By Bill Neville
Let’s be honest folks. This is going to be straight to the point. Last year’s match with Roman Reigns was terrible. I am not blaming Roman Reigns one bit, so you can stop that assumption right there. The Undertaker looked horrible. He had a widely discussed bad hip, just had his 52nd birthday, and just began his 33rd year in the wrestling business. He seemed to have a small portion of the strength he once had, as picking Roman Reigns up was a struggle we’ve rarely seen from him before, and you almost couldn’t wait until that final spear, when you knew it was over. All that said, the moments that happened following the match in Orlando were some that I will never forget as a wrestling fan, but one thing felt a little off.
Sitting in Camping World Stadium, awaiting WrestleMania 33’s main event of The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns, I, in addition to most of the building, knew what the result was going to be. But was Undertaker going to say goodbye to the WWE Universe? Were we going to get a speech? Would the druids come out to get him and carry his lifeless body to.. wherever? I was anticipating anything of the sort. 1, 2, 3. The match came to a close, and Roman Reigns exited the ring fairly following the barrage of pyro filling the Orlando sky, while the Deadman lay on his back in the middle of the ring. While Reigns was celebrating his victory, a glance at the ring made me notice Undertaker standing back up. He proceeded to put his entrance gear back on, seemingly in anticipation of the camera being back on him in a few moments.
Once Roman was gone, the camera was back on Taker, and he then began to remove the gear he had JUST put on. At this moment, I truthfully thought that was it. He took everything off, neatly folded it back up, and laid it in the center of the ring, to 75,000 people chanting ‘THANK YOU TAKER.’ This was pretty emotional for me, seeing my all-time favorite get sent off the way he should, to deafening applause and a standing ovation, then sinking into the stage, as if he was descending back to Death Valley. The lights in the stadium came back on, the crowd was somber again, knowing the guy they disliked the most had defeated the Undertaker, and he may never be coming back.
It was at that moment that I thought to myself, this really can’t be it, can it? This match? This guy? What about one more with his brother Kane to conclude the greatest story in WWE history? What about John Cena, the Mania match we never got? There seemed to be a few more match possibilities left on the table, and the “retirement” of the Deadman was given to Roman Reigns, in that terrible (again not RR’s fault) match in Orlando? There was no real sense of closure here. There was no “wrestle-magic.” He just limped up the ramp, and lowered into the stage. Something didn’t feel right.
Over the next 9 months, I had about 80% accepted that The Undertaker was gone, until that is, in January 2018. When he showed up in January at RAW25, my fandom had reignited. Seeing him in the ring at the Manhattan Center, looking healthier, I instantly wanted another one. Who could it be? He delivered an uber-cryptic promo that basically told the WWE Universe he wasn’t done. The Undertaker, from what I’ve heard, took more pride in this business than just about anyone in history. I had to think that he didn’t want his last match to be a lackluster performance that has been widely criticized since last year. With his supposed new hip, rehab going well, a rejuvenated Undertaker wrestling one more time sounds like a great idea to me. Let’s be honest, we’re not talking about another Undertaker run in this company, we’re talking about another WrestleMania moment, hopefully one that’s memorable enough for people to forget the last 3 matches.
John Cena, a mere 6 weeks later, bounced around RAW and SmackDown for a few weeks trying to find his WrestleMania match. Following a failure on both attempts in the Elimination Chamber and the 6-Pack Challenge at Fast Lane, him taking the microphone on RAW and challenging The Undertaker popped the crowd (and me) at a level where I never expected, from someone offering Taker another match. The internet hasd been stark raving mad about the thought of another Undertaker match, until now. From that passionate promo on, I’ve been all in on this match, and the majority of the WWE Universe seems to be as well. Big Match John has done it again.
Connecting to Jason’s article from Wednesday morning, John Cena should be appreciated to the high heavens on his way out. Like I said, he single-handedly sold me on his potential match with The Undertaker with one of his most passionate promos ever. Folks can be upset and whine about “being in Orlando and crying over the jacket” all they want. Plenty of wrestlers have “retired” and come back, and The Undertaker never OFFICIALLY retired. The match with Roman Reigns wasn’t a “Retirement Match.” I was in Orlando that night too, much like a lot of the people who have the gripe. If Undertaker wants another match to attempt to erase the memory of the match in Orlando, then who are we to say he can’t?
WrestleMania 34 is shaping up to be one of the great WrestleMania’s of all time. Can we just sit back, try to enjoy this one, and stop worrying about whether or not the Undertaker should be back? All signs point in the direction that he is going to be back, and we should be appreciating the fact that he is willing to put his body on the line one more time for the fans, in an effort to try and recuperate an image that has been soured in just about every match since he and CM Punk battled at WM29. I’m not expecting a 30 minute spectacle, let’s be realistic. BUT with John Cena, their combined big match experience, and each other’s ability to make others look good in the ring, I’m expecting and looking forward to a much better performance this time around.
Thank You Taker, I can’t wait. See you in New Orleans, Dead Man.