The View From Down Here – Yes They Call Him The Streak…

 The biggest wrestling show of them all is fast approaching. And this year the Undertaker is going for 19 and 0 at Wrestlemania. He’s facing HHH in a street fight which should at least make the match watchable. But, really, come on, does the Streak actually matter?

Yes It Does:

The Streak matters because it is something that the fans, the people who pay money, still actually care about. In an era when we can legitimately say that David Arquette, Vince McMahon and Vince Russo are former world champions, the fans need something tangible they can hang their hats on. Because, really, anyone can be world champion. Literally. Look at that list. Titles don’t mean anything anymore. Sure, every so often there comes along a feud or champion that makes you think they do, but then Dolph Ziggler gets a ten minute title reign on a so-so episode of SmackDown! and the title is once again rendered essentially meaningless.

            But the Streak is something that has been around for a long time. We’re talking two decades of one man not being defeated on the biggest stage of them all. Now, even non-wrestling fans know what Wrestlemania is. They might make fun of it or dismiss it, but they know it. It has awesome brand recognition. That’s something that money cannot buy. And for the fans of our pseudo-sport, this Streak at Wrestlemania means something.

            The Streak also has had the habit of bringing out the Undertaker of old. Not the Deadman gimmick (or American Badass or Cult Leader or whatever gimmick he was playing that month), but a worker who was motivated to try in the ring. His feud against Kane recently resulted in some truly awful matches. And yet for the past two Wrestlemanias he and Shawn Michaels have pulled out matches that have been very entertaining, that a majority of IWC writers thought were amongst the best matches of the years (if not the very best), and that the fans went absolutely ape for. It’s like the thought of appearing at Wrestlemania puts a fire under him, if only for a month or so each year.

            There is no denying that the Undertaker is a true fan favourite and seeing this Streak go on is something that has entranced the public. To them, and so to wrestling, it does matter.

No It Does Not:

We all know that wrestling is ‘fake’. Now I don’t mean that in the way non-wrestling fans seem to mean it. How many times have we heard, “Oh, their kicks don’t connect,” or, “They use blood capsules,” or “They’re just body-builders dancing badly.” Come on, the injuries are real, the blows connect and can connect hard and the athleticism shown by these guys is something the vast majority of people could not even hope to do. No, I mean it is fake in that the results are pre-determined.

            And into this steps the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak. It is something that somehow just happened organically, without planning in the start, and has now become folklore. And the WWE is more than happy to promote it as such – the Undertaker is undefeated at Wrestlemania. But what that means is that because this is part of a hype machine, selling merchandise and getting people to care, the match, no matter who he is facing, has become the ‘Foregone Conclusion’ match of each and every Wrestlemania card. Whether he’s facing a slug like Giant Gonzales or Sid Vicious, a bump machine like Shawn Michaels or a brawler like HHH or Batista, he wins. Handicap match? He won. No DQ matches? He won. Hell in a Cell? He won.

            It also goes into the reputation he has had backstage. While he is clearly respected, he also has been reported to have an attitude problem at times, calling the WWE his yard, and even demanding that veterans of WCW ‘pay their dues’. And then he has the Streak that no one is going to be allowed to touch. While Vince McMahon has a say in that, you don’t think he has some sort of creative control in his contract? It is an ego-stroke to some one who showed loyalty through the Monday Night Wars.

            The other problem is that the Undertaker is not that great a wrestler. He’s good, but not that good. And he has this mythical Streak that he can hang his hat on. It would be like Lleyton Hewitt in tennis winning Wimbledon every year for the past ten years. He’s a good player – he’s won grand slams and was world number one for two years – but he’s not a patch on Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal at the moment.

            The Streak is a feel-good concept, but it is not one that really means anything in the overall scheme of things.

Overall:

So what does the Streak look like? A little like this:

Wrestlemania 7 – Jimmy Snuka

Wrestlemania 8 – Jake Roberts

Wrestlemania 9 – Giant González (by DQ)

Wrestlemania 11 – King Kong Bundy

Wrestlemania 12 – Diesel

Wrestlemania 13 – Sycho Sid (title match)

Wrestlemania 14 – Kane

Wrestlemania 15 – The Big Boss Man (Hell in a Cell)

Wrestlemania 17 – Triple H

Wrestlemania 18 – Ric Flair (No DQ match)

Wrestlemania 19 – The Big Show & A-Train (Handicap match)

Wrestlemania 20 – Kane

Wrestlemania 21 – Randy Orton

Wrestlemania 22 – Mark Henry (Casket match)

Wrestlemania 23 – Batista (title match)

Wrestlemania 24 – Edge (title match)

Wrestlemania 25 – Shawn Michaels

Wrestlemania 26 – Shawn Michaels (No DQ, “Streak vs. Career”)

And, really, how many of those were good matches? And how many were bad? Or really bad (WMs 9, 11, 15, 19 and 22 all spring to mind here)? Would the Streak have meant more if the matches had been better, the opponents better? Or would that have exposed the Undertaker’s weaknesses in the ring too much?

Now, where do I stand? I am not a fan of the Undertaker. Never have been, doubt I ever will be. To me, his original WWF gimmick of a wrestling zombie was just ridiculous, and you have to remember I was almost 20 years old when he debuted in the WWF. I was not one of the kids this was aimed at, and the cartoon characters was not why I watched wrestling. The whole Ministry of Darkness thing happened when I was in an anti-WWF/E state of mind, but I have since seen many of the PPVs, and it sucked. I also think the Undertaker/Michaels matches, while good, were overrated. I think this is because they were surrounded by so much mediocrity, or that other matches were hamstrung at the time (Punk/Mysterio getting 8 minutes – yeah, right!) and that people just wanted them to be good. Oh, and Michaels, even at the tail end of his career, could bump with the best of them. I personally prefer their Hell in a Cell match, which is one of my favourite matches (annoying ending aside). So, I have liked some of his matches.But I am a wrestling fan, not so much sports entertainment. And the Undertaker is more sports entertainment. And his burial of many in his matches has made me feel frustrated. He does not let opponents give him anything. The way Maven was treated after eliminating him from the Royal Rumble smacked of a petulant school yard bully. DDP was defeated by his goddammed wife (at the time). He treated Ric Flair like a jobber. He let CM Punk have some offence, but still defeated him easily. And when was the last time he actually put over some younger wrestler without it looking like a fluke win, to help some one’s career get a foot up? And don’t give me that CM Punk win when it was yet another veiled Montreal Screwjob homage. (I can actually answer this – Brock Lesnar in their Hell in a Cell match in 2002.)

Having said all that, I think the Streak does matter. The fans – the people who pay the money, buy the t-shirts, go to the shows, buy the PPVs – love it. It is one of the last things left in wrestling that can be said to actually mean something to the fans, that has not been ruined by head office politics. It has evolved into a great way to build up feuds with other top stars, and the cynic in me says it keeps those older spotlight hogs away from harming the careers of younger up and coming stars.

So, yes, I think it does matter.

Either way, that’s how I see it.

And that’s the view from down here.

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