As you’ve no doubt seen or read by now, Undertaker made a surprise return to WWE television last night (June 24). On Raw, the Dead Man came to the aid of Roman Reigns in his handicap match against Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre. This sets up a tag match at Extreme Rules on Sun., July 14 between Taker and the guy who beat him at WrestleMania 33, against the guy he beat at WrestleMania 32 and his current muscle.
Speculation is this is Vince McMahon going back to a Superstar he’s always been able to count on to draw eyeballs and pack houses, at a time when television ratings and gate receipts aren’t where he needs them to be. It’s also not hard to imagine the Phenom wanting to do something as soon as possible to try and wash off the stink of his disaster of a Super ShowDown main event with Goldberg earlier this month.
Which is fine. I’m certainly not gonna pretend I didn’t get chills when the gong sounded in Everett, Washington. It was a pleasant surprise seeing him on Raw, and I was impressed by how well he moved when he wasn’t in an open-air stadium where the temperature was above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
There’s definitely some interesting storyline directions they can go in, especially if they mine the recent WrestleMania history of the men involved. Seeing as they ended up ignoring the story that the Hell in a Cell match at 32 was for Shane’s stake in the company (and maybe control of blackmail material he had on his dad?), and that the best things from Roman’s win a year later - a nice sendoff for the Dead Man and the Big Dog leaning into his heat - were reversed before we could get used to them, I don’t have a ton of faith. But maybe.
Anything which involves Reigns or McIntyre standing tall would be great. Both are performers WWE will likely be using for years to come. Putting over people like that is exactly why you bring back big names from the past like Undertaker, or push a specialty acts like Shane.
That’s why it’s critical Taker and McMahon remain the supporting players in whatever drama is about to unfurl. As much as Vince hopes they’ll always be there to prop up his creative whenever it’s slumping, they won’t. Shane already left once, and we’ve been watching the Dead Man look less than immortal for years now.
There are a few ways this Extreme Rules match and whatever follows can go right. There are lots of ways it can just end up being another trifle we forget shortly after its over. But there are two things it can’t do, that’ll we’ll remember as mistakes in the long-run if they happen.
One would be continuing Shane O’Mac’s rise by having him join Brock Lesnar and Roman on the list of current Superstars who’ve pinned the Dead Man. It sounds ridiculous, but we already saw Shane pin Reigns. This one could be mitigated if McMahon finally did the job for someone else after beating Taker, but still... no.
The other, and probably worst, option would be to have the last eight months worth of build for McMahon’s character be used to re-establish the legacy of the 54 year old Phenom. The reputation of The Miz, and McIntyre, have already been harmed by being positioned as less than the Chairman’s son. Someone the company can count on in the future should benefit from that. If the Big Dog is still “The Guy”, it should be him. Undertaker being the one to end The Money’s run would mean fans and wrestlers sacrificed almost a year for nostalgia’s sake. The past is good for a pop, we know. But it can’t be the foundation for growth.
Do the right thing, WWE. Use a hero of yesterday to tell a good story starring the heroes and villains of today, and that makes us want to see them in more stories tomorrow.
Then let the past rest... in... peace.