Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ending the Streak: It's Now or Never

Another Streak DVD:
Now with 5% more content!
The Undertaker's Wrestlemania undefeated streak is the most prestigious record in wrestling. Unlike other achievements, like Ric Flair's sixteen world titles, this streak cannot be duplicated or beaten on a booker's whim. John Cena could win the WWE title five times this year and break Flair's record, but nobody is going to win 20 straight Wrestlemania matches unless WWE creative starts booking two decades ahead. Though 'Taker's streak went largely unnoticed for the first ten years or so, it has been the centerpiece of feuds and WWE Home Video Releases, most recently, the "20-0" DVD. As much money as the streak has earned, it is surely reaching the point of diminishing returns. How much can WWE make off a "21-0" DVD? No, the last great money-making angle to come out of the streak is its end, and in the opinion of the editorial staff of How Much Does This Guy Weigh? (Hi!), there is only one man up to the task, and only one time to get the job done: this year's Wrestlemania.


Besides the creative exhaustion resulting from year after year of streak-related storylines (including two back-to-back sets of rematches and a Mark Henry match to which the outcome was never in doubt), there is the physical exhaustion of the Dead Man himself. Father Time is wreaking havoc on The Undertaker, who has not wrestled a full schedule in years and now only wrestles at WWE's biggest PPV. Were it not for this one-match-per-year schedule, The Undertaker surely would have retired by now. There are only so many opportunities left to have someone end the streak.


There is one more reason why the streak must end this year: there just happens to be a perfect storyline set-up to the Undertaker's next match. This angle is ongoing at the moment, but next year it will have ended. The angle to which I refer is CM Punk's nearly-unheard-of 400+ day title reign. We are unlikely to see anyone in WWE hold any title, let alone the WWE title, for that long for the next several decades. It is the only other "streak" that rivals the Undertaker's at the moment, and a title vs. streak match, while it has been done before with both Batista and Edge, would mean so much more with Punk's nearly-unmatched title reign on the line, guaranteeing the "end of an era" that last year's Undertaker vs. Triple H match could only use as a tag line for their third Wrestlemania confrontation.

Unfortunately (and you might not have realized this), I am not, in fact, a member of the WWE creative team. This means that my hopes for Wrestlemania are at the mercy of the WWE writers, who seem intent on handing the WWE title over to a part-timer like The Rock so that he can lose it to Cena in a Wrestlemania rematch. If I had my way, Brock Lesnar would help his fellow Heyman client retain the title against The Rock at the Royal Rumble, leading to a Rock-Brock showdown at Mania and letting Punk defend his title against The Undertaker at the year's biggest event.

However, even if WWE goes the predictable route of ending a major title reign with a transitional champion (Ivan Koloff, Stan Stasiak, I'm looking at you), while simultaneously emulating 1993 WWF by putting the title on a returning star briefly vacationing from Hollywood who doesn't bother to even show up on TV until his first and final title defense, CM Punk must still break the streak. The great thing about this opportunity is that, even if WWE has Punk indirectly drop his title to Cena, the feud with the Undertaker and the Wrestlemania match will still make sense (perhaps even more sense).


With his historic title reign over, CM Punk, to whom being champion has become a crucial part of his identity, and who is always trying to prove that he is the best in the world, will be put into a crisis. If he still doesn't have the respect he has demanded even after a monumental championship reign, there is only one way to attain it. If people still don't recognize him as the Best in the World like he believes he is, there is only one way to prove that he is it, and that is to end the Undertaker's mighty streak.

 

I have heard suggestions for who The Undertaker's opponent should be at this year's Mania, but all of them but Punk would not work, especially as the person to actually break it.

Brock Lesnar may have had a real-life confrontation with the Undertaker after the former UFC champ's last fight, but no one would believe that Brock, who is only in WWE part-time, would be allowed to end the streak.

John Cena may be superstar enough to end the streak, but his victory would only further turn the WWE audience against him. Long-time fans would resent him like never before, while younger fans would not be able to appreciate the accomplishment.


(Not Photoshopped)
Less-established wrestlers on the cusp of superstardom, like Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan, run the risk of "Jack Swaggering" the ending of the streak. Swagger, if you try really hard to remember, was somehow made World Champion, but blew the opportunity and wound up much worse off than he had been before he prematurely won the title. Similarly, Chris Jericho became the first-ever Undisputed Champion, but  failed to establish himself as a deserving champion and, after taking a backseat to Stephanie, Triple H, and their dog, lost the title and never came close to becoming a world champion until his comeback. I think Ziggler and Bryan are great wrestlers and have great matches, but I wouldn't buy them beating the streak, and it's highly probable that accomplishing such a feat would backfire on them like Swagger's, Jericho's, or even Punk's first title reigns.

CM Punk, on the other hand, is an established star but, unlike Shawn Michaels or Triple H, is not so well-established that breaking the streak wouldn't give him a rub. HBK or HHH ending the streak would seem like overkill for wrestlers with such storied careers. In addition, unlike the last two people to challenge the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, Punk has much of his career still ahead of him. The heat and momentum generated by his breaking of a twenty-year-old streak would last him for years and permanently establish him as a star and future Hall-of-Famer.

The defeat of the Undertaker would not just establish Punk as "the man," but also as the top heel of his generation. Fans love to hate a braggart, but when they can't possibly deny a hated wrestler's abilities and achievements, like if CM Punk could shove his defeat of the Undertaker in the faces of fans, the heel heat would be nearly unprecedented. Now imagine what would happen to the babyface who beats the man (especially if Punk still has the title). You can ask Ric Flair what that would make said babyface.


Plain and simple, this angle is a license to print money and dive into it like a swimming pool a la Scrooge McDuck (except it's paper money, which is much safer to jump head-first into, anyway). I don't like to talk about wrestling in terms of what it can accomplish for a company financially (after all, I don't own stock in WWE), but the fact that, in addition to being a great story for wrestling fans to enjoy, it could sell PPVS, tickets, and merchandise and subsequently create new stars should be enough for WWE to book CM Punk over The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29. No one in WWE will read this blog post, but any creative team worth their weight in ice cream bars should have already thought of this angle.

For the past 22 years, WWE has been adding ammo to this angle. Now it's time to pull the trigger.

1 comment:

  1. I love how you've added these analysis articles. They show an excellent understanding of the industry and I hope they stay a regular feature.

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