Tiffany MC puts a bow on her coverage of The Streak, looking back at The Undertaker and his amazing WrestleMania legacy.
For the last three-ish months, I’ve been re-watching the Undertaker’s Streak matches, watching the once obscure wrestling trivia match go from brain porn to a central part of the WrestleMania mystique has been a really eye-opening experience, even for a seasoned fan like myself.
When I first started this journey, I wanted to see if the matches in the Streak lived up to the legend of the Streak, and, for much of the time, they weren’t. They weren’t all bad matches, but until the Streak was brought into the open, I can’t say there were a lot of great matches, especially in the early days. In my opinion, the best matches in the Streak were: Jake Roberts, Diesel, Kane, all three of the Triple H matches, Randy Orton, and both Shawn Michaels matches.
When did it become “The Streak?”
As I made my way through the Streak, I noticed a few things that really hadn’t occurred to me as they were happening when I was a kid: That the Streak wasn’t a big deal and just how many of Taker’s well-known feuds were NOT part of the Streak. First things first, and I apologize for beating this point half to death over the course of this series, is that the Streak was NOT a big deal until 2005. If it was mentioned at all, it was at WrestleMania and only as a piece of trivia.
What really surprised me over the course of this re-watch is all the big feuds/rivalries of the Undertaker’s that were NOT part of the Streak: Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Mankind (that one was a shocker), Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, Big Show in a straight one-on-one match, Diamond Dallas Paige, Kurt Angle, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. McMahon, and Sting, which still pisses me off. Undertaker had great feuds with all these guys, but none of them were part of the Streak.
Looking at the list of the men who did participate in the Streak, what stood out the most is how most of them were Legends or future Legends. I wanted to say ‘all of them’, but there was a Giant Gonzalez sized hurdle in the way. Of all the matches of the Streak, the only two really drizzling-shits bad ones were Giant Gonzalez and King Kong Bundy, but there were reasons to give them a break; Gonzalez for his size issues, and Bundy for his age (40 was pretty old in wrestling years in the 90s).
The Legacy of The Streak
So, what is the legacy of the Streak? How can something that has become a central part of WWE’s WrestleMania build be summarized in an interesting and clever (I hope) little afterward?
I think many people who have heard of the Streak, especially in the later years think that the Streak is something that everyone knew about and was planned from the start and, as we have seen, that was not the case. Triple H, who is a good friend of the Undertaker, was not even aware that Taker was 8-0 when they had their first WrestleMania match in 2001. Besides that, not even Vince McMahon could’ve planned a 24-2 WrestleMania streak, there are too many variables to consider.
The exposure of the Streak and the end of it were two situations that ended up doing more harm than good in the long run. Exposing the Streak made for a great feud with Randy Orton and made the younger man a star, but the fact that Orton didn’t win, and the Streak was intact ensured that the Streak became the focus of the match rather than an actual storyline. To Vince’s credit, the storylines leading up to Taker’s post 2005 matches were all compelling, but every match after Randy Orton all boiled down to one goal: I want to beat the Streak.
Elisa looks great in her Chairshot t-shirts. You can too!
‘What’s wrong with that?’ I hear you asking, ‘Look at all the great matches he had after the Streak was exposed!’ and it’s true, Taker had much better matches AFTER the Streak was exposed than before it, but it came at a price: He became less important and everything he’d accomplished in WWE became a distant second to the Streak, to the point where his only appearances in the year were for WrestleMania and special occasions and then he’d leave.
The biggest demonstration of why exposing the Streak was a bad idea long-term was the reaction to Taker coming back after the Streak ended. A lot of fans didn’t see the point of him coming back if the Streak wasn’t there, while not complaining about other legends doing the same thing. The fact that people thought that the only reason for Taker to come back to WWE was to continue the Streak angered me as a fan and showed how much the Streak had obliterated or overshadowed everything else that Taker had accomplished.
Even though we all knew the Streak HAD to end sometime, Undertaker losing to Lesnar was an instance of short-term win, long-term loss. Yeah, beating Taker was a star-making moment, but it was a moment Lesnar didn’t need, he was already a big star, deservedly or not, it was a moment that should’ve been given to someone like a Bray Wyatt or a Roman Reigns, instead of done for someone who didn’t need it, and the fact that Taker came back diluted the victory for Lesnar, as it did for Roman Reigns when Taker faced Cena last year.
So, back to my original question: What was the legacy of the Streak? I think the legacy is all the men who faced the Undertaker and achieved immortality and/or became stars in the process and of Mark Callaway, who went from a low carder on WCW to a WWE legend because of that Streak. No one will ever be able to top that streak, that will be his alone and that’s the way it should be.
Undertaker did not appear at WrestleMania 35, marking the first time since 2001 that he has not had a match at WrestleMania, so the less than stellar Cena match seems to be the last Undertaker match. Thanks for almost thirty years of memories, Undertaker, and thank you for the Streak.