Wrestlemania outcome.
Personally, I want to vote against this avenue, as I firmly believe that in order to truly differentiate The Corre from Barrett, Gabriel and Slater's former haven in Nexus, Corre needs to turn face. Right now, the groups are only slightly different. Corre seems to follow the rules a little more effectively and apply their beatdowns at more appropriate times, rather than being impatient and letting their beatdowns ruin matches into becoming disqualifications.
However, they're still pretty much gang beatdowns, and until Corre starts gang beating heels, they're going to be seen as heels themselves, and likely as Nexus rip-offs as well. I'm not necessarily voting against a Barrett/Taker match to happen at some point, though it would be nice for Barrett to win a credible match against an opponent on his level, as opposed to getting squashed by a legend, especially after getting beaten so often by John Cena and the former Legend Killer.
Then again, this is just one way to go...
Simply because it was Wade Barrett that led Nexus to helping Kane bury Undertaker, that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else around Barrett were innocent bystanders. Granted, the only members of "old" Nexus that are left are David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty, but Undertaker could still be looking to the black and yellow for retribution.
Looking at things from a deeply creative perspective here, one that involves Undertaker being conscious and able to analyze things from a more pious standpoint while six feet under (kayfabe), is it possible that the Deadman is willing to put Barrett's indiscretions aside because he's had a change of heart, and is using his mystical powers to determine that Nexus is a growing plague in WWE?
After all, Barrett seems to be sticking true to his word about The Corre lacking a defined "leader," which doesn't necessarily make them "good-hearted" but it's a start. While Barrett is involved in the Smackdown Chamber match, Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater have poised themselves for a shot at the Tag Team Championship (and they better freaking win, because I'm tired of seeing the Cobra make people look terrible every week). Thus, The Corre's intentions aren't rooted solely in making Barrett the top dog in WWE, it's about supporting the group.
Anyone for Zeke vs. Kingston for the Intercontinental Championship? Okay, end of digression...
Point is, it wouldn't be the first time in a tale that a godly being like the Undertaker took pity on a puny mortal who is genuinely trying to change, and instead, focused their power and rage on those who truly deserve divine judgment. The greedy, war-mongering, egotistical, and evil...
Don't get me wrong, I love Nexus with Punk at the helm, but they are kind of evil.
Now we start getting into the less obvious, or more distant, choices.
Many of us were happy that Kane finally managed to land a top tier title, and not only hold it for quite some time, but at the expense of his older brother, with largely credible and clean victories.
However, The Undertaker has a long memory, just like Kane does.
Like I said, with Elimination Chamber being interpromotional, the Raw directly following the PPV building buzz each and every day with the not-so-mysterious promos we're seeing, and that night also being the real first step on the Road to Wrestlemania, in my opinion, it's not out of the question for members of the Smackdown locker room to be present during a Live Raw.
Thus, Undertaker could just as easily go after his brother, building another major encounter in early April. As for Wrestlemania matches, I'm willing to go with this one the most, however I do acknowledge that both Kane and Undertaker are fairly old, the quality of the match may end up being slow and hokey and although the drama and emotion behind the match would be huge, the pure wrestling and competition probably wouldn't match it.
Incidentally, if Creative ever votes to end Undertaker's streak, I'm going with Kane all the way to end it, however I'm with many in hoping he goes 20-0 before retiring from competition. If anyone deserves an accolade like that, for entertaining us for so many years, it's Mark Calaway.
Many long time fans know various chunks of the "family past" that Undertaker, Kane and Paul Bearer all share on-screen. A fire at the family funeral home, Kane suffering massive burns to his face to hidesously deform him into looking like Glen Jacobs, Paul having some sort of extramarital affair to extend the freaky family, so on and so forth.
Many of those same long time fans also remember what past Undertaker promos have looked like to hype his previous returns and they really haven't gone this way. This one's extraordinarily vague nature, only showing the bottom half of what we're assuming is a man (it's not Awesome Kong, just stop that), walking through the rain in a trenchcoat and boots into a decrepit house suggests far more to this story than we're examining.
Of course, many of these vagaries have led people to believe the mystery person in the promos is Sting, the symbolism being that a humbled man of enough prominence to own a coat long enough to reach his feet is trying to find any place of shelter, and WWE might be that very place.
However, let's set that aside for now as well.
Perhaps what we're seeing is a reintroduction of The Undertaker. After all, Undertaker has gone through quite a few manifestations along the years, like the traditional Deadman, the Minister of Darkness cult-leader, and of course, Bikertaker, or how I read him referred to just today...ABA Undertaker, or American Badass Undertaker. First time hearing that one.
Some have speculated that the Undertaker is going to return to said biker gimmick on February 21. To that I ask the following question: could you imagine Sons of Anarchy airing on ABC Family instead of FX? It'd be a trainwreck of useless, unbelievable crud. Bikertaker worked in the Attitude Era because he embodied attitude. I'll explain how it might work in a second, though even my scenario is kind of unbelievable...
The reignited rivalry between Undertaker and Kane last year really brought up a lot of old bones, forcing many long time fans to reminisce about what they remember about both Kane and Undertaker. So, if there's so much to remember, how does WWE keep Undertaker fresh enough for even long time fans to enjoy?
After all, the guy's done just about everything to do in wrestling except get married. Wait, no...he tried to marry Stephanie McMahon once. Okay, so he's done pretty much everything.
But maybe a reinvention is still in order. One last transformation before he bids the ring goodbye? Brief nerd moment, think back to what happened to Gandalf the Grey, after falling from the stone bridge during the battle with the Balrog. He returned as Gandalf the White! Same bearded wizard, new minty freshness!
Maybe picturing Undertaker entering the arena draped in white robes is pretty out there, though to be honest, Undertaker and Sting are in really similar positions in that neither one really needs to do all that much pure wrestling to give fans an amazing show full of effects, theatrics, lights, sounds, smoke, fire, etc.
What's the worst that could happen? Undertaker comes to the ring with long white hair, people underestimate him and they get Tombstoned for their trouble? I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see Undertaker with long white hair than Kevin Nash. Whatever's in Kevin's future with WWE, he needs to keep dying his hair as long as he's getting in that ring to wrestle. Big Kev is awesome, but he doesn't have the power of the darkside behind him...
And speaking of the darkside...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the Undertaker started out as a heel. Did he not?
Relating to my previous slide about reinvention, maybe the promos we're seeing (if they do involve Undertaker) are suggesting a story to us that not only returns to the roots of his dark past, but also has him taking one last major heel turn before retirement.
After all, look at Chris Jericho. Despite many of us Jerichoholics that hope for his return to WWE, he's said in interviews that he never intended to resign a contract and is ready to move on and do other things. Thus, I'm willing to let him go so he's free to pursue whatever he dreams of. As far as I know, the door's always open if he wants to come back, but as I said in slide 1, holding my breath isn't an option.
Point is, the last year we saw Jericho in WWE may in fact be his last, and he spent a good portion of that time as a heel, yelling at fans and calling them all hypocrites. If I were him, I'd like to come back and give people some good memories to end on, but he can do what he wants. Admittedly, though, Undertaker is a bigger legend than Chris Jericho, and if it's not this year, Undertaker will end up in the Hall of Fame eventually.
So, why not give fans something even more interesting to end his in-ring career on? He's not going anywhere, like ROH and TNA, anytime soon, and when he does retire from competition, he might even be given some kind of backstage position like many classic wrestlers have received before him.
While he's still somewhat able to compete and win matches and put on a show, maybe one last heel turn could spice things up. WWE could use some serious kicks in the drawers, and a decidedly evil Lord of Darkness could bring about some major changes.
To quote Monty Python...and now for something completely different!
This angle has to end, however it can. It isn't going to end this way, though follow my logic here...
I've always found it to be incredibly strange for a guy with powers like his to be a professional wrestler. Only explanation I've managed to come up with is relating him to Raiden from Mortal Kombat, as both are humble gods who take human form in order to compete in a tournament to save Earth. Although, I've never found Undertaker to be too sympathetic of the sufferings of the living.
He was a pretty intimidating leader of the Ministry of Darkness, that much I remember. More than likely, though, the GM will be revealed as someone charismatic. A good talker with a strong personality (unless it's Hornswoggle, can't remember who wrote that article but that angle could be great for some laughs). Not that Undertaker isn't a good mic worker. He just doesn't seem like someone to hide behind a computer.
Now, Big Evil might. I mean, be a good enough talker, not hide behind a computer.
I mentioned Sons of Anarchy earlier, and they have a member on the show named Juice who does all their internet and computer work. Bikers of today use computers for all sorts of research and marketing. If Undertaker is the GM, this is likely the best way it could work, unless the Deadman becomes more of a talker, which I don't see happening.
If he doesn't do his trademark slow-walk to the ring, lights on, hat removal, whites of his eyes, etc., a fair portion of his magical presence will disappear, and anything he says regarding match creation will fall a bit flat. That's another problem. The GM has to seem like a businessperson, someone who revels in being savvy and clever enough to waddle through the business end of putting a show together.
Undertaker's the Lord of Freaking Darkness! Hell is his yard! He's busy filing souls under "D" for "Damned," and harvesting lives to feed the flames. Granted, Vince does that, but he's evil in a kind of "real" way. It wouldn't be terribly believable to have a guy like Undertaker be a businessman. At least, not that I can foresee currently...
Sting and Undertaker are the prime suspects, true, but that really only works if the promos are referring to a particular person being the mystery.
What if the jacketed man, walking through the rain to the beat up house, is ALL a symbol? A symbol that represents an event, or even perhaps implying an event to take place at Wrestlemania, that will begin playing out on February 21?
Between now and Wrestlemania, there are any number of questions swirling. What other matches will be added to the card, who won't make the cut, and what old and new storylines will be brewing after Elimination Chamber passes us by? We can come up with our best guesses, but like many topics of speculation found on this site and others like it, what does getting an answer really net us?
If we found out it was Sting or Undertaker for sure, would it make any difference? It would only mean that February 21 is going to be LESS exciting than if we just thought about it on our own. If we knew exactly what the intent of these promos are, would it make our watching Monday Night Raw in two weeks a deeper experience?
The answer to these two questions is obvious...no.
All writers here, including me, can play detective, dig deep through the recesses of the internet and act like we have all the answers, all the info, and the juiciest backstage gossip, but in the end, one fact reigns supreme...
We watch professional wrestling for entertainment purposes, and if all this nonsense is causing us to be entertained less, what in the world is the point?
Me? I'm hoping it's Sting, but if it's not? Go back to Slide 2 to see what I hope happens if it ends up being who we all think it's going to be instead...