Win or lose, the man (or men in the case of WrestleMania XIX) who goes one-on-one with The Deadman is given an immediate boost in credibility. A couple years back, this signature Mania match meant even more because The Undertaker had an unbeatable 21-0 WrestleMania streak. But now that the streak is broken, does the match still have the same positive effect on the challenger?
In Bray Wyatt's case, most people knew The Undertaker would come out on top to avenge his loss to Brock Lesnar in the previous year. Plus, with the streak already broken, it felt like less was on the line. Having said that, retiring a legend always grants a rub to the wrestler who does the honors. Moving forward, it's clear that The Undertaker only has one or two more WrestleMania matches left in him, which brings us to our question: Who will The Undertaker face at the show of shows this year? Let's take a look at our options:
1. Bray Wyatt: Round 2
With a record of 0-2 at WrestleMania, the Eater of Worlds could use a big win under his belt. Why not have him defeat The Undertaker in a rematch? Their gimmicks mesh pretty well together—both being demonesque. More so, last year's match was actually rather entertaining. By raising the stakes and putting The Undertaker's career on the line, WWE might have a solid match here.
The biggest issue with Wyatt comes with the rumor of The Undertaker deciding not to retire. If that's the case, people really wouldn't want to see these two go toe-to-toe again just to have Wyatt job out once more.
2. Braun Strowman
Unfortunately, this man is currently rumored to be The Undertaker's inevitable opponent in Dallas. Despite Strowman being a champion weightlifter, he's as green as grass in the ring. In the previews that we've seen of his ability, he comes off as another cumbersome monster heel, waiting to lay down for the big name babyface at a major pay-per-view event. Essentially, he's the Rusev of this year. After losing to The Undertaker, Strowman would most likely start jobbing out to other major names before eventually losing cleanly to R-Truth.
The upside of this option is that it would allow The Undertaker to work an easier-paced match. When facing more agile foes, The Undertaker has thrown caution to the win more often (See Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels). Although this resulted in better matches, it also took a huge toll on his body over the years. Then we have to look at how Strowman has been built up so far. Despite never competing in a singles match, Strowman has looked threatening every time he's on screen with the use of his lifting arm triangle choke.
3. John Cena
Okay, I know. He kicked off 2016 with a shoulder injury, one that actually required surgery. And I know, he's said to be out six to nine months. But it's JOHN CENA!
If anyone can come back early from an injury, it's Big Match John. Case and point: the 2008 Royal Rumble. Cena was supposedly out for at least a few more months, and then he shows up as the number 30 entrant and tosses Triple H for the win. But is he a good choice, even if he is available?
Yeah, why not? Whether he has the belt or not, John Cena is the face of the WWE. And after all of these years, he's feuded with The Undertaker just once and at the very beginning of his WWE tenure at that. If The Undertaker is going to retire, doesn't it make sense that the face of the company would be the one to do the honors?
4. Kevin Owens
The first "younger" talent on this list is known as the Prizefighter. That gimmick alone makes perfect sense as to why he would be the one to face The Undertaker. As a prizefighter, Owens is always looking to prove that he's best and pinning the Demon of Death Valley is a phenomenal way to do just that.
Additionally, Kevin Owens has nothing on his plate at the moment. After dropping the Intercontinental Championship, he needs a huge feud to keep the momentum going. The Undertaker is the perfect candidate for said feud.
The biggest issue with Kevin Owens isn't necessarily an issue, but he may have a match with Sami Zayn or AJ Styles at WrestleMania instead. Both of those choices would be terrific matches, but neither would help him as much as a match with The Undertaker.
Undertaker versus Sting. This is a match that fans have been clamoring for for years. Both of them were at the top of their respective companies, Undertaker in WWE and Sting in WCW. So what's the issue?
For one, Sting was also afflicted with an injury in the latter half of 2015. Unlike Cena, however, at the age of 56, it's unlikely that he retains Cena's superhuman recovery ability. Which brings me to the next point: Sting is 56 years old. The Undertaker is 50. Both men are apparently past their prime. Any match that takes place between the two of them wouldn't be a fraction of the match they could've had years ago. That said, the build enough might be enough to make it an encounter worth watching.
6. Finn Bálor
The reigning NXT Champion, Finn Bálor is seemingly a natural fit for The Undertaker's opponent. First of all, he shares a demonesque gimmick with Sting and Bray Wyatt, meshing with The Undertaker's deadman gimmick. Secondly, he's an up-and-coming star in the WWE. Despite having years of experience wrestling around the world, Bálor started in NXT (along with Kevin Owens), and is working his way up the ladder. A win over The Undertaker would instantly skyrocket Bálor to the main event on the main roster. Lastly, Bálor is a babyface. Why does this matter, you ask? When The Undertaker finally receives his send-off match, it should be in a match with a face, so WWE can do the respectful handshake/passing-of-the-torch-moment post-match.
One reason comes to mind as to why it won't be Bálor right now: He's still on NXT. Despite showcasing solid wrestling abilities on a weekly basis, Bálor hasn't received the exposure that he'll receive once he's on the main roster. Concurrently, Bálor can be expected to hold on to the NXT Championship at least till TakeOver: Dallas on April 1st, two days before WrestleMania. Since he'll be preoccupied with NXT business, he would be hard-pressed to designate a lot of time to a feud with The Undertaker.
What do I think?Honestly, I would love to see a young guy like Finn Bálor or Kevin Owens retire The Undertaker. Unfortunately, rumors are swirling that The Undertaker is NOT planning on retiring this year, despite winding down with his in-ring ability. This is semi-confirmed by his notable absence from the leaked Hall of Fame inductees report. The year that The Undertaker retires, it's pretty safe to say he'll receive the Ric Flair treatment, being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night prior to his last match.
But it gets worse. As previously mentioned, it's rumored that Vince McMahon is pretty high on Braun Strowman vs. The Undertaker right now. Of course, Strowman probably won't defeat the Deadman, but given how much he's been protected since his debut, it seems fairly apparent that the creative team is saving him for something, and that something is possibly the aforementioned WrestleMania match with The Undertaker.
So who do you think will face The Undertaker at WrestleMania this year? Will it be his final match, and if so, can the Phenom collect one more soul? Be sure to comment below, and let us know.
Thanks for reading!