RIP Childhood: The Streak Conquered


There are certain moments in life that you never fathomed, yet you remember the place you were that day. These moments, whether good or bad, are so extraordinary, its place is etched forever in history. To avoid hitting soft spots, I’ll only mention one of these moments, and it was in the pro wrestling world. This on April 6, 2014, in New Orleans, the dying of the immortal Streak, and the cold-blooded murdering of our childhoods.

If you’re like me, you remember everything about WrestleMania 30. You remember the main storyline of Daniel Bryan defying The Authority, as Bryan had to conquer the WWE’s COO, and a former 13-time world champion at the time, Triple H at the beginning of the night to make it to the main event with an ailing shoulder to challenge Batista and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton in a triple threat. This was nicknamed “YEStlemania” after his popular catchphrase, and that night, Daniel Bryan overcame Evolution.

You also will recall moments like Cesaro winning the first ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, the Ultimate Warrior’s final WrestleMania appearance, The Shield’s second and final match as a group (they’re 2-0 together), and you’re still trying to forget the 14-women Divas Championship match, if you haven’t already. Luckily, we had The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Hulk Hogan all in the same ring at once, and it put us into nostalgic mode as we relived classics from our childhood. And as our emotions were strung along from the very beginning, we’d see our imagination vanish and our world turn upside down by the end of the night.

I’m obviously talking about the night Brock Lesnar put the “1” in 21-1 and ended a two-decade long streak of The Undertaker’s at WrestleMania that will never be matched.

Now let me speak to those readers (if any) who aren’t your diehard WWE fan. WrestleMania is their Super Bowl, while they’ve ironically become notorious for turning football arenas into sports entertainment spectacles over recent years. The results of the matches are in fact scripted, the punches aren’t always Tyson-like, and to succeed in the business is to know how to play politics. Professional wrestling tells a story, and I’d best describe it as a movie without stunt doubles. The wrestlers, each time they go to the ring, lend their bodies over as a sacrifice for the entertainment of strangers across the world. This is important to understand, because though The Undertaker’s results were written beforehand, each year at WrestleMania he took it up a notch to where it did a damage on his body, while defying the age limit and wrestling long after his prime went on vacation in Hawaii.

The Undertaker made his pro wrestling debut in 1984, yet it took until 1990 for him to break into (then) the World Wrestling Federation. “The Streak” began in 1991 at WrestleMania 7 against Jimmy Snuka, who is a WWE Hall of Famer now. Undertaker would go on to compete in 20 of the next 22 events, beating legends in this business. In fact, there are a combined 64 WWF/E or World Heavyweight Championship reigns between his victims leading up to 21-0, and I’d say at least half are either in the WWE Hall of Fame (Jake Roberts, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, etc), or will be there eventually one day (Triple H, Randy Orton, Kane).

To give you an idea of how much went into this Streak, Undertaker would wrestle nearly six accumulative hours in these 21 matches leading up to WrestleMania 30. As “The Phenom” got up there in age, he didn’t slow down either, as he hadn’t wrestled under 15 minutes since 2006 at WrestleMania 22, and hadn’t wrestled under 20 minutes since 2007. Along with just going out there and wrestling matches, Undertaker went through several career revitalizations to try and accomplish what many struggle to do, keep their character fresh. Men like Kane and Big Show have failed to keep their characters with the times, and now these legends who were vital in the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras, they’re now booed out of the building. Undertaker, aside from wrestling twenty years, has kept the fans interested and entertained. His matches are definitely worth delaying a potty break for, especially when it’s at the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania.

Now that I’ve given you a look at The Undertaker and how monumental The Streak was, I want to cover the hypothetical situations very popular among the years as we got into the age where internet and social media interaction took over. Many people, though never believing the possibility, tossed around who SHOULD beat The Streak. If you asked many people, it was John Cena, as he was the only big, likable and marketable star to do it. If you asked others, it should have been Mr. WrestleMania himself, the Showstopper, Shawn Michaels. Others even threw around the idea of having The Undertaker lose to an up-and-coming star to help them get over, like a Randy Orton back at WrestleMania 21. Though this was a nice “What if” discussion to have, it was never deemed possible anyone ever would. The Streak was looked at as immortal, as eternal, and in fact it was.

If we were to take a look at the man who DID conquer the Streak, we’ll find ourselves a man – no, a BEAST – who was deemed believable to kill off the most immortal thing known in the wrestling world. We’d find Brock Lesnar, who was an amateur wrestler in college at Minnesota, who transferred his skills from the collegiate level to the professional level. Lesnar was in the OVW elite back with John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista, and Lesnar was dubbed early on as “The Next Big Thing”. Lesnar would win the King of the Ring back in 2002, and things were looking up as he began to win big matches, including at WrestleMania 19 where he won the WWE Championship against Kurt Angle. Lesnar, after winning that championship three times in a short amount of time, his final match in WWE came at WrestleMania 20, losing to WCW star Goldberg. Brock Lesnar intended to pursue a NFL career, but instead ended up at New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Brock Lesnar chased a pro wrestling career after WWE, winning his debut match in October 2005 with NJPW, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship that night against Kazuyuki Fujita and Mashiro Chono. Lesnar would compete in Japan for two more years, amidst restraining order attempts from the WWE and visa issues, and would wrestle his final match in June 2007 at NJPW with familiar foe Kurt Angle.

“The Beast” then took his background in the squared circle and morphed it into a career inside the octagon, going to the UFC. Brock Lesnar made his debut in February 2008, losing to Frank Mir, but by his third UFC fight that November, he had beaten Randy Coutore for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Lesnar would next avenge his loss to Frank Mir at UFC 100 and would defend the title once more, before losing his final two fights and retiring before 2012.

I felt compelled to bring up Brock Lesnar’s timeline because he would return to WWE the night after WrestleMania 28, and he was built as a legit force to be reckoned with, and his recent years in UFC overshadowed his last WWE run, where he still held the WWE Championship three times, but was repackaged. Brock Lesnar was credited as one of the toughest, perhaps the baddest dude in the entire company. It’d only be two years after his return he’d do the unthinkable and beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania.

 

Fans would make the case Brock Lesnar was not the ideal person, but did the fans ever really want The Streak to die in the first place? I would say otherwise, that the credible, decorated, ruthless, cold-hearted, dominant heel in his prime was the perfect candidate to end this lofty dream in the clouds.

The Undertaker chose Brock Lesnar to end The Streak, as he realized if it was ever to die, Brock Lesnar would be the most credible opponent to put it to rest. The Undertaker had spoken beforehand of who could end The Streak, even reportedly suggesting Randy Orton to do the deed, who used the “Legend Killer” gimmick at the time. This was shut down, as were a couple of others, but Vince McMahon realized WrestleMania 30 was the time to pull the plug, and he let the result go down. Everyone involved understood this would be a moment that would be remembered for a lifetime, and this moment came after a third F-5, Brock Lesnar’s finishing maneuver.

You remember where you were, whether you were sitting at home, or you were privileged to be in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when The Streak came to an end. As I remember watching it, my memory served me as a dead silent crowd in awe. Watching it live, the world had stopped turning, the breath was taken out of the arena, your living rooms, and you were on the edge of your seat waiting for the decision to be reversed, for there to be a belated April Fools joke. I know it wasn’t so quiet a pen could drop, because I went back and watched it a third time, over two years removed, and swore the WWE went back and added sound. At the sound of the referee’s third mat smack, I was temporarily deaf.

The Streak, after two years, remains buried. There’s no bringing back what made our childhoods mean something, and there’s no duplicating the feat Mark Calaway was able to attain and maintain for nearly 25 years. Sure, Undertaker’s managed to come back and defeat Brock Lesnar, he’s competed at the last two WrestleManias to pin Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon… But it’s just not the same. Our childhoods, they’re gone. The “deadman walking” known as The Streak is in the casket, it’s shut, and we’re still convinced it was buried alive.

 

RIP, Streak. We’re still holding onto a thin glimmer of hope Lesnar will be convicted and pay for what he’s done. May justice be served, and may you Rest.. in.. Peace.

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