The Undertaker. The Phenom. The Deadman.
A pro-wrestling career spanning four decades has left him capable of wrestling only one match per year now, but it's typically one of the most anticipated matches of the year. "The Streak," currently at 20-0, is an accomplishment unlikely to ever be duplicated. Not only is winning 20 straight matches at the biggest event of the year an inconceivably difficult feat, simply wrestling in 20 WrestleMania matches may be difficult to duplicate due to the sheer toll such a lengthy career takes on one's body.
All sources point to the Undertaker going for win #21 this year, and there is a lot of speculation about who his hand-picked opponent may be. Some expect The Streak to last forever, but the persistent rumor has always been that the Undertaker, being an old-school guy with a great mind for the business, would be willing to break it to put over a young up-and-comer.
Might that happen this year?
Additionally, I believe The Streak is fully in the Undertaker's hands. It's going to be a big draw, for as long as Taker is able to keep it going. WWE isn't going to force him into anything, as he can simply refuse any ideas he doesn't like.
Furthermore, we already know there won't be another match with HHH, nor will Ryback be getting a shot at the streak this year, no matter how much he may want to.
So when the bell tolls and the lights go out at WrestleMania 29, who will be standing in the ring as the Phenom makes his way out? I see more than a few possibilities...
Image via i.imgur.com
1. CM Punk
The longest reigning WWE champion of the modern era is #1 on the list for many reasons:
While the plan has long been expected to be Punk losing the WWE title to The Rock at Royal Rumble, he remains the #1 possibility with or without the title. Punk is a fantastic worker who could help keep the high match quality we've come to expect from Taker's WM outings in recent years, and he is excellent on the mic -- more than capable of setting this feud up properly from that perspective.
Also, with Rock/Cena, HHH/Lesnar, and Sheamus/WHC all likely locked in, Punk would be the biggest star in the company without a high level WrestleMania opponent available. Finally, the WWE is rumored to prefer Undertaker's opponent be a heel, since Taker gets a natural pop whenever he shows up; Punk would also take care of that aspect.
To break down both possible scenarios:
CM Punk as WWE Champion: A 400+ day title reign vs. the 20+ year Streak sells itself; both are historic feats unlikely to be duplicated any time soon, if at all ever again. Despite his lengthy reign, Punk still desires the respect he feels he deserves. One of his career goals is to main event WrestleMania, and there is no way this matchup would be anything but the ultimate match on the card. Playing off the "respect" angle would be the simplest way to set up the match. Undertaker would challenge Punk to break the streak, and, if successful, would have all the respect he could ever fathom. One possible draw back would be Taker winning the title. In his current state, it'd be challenging for him to defend the title for any real length of time. This could easily be rectified with Taker "retiring" the next night on Raw, thus, vacating the title similar to what Edge did when he retired. (Taker could easily still come back for the next year's WrestleMania.)
CM Punk without the title: Though it may not have the historical significance of the title vs. streak match, Punk vs. Undertaker without the title is still a big time matchup. This match could also be set up via Punk's desire for respect. One possibility is to have Punk lose the title at Royal Rumble, and then fail to win the rematch the next night on Raw. The following week, it could be announced that the Undertaker will make an appearance, likely to announce his retirement. The announcers would make sure to talk a lot about The Streak, and how it will never be broken. When it's time, the Undertaker makes his way to the ring with the crowd going wild. He does his hat removal/eyes rolled back routine and grabs a mic. Before he can talk however, Punk's music starts up. (I mark out a little just thinking about that happening.) Punk proceeds to the ring and spits hot fire about how disrespectful it is that some part-time wrestler gets promoted all night while he is fresh off the longest title reign of the modern-era getting nothing. He gets up into Taker's face, at which point Taker slaps the mic out of his hand, points up at the WrestleMania banner, and gives the throat slash. "If you want respect, take on The Streak." Match set.
In either case, I see Undertaker coming away as the winner.
Punk is already established, and doesn't need the bump breaking The Streak would provide. Also, by his own admission, he doesn't plan to wrestle much longer. If someone breaks The Streak, it should be a guy who can be a top star for at least another decade. That leads me to...
2. Daniel Bryan
Great worker? YES! Massively over with the fans? YES! Would it please the smarks? YES! A guy who, win or lose, would receive a huge career boost just by taking on The Streak? YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!
If not CM Punk, then Daniel Bryan would be my #2 guess as to who Undertaker may have chosen for this year. Because Bryan is already involved with Kane, a transition to the Undertaker could be done quickly and logically.
Personally, I'd start the build out with a Hell No breakup within the next month. As we all know, tag teams who break up then need to feud. When the match happens, Bryan puts Kane in the No Lock and refuses to let go, long after Kane has submitted. With "little brother" in trouble, the lights go out and the bell rings.
Bryan looks up in shock as Taker lumbers down the ramp with bad intentions. Letting go of Kane, Taker and Bryan have a stare down in the ring. Taker gives Bryan the throat slash and Bryan retorts with a series of "NO's!" As Taker's glare grows more intense, Bryan finally relents with a big "YES!" and the match is on.
It would be absolutely fantastic if Bryan were to win this match, but I think it would still go to Taker. I'd give Bryan a better chance of winning than any of the other possibilities though. Maybe he could even lose this time out, only to win the rematch at WM30?
Now THAT would be something to behold. I'll let you all daydream about what that scenario would look like... just don't forget to keep reading after you change your pants.
3. Dolph Ziggler
Yes, the Show Stealer himself. I have him behind only Punk and Bryan in terms of probability as Taker's hand-picked opponent. Dolph has mostly been on fire, at least at PPVs, for the final two months of 2012, and looks to keep that up headed into 2013.
He is a guy with a lot of potential, but hasn't really had that "breakthrough" moment to establish himself on the main event scene just yet. Hopefully, him cashing in to become WHC will be that for him, but something else that would help immensely, is a shot at ending The Streak.
In terms of in-ring ability, there isn't a guy on the roster better at making his opponents look good than Dolph. He could use his athleticism to make up for the Undertaker's lack of it at his advanced age. Plus, you know he would sell everything that Taker throws at him to the maximum of his ability.
While it isn't likely he'd be the guy to end The Streak, he has as good of a chance as anyone else, if he is indeed Undertaker's selection. Plus, imagine a scenario where Dolph breaks The Streak and cashes in for the WHC at WrestleMania. It would easily make his career as a main event level Superstar.
Can you say "Show Stolen?" And there would be no greater show to steal than the biggest one the WWE has to offer.
4. John Cena
I apologize for forcing you back to the world of #WWELogic after the Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler dream scenarios, but this is a thing which actually could happen. (Pauses while you all groan.)
Cena isn't the most popular guy with people older than 12, who have a Y chromosome, but he is the modern face of the company and a big draw at PPVs. WWE seems to be ensuring that Cena is at least getting a crack at everything the company has to offer in terms of accomplishments, and one that has so far eluded him, is a shot to break The Streak.
Luckily, there are a few reasons why this match is unlikely. First, it is widely expected that Cena will be taking on The Rock in a rematch from last year, likely with the WWE title on the line. But if recent rumors prove true, a major shakeup in the WrestleMania plans may be in order. Undertaker selecting Cena as his opponent may very well have caused those plans to change.
Secondly, Cena probably wouldn't be high on the list of guys Taker would hand-pick. Challenging The Streak really wouldn't do much for Cena, while it could legitimize many other guys on the roster.
Additionally, Cena isn't the technically proficient performer who Taker likely needs to face at this point in his career, in order to make the match a high quality affair. He is also the company's biggest face (even though he acts more like a dick), which would go against WWE's desire for Taker's opponent to be a heel.
Finally, I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to keep Cena away from Taker, just in case Cena gets the wild idea that he wants to go over Taker. If not this year, then perhaps at a future WM to "get his win back." Although, if "win ALL the titles" HHH can handle being 0-3 vs. Taker in Streak matches, Cena should be able to live with 0-1.
If not Cena, then perhaps "Cena Lite?" Yes, I speak of Sheamus there, fella.
The plan for Sheamus has been rumored for him to challenge for the WHC at WrestleMania, likely against heel Randy Orton. But with the "shakeup" rumor mentioned above, perhaps the plan has been changed for Sheamus to face Taker.
While Sheamus is over with younger and more casual fans, his goofy character and poor mic skills have seen him struggle to get over with the notoriously vocal crowd of smarks on the Internet. Being hand-picked by Taker to challenge The Streak, even in a losing effort, would go a long ways towards legitimizing the Celtic Warrior towards the entire fanbase.
Also, it would get him out of the WHC picture for a little while, a scene he has dominated since winning the belt at last year's WrestleMania, allowing for a breath of fresh air.
Although Sheamus isn't going to win any awards for his technical wrestling prowess, he does have a natural in-ring charisma about him which could help to make a match with Taker a good one. The fact he is a face isn't as inhibiting here as it would be with someone like Cena, since they could play up Sheamus' love for fighting as the reason for challenging The Streak.
Sheamus is not quite as likely as someone like Punk, but I do like his odds of being the choice better than someone like Cena. Also, I don't think he'd be the one to end the Streak, as he is already well established with most of the fanbase and is only a year younger than Cena.
6. Brock Lesnar
This one would be an easy, if unlikely, sell for WWE. Lesnar and Taker have a history together, and one thing Lesnar has yet to accomplish in WWE is to beat Taker (or even face Taker) at WrestleMania.
Unfortunately, for those who hope to see this one come to fruition, it's doubtful Lesnar will be facing anyone other than HHH. When HHH wants to get his win back, HHH will get his win back. With so many other choices of guys whose careers would be furthered by participating in a Streak match, I don't know how high on Taker's list Lesnar would actually be.
7. The Shield
If Taker wants to use his Streak to put over young talent, taking on any member of the Shield would be a great way to go. The Shield has been booked strongly thus far, and if they continue to be a hot commodity on the Road to WrestleMania, a match with Taker would absolutely legitimize the young stars.
Coming up with a way to sell Taker's Streak as an injustice could be used to get them involved, and challenging Taker via one of their hand-held camera promos would be interesting. Maybe they could even take out Kane and deliver his mask to Taker as a challenge. I could definitely have some fun fantasy-booking this one.
Unfortunately, while it is entirely possible these guys are on Taker's radar as future stars to put over, I think they're just too new at this point to be in the match. Maybe by next year's WrestleMania, we'll get the Ambrose/Taker match we all desire, but I don't see it as likely to happen this year.
8. The Rest
Another star like Orton, Del Rio, or Miz could have a shot. I'd love to see someone like Sandow or Cesaro get a crack as well, unlikely as it may be. There is also the chance they want to get one final Kane/Taker match in before their careers end.
At the end of the day, if Taker truly handpicked his opponent, I'm going to trust his judgement. Personally, I feel like he's got at least two WrestleMania matches left in him, and I couldn't imagine a milestone like WM30 happening without him being a part of it.
This year's match may not be the be-all-end-all for Taker and his Streak, but it still has the potential to be something great.
Editor's Note: This FanPost has been lightly edited and promoted to Cageside Seats front page, CSS Features Hub and our WWE Hub as well. Enjoy the read, Cagesiders, this one is superb! Wouldn't it be spectacular if someone at WWE Creative was reading it and taking notes, too?