In 1985 Vince McMahon created a phenomenon that would launch the World Wrestling Federation into the mainstream consciousness. It was called WrestleMania and it was the grandest professional wrestling show ever produced with a main event packed with the biggest stars in the industry, as well as one of the hottest celebrities of the time. It became an annual tradition and over thirty years later it’s still standing as the climax of the sport every spring season.
Through three decades of iconic performers settling grudges and competing for World Championships, there have been few constants what with the wrestling business changing at the fast pace which it does. However, one man has been at the center of the selling point of nearly every WrestleMania that ever happened, and his name is the Undertaker. It all started in 1991 at WrestleMania VII when he soundly defeated late WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and he would go on to win every WrestleMania match he’s competed in, except for the one against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX in 2014 when his streak was finally broken.
The Undertaker has walked into WrestleMania a grand total of twenty-four times and come out with twenty-three wins, and at this stage in his career, any match could be his last. Retirement is on the minds of the WWE Universe, especially in 2017 when there has been so much talk of the Dead Man’s ability to wrestle a match without seriously injuring himself. Will WrestleMania 33 be the Undertaker’s last ride? If so, here are fifteen opponents who could send him off riding into the sunset.
15. Baron Corbin
One of the newest additions to the WWE main roster is Baron Corbin, a sizeable man of considerable athletic skill who has been making waves on SmackDown Live ever since the modern brand extension went into effect. His years spent in NXT weren’t indicative of the impact he would eventually go on to make on SmackDown, as he could never seem to make things click between the yellow ropes of WWE’s developmental territory. Nonetheless, Vince McMahon seems to see something in Corbin as evidenced by his frequent usage in main events and in matches involving high caliber talents like John Cena and AJ Styles.
Baron Corbin wrestles a smash mouth style that would likely complement that of the Undertaker’s well. Both are quick moving big men who throw a lot of haymakers, so there would be little chance that the Dead Man would need to risk a high impact spot in a potential WrestleMania 33 showdown with Corbin.
The new brand extension, which went into effect last July, has been more than kind to most of the WWE roster. Superstars who were previously getting passed over or getting the short end of the stick due to time restraints have begun to flourish and take advantage of the newfound opportunities. Unfortunately for Rusev, the Bulgarian Brute is one of the few acts which has not benefitted from such exposure.
Aside from a brief, albeit interesting, run with Roman Reigns over the United States Championship shortly after the brand split went live Rusev has been used almost as filler for the Monday Night Raw program. He’s one of the company’s more athletic big men, so hopefully, things pick back up for him soon and perhaps a WrestleMania program with the Undertaker is just what he needs.
13. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt hasn’t had the most glorious of journeys to the top in WWE. After the failed Husky Harris gimmick he evolved into the “Eater of Worlds” and as the head of the Wyatt Family alongside Luke Harper and Erick Rowan it seemed as though he had found something organic that was actually working. Unfortunately, it took years for the decision makers in WWE to see in him the same potential the WWE Universe saw from the beginning and he was continuously on the losing end of nearly all of his big matches while still trying to claim that he would destroy all of our heroes.
Just when it seemed as if Bray Wyatt couldn’t be less of a threat, WWE reinstated the brand extension last July and he entered into a program with Randy Orton which is still running today. It’s been a long road for the two and they eventually formed a team together, but it looks as if they’re set to square off at WrestleMania. If not, perhaps Wyatt’s rejuvenated career could see an additional boost by having the chance to correct his previous WrestleMania loss against the Undertaker.
12. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has practically been around in WWE as long as John Cena or Randy Orton, so it’s a sad tale to think about how little he has managed to accomplish given his immense talent. For many years fans have made it clear that they adore his in ring style and he has consistently given high-quality wrestling performances. His character, however, has often fallen flat, if not with the audience then with the people in decision making positions. This could be due to the fact that he spent so many years as a babyface when his talents obviously lied in playing the antagonist.
Whatever the case may be, it seems as though a recent heel turn has ignited a fire in Ziggler and he seems to finally be on his way to something of a career renaissance. He’s starting over from the bottom of the card, however, feuding with the likes of Apollo Crews and Kalisto, but if things go well he’ll be back on top in no time and a high profile match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 could blow the roof off the place.
11. Dean Ambrose
Sometimes it seems as though Dean Ambrose is firing on all cylinders, while other times he’s sort of just flailing around the roster waiting for his next big storyline. Somehow he recently wound up with the Intercontinental Championship despite the fact that The Miz was enjoying what could be seen as the most exciting run of his career with the title, and even though Ambrose is one of SmackDown Live’s most popular acts he’s not exactly on top of his game at this stage.
2016 was something of a rollercoaster ride for Ambrose, having really gotten shortchanged by a passionless performance at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 but then going on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase later in the year as well as cashing it in to win his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship. By the end of the year, though, Ambrose had seemingly been slightly demoted once again and now something like a WrestleMania feud with the Undertaker is needed to pull him out of the slump.
10. Samoa Joe
The name Samoa Joe is not a new one to pro wrestling fans despite that he only recently made his debut on Monday Night Raw. He’s been competing in NXT for a little while now and reigning supreme atop that roster, but even long before he was wrestling for the NXT Championship against the likes of Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura he was one of the hottest free agents in the entire industry. Joe perhaps became best known during his lengthy tenure with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling where he was one of the most decorated and dominant performers in the history of that company.
If he hopes to build the same type of career in WWE things will have to kick off strong for Samoa Joe. He’s off to a great start being thrust straight into a program with Triple H and Seth Rollins, but just imagine what it could do for him to meet the Undertaker at his first WrestleMania and hand the Dead Man his second loss at the biggest show of the year.
The Undertaker has feuded with nearly every big name the professional wrestling industry has known over the past thirty years including Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, but no man will ever be more closely associated with the “Phenom” than Glenn Jacobs, the man who portrays the Undertaker’s younger brother Kane. The Big Red Machine made his debut in 1997, seeking revenge against his brother for killing his family and severely burning him in a fire when they were younger.
The entire storyline played out like a horror movie and became known as one of the greatest wrestling stories ever told. The Undertaker and Kane had such great chemistry that the rivalry was revisited several times over the course of their careers and they have already met twice at WrestleMania, but could a third match be in the cards for the “Brothers of Destruction”?
8. The Miz
Not a single person took MTV’s Real World star Mike Mizanin seriously when he got into wrestling over a decade ago. He was a punk with a lot of attitude but against everyone’s expectations, he just continued winning title after title until, suddenly, he somehow became the WWE Champion and was booked to defend the title against John Cena at WWE’s Super Bowl equivalent, WrestleMania XXVII. Not only that, but The Miz came away with the win in that match, blowing the minds of everyone watching.
The Miz became a huge WWE Superstar before anyone knew what was going on, but then after hitting his peak perhaps a little too early, his career went on a fast downward spiral. At some point, The Miz was barely even featured on television and as of a year ago no one would have thought he would be one of the best things going on SmackDown Live, but here we are. The Miz is doing some of his best work at this stage in his career and would make an awesome opponent for the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
7. Sami Zayn
For many years El Generico was one of the independent wrestling scene’s most popular stars, and that didn’t change when he signed his developmental contract with WWE and reported to the NXT roster under his new ring name Sami Zayn. He was a big deal for the yellow brand and his journey to the NXT Championship and subsequent fall only weeks later to his former best friend Kevin Owens still stands as one of the best storylines in NXT history.
However, since coming to the main roster Sami Zayn’s forward motion has been anything but steady. Vince McMahon and a three-hour Monday Night Raw have not been consistently kind to him as evidenced by the frequent stops and starts to his momentum despite his popularity, but if he had the opportunity to steal the show at WrestleMania with one of the greatest ring legends of all time a lot of things could start to click for him.
6. Chris Jericho
Given his amazing performances over the past few months, it might be difficult for newer or younger fans to discern the fact that Chris Jericho has been doing this wrestling thing since the ‘90s. He was one of the most underrated acts in all of World Championship Wrestling before jumping ship to the World Wrestling Federation in 1999 and quickly taking over the company as one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time. Few pro wrestlers have ever come close to winning as many championship titles as Jericho and perhaps the biggest night in his illustrious career came when he won the WWE Championship after defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock on the same night.
Despite his myriad of accomplishments, one thing Chris Jericho has never done is have a serious program with the man known as the Undertaker. Both men have been wrestling for right about the same amount of time and are capable of putting on classic matches at the drop of a dime. Their styles would mesh perfectly and that’s why a WrestleMania 33 match between the Undertaker and Chris Jericho makes so much sense.
5. Kevin Owens
Speaking of Chris Jericho, his former on-screen best friend of many months, Kevin Owens, has been on a roll. The chemistry between these two has proven to be immaculate and Owens has been proving himself to be a valuable asset to WWE ever since signing on to NXT a few years ago. He has been on an almost constant rocket ship ride to the top of the main roster and hasn’t slowed down, each night standing toe to toe with the company’s biggest stars.
The man has practically dominated the WWE Universal Championship scene ever since the title was introduced back at SummerSlam in 2016 and has successfully established himself as a main event player, but like any other WWE Superstar he could truly cement his foothold in the annals of professional wrestling history with a match against and perhaps a win over the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
4. Braun Strowman
WWE has been doing a more than stellar job of building their newest force of dominance in recent months. When Braun Strowman initially joined the main roster a couple of years ago the future didn’t look all that bright for the big man. He was first thrown into the Wyatt Family as its newest member, but the problem with that scenario was that the Wyatts hadn’t been seen as a legitimate threat in a very long time following many hurtful losses to other well established WWE Superstars like John Cena and the Undertaker himself.
But when the brand extension went into effect in July 2016 Braun Strowman got drafted away from his family to Monday Night Raw where he has been on a slow but steady rise to main event status. The “monster among men” has been more dominant than any man we’ve seen in years and feels like a legit threat to everyone, even the Undertaker on the grand stage of WrestleMania.
3. AJ Styles
AJ Styles has been a professional wrestling icon for a very long time, many years before he ever stepped foot into WWE. That’s something that might have gotten past the occasional casual fan who might have been wondering why the company made such a big deal out of him upon his debut. Styles’ work in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling is what truly put him on the map as a global phenomenon, but he has wrestled all over the world including as a member of the famed Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling, a stable which has also included, at various times, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and even former NXT and WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor.
Since coming to WWE fans have gotten to see a dream match they didn’t even know they wanted to see in AJ Styles versus John Cena, and Styles has proven he’s got chemistry with many of WWE’s other big stars like Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns. But one match everyone would pay good money to see is AJ Styles versus the Undertaker on a big stage such as that of WrestleMania 33.
2. John Cena
Of course, no list of the Undertaker’s potential WrestleMania opponents would be complete without John Cena himself. Cena has been WWE’s modern day Hulk Hogan for nearly fifteen years now, something that has earned WWE its fair share of detractors who have booed him every single night of his career. Many fans rejected Cena as the new face of the company but WWE’s insistence on pushing him in spite of that has created an even more bitter crowd, but it cannot be argued that he has made the company truckloads of money and still knows how to put on a classic match on a big night.
Simply put, there is no better big fight wrestler in WWE than John Cena. That might be an unpopular notion, but his resume speaks for itself. The company and the entire WWE Universe knows John Cena would give the Undertaker the match of his life, so it has been rumored for many years that, should the Undertaker retire at a WrestleMania, it would likely be against Cena.
1. Roman Reigns
Much like John Cena was the replacement of sorts for the likes of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, Roman Reigns has been being groomed in recent years to be the new John Cena. This has, of course, turned WWE crowds largely against Reigns, but to be fair he was never all that popular to begin with. Reigns was always the least popular member of The Shield, with fans much preferring Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, but nevertheless WWE has continued to push him as the new face of the company and this has made fans in every arena irate.
We’ve seen it suggested so many times that John Cena should be turned heel to embrace the sea of boos he receives every night, and now that pattern is repeating with Roman Reigns. Should Reigns actually turn heel, there would be no more impactful time and place to do it than against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, and it just so happens that Reigns and the Undertaker both seem to have that night free.