After attending Wrestlemania XXX on Sunday in New Orleans, I got separated from the group I was with, my cell phone was dead and when I arrived at the spot in the lot where we had been doing some pre-Mania tailgating (the best kind of tailgating), all I found were two empty parking spaces.
Following 30 minutes of wandering back and forth in front of the Superdome in the hopes that I — a 30-year-old white dude in a wrestling T-shirt — might be noticed by my group among the thousands exiting the show, I eventually stopped to get my bearings. A man with a title belt draped over his shoulder started talking to me, and while we were chatting, I explained my current predicament of being lost with a dead cell phone in a city I was visiting for the first time with no idea where — or, more specifically, at which bar — my girlfriend/her friends were. In a show of extreme compassion, he said, “Man, that sucks. And can you [expletive] believe they had [expletive] Brock Lesnar end the [expletive] streak!”
Since I started watching WWE regularly again around Wrestlemania 25, the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania winning streak — The Streak — has been treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL (and it had already started being treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL a few years before that).
This year, however, everything about The Streak seemed boringly inevitable. Inevitably Undertaker was going to show up around Mania (the past few years, that’s basically been the only time he appears). Inevitably he was going to find an opponent/victim (Lesnar had always seemed to be the likely option, although the annual Sting — or John Cena — rumors also started popping up). Inevitably Michael Cole would shout about all the legendary wrestlers Undertaker had beaten at Wrestlemania (Giant Gonzalez! A-Train!). And inevitably there’d be a match, Undertaker would kick out of an F-5, Lesnar would kick out of a tombstone, but in the end, The Streak would move to 22-0.
The Lesnar/Undertaker feud leading up to Wrestlemania XXX — outside of the initial confrontation when Undertaker stabbed Lesnar in the hand with a pen, signed the match contract in Lesnar’s blood and then chokeslammed him through a table — didn’t feature any memorable moments. And despite Lesnar’s manager/representative, the amazing Paul Heyman, trying as hard as he could to sell Lesnar as an actual threat to The Streak — and Lesnar is a terrifying man — everyone knew Undertaker was walking out of Wrestlemania 22-0.
I was up in the cheap seats — WHERE I BELONG — at Wrestlemania XXX, part of a group of 30-plus people in their mid-to-late 20s who were attending the event as part of an extended wedding celebration weekend. Many of the group were non-wrestling fans who were there mostly for the chance to see the glorious spectacle that is Wrestlemania one time and to participate in the equally glorious pre-Mania tailgate. By the time the Undertaker/Lesnar match was about to begin, some were getting restless, and one dude in particular was entertaining himself — and annoying me — by yelling out random nonsense (although, to be fair, many actual wrestling fans do this very same thing every week during RAW).
The match itself — at least watching live — was not very good (I have yet to rewatch it). It was slow, Undertaker, even from where I was sitting, looked old as hell in the ring, and the crowd was mostly quiet. When Lesnar hit the third F5, I was thinking to myself, “It seems a bit silly to have Undertaker kick out of three of these.” And as I finished that thought, the ref counted three. What followed was the strangest reaction I’ve ever been part of at a sporting or pro wrestling event. First it got completely quiet as many — myself included — thought something had gone wrong. Then, once they started flashing 21-1 on the screens, people started booing. When Undertaker finally got off the mat and took the long walk to the back, there was some clapping, but once he disappeared, the booing started again. The woman a row in front of me who stood and screamed during the entirety of the Undertaker’s entrance headed for the exits.
When you watch a pro sporting event, while there are times the outcome heading in looks clear, you know in the back of your mind — as a result of things like the Giants beating the 16-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, or the Red Sox coming back from down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees — that anything can happen. When you watch a pro wrestling event– especially once you learn the outcomes are fixed (thanks for letting me know, @poolhalljames!) — there are times when you know without a shadow of a doubt the inevitable is going to happen.
As a kid who still thought pro wrestling was real, I knew Hulk Hogan wasn’t losing to turncoat Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII, because he was immortal, had 24″ pythons and USA! USA! And Hogan eventually dropped the leg and got the 1-2-3. As a teenager who had half a brain and the internet, I knew Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t losing to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV, because he was the most popular wrestler to come along since Hogan, Michaels could barely walk after suffering a real-life back injury and “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” And Austin eventually hit the kick-wham-stunner and got the 1-2-3. As a 30-year-old, I knew the Undertaker wasn’t losing to Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX, because he was 21-0, The Streak would never end and “Rest … In … Peace.”
And then he [expletive] lost.