WrestleMania 35 approaches, so the chatter about Undertaker not showing up will once again naturally blend into his appearing on Raw, identifying an opponent and getting a match at The Show of Shows.
Aleister Black should be the guy.
The Dutch Destroyer is one of WWE's next big stars. It's clear both in the way the promotion has handled him since his main roster debut and simply in the way his character and aura work on the show. Not only does WWE need this sort of spotlight to propel Black and solidify him as a main event staple, but Undertaker also needs this sort of opponent.
Because if we're being honest, random-seeming matches against Shane McMahon and John Cena aren't doing him any favors.
According to Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats), Vince McMahon is irritated Undertaker is billed to do Starrcast. The only way this gets all cleared up is a WrestleMania spot with an opponent who makes sense.
Perusing the roster, there isn't much for The Deadman. Impressive, given the sheer talent, but so it goes. Seth Rollins is tied up. So is Daniel Bryan. Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre should fight. AJ Styles and Randy Orton seem busy. A Battle Royal will happen. He already fought Cena. Dean Ambrose seems to have one foot out the door. Finn Balor has a title to defend. It goes on and on.
Then there is Black, who made his debut on the February 18 edition of Raw and promptly whipped Elias:
The next night, he took down Andrade in a rematch between old rivals from their NXT days:
This isn't a normal NXT call-up. He doesn't have the dead-on-arrival status of EC3. It also coincides with the same report from Ortman, saying McMahon made the call-ups because the main roster guys "aren't gonna be Superstars."
The WWE chairman only has himself to blame for that after years of feeding his brightest talents to one guy in the effort to convince fans Roman Reigns was the top guy.
But Black is the sort of presence and talent who can right the past missteps quickly.
These sort of characters aren't done well often anymore. Most of the big names are happy, smiling crowd-pump-uppers to the point even Balor doesn't walk out with The Demon anymore.
WWE has a Fox deal, and maybe the idea is to move more toward a sporty feel, which is fine. But there is still a place for a character with mystique. The last guy to have this, Bray Wyatt, got ruined with never-ending losses and failed moments, including a 'Mania match against Undertaker.
WWE can avoid such mistakes with Black against The Deadman, though. And what's interesting is little has to be said between the two while building a match. The mystique and presence of both says more than promos can. Fans don't need to be told it's a passing-of-the-torch bout and what's at stake. They could simply exchange glancing blows for weeks before meeting at the pay-per-view.
Make no mistake, this isn't saying Black is the next Undertaker. He doesn't even entertain the idea.
"I understand that people think that because there's a certain element of me," Black said on Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia (h/t Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet. "But there's only one Undertaker...and I could never, never fill that void."
No, Undertaker is merely a function of selling and protecting Black's character. It doesn't do the Dutchman any favors if his WrestleMania debut waters down his character for a casual audience and he becomes some silly rocker guy who gets mad at Elias because he happens to play a guitar too. Taking a much darker tone with a match against Undertaker makes sense.
Rest assured, it would be fun in the ring too. Undertaker is obviously one of the company's most dangerous strikers of all time. Black, who has an extensive martial arts background, has an entire move set and finisher based around the same thing. Undoubtedly a slugfest, he could carry the match until a winner emerges.
Realistically, Black doesn't even have to win—it just has to be memorable and sell the character without ruining it. At the same time, the style and pacing of the match itself would work wonders for Undertaker as opposed to throwing him into some random match with oddly matched characters and work styles. It's easy to believe The Phenom might have a problem with someone like Black.
Black probably isn't the next face of the WWE. But the company has been desperate for top stars for a long time, and he's got the unique slant and devastating in-ring work to slot in nicely as a fixture at the top who can work a face or heel approach and remain popular with crowds.
A mutually beneficial pairing but important in broad strokes for Black's career and WWE itself, shoehorning The Dutch Destroyer into a WrestleMania feud with Undertaker, even this late in the game, is too obvious for all involved to pass up.