Hot Take: The Undertaker Is Starting to Lose His Aura and WWE Has No Clue

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2019


Having The Undertaker show up and insert himself into pretty much anything used to be a big deal.

Now? Not so much.

The marriage of WWE's slight struggles and Undertaker's latest poor showing against Goldberg has created a whirlwind where almost anything feels like a desperate reach by the company to get fans engaged and watching programs.

The most recent attempt at this was more confusing and random than ever before. Fresh off winning over Goldberg in a botch-filled match at Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia, Undertaker made a weird appearance on Monday's edition of Raw:

Normally when the lights go out and the gong hits, anticipation fills the air and, in this day and age, social media goes wild and televisions get turned on to Raw as fast as possible. But this one didn't have the same feel. Undertaker appeared in the middle of the ring to save Roman Reigns from a coast-to-coast by Shane McMahon, and that was that.

Naturally, WWE turned right around and confirmed the obvious: Taker and Reigns will team against Shane and Drew McIntyre at Extreme Rules.

Because in 2019, that is apparently what WWE thinks fans want to see.

And in an alternate timeline, maybe it is. But the path to this latest Undertaker surprise simply hasn't been pretty. The botches against Goldberg—no matter which Superstar fans want to blame—were a bad look for a legend who has pulled off several apparent retirement moments before coming back again and again.

Take another look at the video above—Undertaker's chokeslam itself was more of a half-chokeslam the broadcast couldn't even hide. He put Shane up about halfway, then let go on the way down.

And look, mistakes happen. Botches happen. That's arguably part of what makes the action in the ring feel so real. It isn't fun to sit around all day and cherry-pick these things. But with Undertaker, the context matters. He's become polarizing among fans because of the faux retirements and clear deterioration in the ring. The 30-second surprise with Shane and the move itself is cause for concern.

Shane is a problem here too. Ratings are down, supposed fixes like the wild-card rule aren't being presented well and talents aren't always being used to their potential. And Shane McMahon is running around on both programs as one of the centerpiece acts in the company while getting wins over Superstars like Roman Reigns.

While there is some history to the Undertaker-Shane beef, the latter's presentation as a heel over the past year or so simply hasn't been engaging, and the non-casual portion of the fanbase understandably points to underused talents and asks why Shane is getting so much television time.

Think, for a moment, if WWE had swapped out this Undertaker surprise for the highly anticipated return of Bray Wyatt as The Fiend. It doesn't make any sense at first, but Wyatt's character and presumed multiple alter egos based on his direction could make it work. Fans could trust there was a long-term plan in place instead of taking in what feels like a desperation move to generate interest in the next pay-per-view.

It's unfortunate WWE put itself in this position. There might be an intricate long-term plan here with Undertaker, but WWE hasn't done enough lately to earn that trust with its viewers. There have been too many missed chances, misused NXT call-ups, silly bait-and-switch tactics and the perception some Superstars—if they haven't already—would like to wiggle free of the company's grasp.

Hopefully, there is a cemented plan in place here with Taker. But at the same time, how many times are we going to give Undertaker and the WWE the benefit of the doubt about this run right here being his farewell tour?

If this is the farewell tour, what are the options? He already went down again Reigns in a supposed goodbye match. One can't reasonably expect him and Shane to put on a good match and one of them retire the other. McIntyre has been relegated to nothing but a mere crony who takes loss after loss, with the latest a loss to Reigns—who lost to Shane.

The whole thing is a mess the Undertaker's aura can't save. Perhaps the best-case scenario is he turns around and puts over Wyatt or perhaps Finn Balor's Demon on his way out. Maybe even Aleister Black. Something with a bit of a supernatural slant seems fitting given Taker's history and spot on the roster, which WWE doesn't have enough of.

But even then, those Supernatural types, if they are the ones to retire Undertaker, have the tall task of performing well in the same situation he can't even come back and save at this point.

WWE often takes criticism for relying on older stars to prop up programs because it reels in more casual viewers. That stunt, whether certain portions of the fanbase like it or not, works brilliantly with someone like Brock Lesnar because of the way he can still go in the ring.

WWE might soon come to the realization it isn't working with Taker anymore. The return video has plenty of hits (10 million and counting), but the return is the return, and it isn't going to generate likewise viewership for a pay-per-view. These moments aren't bringing viewers to anywhere but social media these days, making WWE's task all the more difficult.

Undertaker in the ring has to be viewed with hands over the eyes, peeking through the fingers. It can be short and sweet and work, but a random tag match feels like a desperation grab at fans given the situation. Hopefully, it is phase one of a bigger plan. Regardless of what it is, though, that aura isn't coming back.