The Undertaker will compete at WrestleMania 30 next month in New Orleans and when he does, he'll put his undefeated streak on the line against Brock Lesnar. "The Deadman" has prevailed in 21 straight matches at "The Granddaddy Of Them All," but outside of that, he alternates wins and loses as frequently as anyone else.
Well, he used to.
'Taker only competes once a year these days because he's 49 years old and has accumulated a significant amount of in-ring damage. To his credit, he's put his body through hell and can still do some pretty astonishing things for a guy his size and more importantly, his age.
That being said, we can all agree the clock is ticking.
Realistically, how many years does he have left? There really is no point in soldiering on if he has to be protected in his matches, or starts to look his age. Part of what makes his undefeated streak so great is the fact that we still believe he can beat any man who dares to try to snap it.
Even "The Beast Incarnate."
But once we are no longer able to suspend our disbelief, it's time to call it a career. And when he does, there will be a spirited debate about whether or not he should end the streak to help "put someone over," meaning, elevate a younger talent who could benefit from the kind of rub that accolade would bring them.
And therein lies the problem.
Retired WWE legend Ted DiBiase pondered that exact scenario earlier this week with arguments for and against the streak's end. Personally, I believe that window has long-since closed, because the length of the streak -- and its place in the annals of pro wrestling history -- now supersedes the impact of breaking it.
Maybe not in the moment, but we have to start thinking long term.
This business is built on nostalgia. I can't be the only one looking forward to the interview Triple H gives 20 years from now, when he talks about the time he tore his back muscles while hitting The Undertaker with a 600-pound sledgehammer in front of 270,000 screaming fans inside Miami's Sun Life Stadium.
Why throw all that away?
The easy answer is "passing the torch," which means the mojo of the streak will be transferred to the person who breaks it, sort of how Charles Lee Ray was transferred to the "Good Guy" doll just before he bled to death in the Playland Toy Store.
Trying to find a worthy talent for such an honor has proved to be a daunting task. You can't give it to an established veteran, because anyone who has been around long enough to warrant that kind of rub surely doesn't need it. And how can you trust a promising up-and-comer?
No matter how "over" they are, or how bright their future may appear, it's still a roll of the dice.
The Ultimate Warrior was supposed to be "the guy" heading into WrestleMania 6. Pinning Hulk Hogan in 1990 was not that different from breaking The Undertaker's streak, in that it was a huge fucking deal. The man from parts unknown had only been with WWE (then WWF) for three years and was one of the hottest stars in the entire industry.
He got the WrestleMania rub, stood tall with two championship belts ... then imploded.
Or, he got royally screwed by Vince McMahon. It all depends on which side of the story you're on. Some insiders contend it was a little bit of both, but that's not what matters. What matters is, "Warrior" was not the man to carry the company in Hogan's absence.
But once WWE figured that out, it was too late.
What could have been one of the greatest turning points in pro wrestling history, on par with Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, is instead a cautionary tale about putting too many eggs in one basket. How can WWE accurately predict who will be the next John Cena, a guy who can sustain 10 solid years at the top?
It can't, so all it can do is make an educated guess, then hope for the best.
That sort of haphazard approach to main-event booking can be forgiven in title matches. If a championship program goes off the rails, WWE can simply take the strap off the offending talent and give it to someone else -- or just return it to the original owner.
That probably happens a little too much these days with all the start-stop booking, but at least the flexibility is there.
With the streak? Not so much.
I've heard names like Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns in the "streak" discussion, but there is still too much we don't know. Unless Wyatt is an anomaly like Kane, and can run the same gimmick for over a decade, we don't yet know what happens in a post-buzzard world.
And I'd like to hear a promo from Reigns that doesn't sound like phone sex before I anoint him the second coming.
At this stage in The Undertaker's career, I would assume that breaking the streak means ending his run as a pro wrestler, because outside of a WrestleMania rematch, how do you book him in the years that follow? Sting might be the only meaningful match -- post streak -- that wouldn't require a longer in-ring commitment.
I'm not getting my hopes up.
Furthermore, having The Undertaker sacrifice his streak in his final bout would prove to be a shitty parting song for one of the industry's all-time greats. Forget the coffins, the smokey entrances, and the dark cloaks. The streak is the greatest gimmick "The Deadman" ever had.
Maybe WWE should let it rest in peace.