About a month ago, in my monthly column for The Color Commentator, I made a passing comment that the Big Show had done something I’d thought wouldn’t happen: He completed the Grand Slam by winning the Intercontinental championship in April. I realize that that’s an odd way to start off a column that features the Undertaker in the title, but I’ll get to that.
At some point, the Undertaker is going to come back to WWE. It may not be until November—it might not even be until January—but at some point this winter, Undertaker is going to come back to the ring. That’s just what he does. That’s just how his schedule works. And because he’s Undertaker—because he’s pretty much done it all and been one of the all time greats—he can do that; for better or worse—right or wrong—we’re going to watch.
We’re going to watch because the Undertaker is one of those transcendental stars—like Savage or Sammartino—who will be looked at decades later as being one of those who reached a level of greatness unattainable to nearly all wrestlers. But we’re not going to get anything out of it.
We’re not going to get anything out of it exactly because of what I said before—Undertaker has done it all. He’s run the streak to two decades. He’s done Streak vs. Career; he has won both the WHC and WWE Championship (and both at Mania no less); he has won with no rules; he has won in handicap matches; he has teamed with, turned on, and defeated his brother. Undertaker has headlined every major pay-per-view at one point or another, and he has wins at every one of the Big Four.
The man has almost literally done it all, and I say almost literally for a reason. You see, we won’t get anything meaningful out of another Undertaker match, unless…
Unless we see him go for the one meaningful thing he hasn’t won yet. There’s one meaningful thing he still has to do. That’s complete the WWE Grand Slam. When Undertaker comes back, he needs to go for the Intercontinental Championship.
It sounds crazy at first—I would know because I tried convincing myself to not write this column twice—but it makes sense the more you think about it.
All kinds of names are being kicked around for who could face Undertaker at Mania. Names range from the creatively out-of-left-field possibility of Brock Lesnar, to the ridiculously, stupidly, asininely misinformed suggestion of one wannabe writer that perhaps Sting would face the Dead Man, to every name in between. The three that seem to still have the most credence are Ryback, CM Punk, and John Cena. None of those names gives us the new angle of pursuing the WWE Grand Slam. Every single one of them can only offer an angle that we’ve seen before.
We’ll start with Ryback, whom can only offer a feud in the form of a “Streak vs. Streak” match. Think about it: Undertaker’s streak is, by definition, on the line every Wrestlemania. Chris Hero could make his WWE debut at Wrestlemania 29 against Undertaker and it would technically be “Streak vs. New Blood.” Going up to Undertaker and saying “put your streak on the line” is like going up to a guy and saying “come on, fight me because I want a fight!” Sure, Ryback could do some sort of equivalent to that where he says that he’s beat everybody but Undertaker so why not fight him at Wrestlemania? But, the only logical reason to take that challenge is if there’s something Undertaker has left to prove to someone.
In that case, the response is “Well who the hell is Ryback?” Undertaker has nothing to prove to a guy who has been at the company for comparatively no time at all. And if he has nothing to prove to a young hot-shot on a heater, then he sure as hell doesn’t have anything to prove to either HBK or Triple-H. Those two account for five of his twenty Mania victories—that’s 25 percent for you statheads out there. No, there’s just no compelling reason for him to do yet another arbitrary “Streak versus X” angle. Even if you could come up with a halfway decent opponent to do that, is there really any doubt that Undertaker would win? At this point, the law of diminishing returns is working too hard against anything other than another Undertaker victory in a “Streak vs. X” scenario.
In that same vein, how could we possibly suspend our disbelief enough that we can actually go along with Undertaker having anything to prove to anyone of any consequence on that roster?
CM Punk is the second name to address, but is there a need? Undertaker is no longer with the roster long enough to be a serious WWE title contender, and there won’t be any reason for Punk to be out of the WWE title picture come Mania time. Even if WWE were to go that route, how the hell would Undertaker insert himself into the feud–heck, why would he? Punk takes no shots at Undertaker, Undertaker has nothing to prove to CM Punk, and outside of a few lackluster matches that built to nothing a few years ago they have no history.
John Cena? Again, how could Undertaker possibly have anything to prove to Cena? In no particular order (and going back to his pre-WWF/E days), Undertaker has scored pins over the following people: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, Ric Flair, Edge, The Road Warriors, Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Dusty Rhodes, Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Steve Austin, Kane, RVD, and at least a few others. While Cena has managed to turn stunningly pedestrian talent into a very nice career, he isn’t so great that one can believe Undertaker just has to add his name to that collection. I concede that Undertaker vs. Cena is a nice idea—and might even still have a place of relevance—but Undertaker has hardware to add first! There’s not believable reason you can give to me that, instead, Undertaker needs to come back to prove something to a guy who can’t even get his home town behind him.
And what unique can Cena offer? “Once in a lifetime?” “Two Legends?” Please. We saw Cena do “once in a lifetime” last year against the Rock. And who wins the fight? Not us fans. Imagine the end of that match. Do you really see a satisfying ending? Cena defeating Undertaker? Ick. Undertaker not winning a Wrestlemania cleanly? Ick again.
If the Undertaker were to come back and get in on the Intercontinental title picture though, you’d have something. You know he’ll win it at some point during the feud—he’s Undertaker for cryin’ out loud—but you also know he’ll have to drop it sometime around Wrestlemania to coincide with his usual Spring Sojurn and allow a pretty important title to not be in limbo for months on end—he is Undertaker for cryin’ out loud.
Let’s say just for argument’s sake that Undertaker shows up at Wrestlemania 29 defending the Intercontinental title. Are you positive he’s going to retain? Are you sure that he’s going to walk out champion? He’s going to go away soon, so the title has to change hands soon, right? Odds are that he won’t make it to Judgment Day so when is he going to drop it?
On the flip side, what if he shows up late and challenges for the Intercontinental belt at Mania? He’s the Undertaker, so he’ll probably win. But he can’t win—precisely because he’s the Undertaker. He’s going to go away soon. It’s either the most definitive, important, and status elevating title change to happen to the IC belt in at least a decade and probably longer, or, we’d have one of the best shock the world moments in the history of the company as the reigning Intercontinental Champion went toe-to-toe with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania…and won.
Now you’ve got some intrigue. Now you’ve got a match.
Look, I don’t think WWE will go that route. For as much as they’re trying to go outside the box to build their midcard, I don’t think they are willing to get that crazy.
But if anybody could help give a final push to revitalizing the WWE midcard—while giving their own character’s story a much needed shot in the arm in the process—it’s the Undertaker.
Afterall, at that point, he’d be a Grand Slam champion.
Main Event (re)debuted last Wednesday, and I raved about it. This has the potential to be WWE’s best show both from a creative standpoint, and from the view of a busy wrestling fan. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I thought Main Event bordered on perfect. If they can keep their top people on there—and maintain that big fight, late 80’s special feel—Main Event will become the best wrestling show on TV. Mark that down.
During the Night of Champions Supershow, PWI’s Mike Bessler asked me to clarify some thoughts I’d had on Kane. On the show, I said that I figured he was done and that the “last good run” I had written about nearly 3 years ago was probably gone now. Those words should stand as a testament to understanding the context in which things are said, and in testament to how sometimes, I can be dead wrong. I didn’t think anybody would have the wherewithal to pair Kane with a tag team partner to take some of the physical load off his fairly aged frame. WWE did, and now they’ve got a really hot—and really interesting—tag team to help rebuild the division. More importantly, Glenn Jacobs seems like he is actually having a lot of fun with this angle and is a genuine joy to watch. I admit that I have a bias toward him both as a worker (even I have my favorites) and as a person (we share similarly right-of-center social and political views) but tell me anybody else could have made this as interesting.
Listening to Hit the Ropes Radio this week, the thought was put out there that TNA should bring in Beth Phoenix and Kelly Kelly to rejuvenate the Knockouts and the company as a whole. This was the most absurd thing I heard all week and I thank God that host Shane Howard put up a fight against it. First, TNA brought in Mickie James after she had worked her professional magic to turn the bland and uninteresting Michelle McCool into the center of a white hot women’s feud. They killed her momentum and James is now an afterthought in the division. TNA also brought in Katie Lea—former face of the Queens of Chaos promotion and arguably a top three talent among all women’s wrestlers—and promptly found a way to use her even worse than WWE (a surprise to us all). So how the hell would they get it right with Beth freaking Phoenix, or Kelly “Brazzers” Kelly? Even if there was a reason to believe that the Knockouts Division could help right TNA’s ship, why bring in more people? Bringing in more people to TNA’s already heinously crowded roster has never been the answer no matter how many times they’ve tried it. The only reason they should be signing names away from other promotions at this point is if they plan to take another run at WWE and those names are CM Punk and/or Randy Orton.
If you’ve never watched a Mexican promotion, you need to. Start with anything Dr. Wagner Jr. has been in.
Thoughts Completely Unrelated to Wrestling
We talked about “Breaking Amish” last week and probably will again this week. That show rules.
Johnny Unitas had a record broke this weekend when Drew Brees threw a TD in his 48th straight game. A lot of people waxed poetic, but color me unimpressed. Brees has thrown the ball well over 40 times a game for years now and often to a stable of highly talented receivers. Unitas was lucky to average half that number of attempts per game and played in an era when runningbacks, not quarterbacks, were the stars of the offense. There are records just being broken now–in the most passing prolific era in the history of football–that Unitas set over 50 years ago during a time when you often only threw on 3rd down. He was literally decades ahead of his time and if he played today, he’d set impossible numbers. Brees may have the consecutive passing TD record, but for my money, there’s still never been anybody as good as Johnny U.
While we’re on the subject of football, I feel sorry for Kansas State. I’m not sure what they have to do to become a unanimous top 5 team. Look, if you’re KSU, you’ve beaten every team you’ve played by double digits save for Oklahoma–and that was in Norman so it’s somewhat forgivable. Their average score versus their opponents average score is almost a double-up. I’m just not sure what else people want to see from KSU.
I <3 The 80’s Song of the Week
Frida – “There’s Something Going On.”
Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @wrestlekingray. To get his column on your website, email firstname.lastname@example.org.