Sean Kelly: WWE Network's Impact On The Undertaker's Streak & How The Streak Should Have Ended
Posted by Sean Kelly on 04.07.2014
The impact the WWE Network had on Undertaker's streak and looking at a different way the streak could (should?) have ended...
I did not expect to be back so soon after my appearance last week, but damn did WrestleMania blow me away. The first pay-per-view/event of the WWE Network era delivered everything in spades - nostalgia, star building, exciting matches, shockers and a very happy ending. Whether you liked what happened or not, WrestleMania XXX is one of those events that will stay with you for a long time.
SO HOW ABOUT THAT WRESTLEMANIA?
Last week I wrote about the WWE Network and the implications it will have on the company's creative direction. I proposed two possible scenarios - one where the angles get stagnant because McMahon already has our money, or one where WWE takes more risks because they have been freed of the shackles of having to sell us something new every month. WrestleMania XXX is an early bellwether that they'll be pursuing the latter direction, thankyouverymuch, and it's all to our benefit.
The theme from Sunday's event was out with the old, in with the new. It all started with Warrior foreshadowing the theme in his Hall of Fame induction speech. As for the event itself, nearly everything about WM XXX indicated that the company is ready to try new things with new people. Hogan, Austin and the Rock basically started the show saying "it's over for us, fellas. But there's a host of new guys ready to blow you away." The Shield dominated the veterans Kane, Billy Gunn and Road Dogg in short order. Internet darling Cesaro won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Even though John Cena won, he wrestled a VERY different kind of match with Bray Wyatt, which only elevated Wyatt in the process. (And I cannot stress enough - CENA WAS NOT IN A MARQUEE MATCH AT WRESTLEMANIA!) Our other internet darling Daniel Bryan walked out of the main event with the biggest prize in the game.
And. Oh yeah. The streak. God damn.
The WWE Network killed the streak. I will not be convinced otherwise of this. I'm sure there will be lots of reports surfacing that offer other explanations - but at the end of the day, it was the WWE Network that put the nail in the streak's coffin (pun intended.)
ON DEMAND VIDEO KILLED THE WRESTLEMANIA STAR
Everyone has always said that the Streak is the biggest marketing tool for WrestleMania. It's bigger than any championship match, any celebrity involvement, or any gimmick match. For over a decade, the streak has been the promise of a fantastic bout with one of the biggest superstars of all time. It was our security blanket. The sun rises in the east, Spring follows Winter and the Undertaker wins at WrestleMania.
Well, our collective security blanket has been ripped away by a bully named Brock Lesnar. And the reason is the WWE Network. Now that we are already paying for WrestleMania through the network, WWE doesn't need its security blanket of the Streak. Who needs a major marketing tool to sell a $70 pay-per-view when everyone is already getting it for $9.99 through the network? I can guarantee you, with everything I own, that if the WWE Network was not available that the Undertaker would be 22-0 right now. But it is, and so he's not. McMahon doesn't need the streak to sell you WrestleMania anymore since you've already paid for it.
Nothing makes a bigger statement that things are different now than the end of the streak. Nothing.
I, like many of you, was shocked beyond belief when Lesnar got the three count. I can't remember a time where such a huge victory was met with total, utter silence. It's like all the air left the building and the collective living rooms of the WWE Universe all at once. Just mind boggling. But something was bothering me. While it sucked that the streak ended, the end of the streak itself wasn't the problem. The problem was how it all came together.
(Note: I am writing this Monday morning, prior to RAW or any other news items breaking.)
The buildup to the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar fight was underwhelming at best. It started out nicely with the Undertaker stabbing Lesnar with a pen and chokeslamming him through a table. But after that it was your standard Undertaker psychological warfare and Brock Lesnar being a tough guy. So what? The stakes seemed so low. The only reason anyone cared emotionally was because this was Taker at WrestleMania, baby! If this were any other time of year, no one would give two shits about Lesnar/Taker after this lackluster buildup. Unlike years past, with Shawn Michaels, HHH and CM Punk doing everything they could to make me interested, the Lesnar/Taker feud seemed so blah.
And the match itself didn't help. This wasn't an epic confrontation like in years past. It was a lot of punch/kick and plodding around the ring. The announcers kept calling it "methodical," and like my buddy said while watching the match - "methodical is code for boring." So Brock Lesnar beat the streak after a boring buildup to a boring match. Yuck.
Ending the streak was the hypothetical, wrestling equivalent of a nuclear explosion. Anyone who did it would instantly be immortalized in wrestling lore. Hell, f*cking Maven eliminated Undertaker from the Royal Rumble and everyone remembers him for that. Ending the streak would be the single biggest thing a wrestler could ever accomplish in his career. EVER. So why Brock Lesnar? What could he possibly have to gain from achieving the Holy Grail that is breaking the streak? He's a part timer with tons of accolades. He didn't NEED this. Why waste this golden opportunity to make somebody on someone who probably won't be here a year from now? Why pass the torch to a part-timer?
The answer to those questions will probably be forthcoming in the next few days, possibly in the time between I post this column and you read it. However, it dawned on me that there was a much better way to end the streak. A way that, after you read it, will seem like an incredible missed opportunity on the part of WWE. So if you will indulge me, I would like to rebook WrestleMania.
HOW IT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED
My scenario would involve changes to the Bryan/HHH match, the Lesnar/UT match and the main event. We start at the point where Daniel Bryan is having his big Yes Movement moment on RAW. Tons of fans storm the ring and demand that Bryan gets - not a match with Triple H - but a title match. This solves the logic gap that's irritated me for so long. Why would Bryan demand a match with Triple H when he could simply demand a title match? Isn't that what he wanted all along?
Anyway, Triple H comes out and says that he is willing to negotiate but Bryan will have to be willing to accept certain conditions. Triple H proposes that, if Bryan can beat an opponent of Hunter's choosing, then he will be inserted into the championship match at WrestleMania. However, if he loses, then Bryan will never get a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match for the rest of his career. Bryan agrees. He's overcome every obstacle that The Game has thrown his way, what's one more? Hunter smiles his devilish smile and informs Bryan that the man he has to beat is the Undertaker. At WrestleMania.
So now, for the first time since Shawn Michaels' career was on the line, we have genuine uncertainty going into a streak match. Hunter has pulled the ultimate villainous move. As someone who hates the fans so much, Triple H has told them that they can only have one thing they love, but not both. We either get the streak intact, or we get Daniel Bryan as world champion. We can't have both, and we brought it on ourselves for invading his ring. It's Sophie's Choice, and it's compelling storytelling.
In Triple H's mind, there is no way in hell that Bryan can defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Triple H couldn't do it (three times), his best friend Shawn Michaels couldn't do it (twice), and the two men in the main event couldn't do it either. So Hunter will kill the Yes Movement and have the Undertaker do all the dirty work.
So if the streak is going to end, why not let the biggest young rising star be the one to end it? We all know Bryan will be around ten years from now, he'll get a great match out of the Phenom and it will cement his status as the future of the company. Taker will pass the torch to someone who respects the industry and we get an amazing WrestleMania moment out of it.
As for the rest of the card, If Triple H absolutely has to be involved we could still do the bit where Triple H inserts himself into the main event because he's sick of Orton and Batista bitching all the time. So now it's a triple threat match (Evolution explodes!) that could potentially become a Fatal Four Way (Evolution vs Bryan!) Bryan will have ended the streak and defeated the Authority all in the same night, firmly establishing his credibility and rocketing his stock to the moon.
As for Brock Lesnar, we will continue with the theme of the night of old vs new and put him against Roman Reigns. Ambrose and Rollins could still face the Outlaws (with Kane as special referee) and the big man of the shield would face the Beast Incarnate. For a match like this, it doesn't matter who wins because as long as Reigns can hang with the Beast, he'll come out looking like a million bucks. I'd want this one to be an Austin/Hart type of WrestleMania match, where Reigns wins by losing.
And that's how I would do it. We still end the streak, but in a way that makes sense and that doesn't leave such a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Bryan still walks out as champ and Triple H gets his ultimate comeuppance.
But back in the real world, what happened happened. I can fantasy book all I want but I can't change the past. The good thing about WrestleMania XXX is that I can't wait to see what happens next tonight on RAW. At the end of the day - as long as I can say those words - "I can't wait to see what happens next," it's a good time to be a wrestling fan.