Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How the Undertaker's Streak "Jumped the Shark"

by Brian Phelps

It's Wrestlemania season again, and with it the return of the Undertaker's streak. Now, I have absolutely no issue with the Undertaker. What I do have a problem with is the fact that "The Streak" has now overshadowed Wrestlemania itself. 

Wrestlemania was NEVER supposed to be about an undefeated streak. Wrestlemania was supposed to be where legends were born. Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to win his first WWF Title. The modern John Cena character was born when he defeated JBL for the WWE Championship a decade ago. Batista was born at that same event by overcoming Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. If you go way back the Ultimate Warrior became immortalized with "The Ultimate Challenge" where he defeated Hulk Hogan in a Champion vs Champion match. Again, Wrestlemania was supposed to be where legends are born. Now it's become the place where legends are MAINTAINED. "The Showcase of the Immortals" has now become "The Showcase of the Has Beens".  

Now, we all know the "Streak" is nothing but a blown out of proportion, overhyped gimmick match with the same result every year. You can take issue with that statement all you want, but it's the truth. The big problem now is the gimmick of the streak match actually overshadows the rest of the card. People used to buy Wrestlemania for the Heavyweight Title match. They bought it to see Ultimate Warrior vs Hogan, Steve Austin vs Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage. Now, the WWE has made the "Streak" the selling point of Wrestlemania. 

Fact is, Shawn Michaels should've ended the streak a few years ago because the quality of the streak match has steadily gone down a few notches since then. The matches haven't been bad, but they haven't lived up to the Shawn Michaels matches. On top of that, with each passing year the Undertaker becomes older and more frail. Last time we saw Undertaker, his hairline had receded so much that he shaved his head and had a small stomach pooch and was getting destroyed by the Shield on RAW. 

The Undertaker is starting to resemble the wrestling equivalent of Michael Jordan on the Washington Wizards - an all-time great that stuck around too long. I don't want to remember the Undertaker this way. The Streak to me "jumped the shark" when they kept it going after the Shawn Michaels matches.

This year there's been talk of a rehashed feud (another issue with Wrestlemania) between Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker. I've been amazed by the fact that a lot of the criticism has been that people are afraid that Brock Lesnar works too rough and could hurt the Undertaker. The other criticism is that at almost 50 years old that it's just laughably unbelievable that the Undertaker could beat a Brock Lesnar fresh off a UFC run where he captured the UFC Heavyweight Title. I never thought I'd see the day when the Undertaker would be called too frail to fight another wrestler. 

Some people might argue that the "Streak" match helps elevate other younger wrestlers to new heights, but they'd be wrong. Why? Because over the course of the last 5 Wrestlemanias, The Undertaker has not faced young up-n-comers. The Undertaker has fought Shawn Michaels twice, Triple H twice, and CM Punk. All 3 of those wrestlers were already "over" long before their respective "streak" matches. CM Punk had already been over for 2 years, Shawn and Triple H had been over for nearly 20 years. The Undertaker hasn't elevated anyone over since what... Edge at Wrestlemania 24? That's 6 years ago. What have you done for me lately? If you really examine the Undertaker's "Streak List", nearly all of the wrestlers he fought were already over before hand. Think about it. Jimmy Snuka, Sycho Sid, Jake Roberts, Shawn Michaels, King Kong Bundy, Batista, Triple H were all already over before they challenged the "Streak". 

Now since the Undertaker only wrestles once a year, WWE Creative is running out of ways to spark new feuds. How can you feud with a guy that only wrestles once a year? It was evident last year when the WWE lazily threw together Punk's match with the Undertaker. Three or Four guys wanted to fight the Undertaker and had a match to decide who would fight Undertaker. They had to stoop to using Paul Bearer's death to spark a feud. What would WWE have done if Paul Bearer had not passed away? There would have been no real way to start a feud with the Undertaker because he's never there. 

In closing, the "Streak" match now overshadows the rest of the card, it takes a top shelf match away from up-n-coming stars like Ziggler and Sandow, and contributes to the detrimental "Part-Timers" monopolization of the main events. The "Streak" jumped the shark 4 years ago at Wrestlemania 26 when Shawn Michaels lost the second time. Shawn should have won the second encounter and both men should've walked away with a fitting end to both of their careers. Now, we get to look forward to a rapidly diminishing and past his prime Undertaker at nearly 50 years old trying to convince us he can credibly beat up guys 15 and 20 years younger than him. 

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