Undertaker and AJ Styles (and maybe a couple assclowns) are going to do battle in a boneyard match at WrestleMania 36. The match name is dumb, but this has been one of the better stories on the card.
Undertaker delivered one of his best promos in years earlier this week (Mar. 23) on Raw. He essentially adopted a hybrid character that is a mix of the Dead Man and BikerTaker, and the promo convincingly delivered the threatening message that he was going to make Styles famous at WrestleMania.
There was one part of the promo, however, where Undertaker’s talking point pretty much mirrored John Cena’s implication that no current stars are a draw.
Here is Undertaker’s line that speaks to this point:
“You were content being a big fish in a little pond. Because you knew back then you didn’t have what it takes to hang with the Undertaker, Stone Cold, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Eddie Guerrero, Booker T, Edge - the very best this business had to offer. The Phenomenal One my ass. You waited till they were all gone. Except for me.”
The idea is that AJ Styles didn’t come to WWE 10 to 15 years ago because the stars of that time were too good for him. Once those stars were all retired, that’s when Styles decided to make the move to WWE. The hidden message here is that today’s top stars aren’t any kind of threat, and certainly don’t measure up to the stars who led the company circa 1995 through 2010. Why else would Styles come to WWE unless he thought he could hang with today’s top stars?
I’m not really stating this as a complaint. Undertaker’s promo was great, and the quoted line makes sense within the context of the story. Styles is the one who expressed trepidation about challenging Undertaker 10 to 15 years ago, so this is a logical conclusion for Undertaker to make about Styles’ motivations. Furthermore, it’s only natural for an athlete to believe that his own contemporaries were the best ever, and the younger generation is of lesser quality. That happens all the time in various forms of entertainment. Just because the Undertaker holds these views doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. He could very well be a biased old man stuck romanticizing the past.
Even acknowledging all of that, I still can’t help but wonder when WWE will focus more on framing today’s stars as the ones who matter the most. When we have results like Goldberg going over The Fiend so easily for a top championship, it continues to reinforce the idea that stars of the past are still superior to today’s stars. And it makes it that much harder to claim that Undertaker is out of touch when he implies that today’s stars just don’t measure up.