The Undertaker holds a very special position in my life as a pro wrestling fan: he’s literally the very first WWE Superstar I’ve ever laid eyes on. When I was a child, there was no boogeyman; HE is who I would see when I had nightmares. HE was the creature hiding under my bed and in every dark corner. As terrified as I was of The Lord of Darkness, the mystique of his persona is one of the reasons I kept coming back to RAW, and it helped as I eventually turned the tide in favor of WWE during the Monday Night Wars.
As I grew older, I was able to bear witness to history in the making. Just as I bought into what I hail as, undeniably, the greatest gimmick of all time, I also bought into Undertaker’s spotless record at WrestleMania, known as The Streak. The history of Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak is rife with great matches and storytelling (barring a few exceptions) worthy of the emotional investment of fans.
Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell match with Triple H at WrestleMania 28 sits at the very top of my list of favorite matches of all time, with the following clip serving as the single greatest moment in professional wrestling history.
It’s because of my respect for The Streak that all of that was made possible, and it’s also because of my respect for The Streak that I express disdain in the way it ended.
When Brock vs Taker was announced for WrestleMania 30, I had this sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that Brock Lesnar just might have the chance to defeat The Undertaker. After all, he was the legitimately one of, if not the absolute biggest threat Taker has ever faced. But dare I mention it, because as the weeks rolled on and the build-up revealed every uninspiringly disastrous detail, I thought “There was no chance in hell WWE would have Taker lose with this terrible build, right? WWE’s creative team isn’t stupid enough to have the greatest title in pro wrestling end like this.” Well…
The magic in The Streak is creating just enough space for fans to place their suspension of disbelief. I go into every WrestleMania with the foregone conclusion that Taker will win, but if WWE does a great enough job with the action, and (importantly!) the build-up preceding it, then I’m foolish enough to believe that his opponent actually has a chance. That foolishness leads to entertainment and excitement as I lose my mind in nearfalls. The Streak is a textbook case of predictability not always being a bad thing, and unpredictability not always being great.
Brock Lesnar defeating Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 was arguably the most shocking moment in WWE history. Even within the first 24 hours after Undertaker’s first WrestleMania loss, there were already many lofty historical implications being placed on the moment, prompting wrestling fans to “remember where you were/ what you were doing when The Streak ended.” Do you want to know what I was doing during the match? As Brock Lesnar had Undertaker in the Kimura Lock, I was wondering why when his entire face turned red, his eyebrows stayed the same color.
Such a terrible job was done in creating anticipation for this match to make it feel like a big event, so I had no interest in seeing it. Because the suspension of disbelief was never a factor, I didn’t buy into the nearfalls (or any of the action at all). The match itself was sub-par and utterly failed to live up to the grand importance of what eventually happened with Brock Lesnar putting to an end one of the most storied entities in professional wrestling history… and I can’t shake the feeling that it was all done intentionally.
Expectations were lowered to make the ending of the match all the more shocking. Compelling storytelling on the road to WrestleMania was sacrificed for the sake of shock value, and I honestly felt cheated… robbed of what should’ve gone down in history as one of the greatest moments of all time.
All of the things that made Brock Lesnar the most legitimate threat to beat the streak also made him the worst person to actually do it. The finesse we’ve grown accustomed to with Taker’s WrestleMania matches was replaced with grating destruction. Gone was the opportunity to play off of the emotional spectacle of what could ultimately be Undertaker’s retirement match. Instead of sending Undertaker out on a high note, the match was akin to putting an old dog down and out of its misery.
I struggled to find the reason why Taker was denied the opportunity to go out, like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, in a blaze of glory. Why would WWE juke the opportunity to show respect and pay tribute to one of the greatest performers in the history of the business? But I was forced to ask myself “In Brock Lesnar’s mind… why the hell should he care about ANY of that?”
Brock Lesnar isn’t human; he’s the Beast Incarnate, a monster void of any care about Undertaker, you, me, or any of our feelings. The Streak was nothing more than another accomplishment for him with zero sentimental value. If The Streak HAD to end, we were all waiting on this perfectly crafted scenario sent from heaven tied up neatly with a bow, all the while Brock planned to mercilessly drag Taker through hell and conquer The Streak. And that’s exactly what he did.
Someone that once was my boogeyman became a Wrestling God. At WrestleMania 30, I was forcibly mired in the soul-crushing reality that he was just a mortal man. My hero had fallen. Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker wasn’t a wrestling match, it was a Greek tragedy.
What should’ve gone down in history as one of the greatest moments of all time… did.