Going into the thirtieth WrestleMania, all eyes were on the booking of the Daniel Bryan story. Would Triple H do what needed to be done and put him over? Would WWE actually go all the way and put the World Heavyweight Championship on him after eight months of doing all they could to put his character down? Would the latest returning part-time Hollywood movie star get the title so many believe he was promised?
As it turned out, the booking for that particular story was predictable, what WWE ultimately always do at a WrestleMania, and more importantly, was exactly what needed to be done. Daniel Bryan beat Triple H clean, was made to look like a genuine main event star while doing it, and was then part of a triple threat main event that was booked specifically to make him look like an underdog rising up and finally achieving what he had deserved all along. Randy Orton and Batista’s roles in the match cannot be understated; Orton made sure the crowd would be against him and sold for Bryan exactly as he has done since their rivalry began at SummerSlam last August. And Batista – for all the criticism he has received since his return in January – saved his best performance for now. Him tapping out spotlessly clean to give Bryan the win also cannot be ignored; you don’t often see ‘part-time- wrestlers that return for a major pay-per-view angle and match end up having their character and story altered, and then tap out out to lose that major pay-per-view match. Kudos must go to big Dave.
So aside from the ultimately-predictable (and rightly so) booking of the main event story, elsewhere things were largely also by the book and predictable. The Shield were made to look like megastars in what amounted to a squash match, Cesaro started his long-awaited real push up the card, and John Cena once again ‘overcame the odds’ to beat Bray Wyatt.
And then came the Streak.
With a less-than-stellar buildup, there was a distinct lack of intrigue and drama in the Undertaker-Brock Lesnar match. In years past we have seen Shawn Michaels, Triple H and even CM Punk lead people to think – if even only just a few seconds – that the famed Streak may actually be in jeopardy. This year, however, there was pretty much no-one thinking that. Lesnar had been strangely subdued in the buildup, with Paul Heyman largely responding for the hype. Undertaker had looked dominant in their segments and angles leading up the show, and with Lesnar’s known limited schedule, it appeared he was here purely to fill a gap and be another big name to unsuccessfully challenge the Streak. And with WCW legend Sting confirmed to be in New Orleans, and pretty heavy rumours of him having a presence of some kind at this year’s show ahead of a long-speculated WrestleMania match with Undertaker next year, it made it further clear that Lesnar’s role this year was exactly the same as that previously filled by Michaels, Punk and many others. And after the usual fare of kicking out of each other’s finishers, it seemed only a matter of time before one last Tombstone would finally get the job done. And then an F5, and the 1…2…3?
This was not supposed to happen.
Brock Lesnar beat The Undertaker. Clean. The reactions from the crowd were the most natural you will ever see at a professional wrestling event. Genuine shock, bemusement and, in some cases, anger. The Streak was sacred, it was untouchable, it was Undertaker’s to keep until he decided to call it a day and hang up his coat and hat. The Undertaker was no longer in the hunt for championships, he didn’t need them. To some, being selected as the latest challenger to attempt to end the Streak was bigger than a championship match. And the Streak always remained intact. When Shawn Michaels was faced with retirement, some expected him to find a way past The Undertaker; it did not happen. When Triple H proclaimed the end of an era – and his own impending retirement implied, if not stated – and and a masterful two-year story (maybe even four years if you include Michaels’ two WrestleMania matches with Undertaker) behind it, some expected him to find a way past The Undertaker; it did not happen. When CM Punk disgraced the memory of a recently-deceased Paul Bearer, and coming off a history-making 434-day as WWE Champion, some expected him to even find a way past The Undertaker; it did not happen. But Brock Lesnar, with a lacklustre build and no real personal rivalry between the two, no-one expected him to find a way past The Undertaker.
This was not supposed to happen.
A part of WrestleMania has gone, never to return. Last night we saw The Undertaker for maybe the final time, as current speculation says that Taker is now considering himself retired. The only question that remains now is, we will get a final farewell speech or will WWE’s greatest character of all-time just quietly walk away while the rest of the world come to terms with what happened at the biggest show of the year?