Monday, July 31, 2017

Vince McMahon's Top Booking Blunders Pt. 2

So we're back again, with the second installment of "Vince McMahon's Top Booking Blunders"! Last time, we covered some of the WWF's worst decisions of the 1980s and 1990s. Now without further adieu, let's get on to 1999 and the 2000s!


The Lord of Darkness.

6. The Ministry of Darkness Storyline Should Have Remained McMahon Free

 Being an Undertaker fan, I had seriously mixed feelings in late 1998 and early 1999 when they were running the "Ministry of Darkness" storyline. To me, I liked it best, and Taker was AT his best, when he was a lone wolf, an "In-Betweener". Not fully good guy, not fully bad guy, out for himself, but not selfishly so like Steve Austin. He was out for himself, but he was still noble. That was the Undertaker from 1996 (after Paul Bearer turned on him) until about mid-1998. His feud against his "brother" Kane started to change him, however. It brought out the Darkness in him, and he started acting less and less noble, even turning around and joining his evil brother, in a fairly confusing and kind of silly turn of events. A few short months later, he then turned ON Kane, joining back up with Paul Bearer, his old manager, even though Paul had helped Kane make his life a living hell for about a year at this point, and he had previously convinced Kane to help him beat up Bearer! That, folks, is all horrible "creative" from the genius mind of Vince Russo, at least in part. Russo was famous, in the so-called late-90s "Attitude Era", for meandering plotlines that went nowhere, and countless "swerves" that lost all meaning, in an attempt to manufacture Jerry Spring type "shock television".

So, when Taker allied with Paul once more, nonsensically, I didn't care for it. Then when The Acolytes, Farooq and Bradshaw, showed up as his "demonic enforcers", I was confused, but curious. Then he kidnapped and "sacrificed" another former redneck character named Phineas Godwin, transforming him on live TV into the dark servant now called "Mideon". I still wasn't a HUGE fan of what was going on, Taker wrestling less and doing all this weird evil shit, but I was intrigued. Then at Royal Rumble '99 this "Ministry of Darkness" attacked and kidnapped the giant black wrestler formerly known as Mabel. When he next appeared with them, he too was changed, into a monster now known as "Viscera". And shortly after THAT, before Wrestlemania 15 occurred, the Ministry beat up, and "hung" the young gothic stars known as "The Brood" in the middle of the ring. They would later show up, as their normal selves, but now part of Taker's growing Dark Army.

Underwhelming, but it had promise.

Now, to reiterate, I didn't LOVE the whole Ministry thing. But once I started thinking about it, as both a fan, and a creative type myself, I started playing with the idea in my head more. And at least in MY version of how the Ministry could play out, it started to get really interesting. In a sense, the Ministry was an attempt by the WWF to emulate what WCW had been doing for years by this point, with the so-called "New World Order", the NWO, which started with former WWF stars Kevin Nash (Diesel), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and Hulk Hogan. They started out as a hated heel group, but quickly became an "edgy" counter-culture to the WCW norm, with fans cheering for the bad guys much as they would come to do in the WWF in the late 90s with characters like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. For that matter, WWF's own "Degeneration X" was also an attempt to have an NWO-like group, and it was the NWO that pushed WWF to start getting "edgier" with their programming to try and win back audience share.

While the Ministry DID suffer from some stupid moments here and there, all in the interest of that "shock TV", "Attitude Era" crap of the time, to ME, they had potential as a group. If they had handled it correctly, it could have been a solid NWO-like angle, where the Ministry is trying to "take over" the WWF, which is how they initially set out in the first place. Part of the reason they went with having Taker involved in a big stable, apparently, was because he was suffering from multiple nagging injuries, the wear and tear of wrestling getting to his body, and so in the interest of slowing down and wrestling less, but still being heavily involved in the show every week, they decided to go this route. And in theory, it could have worked, long term. The Ministry could have continued growing, as I imagined it would in my own mind, and keep kidnapping and "changing" members into darker versions of themselves. They could do this to both heels AND babyfaces, just to up the stakes, that the Ministry could "take" anybody, if they wished it. They could have even tied it in to the whole "end of the century/end of the world" type fears, making the growing Ministry out to destroy the WWF be parallel to the end of the millennium hysteria. And the army could get big enough, a dozen or more strong, that they were a very real threat to the whole roster, which would force evil Mr. McMahon as well as the heels AND faces on the roster, to band together, even temporarily, in the interest of survival. What they DID, however, was fucking dumb.

"The Higher Power"

The Ministry, as I've said, was flawed, but interesting. Especially when it picked up steam after Wrestlemania 15. Taker faced Mr. McMahon's top stooge, The Big Bossman, in a Hell in a Cell match on that show, and not only defeated, but with the help of his minions, "hung" the Bossman from the cage, in what was one of wrestling's most disturbing and genuinely unsettling moments. He also started coming at McMahon himself, harder and harder. He had his minions "kidnap" his daughter, Stephanie, and tried to force marriage on her in a "Black Wedding" in the middle of the ring, until McMahon's nemesis Stone Cold came out and made the unlikely save. That sounds pretty dumb right? Well just wait.

On the first ever episode of WWF "Smackdown", Taker's Ministry joined with Shane McMahon's (Vince's son) Corporation (formerly also Vince's Corporation), and they became known as the "Corporate Ministry". That, already, was falling off the rails for me, and seemed really dumb, as now members of the Corporation, including Bossman who Taker had tried to hang, were part of his entourage. But the worst part, as you can see above, came when Taker's "Higher Power", whom he had alluded to for weeks, was finally revealed to be none other than...Vince. The guy he had been fighting, the guy whose daughter he kidnapped, etc. For me, that was the last straw. I kept watching, but I stopped caring as soon as they involved Vince in the group. It all basically was played off as some (badly) convoluted ploy to "trick" Steve Austin, as part of McMahon's continuing war against "Stone Cold", which by now had been going on for well over a year, and was really tiresome.

To me, the Ministry COULD have been an interesting, even exciting angle, where Taker builds up this huge army of followers, and comes VERY close to actually either taking over, or destroying, Vince's company. So Vince has to wake up, stop acting like the maniacal boss, and try to rally everyone to fight the Darkness. That could have been pretty cool, if handled right. Unfortunately, A) It's "Attitude Era" WWF, where storylines rarely ever made sense, and B) It's Vince McMahon, who is not exactly known (at least from the 90s onward) for long, building, structured storylines. In the end, as a Taker fan, I was left feeling very disgusted with the direction the whole thing took, and Taker himself eventually kind of just faded out, first teaming with Big Show for awhile, and then leaving TV completely due to another injury. The next time we would see Undertaker, he would be a very human biker, and no longer The Lord of Darkness, or even the "Phenom".

A McMahon in every corner. Joy.

7. Mick Foley Should Have Gotten One Last Big Moment

At Wrestlemania 16 (then referred to as "Wrestlemania 2000"),  it was the first Wrestlemania event of the new millennium, and I suppose as a way to make it seem really special, they decided to have a "Fatal 4 Way" match as the main event. The rest of the card was, surprisingly, mostly tag team or other multi-man matches. And the main event was no exception. I think in part because their top star, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, was out with injury (not to mention another top star, The Undertaker, also being gone with injuries), that they did this match. Regardless, the buildup on TV, both on Monday Night Raw and the then brand new Thursday Night Smackdown show, was naturally huge. The dastardly Shane McMahon, his "Corporation" group disbanded, was in the corner of the giant Big Show, and his equally dastardly sister Stephanie was in the corner of her (at the time fictional) husband HHH, who was the standing WWF Champion. Vince McMahon, who had for the better part of three years, played the part of the evil boss "Mr. McMahon", was once again at least acting like he was on the side of the angels, since his precious daughter was with HHH and DX, who were running roughshod over the WWF. So in that spirit, McMahon made some kind of "amends" with his former Corporate Champion, The Rock.

And last but not least, there was Mick Foley. The man who originally entered the WWF known as the deranged Mankind, and would later (somewhat nonsensically) bring out his alternate personalities, Dude Love and Cactus Jack (his original wrestling name). But by this point, he was just going by his real name, Mick Foley, in the twilight of his in-ring career. The storyline was now really playing up the fact that his boyhood dream, had been to main event a Wrestlemania, the one thing he had never yet done (having already had short stints as WWF Champion). He had spent previous months feuding with HHH, and prior to Wrestlemania, had faced HHH in a "Hell in the Celll" match, with his career being on the line versus Hunter's title. Needless to say, he lost again, and had to "retire", which as a fan I remember making me legitimately sad at the time. But then lo and behold, the OTHER McMahon, Vince's wife Linda, decided to throw her hat into the mix, and used her corporate power as part owner of the company, to "unretire" Mick, so that he could take part in the Wrestlemania main event, with her in his corner. And thus you had the "big attraction" gimmick of a "McMahon in Every Corner".

Mr. Socko!

Where the blunder this time around comes in, is in the fact that, while yes, this was a "Fatal 4-Way" match, the Big Show wound up being eliminated fairly early in the match by the other three competitors, and while Mick hung around for a bit, ultimately he was also eliminated, and the brunt of the match was the matchup WWF was actually banking on to headline their event: The Rock vs. HHH. Now, mind you, The Rock had gone from being one of the company's top heels, to becoming their most popular wrestler with Austin gone. So him beating HHH for the title would have made sense, both from a storyline and business perspective. But that's not what happened. What happened, in one of the more pointless Wrestlemania booking decisions of all time, is that they had the "mega-heel" HHH retain his title. Granted, a heel closing out a Wrestlemania main event by winning, is not a common occurrence. The "old school" wrestling logic, especially for your biggest show of the year, is "Make sure the fans leave happy", and the easiest way to do that is for the wrestler they like to win in the last match of the night. So for the sheer novelty of it, HHH winning makes a little since, just as a "Surprise" to shake things up and keep fans guessing. However, that doesn't change the fact that out of the possible outcomes for this match, HHH winning had the least amount of impact.

The Rock winning would have made sense because he was "The People's Champion". Big Show winning would have made sense, because then "who is going to beat this giant?" And in either scenario, if you REALLY wanted to keep the evil HHH looking strong, he could have (and likely would have) won the title back in the following months anyway. But to me, the most emotional, meaningful outcome for this match, would have been to let Mick Foley, the perpetual unlikely underdog, who had tried and failed multiple times, even temporarily costing him his career, to beat HHH in prior months. Him coming out on top one last time, letting him be WWF Champ one last time, and then you could have him vacate the belt on Raw the next night, get a tearful standing ovation from the fans, and he could ride off into the sunset. It would have been a really sweet, and memorable moment, all around. And Mick certainly deserved that.

More McMahon drama. Joy.

8. Chris Jericho Should Have Been Booked As a Stronger Undisputed Champ

So in 2001, something both monumental and actually rather depressing took place in the pro wrestling world. Two of the "Big Three" American wrestling promotions, both World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), lost their TV deals and essentially folded, for various reasons. While I myself was never a HUGE WCW fan, I did watch it from time to time. At the height the "Monday Night Wars" in the late 90s, because WCW Monday Nitro was actually three hours for awhile, I would sometimes watch part of that first hour before Monday Night Raw came on, and would flip back during commercial breaks to see what was going on. It was never my cup of tea, but WCW did have stars I liked, such as Raven, Billy Kidman, Perry Saturn, Sting (specifically the silent "Crow Sting"), Ultimo Dragon, Rey Mysterio Jr., and Chris Jericho. When Jericho came over to the WWF in late 1999, after a long and mysterious "Y2K" countdown clock appeared on Raw for some time, I was actually excited, because he was a good wrestler, and a fresh face on Raw. Then they proceeded to put him in many questionable or outright dumb feuds and storylines, including being involved with Chyna (who I couldn't' stand).

But later in 2000 and 2001, they started treating him like a serious wrestler, involving him in some really great matches against the likes of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. He and Benoit, both Canadians, actually even teamed up for a bit. Well, in 2001, in the aftermath of the WCW and ECW collapses, with the WWF winding up more or less "owning" what was left of both, they decided to do this big "Invasion" angle, where it seemed like a bunch of former WCW stars were trying to take over the WWF. It was actually interesting and exciting at first, but then a handful of ECW stars popped up (including Rob Van Dam, who I instantly liked), and they joined up with the WCW guys, becoming "The Alliance", and from there it just got more and more convoluted, in true Vince fashion. In fact, I honestly could have included that whole period in this list, but I think it might be more appropriate to give it its own article someday. Sufficed to say, from summer 2001 until late November 2001, this "Invasion" story dominated WWF television. And it had its moments, but it was also nice when it was finally over.

King of the World

Now, in 2001, especially during the "Invasion", and with top stars like The Rock and HHH out for different reasons, Jericho actually became a top babyface on the WWF side of things, and they actually treated him like a star for once. I was all about that at the time, because I liked this version of "Y2J". Well, The Rock wound up coming back from Hollywood in time to hog the spotlight and be THE hero during the climax of the whole deal at Survivor Series. And in the midst of that, Jericho became jealous and furious that Rocky was stealing his thunder (and the title he wanted). So in the aftermath, Jericho slid back into being a heel again, because he hated The Rock, and he wanted the gold. Steve Austin, who had switched sides and been the "heel" face of the "Alliance" (in and of itself a stupid move, as one of the WCW stars should have been that), was the standing WWF Champion, and The Rock, upon returning, had won the old WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Booker T. So Vince set up a tournament to unify those titles, as the old WCW belts were being mostly done away with, and the winner of this tournament, would become the first ever "Undisputed Champion".

The final four participants, were the two champions, along with Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho. In the end, in a move that quite honestly took me by surprise, they actually had Chris Jericho beat BOTH The Rock and Steve Austin all in one night, becoming Undisputed Champ! A fact that you'd better believe Jericho rubbed in everyone's face for months to come. As he should have done, because as the top heel in the company (at the time), and THE champion of the company, the right booking move would have been to push Jericho to the moon, not just having him cheat to win, but having him look like a STRONG, unbeatable champion who is simply that damn good. It would really piss off the fans, in a "love to hate him" type of scenario, because they couldn't boo him being a chicken shit, they'd just have to boo him constantly winning because he's the "King of the World". And then you finally have someone come along and beat him, giving fans that big payoff. Well, that's not what Vince did, of course. Instead, they had Jericho get involved (on a professional level) with Stephanie McMahon, who had been part of the "Alliance" and tried to take down her father's company, now acting as his manager. And because of this, the whole time he was champ, the storyline circulated around her and her dad, and then later her and the returning HHH.

Jericho, and the championship itself, were secondary to the "McMahon-Helmsley" storyline they were telling, which "old school" wrestling wisdom would tell you should NEVER be the case. Chris Jericho should have been made to look as if being THE MAN who beat WWF's two top stars of the "Attitude Era", was important and that being the first ever "Undisputed Champion", the first man to EVER hold both the WWF and WCW belts at the same time, really mattered and was a big deal. Instead, he was made to look like a whiny bitch who only retained his title because Stephanie McMahon helped him cheat. He was overshadowed by his "manager", which defeats the entire purpose of the very IDEA of the wrestling manager (to get the wrestler over). And in the end, his match with HHH at Wrestlemania 18, and subsequent loss of those belts, was anticlimactic and inconsequential, because it had been made to be all about HHH and Steph. As usual.

The Straight Edge Superstar

9. Completely Shitting the Bed with CM Punk's "Pipe Bomb" Momentum

Fast Forward a decade, to 2011. In the 2000s, WWF had several fresh faces come and go, some of whom they legitimately treated (at least for a bit) like top stars and champions, such as Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Edge, and others they should have done so with but really didn't, like Rob Van Dam, Booker T, The Hurricane, Carlito, and MVP. By 2011, pretty much all of those stars were gone, and in the interim, WWF (now called World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE), entered a period from about 2005 onward, where they got increasingly stale. For most of that time period, after making guys like John Cena, Randy Orton and Dave Batista top stars...that's literally what you got. For the most part, Cena, Orton, and Batista, were champion most of that time, with HHH interjected so he could catch up to Ric Flair, and some rando like Bobby Lashley thrown in once in awhile.

So in 2006, on an ill-conceived "revival" show of ECW (which was short lived because of more, big surprise, bad booking decisions by Vince and Co.), a lesser known indie darling and former Ring of Honor star named CM Punk, was brought up from their farm system into the "big leagues" (on the C show, anyway) of WWE. He was instantly a hit with fans, myself included. For me personally, I liked his "martial arts" persona they originally tried to saddle him with, but I also identified with his real life "Straight Edge" persona, meaning he didn't do drugs, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engage in promiscuous activity. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is also pretty much me (I stopped drinking at age 24 back in the mid 2000s, and never really did the other stuff anyway). So I thought he was pretty damn cool, and it helped that he was a really good wrestler to boot. Unfortunately for Punk and his fans, the people in power, including Vince, were not big fans of his, and didn't believe he was "Star Material". The only reason he hung around for the next couple of years, is because those damn fans wouldn't stop cheering for him. In spite of their best efforts to NOT highlight him on their shows, he became one of the most popular stars WWE had. So they eventually had to recognize this, and start treating him better. They did this by having him win the 2008 "Money in the Bank" match at Wrestlemania, which guarantees the winner a shot at the champion of their choice.

What could have been...

Punk went on to cash in, and he was briefly the World Champ (the former "Big Gold Belt" from WCW) on Raw. Unfortunately, Vince and Co. seemed determined to underplay his Champion status, and he eventually lost the belt, being once again relegated to what they call "mid-card" status. Except then they had him win the NEXT year's "Money in the Bank" again, the only guy to do it back to back. So like...what's the dealio, WWE? Punk made it matter more this time, becoming a heel and feuding with popular star Jeff Hardy. In an ironic turn of events, Punk used his real life Straight Edgeness (turned way up to obnoxious levels of course), against what he claimed was Hardy's real life drug problems, and not only took his title but eventually "chased him out of the company". The irony was that short after Jeff left WWE, it turned out he DID actually have drug problems, sadly. Regardless, Punk used this to fuel his Straight Edge fire, making a stable, called "The Straight Edge Society", and pissing fans off by pointing out how they're a bunch of loser addicts, and basically painting himself as some kind of sober messiah figure. Doing this made him essentially the top bad guy in WWE for the next couple of years, though as usual, WWE continued to fail to treat him like he was all that important.

So we get back around to the summer of 2011, and Punk, in real life, is fed up, and with his contract expiring soon, he plans on just walking away from the WWE for good. Because he's leaving anyway and doesn't care, he (obviously with some blessing by McMahon), switches gears and starts going "Real Talk" on WWE and the fans. He comes out and has his infamous "Pipe Bomb" rant, until his mic is cut off, and all of the sudden fans are behind him again, just like that, and he's suddenly the hottest thing in WWE. Again. So he has Vinnie Mac "over a barrel", and since Vince doesn't want to lose this hotness, he gives Punk a new contract, but they do a storyline where he faces John Cena, THE top star of the company, for the WWE Championship. And he wins it, clean, in his hometown of Chicago, and for all the fans know, walks out of the arena, "without a contract", with VINCE'S belt. It was pure gold, and it had the wrestling world talking.

So what do you DO with that kind of major fan excitement and media buzz? Well, you have CM Punk come back and face John Cena again at Summer Slam to determine who is the TRUE WWE Champion of course! And Punk beats Cena AGAIN! The fans go wild, Punk is as popular as ever, and Vince McMahon/Stephanie/HHH hate Punk, because he talked shit about them on live TV, and they don't want him being the face of THEIR company. Sounds like a great setup, right? Sounds like Punk could be the next "Stone Cold", facing off against those evil McMahons, right? Punk would eventually, after some roundabout nonsense, go on to have one of the longest WWE Championship reigns in modern history, holding the title for over a year. But you'd barely know it, because most of the main events of their PPV shows during that time, and even many episodes of Raw, were dedicated to a returning Brock Lesnar, or John Cena, or HHH, or a returning Rock.

Rocky, just Go to Sleep.

Now think about that from a logical, business perspective for a minute. You've got CM Punk, THE hottest, most controversial, most talked about pro wrestling star of the last decade+. You make him your champ, and you DON'T push him to the fucking moon. You DON'T put him over big time, making him seem like THE most important and biggest star your company has. He's not on all of your posters, he's not the guy you promote the most as the face of the company. And he's NOT the major focus of your biggest storylines. Instead, you parade a bunch of old washed up wrestlers over him, or John Cena, who fans are tired of, and the man you had Punk beat clean, MULTIPLE times in a row. You'd think that having Punk beat Cena over and over, would be to establish him as the "New Guy", the "Next Big Thing", etc. But apparently not.

In fact, in Vince's infinite wisdom, they broke with tradition (and common sense), and promoted John Cena vs. The Rock as the main event of Wrestlemania a YEAR in advance, not once, but TWICE. For one thing, that is beyond stupid, because traditionally you leave next year's event to be a surprise, not have fans knowing what to expect a year in advance. But to do it TWICE in a row? All the while totally ignoring your most popular star? Beyond idiotic. In fact, Wrestlemania 28 and 29 came and went, and in both instances, CM Punk should have been in the main event, of at least ONE of those shows. As a face, as a heel, WHATEVER. He had done everything possible to earn having that spotlight, and he never got it. Vince took easily the hottest star and angle his show has had in decades, that could have really revitalized interest in WWE, and Punk could have been big for years, and he just ignored him. Even disrespected him, by giving these other stars the spotlight. And eventually, Punk had enough. In 2014, he legitimately walked out for good, after the January Royal Rumble event, never to return, because he was burnt out and sick of how he had been treated.

That "What could have been" picture you saw a ways up there, was CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, another indie darling who had by 2014 managed to become a popular star, even though Vince "didn't see him as a star". Punk vs. Bryan at Wrestlemania 30, could have been a great main event, a great match. Or hell, at least turning what they DID do, having a "Triple Threat" match between Randy Orton, Batista, and Bryan, into a 4-Way including Punk. That way, Punk would have gotten the WM Main Event he had wanted and deserved, and we could have gotten a much better match. But, that's not what happened, and Punk left wrestling behind for good, because he had simply had enough.


10. The Undertaker NEVER Should Have Lost His Streak

This tenth and final blunder carries more weight than pretty much any of the others, by a country mile, because for me it's personal, and affects me more as a fan. The others were just plain dumb. This one was just plain wrong. As a bit of background, The Undertaker, up until Wrestlemania 18, had never lost a match, though he HAD missed out on Wrestlemania 10 and 16 due to injuries. But this was more of a little known trivia factoid, that got little notice, until he beat Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 18. It was then, after the match, that a heel Undertaker looked at his hands, and counted out 10, indicated that he was 10-0, undefeated at Wrestlemania. The next year, he faced off against both Big Show and A-Train (two giants), and won, further emphasizing his undefeated status. After FINALLY returning as a new incarnation of his "Deadman" persona, leaving the biker gimmick behind at Wrestlemania 20, he defeated his "brother" Kane again, officially making him 12-0. It was at this point, going forward, that his "Streak" suddenly became a thing that was talked about prominently. And every Wrestlemania going forward, it became a big deal every year, as someone tried to end his streak.

They even made a DVD just about the Streak itself.

Now, in the interest of fairness, the Undertaker is my favorite wrestler of all time, and so it's pretty damn cool to have him be the ONLY guy to be not only undefeated at Wrestlemania, but to be so for that long of a duration. And thus AS one of his biggest fans (if I do say so myself), I totally would have loved him to just remain undefeated. However, as much as I would have HATED it at the time, there WAS a time that I would have accepted him losing at Wrestlemania. The caveat being that it was to some young star, back when it really would have mattered. Such as Edge at Wrestlemania 24, that would have put the "Rated R Superstar" over even more than he already was. Or as much as I REALLY would hate it, a young Randy Orton, back when he was still rising up, during his "Legend Killer" phase. I'd HATE if he had beaten Undertaker at Wrestlemania 21, but it would have made sense. It would be lame, but it would have made sense. BUT, considering that those guys didn't beat Taker, once the streak became SO long, I think it honestly got to a point where it, and his career, just went on way too long. Taker was once quoted in an issue of WWE Magazine as saying that he DIDN'T want to be a guy like Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan (he didn't name names, but you knew who he was referring to), old guys that hung on well past their prime. He said he never wanted to hang around so long that he was just a shadow of his old self. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he wound up doing.

I feel ya.

The above image was a snapshot of the crowd right after Taker's match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30. There were undoubtedly some dumbass Lesnar marks, who were cheering like crazy (I had to put up with one at the friend's house I watched the PPV at, which made the whole thing worse). But what you see above was representative of most of the massive New Orleans crowd: stunned shock and silence. If you were to ask me, Taker should have stuck to his own words, and hung up those boots long before it got to this point. He should have retired, let's say, after beating Shawn Michaels the second time. Or at the VERY least, he should have retired after going exactly 20-0, making it a nice, even, colossal number. And instead of it being a throw away match against CM Punk (instead of Punk being in the main event where he belonged), what WWE SHOULD have worked out, was bringing Sting on board in time for that match, and giving fans the Sting vs. Undertaker match that everyone had dreamed of for years. Having THAT be his last match, having THAT be 20-0, and then have him ride off into the sunset, his legacy fully intact? That would have been a bad ass moment I, as a fan, would have been proud of.

What happened instead, was what we got. We got Vince McMahon bringing Brock Lesnar back to the WWE, a guy who, by the way, after Vince had made him a top star, a household name and a fuckin' millionaire back in 2002-2004, just walked out on the company that made gave him his "star power". He walked out to try his hand at the NFL, but failed to even make a regular season roster. So then he got into MMA, and eventually became a UFC Champion. Good for him. But the point is, Lesnar is a guy who, by his own admission, was not a wrestling fan growing up, he is not a fan now, and he really doesn't care about the business, OR the fans who make him rich. He is a mercenary who does it for the money and nothing more, and that has always been the case. THAT is the sorry SOB that you allow the singular distinction and HONOR of beating The Undertaker, one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history, and ending his historic streak? I don't mind telling you, that as a wrestling fan, as a TAKER fan, that made me sick. When Taker lost to Lesnar that day, it legitimately felt like a big piece of my youth died with his streak. That may sound like hyperbole to some, but considering The Undertaker is the character that made me a wrestling fan in the first place, it makes sense.

I must admit, as much as I love and will ALWAYS love Undertaker, and he'll ALWAYS be my favorite wrestler ever...the longer he continued to hang around long past his prime, flying directly in the face of what he himself had said he wouldn't do, the more I started to lose a bit of respect for him. And him agreeing to lose the streak when he did, or worse, even CHOOSING to lose to Lesnar specifically? That just broke my heart, honestly. And then he continued to hang around longer, having MORE WM matches in the following years, even though at that point it literally no longer held any weight or mattered. He had become one of those guys who barely wrestled all year, but then took up a spot and a big payday at the biggest show(s) of the year. I don't know that that is literally how I see how Taker acted in his final years, but sadly it's close enough. And the fact that he (once again chose) to lose to a guy like Roman Reigns as his final match ever? Not AS bad as losing his Streak to Lesnar...but still, as a longtime Taker fan, and someone who doesn't like the phony Reigns, whom WWE has shoved down fans' throats for years even though most don't like him, it just felt wrong.

Taker should have retired long before it ever came to losing to Lesnar. His legacy will always be a great one. But I can't say it's NOT forever tainted and at least SLIGHTLY diminished, by losing the matches he did on his way out. Yes, it is customary for an old star to lose to a young one on their way out, but Taker was a special case. And I'm sure most Taker fans felt the same way I did. He never should have lost his Streak, period.

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