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The Undertaker's Last Ride at WWE WrestleMania 33

April 3, 2017

The Undertaker is resting in peace.

 

The unimaginable happened when Roman Reigns apparently retired The Deadman at WrestleMania 33. Reigns pinned Taker on WWE's biggest night of the year, a night in which legends are made and legends leave.

 

The same has happened on both fronts.

 

Though no one wants to admit it, many saw this coming. WWE's top tier only has so much room, and anyone that lives there either has to get along, or has to feud. Eventually one has to go, and that became clear when The Big Dog began his heat with The Phenom.

 

The idea that the WWE ring belongs to The Undertaker began during his days as the American Badass, and continued later when he became Big Evil. It was not just a tagline, it was a statement of fact.

A lot of guys in WWE have referred to the squared circle as "their ring," but Taker is the only one that made it last.

 

No one argued the point because of his legendary status, which grew every year that he performed in WWE. He may have had some critics because every WWE Superstar does, but despite how anyone really felt about him, no one could ever deny that he had earned respect as the longest tenured performer in the company.

 

Roman has not yet achieved that legendary status, but he could be on his way.

 

It's a different time in WWE. The next generation is coming to power and because of that, things are changing. The Hardy Boyz are the Raw tag team champions, Brock Lesnar is the Universal champion, Randy Orton is the WWE champion, but none of that changes the fact that WWE is moving forward.

 

The vibe surrounding the company is one of change, and though the veteran stars are back, they will surely be expected to work within the system to help make that change possible. Undertaker did exactly that on April 2.

The transition is not a quick one, and shouldn't be. To immediately replace the established stars with new faces overnight would be a shock to the system for fans, and would possibly create a massive divide between them and the company.

 

Of course some would argue that's precisely what WWE has created thanks to matches like Reigns versus Taker.

 

Indeed, it felt like a way to get The Deadman out of the picture, rather than to bolster Reigns' position as WWE's top guy. Undertaker did not have a long standing history with Reigns, nor did he have a reason to put his career on the line at Mania.

 

The dream scenario that Ric Flair had at WrestleMania 24 was not possible for Undertaker. The same is true of Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26. Taker did not have the perfect match against a legend, he did not have the chance that others have had when it comes to leaving on top.

 

Undertaker was the man to send guys to their demise, and when he needed one to do that for him, it wasn't possible.

Sting was the last best hope to give Undertaker an iconic sendoff. But Vince McMahon likely never would have allowed his top attraction of all time to do the job for the former face of WCW. Undertaker could have defeated Sting and still left afterward, but that never happened either.

 

WWE's only move was to either book Taker against John Cena, or against another legend. Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Kane, or Triple H were all potential last opponents for him. But with the exception of Cena, fans have seen those matches before. John is on his way out as well, so it wasn't logical for him to send Taker out first.

 

The loss had to benefit WWE. It had to benefit the guy that beat him, and it had to mean something for the future. Whether anyone likes it or not, Roman is the future.

 

On the flip side of that of course is the fact that Reigns is more hated now than he ever was before. WWE's refusal to turn him heel borders on arrogance. WWE's insistence that he should be the top babyface when two thirds of the audience hates him, is asinine. The win over Taker may have gotten Reigns to another level, but it did not get him over.

 

Reigns will surely continue as he always has; booed, jeered, despised, with a company featuring him as the ultimate protagonist. Cena also continues to be hated, even to the end, and the same will be true of Reigns unless WWE goes a different route.

 

There's no reason to believe that will happen now.

 

Undertaker went out like a pro. He went out on his back, staring at the lights. He gave back to the company that made him a star, and he did so because it was the right thing to do. Whether or not he should have done it for Roman remains to be seen.

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