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TUCKER'S INSTANT REACTION: Live at WrestleMania for the true End of an Era... and the start of a new one?

Apr 7, 2014 - 1:06:45 AM
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Instant Reaction - WWE WrestleMania 30
By Benjamin Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist


Overall Score - 8.75

WrestleMania 28 was billed as "The End of an Era." That name came two years too early. WrestleMania XXX, just like Mania XX in 2004, served as an event meant to respect the past while looking forward to the future. Daniel Bryan, The Shield, and Antonio Cesaro, among others, were spotlighted as the future of the WWE while past legends were brought back to celebrate their legacy one more time and older wrestlers helped put over the new breed.

But while the WWE was looking to the future, saying goodbye to the past proved harder than anyone could imagine. The Undertaker's legendary streak ended on Sunday.

And I don't think it could have ended on a worse note.

In the semi-main event of the evening, after 15-plus minutes of slow, subpar action, The Undertaker lifted Brock Lesnar for a Last Ride powerbomb. He failed. After a tombstone piledriver couldn't put away Brock Lesnar, the Dead Man went to the well a second time. Lesnar reversed it into his third F5 of the evening and covered Taker. The ref began counting as Michael Cole shouted "The Streak" one... "is" two... "Uh."

WWE's lead play-by-play-announcer was at a loss as, for the first time in history, The Undertaker was pinned at WrestleMania. The bell was called but the referee called for a two count. Lesnar looked confused as Paul Heyman rushed into the ring, overacting as if he was a teenage girl who was just asked to prom. The 21-1 sign flashed on the Titantron before disappearing for a moment. Chaos was ensuing at ringside, but one fact was perfectly made clear by the end of the drama: The Undertaker had lost.

What happened at this point is anyone's guess. Initial thoughts have ranged from Undertaker deciding beforehand that his time in the ring had ended to an audible being called in the ring because of injury. These are the facts that are known:

(1) The Undertaker worked a match that was designed to show his aging as a weakness.

(2) Taker, from his entrance to the match itself, wasn't moving at his usual pace. And that's saying something. He took very few bumps of any kind, and walked very gingerly throughout.

(3) The end of the match was odd. The referee was in an odd position, as he tried to cover for Taker not raising his arm for a near fall, and the commentators seemed to be taken aback as well as Michael Cole's "call the finish when it's not a finish" line trailed off as Lesnar actually claimed the victory.

(4) The Undertaker was favoring one of his hips after the match, but no other noticeable injuries were apparent.

These notes, combined with Undertaker reportedly hospitalized after the event, suggests that Taker was either injured in the match or learned that he was injured some time this weekend. Only a few people were clued in, and whatever happened, it was serious enough that Undertaker would opt to end his Streak rather than decide to extend his run.

Whatever the reason, this decision seems to be the doing of Taker himself. And while he's been wary of his workrate in recent years and rumors of him retiring have swirled for some time as he continued to age, I thought his decision to lose to Brock Lesnar was regardless a poor one. The Streak wasn't highlighted beforehand as being put in jeopardy. The lack of hype around it has made this less of a heel defining moment for Brock Lesnar than an indictment on whoever okay'ed the decision to let this happen. Why disenchant an entire fanbase when right now there doesn't seem to be anything to gain from it? Not to mention the match itself was one of Undertaker's worse outings in quite some time. He was forced to make a DQs-allowed match with Brock Lesnar entertaining in front of a burned out audience. That wasn't going to happen.

Either way, Undertaker's loss at WrestleMania represents the true end of an era. As much as WrestleMania XXX was about "letting the good times roll" and saying hello to the future, it also turned out to house one of the most shocking and depressing moments in WWE history. Long live The Streak. Long live The Undertaker.

The rest of the show surpassed expectations, with the exception of the Divas, who were sent out in front of the irate New Orleans crowd like pigs to the slaughter. The Battle Royal had multiple fun spots and served as a great jumping off point for Cesaro. Big Show was portrayed perfectly throughout the match as dominant, making Cesaro's win after his face turn earlier in the night feel that much nicer.

Cena vs. Wyatt was slow paced but one of the better matches of the night. Bray lost nothing by losing, but Cena certainly lost a lot by winning. The man shows no weakness. His character is becoming worse than Hulk Hogan at this point.

In speaking of Hogan, his opening promo segment with Stone Cold and The Rock was at the same time meaningless, surreal, and a lot of fun to watch. Seeing all three in the ring together was a true WrestleMania moment, and it was a cool way to get the crowd hyped for the rest of the show.

Where Taker-Lesnar made the wrestling world collectively weep, Daniel Bryan was there to save the day. His two matches were both well executed, especially the triple threat main event. They worked their tails off delivering a match that made 75,000 plus in attendance momentarily forget about Taker and root for the underdog who was finally getting his chance to shine. The booking of the match was perfect, continuously giving false finishes that were right in line with what WWE had been serving the last six months. Orton and Batista had no heat, but it didn't matter. Once Bryan won, the building came unglued. Luckily for the "Yes Man," his moment wasn't ruined by the specter of the Phenom.

Oh, and the Shield dominated. That was fun.

In the end, WrestleMania XXX was easily one of the best Manias of the last ten years. We said bye to the past and looked to the future, and the future certainly does look bright. If only we could have said our good-byes properly.

Follow me on Twitter @BTuckerTorch for more thoughts about Mania and live, in-person tweeting of Monday Night Raw tonight!


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