WrestleMania 28 from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, is just days old but looking ahead to WrestleMania 29 at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey is already the hip thing to do. So look ahead we shall. But to attempt to make sense of the present -- and possibly future -- first we must look back at the past.
The landscape of WWE has changed considerably over the last week. The Rock has emerged triumphant in his quest to become what he calls "the greatest superstar of all time" by pinning John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania this past Sunday night (April 1, 2012). Cena, meanwhile, fell short despite the fact that he maintained throughout the entire build to the match that he must win. A loss would essentially invalidate his entire career.
So when that happened, it was somewhat of a shock to us all. The Rock going over clean in his hometown made sense on a basic live event level but for long-term booking, it seemed to be somewhat of a mistake. Then again, it appeared to be a disaster for Daniel Bryan that he was squashed by Sheamus in just 18 seconds and lost his world heavyweight title. The response to this was he was even more over than The Rock on Raw the next night.
These things can work out sometimes.
Undertaker also participated in a match at WrestleMania 28, completing a trilogy against Triple H with Shawn Michaels adding a bit of flair as special guest referee. The win ran 'Takers streak to 20-0 on the grandest stage of them all and likely ended "The Game's" run as an active wrestler.
That was the major news coming out of WrestleMania but the next night on Raw saw Brock Lesnar reenter the fold when he made his big return to WWE by interrupting John Cena's pleas to congratulate The Rock on his big win with an F-5. It was presumably a declaration that Brock is back and he's coming to reclaim the playground he once called his own.
Earlier in the night, The Rock gave what may as well have been a farewell speech; seeing as we know he's off to make a few more movies. But he left with a tease -- and a particularly big one at that.
"The Great One" vowed that there will come a day he will once again walk down the aisle as WWE champion.
All of this has served to do two things: 1) It's given pro wrestling the perception of being a relatively hot product again and 2) It's given birth to a plethora of possibilities of how to book the next 12 months at the top of the card. At the very least, it's an interesting time to be a WWE fan.
Now let's get to breaking down the next 12 months and attempt to answer that question I posed in the headline.
For starters, a disclaimer is almost necessary here. WWE may have a few ideas in mind regarding what it wants to do with its main event players over the next year but plans change in an instant. In fact, if we're to believe reports from various pro wrestling insiders, John Cena was supposed to go over The Rock until basically the last minute.
Keep that in mind when discussing potential future plans.
It is, however, worth wondering where this could be going. During out latest episode of Cageside Live, I wondered if it's possible Cena and Lesnar could feud leading to a match at SummerSlam that would end in a smoz finish leading to a WrestleMania rematch between Cena and The Rock -- this time with the WWE title on the line. It could also lead to Lesnar vs. Undertaker, with that being the moment 'Taker makes his challenge.
Word is also circulating that it's possible a match between The Rock and Lesnar will happen. That, admittedly enough, would be a big money match and makes sense on a number of levels. It couldn't be for the WWE title, of course, unless one of the two committed to dates past WrestleMania next year. And if that was the case, it would undoubtedly do business on a level that could surpass what this year's show did.
That leaves Undertaker to take on Cena. I think we can all agree that this combination of four guys will all be in play to square off against one another. 'Taker vs. Cena, Rock or Lesnar makes sense. Everyone else on the roster?
Not so much.
In years past, a match pitting "The Deadman" against Cena was a notion brushed off as unlikely simply because the pro wrestling community hated the idea of Cena being the guy to end the Streak. And make no mistake, if there's a guy on the roster right now that fans could legitimately believe could hand Undertaker his first WrestleMania defeat, it's John Cena.
Or it was. Until this past Sunday night.
While we all thought it possible that The Rock could win, I don't think any of us truly expected it as an outcome WWE would ultimately decide on. Sure, they would entertain the thought, but no way would they really go through with it.
Well, they did. And that decision may well have sullied a potential match between Undertaker and Cena because now fans won't be as willing to suspend their disbelief that 'Taker will actually lose the match. Cena represented the last possible opponent to cause such an emotional reaction within fans and that may be dead now.
Really, that's the only appeal Undertaker has anymore. It's certainly not "The Deadman" character with supernatural powers and the ability to raise and dim the lights in whatever arena he's walking into or out of. It's not the desire to see him perform on a consistent basis. It's whether or not his Streak will come to an end this year.
For that, the right opponent must be chosen.
That's partially what made his match against Triple H this past Sunday night such a classic. If they could manage to create a moment of doubt -- just a single second where you thought Undertaker would fail to answer a pinfall attempt -- then they succeeded on a level no other match could. And they did.
Of course, that means it can happen again. But the story will have to crafted beautifully since that's really what we're buying into. It's not the match, it's the story going into it and coming out of it.
Either way, I think it's safe to say an Undertaker vs. John Cena match is sullied by The Rock emerging victorious at WrestleMania 28.
I just can't decide if that's a bad thing.