When you're done reading this, make sure to check out part three of my Ten Years of John Cena series leading into WrestleMania. New blogs will be posted every Monday until the Monday before 'Mania.
My love for The Undertaker's Streak is well documented. Literally, I have documented it by writing around 15,000 words about it (and I'll be adding to that this year). The Streak is a remarkable series of matches and the quest to beat it has been the most exciting part of WrestleMania for the last five years. With all of this in sight, I am slightly befuddled and very disappointed about why Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker doesn't seem compelling to me.
In 2011, when Undertaker and Brock Lesnar had a confrontation at a UFC pay-per-view, it was more than compelling. It was all anyone could talk about. People hypothesized about how Lesnar could get out of his UFC deal and confront Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVII to settle their personal grudge. This odd face-to-face moment the wrestling world watched about 100 times in slow motion might have been the best angle of the year 2011, but it ultimately lead nowhere. Lesnar would stay in UFC and Undertaker would have a classic with Triple H.
So, it's three years later and we are finally getting the match everyone wanted. What's wrong with it now?
First, look at Brock Lesnar. He is still "The Beast Incarnate" but from the very beginning of this feud, he has shown a little fear. On Raw, he approached a casket carried to ringside by Druids with fear and trepidation. He seemed to be shaking a little as he opened it. His nerves in these situations don't lead me to believe he will be first person to defeat Undertaker. I don't even believe he believes he could be.
Part of the mystique of The Streak is the competitors themselves believing they can be the one to snap it. Shawn Michaels convinced me. Triple H convinced me. C.M. Punk convinced me. I didn't believe Triple H and Punk would win, but I believed they believed. This is almost as effective. The Streak requires the opponent to almost be overconfident.
What about Lesnar's mean streak in recent months? He destroyed The Rhodes Brothers, The Middle Aged Outlaws, and Big Show, but it wasn't enough. Beating up random people doesn't exactly bring the confidence needed to combat The Undertaker. The Streak is almost a matter of fate and Lesnar should be standing up to fate.
Now look at The Undertaker. He has regressed in the last month. In his feuds with Triple H and Shawn Michaels, he dropped much of the "magic" the persona used to rely on. Undertaker was a competitor stepping into the ring against men he respected. With the C.M. Punk feud, Undertaker was made three-dimensional by the passing of Paul Bearer. The "magic" was a tribute to Bearer. The Undertaker seemed more real than cartoony for the last five years.
This year Undertaker is playing tricks with caskets, appearing behind people in the ring, and solely discussing sending his opponents straight to hellfire and damnation. Basically, Undertaker is embracing the most cartoon-ish side of himself. It is hard to buy into the threat of someone breaking The Streak when Undertaker is never truly threatened. He has barely been hit once in the build to this match. Why would anyone believe Undertaker could lose?
Undertaker has become a two-dimensional cartoon character. Brock Lesnar is a frightened monster. WWE is presenting the weakest versions of these two characters. It's no wonder fans aren't embracing this feud. Why would they? There are no doubts about the ending. The secret of The Streak is the creation of doubt. WWE has forgotten to create doubt this year.
And now for some random thoughts:
- Stephanie McMahon is doing some masterful work as a heel. It's easy to criticize how awkward the opening segment became when Randy Orton and Batista arrived, but Stephanie was great. She deserves a Slammy for her work over the past month.
- Randy Orton and Batista have poorly defined characters at this moment. It's easy to see why they aren't really getting over and why Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H is carrying the entire WrestleMania build. Orton has been in trouble (as a character) since his heel turn this summer. Batista is still figuring out who he can be in the wrestling world again. It's like a perfect storm of poor planning.
- Batista finally split a pair of jeans in the ring. We were all just waiting for it to happen.
- If you're wondering why Dolph Ziggler isn't as over as his wrestling ability says he should be, look at the awkward gyrations he did as a part of his entrance. Ziggler, despite his ability, isn't a great character.
- Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio was a fun four-way match. The crowd ate up the action with Dolph Ziggler. All four men worked hard. Christian vs. Big E should be very good on Main Event.
- "What can you possibly do to harm something that just can't feel?" Bray Wyatt's promos just keep getting better.
- Sin Cara was inspired by the presence of Scooby Doo. He did the old trampoline-under-the-ring entrance! Good for Huni-Cara, who is better than the original Sin Cara at almost everything.
- Ryback and Curtis Axel are getting a title shot at WrestleMania? There is your pre-show match, friends.
- Triple H's long in-ring promo segment was a little bit too long. He channeled 2003's Triple H for a little while there. I expected a few more questions from Michael Cole and some possible interference from Daniel Bryan. None of these things occurred. Triple H just talked.
- Don't get me wrong, Triple H talking wasn't awful, it just wasn't as good as most of his work has been over the last month.
- Why didn't Daniel Bryan cut a fiery promo on this show? The Brooklyn crowd would have loved Bryan. Bryan needs some time to talk and swear revenge on Triple H for the savage beating. This is still the hottest program going into WrestleMania, but I'm surprised WWE let it cool off for a week. Hopefully something awesome is planned for next week.
- Something about Goldust being paired with Summer Rae would make me happy. She could be like a 2014 version of Marlena, except less annoying.
- How awkward was Hulk Hogan's segment with Joe Manganiello and Arnold Schwarzenegger? The less said about this, the better.
- I sincerely wanted Scooby Doo to run down and kick The Miz while he was down on the outside.
- Big Show beat Titus O'Neal. Did you know that Raw is three hours long?
- John Cena is seeing
- John Cena vs. Luke Harper was a breakout singles match for Harper. Ignore the non-finish and look at the performance Harper put in against the top star in wrestling. This is great for Harper and great for Cena. As much as people have criticized Cena's in-ring work, I believe he is capable of carrying opponents to greatness. He is showing it with matches like this.
- I wouldn't call the visual of Cena in the sheep mask awesome, but I would call if effective. The Wyatt Family getting into Cena's head is fun to see. They're going a little too heavy-handed with Cena's fear, but it is interesting.
- There will be approximately 257 divas in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational at WrestleMania. Hopefully is will be better than the "Miss WrestleMania" Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25.
- Brie Bella should win the 3,219 diva match, or I will personally riot.
- Razor Ramon is announced as the Hall of Fame entrant, but not Scott Hall. This is odd. I'm happy for Hall.
- Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro and Jack Swagger was as good as I expected it to be. Rollins is doing especially good work in the huge flurries he is getting in every one of his matches.
- I was surprised to see Cesaro get the announce table powerbomb, given how popular he is. I guess WWE can't push everyone though.
- Road Dogg and Billy Gunn looked like a 2014 version of 1998's Brisco and Patterson. This is far more effective than them trying to be the 1998 versions of themselves in 2014.
- Kane and the Outlaws vs. The Shield isn't exactly an exciting WrestleMania match. It's disappointing, given how much The Shield can add to a show with decent opponents.
- The Undertaker really needed like ten minutes to do his casket trick? Did this work for anyone? This was not compelling television. I'm glad some indie guys got a sweet Druid payday, but it was boring.
WWE stalled out on the Road to WrestleMania this week, but hopefully it was only a problem for this week. Next week is the final show before WrestleMania and I still have faith in a strong go-home effort.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.