WWE may have painted itself into a corner.
At WrestleMania 29, which emanates from the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, on April 7, 2013, The Undertaker will compete for the 21st time at "the granddaddy of them all," when he takes on CM Punk. As it stands, the "Deadman" is a perfect 20-0.
Also known as "The Streak."
For the past several years, it's been widely-debated as to if, when and how WWE should end it. Most fans and pundits agreed that should The Undertaker indeed suffer his first loss inside the squared circle, then it must be done in conjunction with the elevation of a promising young talent.
Or, to break the glass ceiling for an established superstar who needs that one big push.
At this stage of the game, I'm not sure either scenario is plausible. That's because the streak has taken on a life of its own, overshadowing the man behind it and becoming the second-biggest WrestleMania story per annum. It also sells a boatload of DVDs!
Simply put, this angle is just too important to risk on anyone outside of the elite.
I've been around for a long time and I've seen my share of superstars come and go, plenty of them with promise. Heck, I think we've all seen the revolving door of talent and recognize that today's hero can just as easily be tomorrow's zero. Injuries, drug problems, egos, any number of things.
As far as we know, ending the streak can be like winning Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
The absolute worst-case scenario is a young up-and-comer ends the streak and two years later is seen jobbing to Sting in TNA. No, that can't (and hopefully) won't happen, because this is expensive cargo and you need the right man for the job.
A man like CM Punk.
I don't think there has ever been a better time for the streak to end. Punk is one of the few A-list superstars who can make The Undertaker's first loss actually hurt. Yes, hurt, like it's supposed to. Last year's little group hug between 'Taker, HBK and "The Game" was cute and all, but that's not how you end a streak.
And you sure as hell don't end it by having a mega-babyface like John Cena STANDING TALL, if for no other reason than such a scenario would force me to hold down my television and vomit all over the screen like that scene from Fight Club.
I've never been crazy about high-stakes match-ups being face vs. face anyway, so you need to have defined roles if you're expecting a finish with balls. Want fans to have a memory they won't forget? Let Punk do the job -- but not because he's a heel. No, a guy like Dolph Ziggler is a heel.
CM Punk is a villain.
As Monday Night RAW proved, there isn't a better one out there right now. The death of Paul Bearer, while tragic, was outrageously convenient in its timing, giving Punk's feud with The Undertaker an entirely new (and more personal) direction. The obvious question, is how beating 'Taker elevates a multi-time champion like the "Straight-Edge Superstar."
It elevates him from one of the greatest villains of our time, to one of the greatest villains of all time.
That means a helluva lot more than that dopey belt The Rock is lugging from show to show and for my money, a fair trade off for getting passed over in the WrestleMania main event (again). Take into consideration, too, how quickly the 48-year-old "Phenom" is deteriorating.
How many times do we get an opportunity like this one?
Thanks to Paul Bearer, we have a program with legitimate heat, one that may never come again as The Undertaker contemplates retirement. And what better way to validate Punk's record-setting title reign than with the one in-ring accomplishment that John Cena, Triple H or anyone else in the back can never take away.
Hardcore (and perhaps some casual) fans might argue that a superstar like Punk, who's been around long enough to carve out a spot in the annals of WWE history, at this stage of the game, doesn't need the streak to elevate his career.
As far as I'm concerned, neither does The Undertaker.