Each year as the opening bell for WrestleMania draws nearer, wrestling fans are used to hearing another type of bell ring: the gong from the iconic theme song of future WWE Hall of Fame inductee the Undertaker. No man or woman, including Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan themselves, have been so closely aligned with WrestleMania as has the Dead Man, and his lengthy undefeated streak has helped him to build a career which has made him the most revered and respected individual in the history of the professional wrestling industry.
How can one man hold such a high level of adoration from fans and co-workers alike? It’s not only that WWE has always seen something so special in Mark Calaway – the man behind the “Phenom” – that they have chosen to trust him with such a glorious record at the biggest show of the year. The man earned that position with his consistently memorable show stealing matches not just at WrestleMania but all year long. In 1990 his western mortician character was debuted and seen as so over the top that there was simply no way it should have seen such success, but it went over exceptionally well with wrestling fans and in almost thirty years the Undertaker has always been in the main event scene.
He suffered his first WrestleMania loss at WrestleMania XXX in 2014 against Brock Lesnar in a moment which shocked the entire wrestling world and will go down as one of the craziest moments in the business. The loss didn’t slow his momentum as he has continued to dominate at every WrestleMania since, but there are plenty of reasons one should be expecting a second loss for the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, and here are fifteen of them.
15. The Event Is In Florida
Almost ten years ago at WrestleMania XXIV the Undertaker came out victorious in the main event against a man who would go on to enter the WWE Hall of Fame some years later, Adam “Edge” Copeland. The Dead Man left that event with the World Heavyweight Championship in tow and it was one of the finest matches in the careers of both men. That historic event, which was also the night the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was retired following a loss to the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, took place in Orlando, Florida, the same city that will serve as the host of this year’s WrestleMania 33 event.
But things might just play out differently for the Undertaker in Orlando in 2017. Rumors have been picking up steam that the Undertaker’s WrestleMania opponent for this year is likely to be none other than former Shield member Roman Reigns. Florida is the state Reigns calls home and we all know how WWE likes to play up hometown heroes. If WWE is desperate enough to milk as many cheers as possible out of the audience for Reigns, the Undertaker would likely lose this particular match.
14. A Championship May Be Involved
The Undertaker is one of the most legendary world champions in the history of WWE, having been fighting for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the majority of his nearly thirty-year career against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Triple H, Batista and many, many others. As mentioned above, he won one of his last world titles by defeating Edge at WrestleMania XXIV in 2008 in the same city this year’s WrestleMania 33 will take place.
However, almost ten years later, it’s unlikely it will happen again for the Undertaker. Granted, it doesn’t appear as though he will actually be competing for a world title this year with men like Goldberg and Kevin Owens, who apparently aren’t destined for a match with the Dead Man at WrestleMania, keeping the championship picture warm, but anything can happen between now and then and if there is a championship on the line for the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 you can bet he won’t be leaving with the gold at this stage in his career.
13. Streak Dependency
The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania became a thing of such legendary renown that it could conceivably receive its own wing in the WWE Hall of Fame. It is an entity all its own that has been the most defining part of the career of one of the greatest men to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, and even now, years after being broken in shocking fashion by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, it is still spoken of affectionately as if it were never actually ended.
Indeed, the streak has always been synonymous with both the Undertaker and WrestleMania itself, almost becoming bigger than both of them. Since Lesnar broke it, the Undertaker has gone on to decisively win both of his WrestleMania matches since that time and if he gets another win this year he will sort of have a whole new streak going. Not only would WWE not want to overshadow the original streak or trivialize its end at the hands of Brock Lesnar, they would also not want to grow dependent on the Undertaker’s needing to win his WrestleMania match every year again.
12. He Can’t Wrestle Long Matches
If there is one thing we have learned over the past few years’ worth of Undertaker performances it’s that he can’t exactly move the way he used to. With each passing WrestleMania, his matches become less athletic than the ones that came before and that’s perfectly understandable considering the fact that the man is now into his fifties and has been wrestling a much more exciting style than most men his size for nearly thirty years. He was hospitalized following the streak breaking match he had with Brock Lesnar in 2014 and he has continued to wrestle every year since then. He was even reportedly in bad shape after his brief appearance in the 2017 Royal Rumble match despite not getting very physical.
So the question begs to be asked: is the Undertaker still capable of wrestling a classic match? If he’s to stick around it’s not likely he’ll be able to spend much time in the ring on any given night, so there is a distinct possibility his match at WrestleMania 33 will be a near squash. If that’s the case, it’s hard to picture the Undertaker believable burying any potential WrestleMania opponent at this stage in his career, so the Dead Man is likely going down for the count.
11. Shock Value
If there is one thing the professional wrestling business loves is shock value, and they got plenty of that in 2014 when Brock Lesnar ended the Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. It was perhaps the most breathtaking moment in the history of the event, so it speaks volumes about the legendary status of the Undertaker that it hasn’t defined his career in any way and he is still known for his streak almost three years later.
In some ways just having the Undertaker still competing at his age brings some form of shock value to the product, especially considering the things he still manages to pull off inside the ring despite his waning performance quality. However, just because the streak was already broken doesn’t mean another loss at WrestleMania wouldn’t carry its own level of surprise. In a time when any match could be his last, another WrestleMania loss could provide just the wrinkle needed in an otherwise predictable scenario.
10. Setting Up A Rematch
During a recent and rare appearance on SmackDown Live, the Undertaker proclaimed that he would no longer allow WrestleMania to define his wrestling career, indicating that his presence would be felt more frequently and he would perhaps be competing in more matches annually than just the one at WrestleMania. That pattern was set into motion when he performed at the 2017 Royal Rumble for the first time in years, so if this is the idea moving forward he will almost certainly be competing at this year’s SummerSlam event, which is WWE’s second biggest show of the year.
There are roughly four months between WrestleMania and SummerSlam to use for the purpose of storyline building and any program the Undertaker is involved in will likely get first priority in that department given his status in the company. There’s a decent chance any potential SummerSlam match he would be involved in would be set up as a rematch between himself and whomever his WrestleMania opponent turns out to be, and if that’s the case then we’re very possibly looking at a loss for the Undertaker at WrestleMania so that he can attempt to redeem himself in August.
9. He’s Injury Prone
As we have already talked about earlier, the Undertaker isn’t wrestling like he used to. His matches over the past few years have decreased in quality with the man in his fifties now and not in the greatest of health. He seems to be suffering an injury of some form or another every time he competes, even supposedly being in a lot of pain following his Royal Rumble performance earlier this year, during which he largely stood around and knocked people out of the ring.
Indeed, it would appear that our beloved and invincible Dead Man is a bit injury prone, which has resulted in fans who are vaguely in the know regarding his health having a difficult time not cringing every time he takes a bump during his matches. Given his recent history of issues, it would be wise of WWE to put their stock in a younger rising star rather than book another victory for the Undertaker and risk not being able to capitalize on it due to another injury.
8. His Opponent’s Push
In the early years of the Undertaker’s WrestleMania performances, he was a young star making a name for himself by defeating some of the most intimidating names in the World Wrestling Federation on the biggest stage there was. By the time the 2000s had arrived the Dead Man was an established WrestleMania regular and over the course of a few years wrestled the likes of every member of Evolution, including Triple whom he would ultimately meet on the grand stage a total of three times.
Later, his matches with Shawn Michaels were dream contests for fans. Though that match had indeed happened in the past it had never gone down at WrestleMania, and those two men proved why that mattered by wrestling two of the greatest matches ever recorded. Nowadays, the Undertaker is more likely to be wrestling a younger star WWE will want to put stock in for the future, and if that turns out to be the case at WrestleMania 33 an Undertaker loss makes much more sense than a win.
Wrestling fans are nothing if not a fickle bunch. Especially in the age of the internet, everyone has a strong opinion and many of them hold those opinions so strongly that the only way for them to be swayed is for WWE to accept their input, which of course convinces them to lean in another direction because WWE can never be allowed to get anything right. As a whole we’re complainers, and that’s okay because it’s all born from a common passion for the wrestling business whether all of us are willing to admit it or not.
However, if there is one thing in WWE nearly every fan can come together and agree on it is our mutual adoration and respect for the man they call the Undertaker. He is untouchable and unbreakable, and how dare anyone not appreciate the legendary contributions made to the business by this future WWE Hall of Famer? The fact that the Undertaker is so universally loved means it’s easy to pull out the sympathy card, and what better way to evoke sympathy for the Undertaker than having the man beaten and embarrassed at WrestleMania?
6. His Career Continues
We’ve already talked about the possibility of the Undertaker competing again later this year, potentially in a rematch at SummerSlam against whomever WWE decides to book as his opponent at WrestleMania. The topic of whether the Undertaker will even be around following WrestleMania has been on the lips of wrestling fans for years now, but as WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has said, if the Undertaker plans to retire in any given year we will know about it ahead of time, because it’s bad business for WWE to not market the hell out of it.
So, let’s say that another match actually does happen later this year involving the Undertaker. Maybe it will even be more than one match because only the Undertaker knows what he’s capable of. Regardless of whether or not there is a rematch between himself and his WrestleMania opponent, if the Undertaker plans on sticking around following WrestleMania 33 it would probably be a wise decision to give him a loss at the show in order to keep things interesting because at this point it’s all too predictable.
5. The Card Is Packed With Older Stars
As the old saying goes, anything can happen in WWE. It’s a phrase that has been proven true time and time again and this year’s WrestleMania is yet another example. Not only is the Undertaker inexplicably still managing to compete at his age, but now WWE has managed to bring Goldberg back in for a high profile program against Brock Lesnar at the big show. Also happening at WrestleMania 33 will be the 2017 Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton challenging for the WWE Championship and, of course, we’ll have John Cena and likely Triple H competing in some capacity.
In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a distinct pattern here that is going to ruffle the feathers of many fans who frequently shun WWE for not taking the time to build new stars. There are certainly a lot of older WWE Superstars competing in some of WrestleMania’s biggest matches this year, and with many of them likely coming out victorious this might be reason enough to have a younger star go over the Undertaker in a big, big way.
4. Roman Reigns Turns Heel
Originally, rumors were persisting that WWE was planning on throwing John Cena into the ring against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 for what could potentially have been the Dead Man’s retirement match. However, newer rumors have surfaced that that match is actually off the table, a rumor backed up by the fact that the Undertaker seems to be primarily involved with Monday Night Raw now while John Cena competes exclusively on SmackDown Live.
Given their recent altercation during the 2017 Royal Rumble match, it now appears that WWE may be building up to a match between the Undertaker and former Shield member Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. It will be impossible to get the audience to cheer the WWE golden boy over the Undertaker, so fans are hopeful that the long-awaited heel turn for Reigns is coming and if that happens its impact would be maximized by a victory over the Dead Man.
3. His Opponent Needs To Be On Par With Lesnar
Ever since Brock Lesnar destroyed the Undertaker in 2014 and ended his lengthy and legendary WrestleMania undefeated streak, the Beast has been nigh unstoppable. The only man to seemingly be able to give him a true challenge aside from the Undertaker himself has been Bill Goldberg who will meet Lesnar this year at WrestleMania. That match is rumored to be for the Universal Championship, and if Brock Lesnar goes forward with another World Championship reign then there will need to be someone new who could believably challenge for it.
Whether the Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania 33 turns out to be Roman Reigns or someone else, it would be wise of WWE to look into the future and build him into a threat to Lesnar by having him decisively beat the Undertaker in his own yard. Nothing could do more for a young star’s journey to the top of the company than a win over the Dead Man at WrestleMania followed by a program with the streak breaker himself, Brock Lesnar.
2. Confidence In The New Era
Last year WWE reinstated the brand extension in a big way, drafting exclusive rosters for both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live. This, in a roundabout way, was an investment in this new wave of WWE Superstars who have been rejuvenating the company with fresh storylines and exciting new matches. Men and women like Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and more have become fast rising megastars for the company all thanks to the brand split providing more opportunities for deserving talent to shine.
WWE seems to be reaping the rewards of the new era with a WrestleMania on the horizon that stands a chance at being the best in many years, but as mentioned earlier there are still a lot of older stars on the card. A win for a younger star over the Undertaker at WrestleMania would not only do a lot for that man in particular but would also be a vote of confidence and an investment in the future of the company as a whole.
The Undertaker’s retirement is a topic that is discussed every single year around this time, and that has been the case for years and years now due to the fact that he continues to compete at such a level in his fifties. By this point in their careers most professional wrestlers have long been retired, and if they haven’t then they are a broken down shell of their former selves. Though the Undertaker’s WrestleMania performances aren’t what they used to be, he has managed to remain as the face of the biggest event of the year regardless.
No one will ever be more closely associated with WrestleMania than the Undertaker, but even though he continues to defy all logic and keep going year after year, chances of his retirement being forced grow with each passing match. There has never been a more likely time for him to hang up his boots than WrestleMania 33, and if he does then passing the torch to a younger star would be the perfect way to go out.