By Jeffrey Lutz
In less than a month, the Undertaker will perform at WrestleMania for the 21st time, when he faces C.M. Punk. It might very well be Undertaker's last match at WrestleMania, but it might as well be his first.
In his previous 20 'Mania matches, Undertaker has never had a match, an opponent, or circumstances surrounding his performance like he'll have with Punk. The uniqueness of the situation makes one wonder if Punk will uniquely beat Undertaker on WWE's biggest stage, however doubtful that seems on paper.
The Undertaker's first 20 matches at WrestleMania have generally fallen into four categories, but this fits none of them. He's certainly not looking to establish a character, a gimmick and a niche by beating past-their-prime opponents like he did two decades ago against Jake Roberts and Jimmy Snuka.
He's not opposing a fellow big-man in a plodding undercard match. He's not facing a babyface in a match based on respect and the legacy of his veteran opponent who is looking to complete his resume'. He's not wrestling for a championship and the possibility of carrying the company during the lean summer months.
For the first time, Undertaker is facing a heel opponent with a high workrate in a non-title match that shouldn't include the 'Respect' factor, even though that is an underlying theme in all of Undertaker's matches considering the level at which he's revered by fans and peers. Undertaker, at 47, wants to continue to challenge himself in his one match every year, and this is a significant challenge.
Nobody views his own legacy with more importance as Undertaker, and nobody does more to protect it. The epitaph on Undertaker's wrestling career will most definitely include his undefeated streak at WrestleMania, but the true mark Undertaker has made on the industry isn't his wins and losses, but his professionalism and the quality of his work.
Punk guards his legacy with just as much ferocity, and the match with Undertaker could come to define his career. When Triple H and Shawn Michaels faced Undertaker at the last four WrestleMania events, their legacies were complete regardless of whether they won or lost the match or even how good the match was. Punk, even after a historic run with the WWE championship, still probably thinks he has plenty to prove.
Punk's desire for a more memorable place in history could bring about the downfall in his program with Undertaker if the potential for one exists. At 47 and with a gimmick that limits him verbally, Undertaker will have difficulties keeping up with Punk on the microphone and in the ring.
Punk certainly wants to have a good match, but he probably wants to have his match. As we've seen in recent matches against John Cena and The Rock, Punk doesn't work down to the level of his opponent, rather he forces opponents to meet his elevated pace. Undertaker and Punk wrestled when each was in much better physical shape and I don't remember any of their matches, which probably speaks to their quality because WWE doesn't let us forget its most classic confrontations.
Do these factors ultimately lead to a Punk win and the end of The Streak? Probably not, but if Undertaker ever loses at WrestleMania it should be to someone like Punk. If Punk retires in three years, he can carry the heat from a victory over Undertaker through the end of his career. That scenario is much better than having an up-and-comer beat Undertaker, because who knows how that could end up. A memorable moment against Undertaker clearly didn't do much for Maven or Heidenreich.
The pressure could have been off Undertaker following a four-part series against the former members of Degeneration-X. A match with Punk puts the pressure right back on, because many will be expecting Undertaker to top himself yet again against a younger, hungrier opponent. Can he do it? Nobody knows. He hasn't been here before.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lutz's Blog: Undertaker is finally entering uncharted territory
Mar 11, 2013 - 02:20 PM
Mar 11, 2013 - 02:20 PM
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