Monday, 23 December 2013 11:42
By Harry Simon
THE UNDERTAKER VS. ROMAN REIGNS AT WM30?
Since we're reading about how the WWE has "big plans" for Roman Reigns, and furthermore, "the plans are even bigger than one might believe," Could it be...
...you never know...
...stranger things have happened...
...that Roman Reigns will break the Undertaker’s streak at WM30?
We all know the story. Back on March 24, 1991, a relatively new character called The Undertaker pinned Hall-Of-Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka at WrestleMania 7 to begin the famous Undertaker WrestleMania streak. As of April 7, 2013, the streak is still going strong at 21-0.
Over time, Taker has scored Mania wins over Jake Roberts, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Sid, Kane (twice), Big Bossman, HHH (thrice), Ric Flair, Big Show & A-Train (in a tag team match with Nathan Jones – history’s most underappreciated hero), Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels (twice) and C.M. Punk. Some matches were classics, some were classically terrible. But the streak has become a WrestleMania tradition, often with the Taker match closing the show as the real main event, despite who was wrestling who for which championship. One could even make the argument that Taker’s streak is the only thing WWE fans still take seriously.
But has it come time to pull the trigger do the unthinkable? Has it come time to end the streak at the hands of a guy the company already decided will be their next big superstar?
Mind you, this is all 100% speculation on my part. And of course, it would all depend on whether or not Taker would want to do this for anyone under any circumstances. Let’s say he does. Humor me for several minutes while I run down the pros and cons to this famous suggestion I just now came up with tonight.
1. Breaking the streak is a once-in-a-lifetime event that would make someone an instant main-event superstar for life.
To even consider ending the streak, the lucky candidate would have to be an up-and-comer that the WWE wants to push to the moon anyway. Reigns ticks all the boxes better than anyone ever has. His promos kill. His spear is over. He's been having great matches since The Shield officially debuted a year ago. He's got the look they want, the size they want, and the athletic background they want.
With the WWE’s questionable hiring policies and development system (Chris Hero, we hardly knew ye), what are the odds of coming across someone else who has so many of their coveted qualities while Taker can still go? About 21-0. (That's a joke; not to be used for actual gambling anywhere.)
2. Reigns comes with a pedigree money can’t buy.
Reigns is a proud member of legendary Anoa'i family, a wrestling dynasty including High Chief Peter Maivia, Yokozuna, Umaga, The Wild Samoans, Samu, Rikishi, Rosey, Tama, and The Usos, just to name a few.
The Anoa’i family has enjoyed a very long and very good relationship with the WWWFE over the years. With such a great upbringing and more than enough support from important people, the WWE can trust him more than someone who came in off the street.
Ever since the defections of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in 1996, Vince McMahon has been scared to death of the "we make 'em, they take 'em" mindset that plagued him throughout the Monday Night War. That’s what caused the Montreal Screwjob. That’s why Vince stole a past-his-prime-but-still-good Curt Hennig from the short-lived XWF in 2001 (Hennig main-evented their first TV taping). That’s why Vince signed back Christian and Gail Kim from TNA (though Kim eventually returned to Dixieland). Granted, TNA is a distant #2 promotion at best these days, but the history speaks for itself.
Also, it would give the WWE a no-brainer cousin-versus-cousin PPV main event in Reigns vs. The Rock when the latter inevitably returns at some point.
3. Taker's reputation as a locker room leader is the stuff of legend.
Ask anyone who knows him and they'll tell you that Taker is a stand-up guy who leads by example. With the possible exception of Terry Funk, there isn't a better liked, more respected guy in the entire industry. Nobody would bat an eye if the streak remained spotless until he retired, because Taker has earned it a hundred times over.
But wouldn't it set the ultimate example for the boys if Taker went out by passing the biggest, best-built torch in the history of the industry? Championships are meaningless hot potatoes. There can only be one guy who breaks the Taker streak at Mania. As I've mentioned, Taker's legacy is already bulletproof. Putting over Reigns at WM30 would only bring him even more respect. As if he weren't already, Taker would truly be the gold standard example of everything a WWWFE main-eventer is supposed to be. That would enhance Taker’s already massive reputation to an even higher level of immortality and add more to his legacy than it would subtract from it.
4. Time is not on Taker’s side.
I know we've all been saying it for years, but how many matches does Taker really have left? He’s had a storied career and an unprecedented run as a WWWFE main-eventer for 23 years and counting. There’s nobody left for him to beat. Other than winning the U.S. Title, Money In The Bank or King Of The Ring, there’s really nothing left for him to do. And if he cared about any of those, he would have already won ‘em.
Taker has had more than his share of injuries. The fact that he can still go at such a level and continue to crank out classic matches year after year is just another testament to the man's iron-willed work ethic.
If Taker retires the night after WM30 at 22-0, that’s that. There’s no guarantee they will ever again have an opportunity this good with such a perfect candidate as Reigns. In fact, I’d say the odds are— Ah, you know.
5. There’s no real upside to Taker winning.
So Taker puts another notch in his belt and breaks his own record. Again. So what? As a fan, which would you rather be able to say? “I saw Taker beat someone at Mania some year,” or “I was there the night Taker’s streak ended”? One would be a very exclusive club. The other, not so much. Reigns winning would be the most significant, truly historic thing to happen in the WWE in a long, long time. It would instantly become the ultimate WrestleMania moment, and it would always be high on the list no matter what else happens.
I’m sure even if Reigns gets the match and loses, it will elevate him and they’ll put the fabled rocket up his ass and push him to moon. Or they could put a freakin’ starship up his ass and push him into a whole ‘nother galaxy. Ladies and gentlemen, for the WWE to thrive for future generations, SOME SORT OF INTERGALACTIC METHOD OF TRAVEL MUST BE PUT UP ROMAN REIGNS’ ASS ON APRIL 6, 2014.
6. Taker believes in The Shield.
Taker honored the men in black by having his first Raw match in three years against them. The Shield beat The Undertaker & Kane & Daniel Bryan in a six man tag on the 4/22/13 Raw. It was easily one of the best matches of the year and the fans and announcers reacted perfectly, treating it like a big deal.
Not only did Taker do the match, he put them over. Not only did Taker put the Shield over in the ring, he made a point to put them over backstage in front of the boys. Taker praised the Shield (and Bryan) greatly, saying he was proud that the company was in good hands. That's HUGE. Giving one of them the streak would be the only thing huger, and we already know that Reigns is the chosen one post-Shield breakup.
7. What the hell else are they going to have for us at WM30?
No doubt some recycling of Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. C.M. Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. One or more McMahon(s). Yawn. Even if they can bring back Shawn Michaels for a "dream match" against Bryan or Punk, that would only be one match that everybody wants to see.
WM30 should be a milestone event, so you know the WWE wants something huge that everyone will talk about. Reigns breaking the streak would more than fit the bill, even if every other match bombed harder than Michelle Beadle's (alleged) attempt to flirt with Punk.
8. They need to do something with somebody already.
If the WWE were any colder at the moment, Captain America would be trapped in it. I don’t want to hear about ratings, house shows, or merchandise. I’m sure the numbers are decent, but they could be so much better, it’s a sin. Besides, numbers ebb and flow. Right now, nobody I know is really excited for WWE in 2014. There’s no buzz. Nobody’s really psyched up about anything. Water coolers across the nation have been abandoned and people are actually working. Shameful!
One of the WWE’s biggest problems over the years has been their unwillingness or inability to elevate new stars. It’s encouraging that they want to groom Reigns for a top spot. If the Reigns gamble pays off, and I’m guessing it will, hopefully that will encourage them to do it again with someone else. STAT.
9. It’s a hook to recapture the fans that have already left.
Anyone who watched WWE over the last 20 years is familiar with Taker’s streak. If it happens at WM30, I expect a lot of conversations like this to take place:
Old Fan: “Hey, is The Undertaker still around?”
Current Fan: “Nah, he retired after the streak ended.”
Old Fan: “They broke the streak?!”
Current Fan: “Yup. A new guy named Roman Reigns.”
Old Fan: “Well damn, if they let him end the streak, he’s got to be something special. I’ll have to check him out.”
Maybe the old fan will stay, maybe he/she won’t. The point is now there’s a buzz and you have someone who wants to check out the WWE again, and that’s another thing the WWE has really sucked at doing lately.
I’ve always believed that once a fan, always a fan. People will never forget their favorite moments from wrestling and want more. They leave because they haven’t been given enough of those moments to stick around for. The fact that the WWE is incapable of solving this very simple equation is another tragedy.
10. Once he has the torch, Reigns can run with it – and eventually pass it along himself.
As the famous song "Closing Time" warns, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Since the Shield won a six man tag over Orton & Show & Sheamus in their Mania debut last year at WM29, beating Taker would put Reigns at 2-0. Just like that, a new streak begins. They could even do the obvious pun and call it “The Reign Of Reigns” or “Roman’s Reign.”
And there you have it, a solid new selling point for future Manias. Will Reigns remain undefeated or will the torch be passed again? The guy wouldn’t even need the WWE Unified Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, or whatever the hell they’re calling it this week. Obviously, Reigns would eventually win the belt at some point as his star is on the rise, but he’d already be a made man for WrestleMania. The WWE could have their cake and eat it too by having both the Reigns match and the WUUWHC match to promote for Mania.
And when the time comes, Reigns can pass the torch to another up-and-comer, just as Taker passed the torch to him. Veterans passing the torch to up-and-comers is yet another thing the WWE almost never does well.
11. Why stop there? They could do a “streak-off” to elevate other guys for an eventual WM match with Reigns.
The WWE has the chance to learn from their past mistakes. (Is this officially considered fan fiction yet?) Most people overlook the fact that Taker was already up to a good 12-0 before the WWE officially noticed and started seriously pushing the streak as part of the build for WM21 in 2005 (when Taker defeated the up-and-coming "Legend Killer" Randy Orton). During the build to Taker vs. Big Bossman at WM15, it was briefly mentioned on their website that both men were undefeated at Mania up to that point (Bossman was up to 4-0). But it wasn’t seriously pushed as the selling point to their awful Hell In A Cell match. The Ministry Of Darkness was feuding with The Corporation, or somesuch.
The WWE finally and accidentally figured out that the Taker streak is the closest thing they have to a SuperBowl championship; It's only decided one night a year, and it's the biggest thing in their world.
Start a couple more streaks going and eventually they can do a streak-versus-streak match with Reigns vs. whoever. Since they’ve already blown the chance to do this with Big E Langston and Ryback, the best candidates now would be Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, or Fandango, who are also at 1-0 as of WM29. I suppose the WWE could bring back Demolition Ax (Bill Eadie), who is 3-0, but now I’m just being silly.
The WWE has already squandered a couple opportunities to have other guys do a streak-versus-streak match against Taker at WM. God rest his beautiful soul, Earthquake (John Tenta) passed away with a perfect WM record of 4-0. Edge was up to 5-0 until they wasted him in a forgettable Money In The Bank match at WM23 (won by Ken Kennedy). The next year, Edge vs. Taker closed WM24 in a classic. The WWE was so close to having a World Title streak-versus-streak winner-take-all match, I want to cry. And I have. How much more intrigue and heat would the match have had if fans believed that Edge might just be the guy to break the streak?
There will never be another Taker or Edge, but the WWE has another chance to do streak-versus-streak stuff just to make Mania that much more special each year.
12. Hell, they could even give the “WrestleMania Winning Streak” a life of its own.
Basically, make the WMWS an annual championship. Treat it like the SuperBowl or Stanley Cup or Miss America; it’s contested once a year. Even if Reigns makes it to 20-1, Taker would still have the distinction of having the longest WMWS history. Taker will always be the guy who started it all. Plus, Taker’s legacy would live on long after he is no longer with us. Hell, they could keep it going forever.
Eventually, the time will come for Reigns to pass the torch. Then the WWE could still have the magic of the WMWS without it all falling on the shoulders of one guy, even if that guy is The Undertaker.
1. It's the f***ing Undertaker streak at WrestleMania.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I often joke that the only three certainties in life are death, taxes, and the fact that The Undertaker doesn’t lose at WrestleMania. Ever. Period. More than any mere belt, it’s the most meaningful tradition still going today. There has never been a run like this, and there has never been a talent quite as special as The Undertaker. Breaking the streak would be an unprecedented leap of faith, and once it’s gone, they can’t get it back. Ever.
2. There’s no guarantee the post-WM30 Reigns push will be handled right.
For their countless successes, this is still the company that dropped the ball on Hogan vs. Flair, Vader, the Invasion, the nWo, Eric Bischoff’s debut, Goldberg, Edge vs. Matt Hardy, Bret Hart’s return, C.M. Punk leaving Chicago with the WWE Title, and a million other license-to-print-money guarantees.
I would fully expect Reigns to get pedigree’d and cleanly pinned the next night on Raw. We would all hate it, of course, but that’s just the price of doing business in the current WWE. But then, they need to make an unwavering commitment to push the HELL out of Reigns in spite of their own doubts and insecurities.
It would go down it would go down in history as the WWE’s biggest crime against fans EVER (!) for them to end Taker’s streak, then do nothing with the guy who ended it. Or worse, job him out at the next WrestleMania. To HHH.
3. Is Reigns up to the task?
As the Magic 8-Ball would say, “All signs point to yes” so far, but we don’t know for sure yet. It’s a catch-22 when anyone gets promoted in any company; you don’t know if the new guy can handle the new job until he tries it.
Eddie Guerrero was one of the greatest workers and most over characters the WWE had ever seen. His WWE Title win over Brock Lesnar at No Way Out in 2004 was an epic moment, rightly remembered as one of the greatest matches in WWWFE history. Eddie successfully defended against Kurt Angle weeks later in another classic at WM20 and all was right with the world. Then Eddie crumbled under the pressure and begged the company to take the belt off him.
Of course, Eddie had other problems and there are no signs of Reigns having the same issues – and I pray to God he never will. Like Reigns, Eddie was from a legendary wrestling family. Though unlike Reigns, Eddie had already proven himself as a time-tested veteran with impeccable credentials and was universally hailed as one of the greatest in the world. All signs pointed to him being perfect for the top spot. But he wasn’t.
Obviously, it’s unfair to compare one wrestler to another, especially when “another” is the legendary “Latino Heat.” I’m not saying Reigns definitely can or can’t carry the load; right now the truth boils down to the three most frightening words in the English language: We don’t know. In the prophetic words of Stan Lee, with great power comes great responsibility.
4. Can the WWE be that patient?
If Reigns beats Taker at WM30, there’s an excellent chance that the New Orleans fans would be shocked silent. It has been said that you could have heard a pin drop in Madison Square Garden when Ivan Koloff finally beat Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF title in 1971, ending Bruno’s record seven-year title reign. A rare example of American fans responding with the storied “silent heat” of Japanese wrestling (when a crowd’s silence means more than a crowd’s noise).
There’s an equally good chance that the crowd could boo like hell if Reigns beat Taker. That would be easily explainable as the fans having respect for Taker. It would be okay in the long run, but boy would they get some hateful tweets that week.
Patience is not one of Vince’s virtues. If I may beat a dead horse with a broken record, Vince could have made himself a billionaire again had he handled the Invasion properly in 2001. But all it took was one bad match and one bad crowd reaction, and he pulled the plug. Having Reigns take the baton and run with it would require a long-term commitment from the WWE, and their track record in this department isn’t exactly sparkling either.
5. Do the fans really want to see the streak broken?
Again, everyone loves and respects Taker. Everyone knows how much crap he’s put up with during his long tenure with the company. Everyone with half a brain knows that he deserves his streak. Even if it works and makes Reigns bigger than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, there are going to be plenty of diehard Taker fans who see breaking the streak as blasphemy.
Golden opportunity or not, Taker deserves the chance to ride off into the sunset. If that’s what he wants.
6. Does the WWE even have the balls to break the streak?
For years, we’ve been hearing “Anything can happen in the WWF!” Is it really true? Or is this the one unwritten, unbreakable rule they have?
I’m being generous when I say that WWE powers-that-be tend to have the attention span of a child visiting Toys R Us for the first time. One week, Dolph Ziggler is the chosen one. We’re pushing this guy all the way to the top, full speed ahead. The next week, screw Ziggler. We’re jobbing him out. Same thing with Alberto Del Rio. And Drew McIntyre. And so on.
If the best predictor of the future is the past, the WWE will get distracted when a shiny new toy walks in the door and forget all about Reigns. And if that’s the case, they’re better off leaving the streak well enough alone.
7. There are a million other ways to elevate Reigns without giving him the streak.
I fully expect Reigns to get a cherry spot in the Royal Rumble come January 26, 2014. He’ll either be the Ironman, or more likely, have the most eliminations. From there, they can just smash him over by feeding him victim after victim. Getting a guy over is easy; the WWE just has an awful track record of choosing not to do it for stupid political reasons. One good thing about Vince’s stubbornness is that when he really wants to get someone over, he doesn’t take no for an answer. How many “second chances” did Randy Orton get before he finally got his head screwed on straight?
They can easily have their cake and eat it too by letting Taker keep the streak while Reigns goes on to conquer the rest of the promotion.
Speaking of ending a streak, here are some final thoughts:
If it were up to me and Taker were on board, would I pull the trigger and have Reigns break the streak at WM30? Yup. There’s no reward without risk and there will likely never be a better opportunity to end the streak and launch a superstar. That said, it’s always easy to be brave when it’s somebody else’s career on the line. So I’m very happy and grateful that it’s not up to me.
Thanks for reading! I know it was a beast, but I tried to look at things from every possible angle. Anyway, that’s what went through my mind today. Drop me a line and let me know what’s on yours. Think I’m onto something? Think I’m on something? Tell me why. God bless and Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to one and all!
Special thanks to my great friends Brad Ruley, Shannon Butryn-Costa, Jennie Orde, Adam Pederson, and Marco Hoilett Jr. for the discussion that spawned this monster of a read.
The Maker Of Streakbreakers (maybe),
Las Vegas, NV