Dropping a scorching hot take, but WrestleMania 33’s go-home match, proved that Undertaker should have retired 3 years ago when Brock Lesnar beat him. I initially said this drunkenly Sunday night, but have taken time since then to contemplate and reflect on my hypothesis. While my life decisions remain suspect, my postulation on Taker has made me question my initial thoughts.
This is not a young man. WM33 was Taker’s 25th WrestleMania. Since the streak was broken at WM30, he has faced Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon. Since WM30 he has had 10 matches. That is 10 matches in 3 year, which includes a Royal Rumble appearance and some live events back in 2015. While the dead man can still hold his own, and apparently go longer during a match than lets say someone like Goldberg, its clear that after the Lesnar match he lost a little bit of the magic.
I contemplated why the breaking of “The Streak” and his retirement were not simultaneous. It seemed the most logical at the time, that once “The Streak” ended, so would Undertaker’s time in the ring. But that obviously was not the case. Was it Vince being greedy and not wanting to let WWE’s greatest asset retire? Was it Taker not wanting to face the harsh reality of time? Or was it something else?
If you recall back in 2010, Undertaker and Lesnar came face-to-face after UFC 121. Dave Meltzer reported later that this confrontation was kayfabe, to set-up their WM30 showdown. It has also been reported that Undertaker wanted Brock to break “The Streak”. Fast forward three years to last Sunday night, and Roman Reigns pins Taker clean in the middle of the ring. Why?
I can’t help to think that Vince and Taker struck a bargain three years ago. Together they planned their exit strategy: Taker would agree to job to Reigns in his retirement match if Lesnar was allowed to break “The Streak”. The reason behind the separation of events are two-fold. One was the fact that Vince wanted Reigns to go over/didn’t want Lesnar to have both “The Streak” and retirement accolades to his name. The second, and more important reason was that Vince (and possibly Taker) felt that the Undertaker’s career should not be defined by his WrestleMania record.
Undertaker debuted at Survivor Series 1990. That’s 27 years in the business. He was a 7-time WWE world champion, 6-time WWE tag team champion, Royal Rumble winner, 12-time Slammy Award winner and while he should not be defined by his WrestleMania record, he is arguably the greatest WrestlMania performer of all time (sorry Shawn). Taker has had more WrestleMania matches than anyone in WWE history, with 24 and possesses the most WrestleMania wins of all-time with 22. Besides the in-ring accolades, he was the de-facto leader of the locker room. The backstage stories are too numerous to detail here, but the fact remains that Undertaker is a true legend.
So the imaginary bargain that Vince and Taker struck is the most logical explanation I could come up with. Its also the most likely and most respectable. The mutual respect and care these men had for each other dictated their relationship. The retirement was unexpected, it was poignant, and it is exactly what the framers intended.