Pop-Ed: The Undertaker, The Streak & The Beast Incarnate

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On Sunday night, April 6, 2014, one of professional’s most monumental streaks, The Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania record, was broken at the hands of Brock Lesnar.

The wrestling world was stunned. It was one of the biggest, most unexpected moments in wrestling history. Theories and conspiraces abounded — did Brock go into business for himself and change the finish? Was Taker too concussed to continue and called an audible? Or was this all the plan?

Pop-Break’s staff and a special guest contributor, former WWE Superstar Giovanni Roselli (who was a member of the tag team The Heart Throbs), weigh in.

Michael Dworkis: The Streak is done.

Growing up, the Undertaker had this cool supernatural vibe. Walking slowly to the ring led by Paul Bearer, clouds of smoke, the gong, the lightening, it was mesmerizing. Then the Attitude Era came in, and suddenly, he was a dark evil figure inspiring fear in all. Eventually the Attitude Era waned away, and another change was in order.

Then came the “American Bad Ass” Undertaker. Riding a motorcycle down to the ring? What the hell is this? By this point, I was much older than when I started watching wrestling, but still, the thought of the Undertaker being “human” was a foreign idea. It was strange. Then he went heel. That got weird too. Guess it helped at the time no one really liked the biker gimmick. Soon, he went back to the side of good again, but even waving the American flag around still did not quite fit. So, at the 2003 Survivor Series, Kane wound up burying his brother in a Buried Alive match, and so ended the gimmick.

In the months preceding WrestleMania XX, promos and rumors swirled about the “real” Undertaker returning. At the 20th anniversary of WrestleMania, accompanied by the spine-chilling cry of “Ooooooh Yeeeess” from Paul Bearer, the Phenom had in fact returned. The Undertaker was back. Year after year, matches against Edge, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, and CM Punk took its toll on the dead man. Last year, many thought would have been the year where The Streak would end. However, with each year, the frequency of appearances decreased. Often the Undertaker would compete for a few months before vanishing, until promos would air signaling for his return. This was the first sign that his time of immortality may be coming to an end. In the past few years, we saw a match at WrestleMania, maybe another month or so of him on television, and then poof! Gone again.

I realized, I am still a fan. That is why I got upset when The Streak ended, because MY Undertaker was defeated. The supernatural being lost. The era of my wrestling has truly come to an end, and now a new generation takes its place. Did the Streak have to end? I do not believe it did. Deep down I wonder if WWE ever thought it would have been fine for him to retire as undefeated at WrestleMania. I would have preferred to see someone like CM Punk have done it, or anyone else. It just did not fit to see Brock Lesnar as the one to do it. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe because he is a part-timer, or someone not on the active roster, or someone who can survive being the “one” in 21-and-1 because he is not one of those still trying to make a name for himself. Regardless, as a longtime fan, it was shocking to watch it end. There are just so many factors here. The match itself was bland. It was clear the Undertaker could not even keep up with Lesnar, and truth is, he is too old for this. The whole line by Paul Heyman about Undertaker being taken to the hospital? True. These could have all been factors into the decision to end the Streak.

The shock is wearing off. Slowly. Thank You Undertaker for giving your life, your career to the fans.

All I do know, is that all good things, come to an end.

Nick Porcaro: More than anything else that went down at WrestleMania XXX, I was stunned and infuriated to see The Undertaker’s legendary streak reduced to rubble at the hands of the lumbering, generic giant Brock Lesnar. A unified “What the fuck?!” emanated across the living room at my WrestleMania party. Fans in the Superdome were stunned silent. Even the announcing team seemed flustered. It left a bad taste in my mouth that somewhat sullied the otherwise awesome Triple Threat match that followed. (The less said about the Divas Invitational, the better.)

After watching the RAW after WrestleMania, though, I can say WWE has some amazing storyline opportunities if they expand on this shocking turn of events. Paul Heyman cut a jaw-dropping promo filled with arrogance on behalf of pride for his client, “BRRRRRROCK….LLLLLLLESNARRRRR,” and ramped up the crowd heat to absurd proportions. Brock now carries the burden of being the only man in the company to humble The Undertaker on the grandest stage of them all, making him an immediate target for any comers looking to boost their reputation in the WWE. (In other words, pretty much everyone.)

Imagine if someone like Roman Reigns or fellow “Heyman guy” Cesaro used the opportunity to best Lesnar; there’s no reason they wouldn’t be regarded as a serious force to be reckoned with. Perhaps a long-gone legend of the WWE could come out of retirement to set things straight, too, but it’d be far more beneficial to the company’s future if a new talent were to beat the Beast. The buildup could be extremely intense, too, much like the eight-month progression from Daniel Bryan’s victory and sudden defeat at SummerSlam to his truly epic triumph over Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista at WrestleMania XXX.

The best way to honor The Undertaker’s legacy is to use the end of the streak as an impetus for developing the next generation of WWE talent. Anything else would be a waste of this unfortunate, somewhat confounding twist in story. And if all else fails, we can just try to forget what went down between Lesnar and Taker on that fateful night in New Orleans.

#ThankYouTaker indeed.

Giovanni Roselli: At the end of the day the decision was 100 percent the Undertaker’s. If he wasn’t comfortable with it, or thought it wouldn’t be “best for business” than he wouldn’t have done it. In addition, losing to an athlete such as Brock who has legitimate credentials in amateur wrestling and MMA only makes it more legitimate. And we still need to see how this pans out.

Wrestling fans want to be surprised, shocked, and taken on an emotional roller coaster. The ones who are so pissed about it I guess should be pissed at Taker then because it was his decision.

Jason Stives: I’ve been a part time wrestling fan for seven years now in regards to actually watching the programming but everyday I’m on Wrestleview.com reading the latest reports and catching up on recaps. The Undertaker’s streak ending caught more attention in mainstream media than the business has seen since the Attitude era and it’s been interesting to watch the feedback or backlash. Feelings about the streak ending comes down to a series of news reports, conspiracy theories (really people?) and critical analysis.

We know certain facts or reports at this point; that Taker had said as early as 2010 that he wanted Lesnar to end the streak. That may be so but I wonder if that is something Mark Calloway has the final say in but it is possible. To top it off Taker sustained during the match what has only been described as a serious concussion which means an abrupt end to that match. Beyond the facts of reporting you would have to be blind not to notice that he looked absolutely awful in the match. For 49 years of age he has been showing signs of real pain for at least a decade now but he has been able to perform to his best potential regardless leading to many great encounters in the past five years. In between all of that the pains and injuries that he has sustained have come from poor handling from whoever he has worked with and lets be honest there are many new guys who didn’t help Taker’s body along the way.

Does it personally bother me that Lesnar ended the streak? Yes and no. I think Brock has shown despite a part time schedule why he was and has been the beast that he is and I can believe him ending the streak more than I can someone like Ryback or John Cena, although Cena would have been a big feud just not the person to end it. Personally, the streak storyline was getting old because after awhile you can build a viable threat all you want but realistically up until this past weekend we always anticipated Taker to win. There is no thrill unless you are forcing yourself to believe that Taker’s streak could possibly end each year. If Taker somehow manages to squeeze anymore feuds out of his career (which I don’t think he will) this could create something fresh that doesn’t rely on who gets to beat the Dead Man once and for all.

The rather sloppy nature of the match combined with a piss poor build really sullies the impact here other than the shock of not seeing it coming which says a lot about when the WWE can get it right in keeping a secret. Depending on what happens next it seems the potential match with Sting at Wrestle Mania 31 has been stunted and may not occur (that also depends on Sting’s possible contract to begin with). My personal catchphrase has become “I’m a writer first and a fan second” and that goes definite for professional wrestling because business and creativity have to make sense. Lesnar ending the streak may or may not make sense depending on how invested you are in that storyline. As a fan everyone knew this time would come but we all want what we think is the best way to end it. This is a polarizing decision that many will debate for years. In other words welcome to the How I Met Your Mother finale of professional wrestling.

Lisa Pikaard: Although watching wrestling is not something I do religiously, I do follow it and have been known to make bets on the over/under of the Undertaker’s entrance at Wrestlemania.

The streak is over and I felt as stunned as all the people who were watching it live and in person. 21 wins is something I hope the WWE never attempts to match again and I hope with all my might that the organization leaves it as a testament and a tribute to the legacy that Undertaker is.

Yes, the streak had to end one day but it should have been his very last day. Undertaker deserved his streak to be broken with an “I’m sorry. I love you,” by another legend rather than by Brock Lesnar, a part time superstar. The reaction at RAW was a perfect example of how I felt about it all. I still feel stunned into silence and disgust. Taker’s time was running out in the WWE and his legacy, of course, is in no danger of being shattered because of this one loss, but Brock Lesnar? I still feel a bit aghast at the thought. Perhaps it was a smart move to let Lesnar take him out because the backlash will be severe and he’s not quite an important figure in the WWE universe so the organization isn’t destroying the fan base of someone who actually matters.

Any way I look at it, it was a sad, sad day and I wish he went down in a more respectful way and against a more respectable opponent but what’s done is done. I just hope no one dares to try to dethrone him. Undertaker is and will always be the king of Wrestlemania.

Matt Agosta: DAMN. I don’t think anybody saw Taker’s streak coming to an end, and to Brock Lesnar?! Again, DAMN. I guess the streak had to come to an end at some point and I always figured it would be when Undertaker is ready to retire, but still not word on that front. Undertaker has obviously been one of the most iconic figures in WWE history and him losing once out of 22 matches on the grandest stage doesn’t take away just how amazing his impact on the culture has been. A couple years ago I went to see RAW live and I was older and not as much into wrestling as I was as a kid, so it did not really mean as much to me. Then I heard that iconic gong and I felt like I was ten years old again. I had goosebumps all over watching him come to the ring and seeing that meant so much to me. So Undertaker, THANK YOU for all you’ve done for us fans and one lose at Wresltemania will never take away just how iconic you are.

Bill Bodkin: A moment like this occurs for every generation of wrestling fan — Bruno Sammartino loosing to Ivan Koloff at MSG, Bob Backlund dropping the belt to The Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan loosing to the late Ultimate Warrior, The Montreal Screwjob, etc. All of these are iconic moments, which for better or worse, signaled the bell for a new era of wrestling to begin (maybe not Bruno’s so much, but you get the point).

Taker loosing to Brock didn’t have the build, but it has the historical resonance. This is the end of Undertaker. He can no longer be trotted out to steal the show. It’s an “Andre” moment for him — he put over the younger guy, creating the new undefeatable (or near undefeatable) force, the monster, the giant, the myth, much like Undertaker was.

The way The Streak ended is not unlike the way it began — completely unexpected. The Undertaker’s legend and legacy is not tarnished by this loss. Could it have been done better, sure? But a chapter has closed in the history of pro wrestling and we must look forward to the exciting potential ahead.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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