Looking back, it was obvious that the Undertaker Streak was coming to an end

undertakerUndertaker’s ring entrance included a display of 22 coffins, 21 for his previous WrestleMania victims, the last one for Brock Lesnar, who was about to be added to the list. Watching WrestleMania 30 with a friend and his two elementary-school-age sons, it was one of the younger fans who pointed out the obvious.

“That means Undertaker is going to lose.”

Looking back, it was all fairly obvious based on how WWE set up the storyline to the Lesnar-Undertaker feud in the first place. Think of the basic psychology of a wrestling story: the heel does something dastardly to launch the feud, and continues to have his way with the face all the way through whatever go-home event that is there to use to sell the payoff.

The clever approach that WWE’s creative team took to Lesnar-‘Taker was casting ‘Taker as the heel who had his way with Lesnar as the face. In the basic psychology of wrestling, the face gets his payback at the money match. Lesnar took the best that Undertaker had to give him, including a Tombstone Piledriver and near-fall, and escaped what we all know would have been the coup de grace, a rare second Tombstone, turning that into an F5 that led to the 1-2-3.

So, why did it take a 10-year-old to point out to us what we should have seen coming all along? The advantage that the 10-year-old had is that he can’t comprehend 21 years of WrestleMania history. Most of what happened before the age of 5 is a blur. At best, the kid can remember well the past two, three years.

He only had what was in front of him as a guide, and what was in front of him was interesting hubris on the part of Undertaker, who in recent years was billed as the underdog against a slew of challengers (Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk) who seemed poised to end The Streak.

Nobody with a sense of the Undertaker mythology thought there was a chance in, well, hell that ‘Taker would have The Streak end at the hands of Lesnar, though ‘Taker himself had indicated in interviews over the years that he wanted Lesnar to be the one to end The Streak, and that when you think about it, it makes the most sense. The Undertaker character is a near-indomitable force, who at worst can be taken to the brink of defeat, but is ultimately unconquerable.

Who can rightly be expected to take down such a foe? How about a former NCAA wrestling champion who has won multiple world titles in WWE and then went over to the octagon and won the UFC heavyweight title? Brock Lesnar is nothing if not legit in the ring, even if the ring that he is better suited to is the MMA ring.

I’m among the legion of fans who think it would have been better for business for Undertaker to surrender the streak to a young star who could take the ball and run with it – the next John Cena, Triple H or Steve Austin. I think we all have a point, and a right to feel hurt that if it had to end, The Streak, and of course it did, that it went to a guy in Lesnar who we’re not even sure wants to be involved in WWE long term.

On the other side of that, Undertaker has long since earned the right to decide when and under what terms The Streak and his career come to an end.

And he obviously decided at some point in the past year that it was going to come to an end at WrestleMania 30 at the hands of Brock Lesnar.

Credit is due to WWE for not letting that cat out of the bag. As much as leaks out to the wrestling blogs, it’s hard to assume that anything is a secret in wrestling anymore, but we deserved the moment of surprise that came across all of us last night when Undertaker wasn’t able to kick out at one-two …

For those who were able to watch it live, it’s something that as a wrestling fan you will never forget.

You probably don’t want to thank Undertaker, Lesnar or WWE even now, but in time you will come to appreciate the moment for what it was. Just like the 10-year-old who thought he had it figured out, who was as surprised as the rest of us when ‘Taker didn’t kick out, you were taken back to that time when it was just fun to watch wrestling, because you could never be sure what was going to happen.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

– Column by Chris Graham

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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