With the official announcement of The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns revealed on social media, it is safe to say that the build is well underway. Rumblings of a feud started when Reigns eliminated The Deadman from this year’s Royal Rumble, and continued on last week’s Raw; The Big Dog arrogantly proclaimed that the WWE ring was “his yard now” only to be laid out by The Undertaker with a Chokeslam.
The match will pit (arguably) the most despised babyface in modern WWE against an idolised company institution on a show that defines his legacy. Naturally, given this the fans are already behind Undertaker and given the way in which Reigns has been handled (mishandled push and role that saw him catapult his way into the WWE’s main event scene) this is understandable. The thought of him beating The Deadman for many is too much to bear.
This divisiveness makes Reigns vs. Undertaker one of WrestleMania 33’s most interesting matches, but while most would prefer The Undertaker to walk away victorious, this wouldn’t be the most productive outcome. If handled correctly, The Undertaker losing need not be the disaster it is thought if by many, and could instead be exactly what Reigns needs to break his current standing.
Taker is a shadow of his former self
The Undertaker’s health is always a prominent talking point heading into WrestleMania, and each year the whispers get louder. No matter who he’s facing, ‘Taker’s next ‘Mania is always presumed to be his last, and while this talk always seems to come to nothing, it might just be the case this year.
When WWE hit Orlando, Undertaker will be 52-years-old and given his performance at Royal Rumble, the hip surgery he recently undertook in October and the shape of his physique compared to his counterpart; it is hard not to predict the difficulty encountered when his in-ring time isn’t restricted to a couple of minutes.
Of course there is a longer recovery time between now and WrestleMania, but sooner or later time is going to catch up with Undertaker. He isn’t the performer he once was, and with Reigns being continually pushed as a super athlete that dominates, losing to a man who is 21 years his senior makes no sense.
The Undertaker is the most important wrestler in WrestleMania history, but the idea of him being a force to reckoned with is hard to get behind nowadays. It took him over 30 minutes to put Shane McMahon down, so why should he overcome a prominently pushed wrestler in Reigns?
Taker would gain nothing from getting the win
Simply put, Roman Reigns gains far more from defeating The Undertaker than vice versa. At this stage in his career, there is nothing left for The Deadman to do. He has accomplished everything he set out to achieve, his WrestleMania record will never be matched, and if he were to retired tomorrow, he’d be among the most decorated wrestlers in WWE history.
Winning a match should always elevate the victor, but there’s nowhere for ‘Taker to be elevated to. He has already gone beyond superstardom to put himself on a level that is above mere championships and accolades. His place in history is already secure; win or lose.
And if the argument of this match being Taker’s last is anything to go by it sticks to the old school wrestling tradition that a departing wrestler will use their legacy to put somebody else over in their final match. If this is the end, gifting his final opponent with a huge WrestleMania moment is the right thing to do.
Wrestlemania needs shock value
The Wrestlemania card at the moment is hardly the most exciting. The WWE Championship, Raw Women’s Title, and US Title matches look strong, but they’re almost nullified by the possible Seth Rollins vs. Triple H bout, The Miz/Maryse vs. John Cena/Nikki Bella, and AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon (for some the most shockingly awful misuse of a wrestler in ‘Mania history).
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar is particularly problematic, and not just because the match is likely to only last a couple of minutes. Goldberg is currently 2-0 over Lesnar, and easily eliminated him from the Royal Rumble. Given this, you would their bout is one of the most predictable WrestleMania main events: Lesnar is almost certainly winning, becoming Universal Champion, and sending Goldberg straight back to retirement.
As such, WrestleMania 33 is in dire need of some major talking points and surprises. It’s easy to be cynical about Reigns vs. Undertaker, but if Reigns were to defeat The Deadman, it would add an element of shock to the card. Wrestling thrives on such moments, and for all the other matches’ positive qualities, they’re not exactly laced with intrigue. The Undertaker losing at WrestleMania is still a sore subject, and Reign’s victory would continue to rub salt into the wounds of the wrestling world, particularly if he does by using heel tactics.
Reverse a worrying trend
WWE have been using ageing part-timers to stifle younger, hungrier wrestlers for decades. From Yokozuna’s spotlight being stolen by Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania IX to The Rock burying Erick Rowan in 2016, destructive booking of their modern day talent for short-term nostalgia boosts seems to be a WWE favourite.
It’s a direct result of the company’s inability to build new stars. WWE’s younger main eventers just do not boost ratings like the heroes of the past, but how can they be expected to ever reach the same level when they’re continually push to the back when it comes to the grandest stage of them all?
Regardless of whether it’s Brock Lesnar or Goldberg, the WWE Universal Championship is leaving WrestleMania 33 around a part-timer’s waist. The veterans are going to be all over the show, and if Reigns falls to The Undertaker, it’ll be further evidence that WWE is no place for young talent.
Defeating ‘Taker won’t completely reverse the trend, but it’ll send a positive message. WWE have got to start treating their current stars with respect if they’re ever going to match their elderly peers, and what better way to do that than by having Reigns defeat The Deadman in his own yard?