I love cSs and I prefer to lurk, reading exceptional writing, and put in a comment or vote here or there. Very rarely do I write, but today I make an exception only because one event, the end of The Streak, is so exceptional.
I've been reading many responses to Undertaker's loss, but I was most impressed with BIGPALE's. BIGPALE is an incredibly talented writer (if you haven't read the series ranking Wrestlemania main events, check it out now) and proved it again by putting the end of The Streak in perspective. The article was eloquent, beautiful, and poetic.
And it's completely wrong.
I'd like to believe this was great storytelling, I really do. But I'm supposed to believe it was great because WWE planted the signs and I didn't believe them? WWE always plants those signs! The specter of The Streak ending has always been there. Without it there would be no drama. It was there with CM Punk. And with HHH. And HBK. And with every challenger to The Streak before them. To think the build for the Brock Lesnar match was somehow special is to look back with rose-colored glasses.
No, the "signs" were no more special than any other Streak match. No, the match was not great storytelling. Instead it was disgusting, brutal, and cruel because it broke one of the fundamental reasons why we watch pro wrestling.
We Want Fantasy
There is no other escape from reality like pro wrestling. It's a world where "Hulking Up" is real, where Ultimate Warriors find invincibility in shaking ring ropes, where gladiators withstand punches, kicks, chair shots, sleeper holds, and sledgehammer attacks and come back for more.
Our suspension of disbelief, our insatiable desire to give in to this fantasy is what gives the story of pro wrestling its power. It lets us believe that a man with an injured shoulder can overcome not one, not, two, but three bigger, stronger men and become a world champion.
The Undertaker was the epitome of this fantasy. The spirits would descend and the arena went dark. The fog came. The lightning struck. The organ music hit and a man haunted by death walked to the ring. In match, he would summon the powers of the supernatural to overcome whatever damage his opponent gave him. No mortal, not even a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, could match the mythical power of the Phenom.
Then Reality Sets In
Reality and pro wrestling don't mix. We thought they did when CM Punk dropped his pipe bomb, but even his "reality" was cloaked in kayfabe ("defending" the WWE Championship in Ring of Honor???). No, actual reality in pro wrestling comes when a wrestler commits a botch, or suffers a concussion, or commits suicide.
Actual reality in pro wrestling is pretty damn ugly.
At WrestleMania XXX, we were subjected to reality. In that sense, Lesnar was the perfect opponent; he wasn't going to work around Undertaker's physical weaknesses like CM Punk or HBK to tell a dramatic story, he was going to expose Undertaker for what he really was: not the Phenom, but an aging Mark Calloway who (and I'm paraphrasing Jake "The Snake" Roberts from his HOF speech the night before), in his mind and his heart, still wanted it, but his body couldn't do it justice.
The match made me cringe. Undertaker was slow and lethargic. It made me wonder about all those years I cheered when Undertaker took a major bump, how much of a toll that took on Mark Calloway. Should he even be in a wrestling ring at all? I saw a man who gave everything he had left, not that he needed to, not that we deserved it. I witnessed a man truly hurting, the man behind the fantasy, the reality. And the reality fucking hurt.
Undertaker Owes No One, But It Still Breaks My Heart
It's been well-reported Undertaker hand-picked Lesnar to break The Streak, and I don't blame Vince for respecting his decision.
With his extraordinary body of work, Undertaker owes no one, no fan, especially not some once-in-a-while wrestling blogger like myself, a "proper" ending to The Streak. I respect his right to end it the way he did, but I'll be damned if I'm to believe it was appropriate, because it wasn't. For a man willing to preserve kayfabe even in honoring Paul Bearer, The Streak deserved an ending that preserved that aura.
Instead the ending shattered it, and regardless of whether Lesnar or Paul Heyman or Vince McMahon can spin the situation into gold, the fans of pro wrestling deserved much better.