VS. #34 – Raffi Shamir vs. Andy Wheeler – NOT Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker

A question is posed. Two Pulse Wrestling writers go head-to-head. But only one will move on to face off with another member of our staff. This is VS., and this week’s question is ripped from a Jim Ross tweet following the Brock Lesnar/Undertaker “altercation” at a recent UFC event… Take Brock out of picture, doesn’t WWE have 1 guy u want 2 see face Taker @ WM27? Not 1 guy? If so, who?

Raffi Shamir

Andy Wheeler

Raffi Shamir: Before I address the question of who should face Undertaker at Wrestlemania 27, I want to take something out of the equation and that’s the result. Not only does everyone know that Undertaker will win and keep the streak intact, I believe that he should win and I believe that the streak should never be broken, even in Undertaker’s last Wrestlemania. Now that the end result is clear, meaning Taker wins, the question is who should lose to him.

There are many guys that I like in WWE right now, but not many that will get a good match out of Undertaker. I love Miz, for example, but I wouldn’t want to see him face Taker at Mania. I love Chris Jericho, assuming he comes back by then, but I would hate to see him sacrificed to Undertaker. I love John Cena, but I think that his Wrestlemania match with Undertaker should be reserved for Taker’s 20th Wrestlemania. I believe that of the current WWE roster, there is only one person who can face Undertaker this year and have a good storyline and a good match with him. That man is Triple H.

The story writes itself. After Taker forced Shawn Michaels into retirement, Triple H, who doesn’t even need to turn heel for that, comes back in January to “avenge” his best friend. Or, it can go another way that *might* turn Triple H, as he says that after HBK failed to beat Taker in back to back Wrestlemanias, he will be able to get the job done. I can imagine a Triple H promo, similar to the “You dropped the ball” one from the day after Wrestlemania 14, where Triple H will say that just as he took DX to the next level after HBK’s first retirement, he will be able to get the job done with Undertaker. Obviously the match itself will not be as good as their Wrestlemania X-Seven one, but how many people are out there that can get a great match out of Taker today? The match will have enough intensity and drama to make it a Wrestlemania moment.

But if we look outside the “WWE Universe”, there is one free agent who would also make a good choice, and that is Goldberg. Yes, I said Goldberg. The match will be crap and no one in the Georgia Dome would cheer Goldberg, but there will be some intrigue because many people would doubt that Goldberg agreed to come back just to lose a match to Taker. Still, I can’t stand Goldberg so this will not be my first choice. That would be, as I said, Triple H.

Two interesting choices, although Taker beating Miz at Mania, while there’s little backstory to it all, would be a fun one to cheer on.

For HHH, I think the above storyline is a strong one, and I honestly don’t remember the last time the two main WWE veterans had a battle – the two most recent I can think of without searching the archives being their previous Wrestlemania match and the 2002 #1 contender match for the Undisputed Title that kicked off the storyline that landed Hunter the Big Gold Belt.

For Goldberg… I kind of hate the idea. I don’t know how WWE fans will respond to him, but if promoted and in Atlanta, you’d imagine he would get at least some positive reaction from the audience, and I wouldn’t want to waste that on a Taker match. In fact, I can’t think of one person I’d like to see Bill go up against except maybe Cena or Batista… MAYBE HHH himself. But I digress.

That said, Raffi’s #1 choice was HHH, and it’s not a bad one…

Andy Wheeler: So I’ve never done the whole VS thing before and I’m not sure how much of a rambling preamble I need to throw up here. If that’s what I’m supposed to do, then I guess here’s where I vomit out the tired rhetoric about how important The Undertaker is and how the “versus Taker” slot at Wrestlemania is just as important as a title shot.

For your consideration…this notion of facing Taker being a HUGE deal is a more recent phenomenon. Seriously, go back and look at some of the matches he’s had at Wrestlemania and there are about as many misses as there are hits. I know giving praise to the WWE for doing something positive is about as popular as Matt Hardy’s Twitter feed, but in this case it’s actually warranted. Thanks to creative marketing and killer video packages, the aura around every Undertaker Wrestlemania match has been at a main event level.

With the Road to Wrestlemania beginning officially with the Royal Rumble, the biggest question isn’t so much who Undertaker will face as it is whether or not he’ll actually be able to wrestle. Thankfully, the WWE has a possible wildcard and can turn the (blank) versus Taker slot into the (blank) versus Triple H slot. With Hunter off television for several months at this point, his Wrestlemania match can be a big deal without him actually having to challenge for a title. But since that’s not the prompt (and I’m a stickler for the rules), I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot pole.

As I see it, there are two legitimate names that can face The Undertaker. First off is John Cena. Cena’s been penciled in to face Taker for a while now and the WWE went so far as to start teasing it for last year’s Mania before we got Shawn/Taker II. John Cena versus The Undertaker is one of the few truly marquee matches the company has left to offer, and with Taker on his last legs (those same last legs he’s been hobbling on for his most recent decade of disproportionate destruction), the WWE may want to get this one in before time passes them by. Vince knows he missed the boat on doing Austin/Hogan and Hogan/Flair in the past, so maybe the fear of blowing a major Cena/Undertaker feud is enough to force him into action.

I like the idea of John Cena versus The Undertaker for a few reasons. First, it is a mainstream drawing match. Ask a regular person about the WWE, and after they scoff at the notion of knowing anything about the “fake” sport, they’ll probably be able to rattle off three or four names. Depending on how old the person is, that list of three or four names will have either John Cena or Undertaker on there.

Wrestlemania is supposed to be the biggest show of the year, and for the past few years, there has been at least one “must see” match. Yes, all three of the most recent matches featured Shawn Michaels, but they also all featured some sort of out-of-continuity storyline. A Cena/Taker feud would be an entity unto itself, filling in segments on RAW and Smackdown without taking away from the world title picture. Sure, Taker/Cena wouldn’t be Taker/Michaels, but it would certainly be an entertaining spectacle. Folks, their entrances alone would be prominently featured in video recaps for decades to come. Combine that with the weeks of promos and mindgames and the company would have a shot at a white hot angle that would become “must see” television. Hell, even the promise of a divided crowd reaction (ala One Night Stand) is enough reason to anticipate the match.

But enough about the intangibles. Here’s the real reason wrestling fans should want to see Undertaker versus John Cena. We live in a world of real numbers, and with business going down further and further on a monthly basis, Vince’s penchant for taking risks is going to start shrinking. 2010 has seen Vince McMahon take several increasingly daring steps, including the Nexus storyline and The Miz as WWE Champion. While a lot of them paid off creatively, they haven’t yet translated into big ratings or big money. Having an Undertaker/Cena main event (or quasi-main event) is a huge weight lifted off of Creative’s shoulders. Suddenly, the rest of the card can take some more daring risks.

An Undertaker/Cena main event frees up a lot of the card, allowing younger stars to take a more prominent position without having the pressure of carrying the single biggest PPV of the year. Guys like The Miz, Wade Barrett and Sheamus can have shots at the main event on the Big Show (not to be mistaken with The Big Show), which can’t necessarily happen otherwise.

The Undertaker “rub” may not be what it used to be since his in-ring performance could be suspect. Putting someone like Wade Barrett or Sheamus in there with the champion could be a serious risk, because there’s more chance of them taking the blame then them getting the credit. Hypothetically, should Cena/Taker happen, the rest of the card could follow like so:

The WWE Title Match could be Orton/Miz, which allows Randy to again shine as a babyface against a genuine heat magnet. Hunter could transition into a feud with Nexus, which would be another entertaining storyline for the masses. Finally, with Smackdown in need of heels, Sheamus could wind up on Friday Nights to face Edge. Those are all fresh matches that take huge strides in establishing the so-called “new guard” that needs to fill in the slots left by Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Batista, Jeff Hardy, Triple H and The Undertaker. Those are some major shoes to step into, and the time to make new stars may be rapidly closing.

The other candidates for the Undertaker slot are Wade Barrett and Sheamus. Barrett set up his Taker claim by helping Kane bury The Undertaker a few months ago. While it could be compelling to see Undertaker destroy each member of The Corre one by one, the final match could be a slow, plodding affair like Barrett/Orton. Wade would probably benefit from working with a more generous Triple H, who has shown with Sheamus that he is willing to make a young star look good (not to mention the fact that with Vince, Shane and Stephanie off television, he’s the most logical extension of the “establishment”).

That leaves Sheamus. I think a Sheamus/Taker feud would be interesting to watch, and I have no doubt that Sheamus would execute it perfectly. Sheamus/Taker would help again elevate Sheamus to that next stratosphere, and it would free up Cena to feud with The Miz for the WWE Title, but the question at the end of the day is what is going to draw the most amount of money for the WWE?

I’d be all in favor of seeing Miz/Cena, but it’s hard to argue that Cena/Taker isn’t the bigger spectacle and the guaranteed moneymaker. That’s what Wrestlemania’s all about, and by having Taker and Cena occupied, that frees up four slots for title matches and gives several people a shot at establishing themselves as true top names in an insulated environment.

Ladies and gentlemen, Andrew Wheeler with the longest VS. response yet!

In all seriousness, this is quite a thoughtful one, and while I don’t love the idea of a Sheamus/Taker feud (my opinion is that it’s better to save Undertaker storylines wherein he goes up against a young, up-and-coming opponent for non-Mania matches, so the Sheamuses and Barretts actually have a chance to be put over), I do think his original idea of Cena taking on the dead man is a good one. The trick will be pulling off a storyline reason for it to happen, although I don’t doubt that WWE could think of something (a respect angle, for example, with Cena losing the Rumble, but then coming out the next Monday and cutting one of his serious promos saying that if he can’t have a title match, he wants the next best thing: an opportunity to face the biggest active legend in the game today), and I imagine they’d trust John to be safe with the recovering future Hall of Famer.

The other thing I like about a Taker/Cena match-up is it can finally get John Cena away from the Nexus for a while. Do I want to see Cena face Punk? Yes. I also want to see him go up against The Miz. An Undertaker feud can give all of us a needed break from Cena vs. the yellow-and-black, which can easily pick up again (along with the necessary and eventual Taker/Kane blow-off) after Mania.

And since Wheeler decided to wax poetic about how he’d book the rest of the big event, if I were to go with Cena/Taker, the rest of the card would look something like… Edge/Barrett, Miz/Orton, Punk/Bryan, Kong/Natalya and a Money in the Bank featuring some combination of Ziggler/Truth/Del Rio/Mysterio/Gabriel/McGillicutty/DiBiase/Bourne…

Winner of VS. #34: Wheeler

Do you agree with Raffi or Andy, or do you have an entirely different opinion? Let us know in the comments section, below!

Until next time…

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