“Seventeen men have stepped up and seventeen men have been set down.”
The Deadman said it best himself on Smackdown! this past week.
There has been a lot of speculation [and teasing] over who will be the eighteenth man to step up [and be set down] by The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVI. A lot of names have been thrown around and of course, nothing is set in stone until the WWE announces an official match. Some of the names that have been talked about have been Chris Jericho, Vince McMahon, John Cena and the one that seems pretty much set, Shawn Michaels.
It seems though, that it is all but official that The Undertaker will once again put his undefeated streak at stake, at the Granddaddy of the them all, against the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
I’ll be attending Wrestlemania XXVI in Phoenix, AZ and I’m completely excited about seeing these two go at it one more time. I have to wonder though, is Shawn Michaels the right man to go against The Undertaker? He’s had his chance, and they gave what many have called a ‘one for the ages’ match. Of these men who have been teased, who is truly the BEST opponent for The Undertaker to face at Wrestlemania this year?
I’ll start with the least likely opponent.
Vince McMahon –
A few months back, an Undertaker vs. Mr. McMahon seemed like a strong possibility.
Vince McMahon, amongst other people, had some involvement in screwing the Undertaker out of the title at Breaking Point, in his submission match against CM Punk. For the next couple of months, it was being teased that Vince McMahon was behind the screw job, it was fairly similar to another screw job that he had some involvement in, but he kept his innocence throughout.
Possibility of Facing The Undertaker
Slim to none, as the story was dropped shortly after it began and with the return of Bret Hart to the WWE, Vince has other plans. But I wouldn’t rule out the idea that was behind this story, just yet. I’ll get to that a bit later though.
John Cena –
This was also a strong possibility not too long ago. Although it wasn’t my first choice of an opponent for The Undertaker, I was quite happy with the idea of a change for both men. The last time we saw The Undertaker vs. John Cena, John Cena was a fresh-faced, throwback wearing, rapping heel on the SD! brand. (Yeah, remember that?)
For years now, we’ve seen John Cena as the goody-two shoes on RAW, where he has dominated the main event scene. The Undertaker, like Cena on RAW, has been on SD! for years, and has defeated just about everyone who has come and gone in that time. Getting Cena off of the main event circuit and giving someone else a chance would be a great change of pace. Cena has defeated all of the people who have come and gone on RAW, so why not pit them against each other?
The WWE first teased this scenario back in November when the Undertaker returned to RAW for their big 3-hour Madison Square Garden show. The main event was a Triple Threat Tag Team match that pitted DX vs. JeriShow vs. Taker/Cena. After Taker had control of the match, John Cena tagged himself into the match and received not only a swarm of boos from the crowd, but an evil glare from the Deadman. After Cena won the match for his team, The Undertaker proceeded to Tombstone Piledrive John Cena into the mat.
Possibility of Facing The Undertaker
Seeing the Undertaker defend his undefeated Wrestlemania streak against arguably the biggest face in WWE history would be something. Even though it doesn’t seem too likely that these two huge names will battle it out at Wrestlemania, the WWE has continued somewhat with the idea of taking John Cena out of the main event picture, by giving the title to Sheamus and giving his first title defense to Randy Orton at the Royal Rumble. What I think kept the WWE from following through with this idea was fear of losing the face of their entire company. The WWE simply wasn’t ready to let John Cena head in the direction of a heel, which he certainly would be if he were to face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. I don’t think Cena would have beaten him and ended the streak, but just the idea of it being a possibility would be a great fear and cause to hate Cena (even more) for wrestling fans over the age of 15.
Shawn Michaels –
The Heartbreak Kid tried his luck at taking the streak away from the Demon from Death Valley at last year’s WM, but like all others before him, failed, taking The Undertaker’s record to 17-0. This year, Shawn Michaels is aiming to try once more.
Shawn Michaels has already issued his challenge to the Undertaker and on Monday, The Undertaker will personally deliver his answer to him.
Now, although this match is pretty much set, the storyline is still open to interpretation; so, I’m offering a theory that has crossed my mind. I said earlier that I wouldn’t rule out the idea behind the scrapped Vince-Undertaker story. This is why.
Even though Bret Hart is back and a ‘final confrontation’ to settle the score is bound to happen between he and Vince McMahon, Bret Hart is plagued with numerous injuries that are not to be taken lightly. Injuries, specifically the concussions that have left him with Post Concussion Syndrome, forced Bret Hart to retire from wrestling. In addition to that, several years ago, Hart suffered a stroke. There is very little that he can still do in the ring without major risk to his health and safety.
The idea of a street fight against Vince McMahon has been talked about and is probably the most likely thing to happen because of both men’s limited abilities, but for fun, here is my take on something that could happen.
Vince McMahon obviously had something in mind when he gave the okay for the Montreal-esque screw job story involving the Undertaker, months ago. For whatever reason, it was dropped, but before it was, Vince never assumed responsibility of it, he just left all of the story very vague. Although he didn’t use Shawn Michaels to screw Taker, it was all obvious what he was hinting at the whole time.
As improbable as it is, they could have Bret come out and say even though he had tried to make amends with everyone, what Vince did to him has refueled his hate and disgust for not only him, but Shawn Michaels as well. When Shawn Michaels came out to make peace with Bret on RAW, he didn’t show the wholesome qualities that he usually shows, instead he was very heelish. One can argue that it was to simply to make Bret Hart look like the better guy, which I’m sure was the only purpose.
However, this could be a way to incorporate another Undertaker-Michaels showdown at ‘Mania AND give Bret a safe way to get his revenge on Vince and Shawn. It’s been said that they could possibly bring up Hart’s stroke and let it be known that he isn’t able to perform at the level he once could. If they do that, having a Vince-Trump like match from WM 23 is a strong possibility. Vince using Michaels, who wants his rematch against Taker and has history with Hart, and Bret using Taker, who is more than willing to take Shawn out once more and is still harboring resentment towards Vince for screwing him months before.
Realistically, I think this would work for two big reasons: 1) Bret Hart has too much to risk health-wise, even in a street fight where he wouldn’t have to do too much. 2) It’s been noted that the Hart Dynasty was at RAW so that Bret would have people he trusted backstage, and Bret has stated numerous times that The Undertaker is someone who he had always trusted while he was in the WW[F] and he has always had good things to say about him, so one would assume that Hart would be okay with having The Undertaker involved in his story with Vince and Shawn.
Okay, now, will this happen? … “You’ve got no chance, no chance in hell.”
But I digress…
Possibility of Facing The Undertaker
As I said before, this match is all but official. It will be The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels II at WM.
Now, for my personal favorite choice as to which wrestler should face the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVI.
Chris Jericho –
Jericho was, and sort of still is, the opponent I had my heart set on to try to take away the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania streak. This seems a little far out there now, but I still think that it’d be a great match.
The past two WMs, I think Jericho has been cheated out of a truly great WM quality match. Leading up to WM 25, Chris Jericho was slated to ‘take on’ Mickey Rourke and after much delay and thumb-twiddling on his part, the WWE settled on Chris Jericho vs. WWE legends – Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka, Roddy Pipper and Ricky ‘the Dragon’ Steamboat. If anyone was going to put on a good show with these legends, who God bless them and I say with absolutely no disrespect at all, are not in their prime, Chris Jericho was the guy to do it. It was a good match to watch, especially to get the Jericho/Steamboat match that followed it, but even so, it was just a publicity stunt to attract the attention that Rourke was getting from his film, The Wrestler.
There are few people that The Undertaker hasn’t faced or feuded with; there are few people that Chris Jericho hasn’t faced or feuded with. Now, one would think that these two would be a fresh, smart and great pair to put together. Chris Jericho and The Undertaker both are great workers and call pull off good matches with just about anybody.
In my eyes, this is the way to go: much like they did with Shawn and Taker this past year, a slow build-up with very little physicality between the two of them would have been a great way to hold off and get the the maximum excitement out of their match. The minimal physicality and a more story-driven build up leading into a phenomenal match at Wrestlemania XXVI would have been perfect. I know that with the skill they both possess to put on a great match, it would have rivaled Taker-Shawn at WM 25, which is a big statement to make.
Once more, I ask that you please indulge me.
Jericho proclaims that he is the best at what he does. What better way for Chris Jericho to prove that he is the best at what he does than to beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania and not only win the WH title, but also end the streak?
Although their first match against each other happened a few months ago, an Undertaker-Jericho feud could have easily been saved until as late as this month to begin. The WWE would have still been able to run the story between JeriShow and DX and would have still would have allowed them to drop the titles to DX.
A feud between Taker and Jericho, I think would be best played out if they were to change how extreme of a heel Jericho was and instead emphasize how great of a wrestler Jericho is; of course though, in true Jericho fashion he’d still be a jerk, he’d boost about what a top notch performer he is and how he has beaten the best of them and was looking for real competition. If it makes any sense, making Jericho more arrogant and more jerky, than he is mean, would make the feud better.
I realize that some of this is extremely similar to the story between Shawn and Taker, but it does have it’s differences. In this case, Jericho has never defeated The Undertaker. They’ve only ever had one one-on-one match against each other and in my storyline, he’s looking for competition and to prove to the gelatinous tapeworms that he is better than the World Heavyweight Champion, The Undertaker. Storyline-wise, Jericho could even use the fact that Shawn choked when the time came to prove that he was greater than the Undertaker, and he could argue that the only reason The Undertaker had defeated him in their first outing was because he was pre-occupied with retaining the Unified Tag Titles that he and Big Show held at the time.
There are definite similarities between the two stories and I know that a lot of people may or may not agree, or understand what I mean, by slightly changing his character solely for the build up to this single match, but in my opinion a match that asks who is the greatest wrestler and performer is a better Wrestlemania payoff than a typical match that asked whether the good guy could beat the bad guy.
Possibility of Facing The Undertaker
Although I would love to see this match, I really don’t think that it will happen. It’s possible that sometime after Wrestlemania, the two of them could start something together, but I think the WWE would have missed out on something just a little bigger and better had they done it at Wrestlemania. There’s just so much untapped potential between these two veterans, I think it’s a shame that we may not get to see it at it’s greatest potential.
It seems that the WWE is holding out for Edge’s return to get Jericho involved in anything solid. Hopefully, Edge will be 100% by then and will be able to perform at what we know he can, although that is asking for much. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Jericho vs. Edge. It should be a great match.
All this being said, I’m looking forward to seeing The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels II at Wrestlemania XXVI. Can they recapture the magic they had last year? I think they’re capable of it and whether they can is a moot point. Either way, better or not, it will still be a fantastic match.
Thank you for indulging me,