It came as a giant shock to anyone checking wrestling websites last night to read that the Undertaker returned at a house show to join Sheamus in a tag match against Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow. The Undertaker's status for Wrestlemania has lingered the entire year and anxiety has only heightened in recent weeks.
Eyes will surely be locked on Monday Night Raw tomorrow to see whether or not he finally returns to the weekly programming. With John Cena likely scheduled to defeat CM Punk and cement his place as the Rock's opponent for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania, we may get an appearance from the Dead Man that closes the show and sets up intrigue as to his intentions.
After seeing the footage released by WWE last night and the photos posted on Twitter by Sign Guy, my opinion that the Undertaker should hang it up and ride off into the sunset was reinforced. He was fat, out of shape and my first thought when seeing him wasn't "OMG It's the Undertaker" it was "Why is Uncle Fester standing on the ring steps with his arms in the air?" He's a shell of his onetime greatness and, frankly, he's no longer necessary for Vince McMahon to draw big buyrates for Wrestlemania.
There was a time during the early years of the PG/John Cena era that WWE relied heavily on Undertaker and The Streak draw PPV buyers to Wrestlemania. From 2008 to 2011, The Undertaker was one of, if not the, primary draw at Wrestlemania.
Since 2011 when the Rock guest hosted Wrestlemania and was integral to the Miz-Cena WWE TItle match, Dwayne Johnson has been key to promoting the company's biggest show of the year and generating mainstream attention.
This year, and for the next two years at least, Brock Lesnar will be a special attraction draw to replace the inconsistent appearances of the Undertaker from the last few years. Simply put, he isn't necessary to WWE getting people to buy PPVs.
I'm going to be in attendance at this year's show and will be giddy to see the Undertaker's legendary Wrestlemania entrance live. At the same time though, I'll be disappointed to see an old, broken-down Phenom go through the motions that once captivated audiences. He is no longer capable of performing the way he did in those two historic matches against Shawn Michaels. Even his matches against Triple H the last two years have been laid out as brutal brawls booked around weapons spots in a slowed, plodding environment.
The bigger reason beyond simply not being able to perform at the same level is that Taker requires a spot on the show and a match whose outcome is understood from the outset. When WWE Creative begins laying out plans for Wrestlemania, they have to begin filling quotas.
On a show that usually has eight or nine matches, they begin with a WWE Title match, a World Title match and a Divas match. If the Undertaker isn't booked in one of those matches, you can add a match where he defends The Streak.
With the recent additions of The Rock and Brock Lesnar to the annual offering, along with the potential of a Triple H match or a celebrity match, the Wrestlemania card begins to fill quickly and it leaves little room for the emergence of fresh characters to have that star-making Wrestlemania moment.