Listen to the sounds of thousands upon thousands of people chomping at the bit in anticipation of Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker. Listen to cacophony of stampeding feet as people rush to buy tickets and sign up for the network just to see if Brock Lesnar can end the streak. Listen to the millions around the world screaming in anticipation of the The Undertaker's unbeaten Wrestlemania run finally meeting its demise.
Silence is wonderful, isn't it?
It says a lot when Paul Heyman, a master word-smith of any generation, can't even make a coherent argument to the contrary. Heyman did a magnificent job last week on Raw talking about how Taker's 21-0 compared to the Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan never got close to even double figures, let alone 21. And what did Heyman offer as a counter argument? BRRRRRROOOCCKKK LESNNNNAARR – WWE's gun for hire, main event enhancement talent, the man who gets paid to lose: Cena at Extreme Rules in 2012, Triple H at Wrestlemania – when it really matters, Brock Lesnar does “what's best for business”. WWE have two more weeks of build, and you shouldn't judge a movie at the 40 minute mark – but they established just how much of a threat Lesnar would be when Undertaker stabbed him with a pen and chokeslammed him through a table within minutes of the feud starting.
And who should be surprised? Triple H tried
And there's the moment for pause, the one name that sits out of a list that makes fans sit back and wonder. Some maybe recoil at the thought, after all he “doesn't need it”. But WWE's shortage of true Mania headline matches (both realistic and fanciful) makes it quite the question as to why this match isn't take place in three weeks time. Cena is the only name with a question mark next to it – Cena vs The Undertaker is the only match of any value, the only “headline worthy” match remaining. Let's just say it's a good job the veil of the network will hide what the true buy-rate for Wrestlemania would've been this year.
The timing of Hulk Hogan's return is an interesting one. Hogan is the standard bearer for the company, the main who took the WWF from being a territory to being the territory. I'll save you the 5,000 word history lesson but Cena's legacy will ultimately be remembered for a comparable transition at the very least (going from attitude to PG and navigating the fallout of Chris Benoit with the company rested firmly atop his shoulders). Why bring Hogan up in all this? Simple – if Hogan was around at a comparable time when the streak was at it's pomp like this, he would've ended it. If Austin or Rock were – they would have too. If WWE wants to write in the history books that John Cena was the Hulk Hogan of his generation, that he was the Rock or the Stone Cold of his generation – he must end the streak.
But he “doesn't need it” – I hear you cry. The same people that will tell you the company is “suffering” because he is the guy on top (“suffering” – with stock prices at an all time high, a mega-TV deal coming around the corner and Mania buy-rates at the highest they've ever been). Cena needs the streak to validate him as great – just in the same way that WWE took Brock Lesnar and broke him down to the point where he's just somebody because he always lost, the WWE can put John Cena comfortably alongside Hogan, Austin and Rock by making him do what nobody else has done before. If Cena can't get the job done – how can you put him alongside Hogan? Hogan got the job done when it mattered.
But what for Undertaker? He should “retire” with the streak. Do me a favour. That sounds like a TNA booking plan. Undertaker “retiring” with the streak would be like drawing out a billion dollars in a currency you can't use. Last time I checked the WWE were in the business of making money – and if you believe what you read they're about to make a lot more of it soon. Where is the value in Taker retiring with the streak? That's not how wrestling works. WWE have done a great job in building one guy and one match each year that can prop up their biggest show – the streak dies when he retires anyway – whether he's and 0 or and 1. If we're going to talk about what's “best for business” – let's have a sane discussion.
But if Taker should pass the torch it should be to a “young guy” – yeah… because WWE have been so good at maintaining a consistent push for young guys in recent years. Let's take the top 8 wrestlers “to be pushed” by the company after Mania: Lesnar, Cena, Orton, Batista, Bryan, Reigns, Cesaro and Wyatt. Four of those guys debuted in 2002 (what a year that was!) four of those guys debuted after 2010. In the intervening years only CM Punk ever really got anywhere – Sheamus, Lashley, Ryback, Mysterio, Hardy, Mr Kennedy, Drew McIntyre, Alberto Del Rio – they were all going to be the guy. They gave up on them all. It's too late to get anyone ready now – Taker doesn't have long enough left.
As the man would say – the time really is now. Undertaker (theoretically) could go on for a number of years wrestling once every twelve months – it's not unheard of, but it's hard to believe that Taker would want to risk his recent legacy of putting on showcase matches. Let's have two more matches – Cena goes over him at Wrestlemania 31. Taker wins the rematch at 32 and retires. That'll do just fine.
Then there's the possibilities. People have often talked, nee hoped, for a Cena heel turn. The timing has never been right, and it likely never will be. But imagine Cena cheating to end the streak? Heck, imagine Cena arrogantly putting down the Undertaker in a decisive manner? There are volcanoes that wouldn't be able to generate that kind of heat.
People will have you believe that Cena's run as the face of the company is coming to an end. Because Austin never lasted this long, because Rock never lasted this long. Heck Hogan barely lasted this long. But you forget one important thing linking all three men – they all left. Hogan to WCW, Rock to Hollywood, and Austin called it a day because of injuries. Cena is 36. If he's still main eventing big shows at Triple H's age he'll be headlining Wrestlemania in 2022. If he's still going at Undertaker's age he'll headline Wrestlemania 42. If he's still going when Ric Flair packed it in – he could probably wrestle the son that The Rock doesn't even have yet. His superhuman ability to overcome injuries and his seeming undivided loyalty to the company indicate that he's got a lot of miles on the clock yet. And if WWE want to tell the story of John Cena being this generations Hulk Hogan – him ending the streak isn't a question, it's a statement.
Alright – I'm prepared for what I've got coming. Tweets to @BobbyBamber. Emails to email@example.com. And while I've got you here – this Saturday I'm live tweeting Wrestlemania X for @Wrestling20Yrs. If you're into some nostalgia (and a show Undertaker oddly enough wasn't on) – join me at 9pm UK/5pm ET time.