On Sunday, April 6th, 2014, the last real thing in professional wrestling died.
Remember when you found out Santa wasn’t real? It knocks the wind out of you, and leaves you in utter disbelief. You go into shock. How can he not be real? You’ve saw the movies. You’ve read the books. You’ve left him cookies on the eve of December 24th, and they were gone on the morning of the 25th, seemingly digested by the obese man with the rosy red cheeks. Now imagine you were a grown man and just found out that Santa was fictitious. It’d hurt so much more to grow up believing so strongly in something for years, only to find out you were living a lie. When the cruelness of reality hits, boy, does it hit hard.
Many wrestling fans, like myself, grew up and witnessed all of The Undertaker’s legendary winning streak. I watched it begin live on pay per view in 1991 when the WWF rookie defeated the legendary “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka in quick fashion. It wasn’t booked to grow into a series of win that would span nearly a quarter of a century. Not even the best booker could have enough foresight to plan out something like that. Within a era of short lived characters depicting garbage men, repo men, dancing chickens, and plumbers, who could have predicted that the gimmick of a dead guy controlled by a mysterious urn would capture the hearts and minds of wrestling fans for generations?
It’s often been said that The Streak might not even be a thing had it not been for Kevin “Diesel” Nash signing with rival WCW in early 1996. Had Nash opted to stay, it’s been said that the man who went on to be one of the founding father’s of the “new World order” may have very well defeated The Undertaker. Of course, he didn’t stay with the WWF, and the Dead Man’s Streak continued. Though the series of wins began at WrestleMania VII, it wasn’t until 2001’s WrestleMania X-Seven that The Undertaker’s flawless record was used as a storyline point for his match-up against Triple H. From then on, ‘Taker’s winning record began to be an attraction in itself, with the man who faced The Undertaker was viewed in just as an important spot as the guy challenging for the WWE Championship.
After The Undertaker had two legendary battles with Shawn Michaels on the grand stage in 2009 and 2010, with the Heart Break Kid coming out on the losing end, it was said that The Streak would never end. If HBK couldn’t put down The Undertaker, no one could. It became the highlight of WrestleMania to see just how close someone would come to holding down ‘Taker’s shoulders for the count of three. In the back of your mind, though, you were just waiting for the WWE’s resident zombie to hit that Tombstone Piledriver , punching another notch in his ‘Mania belt.
When Brock Lesnar pinned The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30, it was if you just told thousands of grown men that Santa wasn’t real for the very first time. When the palm of that WWE ref hit the mat for a third time, it was if my mind had played a dastardly trick on me. Surely Undertaker kicked out. Or maybe the ref botched the finish. Certainly, that must have happened. No music played over the arena loudspeaker. No bell was heard. This couldn’t be right. Oh, man, WWE. You got me— the old “Dusty Finish.” Surely, the match was going to restart at any moment.
As the cameras focused in on different fans in the crowd, it slowly began to sink in. The crowd wasn’t booing. The crowd wasn’t cheering. A hush came over the Superdome in New Orleans. Painted on the face of every person that they showed was the look of hysteria. I thought for sure they would show someone having a seizure, or fainting in somebody’s arms. I read reports that adults were crying in attendance, and I believe that. Never in my life had I seen that type of reaction from a wrestling crowd. It was surreal.
There was only one time in my life that I can remember feeling that “Wait, WTF” feeling during wrestling. That was when Hulk Hogan turned his back on World Championship Wrestling, and became a villain for the first time in my lifetime. Never in a million years did I believe The Hulkster would stop demanding me to train, say my prayers, and to eat my Flintstones chewable vitamins. I couldn’t imagine Hogan aligning with a gang of thugs, and wreaking havoc on guys like Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting.
I was nine years old when Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. I mean, I still didn’t even know wrestling was predetermined at that point. Of course I had that surreal feeling. As I got older, I never thought I would have a feeling like that again. I was wrong.
The Streak was real, maybe because the man behind the character made you feel it was real. Legitimately, a fan walked up to me last week and asked me if Brock would end The Streak at WrestleMania. I laughed, because I’m a wrestler and I know everything. “The Streak will never end. People believe in it, and it’s the most iconic thing in all of wrestling,” I replied, with eight years of wrestling business experience as my backup.
As I stared at my screen, looking at Brock Lesnar’s hand raised in victory, I thought I was dreaming. The next morning, I had to re-watch the match just to be sure I saw what I saw. I was still in disbelief. Only a few things in life were certain: taxes, death, and The Undertaker always wins at WrestleMania. Now nothing is for certain. Anything really can happen in the WWE. To be able to elicit that kind of reaction out of a grown man who’s in the business is incredible. To be able to extort that sort of realistic feeling out of smart marks that think they know everything is amazing.
On Sunday, the last real thing in professional wrestling died, but it’s death gave us a real reason to dislike Brock Lesnar, the character. Inevitably, Brock Lesnar will soon be the WWE Champion and the most hated villain in WWE in years. Kudos to WWE for this. The thing that I find most hilarious in all this are the fans out there who are now saying that Lesnar, a part timer who left wrestling for MMA, shouldn’t have ended The Streak, after months of complaining how the real life former UFC Champion has been buried in WWE.
The Streak is now the only thing that’s dead and buried. As surreal as Brock’s win over ‘Taker was at WrestleMania XXX, the end of The Streak has seemingly created a new beginning in WWE. I look forward seeing where this ride takes us.
How do you feel about the end of The Streak? Write me an e-mail to [email protected]. Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/The HandicappedHero, or on Twitter @GregoryIron. I would love hearing from you, and make sure to share this article by clicking on the social media links at the bottom of the page.
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Until next week, peace!
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