Undertaker will not set foot on the Road to WrestleMania; only his shadow will.
WWE has held out on bringing The Deadman back to TV after he suffered his first-ever defeat at the marquee pay-per-view. That doesn't not appear to be changing.
PWInsider's Mike Johnson reports, "The current plan is for Undertaker not to make a live appearance until Wrestlemania 31."
That puts WWE's writing team in a bind, asking them to construct a feud with but one rival. Keeping Undertaker away makes sense, though, as it elevates anticipation for seeing him finally step through the ropes again.
On Monday's Raw, this "save Undertaker for WrestleMania" plan stayed in place. Undertaker accepted Bray Wyatt's challenge, but not in person. His voice emanated from the loudspeakers as he commanded lightning to set Wyatt's rocking chair on fire.
Continuing down this path may be more challenging, but it can certainly be more exciting once the narrative climaxes.
Novelty by Way of Scarcity
When Undertaker finally does show up, it's going to feel mighty special.
He hasn't appeared in a WWE ring since last WrestleMania. Fans have heard his music play, seen his druids light the way with torches and The Deadman apparently summon lightning in Pittsburgh. However, he has yet to show up in the flesh.
Each time Brock Lesnar steps in front of the camera, it feels more significant than when the rest of the roster does so. That will be multiplied with Undertaker.
Saving Undertaker for the biggest stage gives fans one more reason to tune in to the event. It not only promises The Phenom's first in-ring action in a calender year but also his first on-screen appearance in that period.
Playing Up the Resurrection Theme
The story of the feud between him and Wyatt is no ordinary meeting of two angry wrestlers; it's a clash of WWE's supernatural forces. Both men have inspired the WWE writing team to veer outside the box, to bring in holograms and lightning from on high.
In this way, it makes perfect sense to save Undertaker until March 29.
Wyatt has implied that the future Hall of Famer hasn't been around because he is no longer among the living. Only when The Eater of Worlds opened his urn and smoke came billowing out did Undertaker make his presence felt.
Keeping Undertaker off TV can further build on the idea that he currently exists in another plane, that he won't come back to life until he comes back to WrestleMania.
There Wyatt can either send him back to the land of darkness or pay the price for provoking a ghost.
Less Star Power En Route to WrestleMania
WrestleMania season hasn't felt as special as it should. This is when the biggest stars usually emerge and stand under the spotlight. That hasn't been the case this year.
WWE's part-timers have been especially part-time. Sting has rarely showed his face, Lesnar is still popping in here and there, and Undertaker has yet to return to WWE programming.
Keeping The Deadman away benefits WrestleMania, but it hurts Raw. Undertaker won't be staring Wyatt down. He won't be surprising an arena full of fans. He'll only exist in the abstract for now.
That's one less attraction to boast on the shows leading up to The Grandest Stage of Them All.
The Limitations of a One-Man Feud
Wyatt is having to carry the full load of this rivalry. He has ridiculed, insulted and challenged Undertaker. The Deadman's only response has been via sound bite.
WWE Creative has a limited set of options in the last few weeks of the build for this match.
There can be no contract signing, no physical confrontation, no intense glaring at each other, no chokeslams and no tension derived from threats. Fans can only expect more speeches from Wyatt. And as talented as The Man of 1,000 Truths is at poetic promos, they are already starting to feel repetitive.
Wyatt can only claim to be the new Face of Fear a certain amount of times before the audience begins to tune out.
It's not anything Wyatt isn't doing that is causing that; it's the fact that he is not doing anything but talking. Maybe there will be a few more man-made lightning storms, but it will all be smoke and mirrors designed to disguise the fact that Undertaker isn't around.
WWE is asking Wyatt to take part in a play composed of solely monologues.
That's a tough assignment, even for a master on the mic like himself. He will have to be tremendous, and the WWE will have to be especially creative to maximize a build without the Undertaker.