IWC Analysis: The Undertaker's WrestleMania Streak
My new series, IWC Analysis, is a grouping of articles concerned with observing and discussing some of the most prolific ideologies and theories shared between the large membership of online wrestling fans. The first edition tackled the eternally hot subject of whether or not John Cena can wrestle.
Vilified for as long as can be remembered, certain sectors of the IWC despise Cena with an unrivaled passion, while others take a more pragmatic view of his 'flaws.' Whatever the case, Cena is a man that creates controversy and polarises opinion like few others.
This, the second edition, will ponder a similarly divisive topic.
The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak massively polarises opinion in the IWC. One unifying idea amongst online fans, though, is that it is one of the greatest aspects of WWE history and the greatest in the career of the Deadman. His victims on the grandest stage of them all can be read as a rival to the WWE Hall of Fame, with stars and legends like Batista, Edge, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton amongst those the Phenom has vanquished.
He is 19-0. In this edition of IWC Analysis, I will discuss whether it should become 20-0, or if Mark Calaway should relinquish the greatest record in the history of professional wrestling and allow his streak to end at 19.
Nobody has dominated at WrestleMania more than The Undertaker
WrestleMania VII contained 14 matches, including a great retirement match between Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage. Amongst these matches, one flew under the radar of wrestling fans. It would become the most important victory in the history of WrestleMania.
In a brief match lasting just 4:20, the Undertaker defeated "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. It would be his first victory on the grandest stage of them all.
Now, he has nineteen. After Snuka, Undertaker faced the likes of Jake Roberts, Diesel and Kane; funnily though, it wasn't until 2005, when Randy Orton addressed Taker's then 12-0 record, that WWE acknowledged the Streak as one of the biggest aspects of 'Mania.
Now it is the biggest part of the show. Forget Cena and the Rock. In the grand scheme of things, who Undertaker faces at WrestleMania 28—and whether or not he wins—is much more significant.
Like in WrestleMania X-8, when Hulk Hogan and the Rock stole the show, the match that was actually most important was Triple H versus Chris Jericho, when the Game established himself as the future of the company by winning the Undisputed Championship.
If Undertaker loses at WrestleMania, he will instantly propel someone into the spotlight, maybe even establishing them as the No. 1 competitor in the company.
But should he lose at WrestleMania? Some agree with the concept of Taker giving a younger superstar the ultimate push by putting them over at 'Mania, but others think the Undertaker should ride off into the sunset (or in his case, disappear into the darkness) undefeated.
That's the other thing that needs consideration. Is this Undertaker's last WrestleMania?
Most assume so. Contrary to kayfabe, the Undertaker is not a supernatural entity. He is not the undead. In reality, he is Mark Calaway, a man living on borrowed time in the wrestling industry because he has competed for so long that his body is breaking down.
Calaway is the ultimate company man, and it would be good of WWE to keep his 'Mania legacy intact. But would it be good for business? That is something Undertaker himself, who is well documented for doing what is good for business, is probably concerned about.
The streak is a dilemma WWE needs to solve. Some want 20-0, and some want 19-1. Which is the more viable option? Let's discuss.
Arguments for 20-0
If HE couldn't do it, who possibly could?
November 20 will mark the 21st anniversary of Undertaker's WWE debut. Before that, Mark Calaway drifted from promotion to promotion under gimmicks like Texas Red (WCCW), Mean Mark Callous (WCW) and Punisher Dice Morgan (NJPW). He started wrestling in 1984, which adds up to 27 years in the business.
With that in mind, the Undertaker is surely on his last legs for WWE. In a convenient twist, his next WrestleMania will be his 20th. No doubt, 20-0 has a nice ring to it. In fact, for several years people had speculated that this was the landmark WWE wanted Mark Calaway to reach before retirement.
Should he reach 20-0?
Some (probably the majority) say yes, and they do so with authority. Undertaker is a legend, they say. His streak is legendary, they say. He has beaten the best at WrestleMania, they say. And above all, he deserves it for his dedication, they say.
"They" present a compelling case.
It's true, Undertaker is one of the very best competitors in the history of professional wrestling, combining spectacle with genuine quality and becoming as symbolic of WWE, if not moreso, than the likes of Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. As a well-documented leader backstage who respects what needs to be done for business (he jobbed to Maven!), Undertaker has earned the respect of colleagues and fans worldwide to an almost unmatched extent.
His streak is too prestigious to be broken, in the eyes of the 20-0 supporters. This, too, is a compelling argument. At WrestleMania 24, Undertaker defeated the most decorated champion in WWE history, Edge; at 21 and 23 he defeated two of the new generation's stars, Randy Orton and Batista; most recently, he defeated the King of Kings, Triple H. He has defeated his brother Kane twice.
Most memorably, though, he defeated Mr. WrestleMania Shawn Michaels in two consecutive WrestleMania events. The first, at the 25th anniversary of the event, is considered in some quarters to be the greatest match in WrestleMania history. The second, at 26, had the added dimension of sheer emotion, with the Deadman retiring Michaels in another classic.
If Shawn Michaels couldn't defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania, who in the now decidedly less star-studded WWE could?
Arguments for 19-1
Ending the streak would give someone the push of their career
To the supporters of 19-1, though, that is the point.
WWE is not star studded. Their young talent is unequivocally floundering, with the current creative staff being notorious in their inability to push upcoming wrestlers. Instead, main-event stars like John Cena and Randy Orton monopolise the spotlight while talent like Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett struggle desperately for a chance to get over.
Nothing would get a young star more over than ending the streak.
While the 20-0 crowd would argue no one is established enough to end it, the 19-1 crowd would counter that the point of ending the streak would be to establish someone. Imagine if Bryan, Barrett or someone else like Jack Swagger or Drew McIntyre were to do what HHH, HBK and Edge could not. Imagine the pandemonium, the respect, the hatred that they would garner by ending the most revered, beloved record in sports entertainment.
Whoever did it, if booked properly, would be a star for life.
I could try and develop this argument more, but really it stands alone as this: the Undertaker should lose and make a new star in his last ever match. As usual, Chris Jericho puts it better than any of us lowly writers could:
Saying I’m so-and-so and I beat the Undertaker to finish his Streak at WrestleMania, that’s probably the biggest bit of bravado that you can ever have as a performer in the WWE, and everybody’s vying for it.
Another compelling argument, isn't it?
The Opinion of Others
Paul Bearer, a frequent ally of the Undertaker, believes the Streak should never end
Even the stars of professional wrestling are divided on what direction WWE should take with the streak from here on out. Paul Bearer is highly opposed to the idea of it ending:
NO! Absolutely not! Why should it be? It would never happen again. There’s no reason to break it. He’s certainly earned that spot – in his biography – as the Phenom.
Vince McMahon is supposedly willing to consider ending it, though, and has the same idea as the 19-1 crowd who would prefer to see a young star be elevated by defeating Undertaker:
The creative team discussed the subject of Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak last week during a booking meeting. They believe it should only be ended by a superstar on the rise, not an established star. The general feeling is that it will never end but Vince McMahon isn't completely opposed to it. If it's ever going to end, he doesn't want to waste it on a "maybe" star, only someone that everyone can agree on being a top star in the company for a number of years.
That last statement, about a "maybe" star, is very practical, especially when you consider the likes of Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley, who were primed to front the WWE for a long time but left for other pastures.
Establishing a wrestler's dedication to the business should be a prerequisite of considering them as a challenger to the Undertaker's streak, particularly because it would be an affront to the Undertaker, a 21-year company man, to see a wrestler end his greatest feat and then leave months later as an unfulfilled talent.
His next match could again be against Triple H, though, with the King of Kings sending him and the WWE universe this message on Monday Night Raw:
We both left absolutely everything we had in that ring. And when you’re back, I’ll be waiting.
HHH ending the streak would be an unmitigated disaster; it would do nothing for the reputation of either man involved.
What of the main man, though? What does Mark Calaway think about all this dispute? Well, according to reports, he is all for ending the streak, as he is worried that is is beginning to transcend the sport itself, and is all for pushing a young star in the process of ending it.
19-1 is the way to go for WWE
To summarise, I think the streak should end. If anyone believes it would detract from Undertaker's overall legacy, I would encourage them to think about the larger scheme of things.
If anything, it would enhance his legacy. Maybe not as an in-ring performer, but definitely as one of the most giving men in the history of the business. He is a man willing to tarnish, if only slightly, the greatest part of his career so that the industry he has strove for for 27 years will have a new star on its hands.
This, as mentioned earlier, is the second in a series called IWC Analysis, of which I'm not sure how many issues there will be as of yet. I am now on Twitter, so if someone would be nice enough to follow me, I'm available to converse about this article and any other articles I've written that people agree or have issue with.
Contact me @Paul_Mc7