After Years of Fans Cringing, Suddenly WWE Needs the Undertaker More Than Ever

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2020


The Undertaker hanging up the boots just when WWE needs him most would be a sour sendoff for one of the best to ever grace the wrestling business.

For years, Undertaker's matches were more a cause for concern than highly anticipated, to the point it seemed a vocal portion of the fanbase didn't have an issue with the idea of his calling it quits and retiring.

Then the past six months or so happened.

WWE, like all sports, got hit with unorthodox hurdles in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, eventually resorting to audience-less shows and taped matches—including WrestleMania 36.

At that event, something special happened.

Undertaker clashed with AJ Styles in a Boneyard match, a cinematic experience that went down as an instant classic. Its sheer brilliance made it something fans will recall more than almost any other moment from the show 10 years from now.

In the process, it also showed WWE created a winning formula with cinematic matches. It proved they could work brilliantly, no matter how silly or no matter the stakes. The high production values made it an eye-catching affair, the performers had more room to tell memorable stories and there was less risk than in a typical match.

It also proved 2020 Taker has something special to offer fans.

Undertaker has gradually gone back to his American Badass persona as opposed to the mystical Deadman. It's afforded him a great deal of wiggle room to engage more with fans on social media and elsewhere. Call it the perfect 2020 edition of the character, as he can roll up on a motorcycle for a match, spit trash talk on social media, do media appearances and still call down lightning or bury foes alive while teleporting all over the place.

It would be a shame to see this revitalized Undertaker suddenly fall off the map while WWE struggles and most Superstars on the roster toil to make an impact at audience-less shows. So much so, in fact, WWE has canned the long-term outlook approach to weekly shows in favor of going all-in on trying to gain ratings, according to Wrestling Observer Radio.

Undertaker is one of maybe five Superstars who can have one of these captivating taped matches and boost ratings at the same time. That's not to suggest he should be back on a weekly basis, but his up and disappearing with finality now would be a shame.

And look, were things proceeding as normal and these cinematic matches weren't a consideration, this would be a different conversation. Undertaker hasn't had a great match in a long time. Fans are undoubtedly still hyped to see him, but it's a sad state of affairs when his matches cause fans to have concern for his general well-being.

It's no fun to watch an Undertaker match with bated breath for fear of a Brock Lesnar or Goldberg injuring him. It's no fun to think of potential Taker dream matches and have the list of candidates trimmed to only three or four guys (like Styles) who could get a good contest out of him.

With these cinematic matches, there's (generally speaking) no worries about injuries. There are no roster limitations. Bring on Sting vs. Undertaker, as the big notable example. That legendary match isn't happening in typical format, but it could be an all-timer if given the cinematic treatment.

Maybe this is all moot. Undertaker retirement speculation has run rampant in the past, only for him to pop up again. It's hard to envision a time when he walks away when WWE needs him most just as an innovative new match type could see him putting on memorable bouts with unexpected opponents.

WWE needs Undertaker more than ever, and to its credit, the promotion has unearthed a way to prolong the career of arguably its greatest Superstar. The ball, as they say, is in The Deadman's court now.