Undertaker's Opponent: Analyzing Possible Pairings

David Seto

WrestleMania is less than two months away, and the final WWE pay per view before the Granddaddy of Them All is less than 12 hours away.

Therefore, somewhere within the next 36 or so hours we should have an answer to who the Undertaker will put his Streak on the line against this year.

In preparation, I decided to analyze some possible opponents and see how such a feud might be built.

vs. CM Punk

This is the current popular pick based off the rumors that have been cycling the interwebz for quite some time; so let's start here.

My opinion on this is that I'd rather not see it based on the way Punk has currently been booked.

If CM Punk had overcome The Rock at the Royal Rumble and retained the title, and then maybe even beat him again Sunday at Elimination Chamber, then Punk vs. 'Taker, with the title on the line, with CM Punk's ridiculous title streak on the line, would be a match that made sense.

It would not have mattered that Punk weaseled his way out of every finish for the past 6 months; it would only have mattered that he always found a way to win, and that he had The Shield on his side.

That would be enough to build a legitimate threat towards 'Taker's Streak -- you would have a lot of people believing that Punk could find a way to weasel out of just one more match. Plus, such a match would absolutely have to end the show, which is the only way 'Taker's streak should be broken: in the main event, as a send off. Punk scrambles away as Champion, blood all over his face and body, and 'Taker slowly rises to his feet after a couple minutes, receives a standing ovation from the crowd, does one last throat slash as everyone cheers and cries, and WrestleMania ends with his music playing.

Of course, that's not how it would end, but it's at the least a realistic scenario that would give many of us pause before assuming an automatic Taker victory.

And, at this point, that's all we really want. If the finish is assured regardless, at least make us doubt it a couple times before we get there. Punk as champion, in the main event of WrestleMania, could do that. And then, when 'Taker wins, it provides a classic story of the biggest face overcoming the odds at the biggest stage of them all against the biggest heel.

However, Punk with his waist bare, after having cowardly maneuvered his way into winning for countless months, and then having lost to The Rock cleanly despite interference on his behalf, and then losing again at the Elimination Chamber... you could not make even me -- a very ardent Punk supporter -- believe that Punk had any shot at ending the Streak.

The truth is, Punk has been booked too weak to be credible against 'Taker. You want 'Taker facing someone who is red hot on a winning streak, or someone who has recently returned and is massively over. You don't want 'Taker facing some guy who cheated his way into a massive title reign before losing cleanly twice to a part-timer.

So, Punk vs. Taker? No thanks.

Only way I could see them pulling it off is to have Punk get screwed again at EC, but not by 'Taker. And then have Punk come out on RAW the next night and begin complaining -- and then 'Taker shows up and stares for the challenge. With a 1.5 month build up, you could renew some legitimacy into Punk as an in-ring threat, and you could of course expect him to bring it as always on the stick.

But I still think it's a stretch.

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vs. Ryback or Sheamus

The introduction for these two would be the same, so I figured I'd talk about them at the same time. We would have something along the lines of an interference during the Shield vs. Shenaback match.

First, the Ryback option. Cena and Sheamus are handling Rollins and Reigns, respectively; as the four men have ascended steps in the arena and are not anywhere near the ring. Eventually, they are off camera and out of sight of even the live audience completely and we forget about them -- leaving our attention on Ryback destroying Ambrose.

Ambrose sells the high hell out of a Ryback assault, who leads an thunderous "Feed Me More!" chant, piles Ambrose on top of him, and nails the Shellshock. He covers Dean for the pin, when... SWITCH, the lights go out.

Naturally, since this is a tactic The Shield have been using for a month and a half now, people might not right away assume Taker's involved. And since we have not heard from the other Shield members in this match for a good two or so minutes, we might even assume they got the better of either Cena or Sheamus and have returned to help Ambrose.

But when the lights turn back on, it's 'Taker who is standing tall in the ring behind Ryback. Ryback turns around and 'Taker picks him up and Tombstones him right then and there. Ryback is laid out and 'Taker grabs Ambrose and pulls his limp body over Ryback for the winning pin.

For the Sheamus option, just switch the two; but the scenario would be the same.

If it's Ryback who gets the nod, I see a similar problem with him as I do with Punk.

Ryback, when he debuted and was entering Hell in a Cell, was as hot as anyone on the roster and would have made a believable threat to end the Streak. The way he would be after this, however; having lost yet another PPV match (and been pinned, no less!); I don't see it working.

As Eric B. Stephen pointed out very articulately in a great FanPost by DaVeganDemon, Ryback cannot particularly afford another loss -- and giving him one before sending him off to face 'Taker is doubly absurd.

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vs. Sheamus (can 'Taker play heel?!)

Sheamus, however, can afford a loss; and would come away looking strong despite it if done correctly.

Not only that, but Sheamus vs. the Undertaker is a match that would be entertaining -- which is not something I would bet money on for Ryback in the same position.

Despite what a lot of people think, the Great White is a solid in-ring worker with a knack for selling. He's also over enough that he might be able to get cheers through what would have to be a 'Taker heel turn. If not, I have confidence Sheamus could tweener it up for us enough to get us a believable feud.

Still, there's a problem with this. As awesome as it would be for the Deadman to be behind The Shield, how can anyone guarantee that people boo 'Taker?

Well, the only way I can figure, which would be epic to see, is to have The Shield do what they've been doing already week-in, week-out, except with 'Taker finishing the job.

The Shield come out, obliterate some pour soul or two; wreak havoc, put someone through a table, etc. But then they stand over their prey in the middle of the ring and look towards the stage. Lights go out, 'Taker's music hits. He strolls down the ring, takes his sweet ass time, and then gives a courtesy Tombstone to whoever the Shield's weekly victim happens to be.

Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose soften 'em up. 'Taker comes out and finishes the job.

Do that for a couple weeks in a row to enough baby faces and I could totally see people booing 'Taker. The Shield has enough heat on them already, that it's bound to help sell 'Taker as a heel. Let him gang up on helpless faces after the Shield has already done the hard work.

Then, when Sheamus descends the ring every week to help the defenseless face, he is obliterated in a 3 vs. 1 assault while 'Taker stands by and watches before delivering a Tombstone to Sheamus after he, too, has been weakened.

Sheamus is backstage next week, trying to recruit other faces to help him deal with The Shield and 'Taker, but everyone is too afraid of the Deadman. And with The Shield by his side, he's more unstoppable than ever. They tell Sheamus he's wasting his time. It's a suicide mission.

But the Irishmen refuses to give up. Even if it's 1 vs. 4 every week, he keeps subjecting himself to beatings (and he loves to fight; so it fits his style anyways).

Not only would Sheamus vs. Taker be a solid match come payout time, but Sheamus is big enough to pose a legitimate physical threat to 'Taker and can sell well enough to play the underdog role.

And we would get something I've been wanting to see for a while: 'Taker as the obvious favorite facing an underdog with the Streak on the line. The dynamic there is so unique. Normally, we expect 'Taker to win and we also want him to win, so we have to suspend our disbelief with the help of as much storytelling as possible to actually feign interest in the idea of 'Taker's opponent winning.

But if you can get people to boo 'Taker and simultaneously expect him to win, then you can have an underdog that people want to win challenging the Streak. It sells itself. 'Taker would be the most imposing Goliath of all time thanks to the mega-hot Shield by his side and the dark magic of the Streak.

Sheamus could play foil to that perfectly, and he could deliver in the ring. I would support this with all my heart.

random side note:

If 'Taker's streak were to end, this would be a good way to do it; but you wouldn't want to give Sheamus (age 35) that distinction. So who is my personal favorite to receive such a distinction? (Outside the fun fantasy options like Dean Ambrose or Seth Rollins) Cody Rhodes.

He might not be ready for it this year as I don't see how he would randomly begin a feud with 'Taker; but give it 'till next year and I think Rhodes should be that guy to do it. He's terribly underrated, has the family pedigree, has the charisma, and will only be 28 (almost 29) by WrestleMania 30.

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vs. Daniel Bryan

If it wasn't clear to us already that Daniel Bryan will play the heel upon Team Hell No's finally-eventually-no-it's-really-going-to-happen-this-time break-up, it should be clear by now.

If Bryan eliminating Kane from behind and then costing Kane a match and smiling about it wasn't a clear enough clue, the murder weapon was found this past week when Kane faced Ziggler (a heel) while Bryan went one-on-one with Mysterio (a face) the week prior.

So when Hell No lose the titles to "The Monsters of Funk" (copyrighted) on this coming Raw, we can move on to the inevitable: Bryan beating the holy crap out of Kane, putting him through a table, hitting him with a chair a zillion times, and then putting said chair around Kane's neck and ascending the ropes to end Kane's career once and for all.

Lights go out. Lights come on. 'Taker's standing between the two.

The introduction is obvious. The Deadman is there to defend his brother; he looks up at the 'Mania sign while Bryan chants, "No!" over and over again. The audience, of course, is going absolutely bonkers, chanting, "Yes!" at the top of their lungs. What a moment this would be.

But Bryan refuses and simply leaves the ring saying, "No!" Crowd boos before 'Taker's music plays and we have to wait 'till next week to find out Bryan's response. After 'Taker harasses him a few more times, he gives in and accepts the challenge.

This would cause wet dreams and wet pants among smarks the world over; and think about how cool it is for Bryan: one year after "18 seconds" you have a match with the Deadman.

A worthy honor for a man of Bryan's training, class, talent, and overness. And, who knows, at the age of 31, Bryan might be a prime enough candidate for 'Taker to hand him the most humbling honor he can bestow: ending the Streak.

Probably not. But at least we'd get one hell of a match and feud, with Bryan playing the role he has played for over a year now: the relentless pitbull of an underdog who refuses to act like an underdog even though it's obvious to everyone else that he is one.

I could see Bryan and 'Taker going back and forth every single week, with Bryan occasionally backing away, scared, saying, "No!"; and other times charging at the Undertaker out of nowhere with a steel chair and laying into him a hundred times like a total bad ass.

Heck, then Kane comes out for the save to spice things up and we get another RAW 1000 mark out moment with Kane and the Deadman together once more.

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vs. Brock Lesnar

This is an intriguing idea that I haven't seen too many people toss around.

The Lesnar angle, first-and-foremost, has one clear advantage that Punk also has: Paul Heyman. While the match itself would be Lesnar vs. Taker, the build-up would involve Heyman cutting promos on Taker while Lesnar stood there looking like a bad ass. Did you get chills, too?

Heyman would sell the crap out of this feud. I can imagine 'Taker coming out to intimidate the duo and while Heyman scrambles out of the ring or hides behind Lesnar, Lesnar no-sells the entire thing; smiling arrogantly, not at all afraid.

Maybe Heyman could even give us a few, "Undertaker, please god, just step down. Please, please, please Undertaker. Please just get out of the ring. For your own health, please Undertaker. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, don't do it Brock. Brock, don't do it."

While every recent incarnation of the annual Streak match has included a cocky heel who refused to "believe" in the gimmick and refused to be intimidated, they all eventually showed at least a moment or two of weakness or fear. They let the spooky bells get to them; they let the darkness and the lightning and the haunting music raise their hairs and grow eyes in the back of their head.

Brock Lesnar would do no such thing. He would be the first to wholly sell us on the idea that he is not afraid of the Undertaker and is not fooled by any silly superstition. When the lightening is going off in the arena on Monday Night Raw, and we are seeing glimpses in the dark of Heyman cowering in a corner and Lesnar standing tall, we would not see even an ounce of fear on his face.

I imagine the metaphorical booking would be something along the lines of Lesnar as the legitimate MMA reality against 'Taker as the cartoony, superstitious, old school fantasy. And, ultimately, I think that style of booking, with Lesnar as its best advocate, provides the greatest realistic threat to 'Taker's streak.

Lesnar is a rare enough appearance that we never get to see moments of weakness in him, or moments of defeat. Three seconds of a John Cena finish aside (in a match that Lesnar dominated), he broke Triple H's arm twice and laid out Vince McMahon. Lesnar could not only smile and no-sell his way into a WrestleMania match with the Deadman, but he could physically manhandle him as well -- which is something no one else can do to a giant the size of 'Taker.

But Lesnar could do it. Heyman could make us believe in Lesnar for the next two months until they stepped in the ring. And, when they did, Lesnar could make us believe The Streak is finally coming to an end.

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What's it Gonna Be, Boy: "Yes" or "No"?

So what do y'all think? CM Punk? Sheamus? Bryan? Lesnar? Someone else? Maybe a member of The Shield? Maybe Captain Charisma returns and 'Taker challenges him? lol

I am torn between all those options myself. Despite my reservations with Punk, one has to admit that three weeks from now no one will even remember Punk looking weak if he's in the middle of an epic feud with the Undertaker. The buildup to the Streak has a way of making everything else seem unimportant.

Regardless, we might get an answer tonight at the Elimination Chamber. And, if not, surely by tomorrow's Raw.

The time draws near.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.