WWE kicked off the road to SummerSlam with a surprise return from The Undertaker. Battleground, their latest pay per view/live network special took place last Sunday and delivered some entertaining matches accompanied by some questionable booking decisions. I didn’t get to see Battleground live and watched it in parts over the course of the day, so this will not be a direct review of Battleground, so much as it will be my thoughts and opinions of what the show means for the future.
Throughout May and June the WWE was firing on all cylinders. They did 3 pay per views within 6 weeks. Kevin Owens debuted alongside a huge push. Dean Ambrose main evented all 3 shows. It felt like storylines were progressing, things were moving along. Though after Money In The Bank in June, WWE reached a screeching halt as they had 5 more weeks to kill until Battleground took place. Brock Lesnar returned and while his return seemed huge at first, after a while the liveliness he brought fizzled out. Brock was booked in a match against WWE Champion Seth Rollins and it seemed highly likely that he would get his revenge from losing the title at Wrestlemania by defeating Rollins and regaining the title.
That is of course, until information leaked that The Undertaker was coming back at Battleground. A WWE insider from Reddit spoiled the information about The Undertaker’s return about a week in advance and fans immediately speculated that he’d be paired with Brock in a rematch from last year’s Wrestlemania 30.
Perhaps you’ve seen this guy. This was a fan’s reaction after Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30, conquering Taker’s 21 and 0 Wrestlemania winning streak. My reaction after that match looked pretty similar. It was a huge moment in the world of WWE, but it came at a cost. Undertaker’s not a spring chicken. He was concussed fairly early into that match and was essentially knocked loopy for the rest of it. Brock helped carry Taker through the motions of the match and while the ending result was incredibly shocking, the actual match quality suffered because of Undertaker’s injury.
So, something about Undertaker’s return right now seems slightly off. He did come back this year for Wrestlemania 31 and defeated Bray Wyatt. Undertaker never appeared on Raw in the build-up to that match, never spoke on the microphone, never acknowledged his legendary streak ending to Brock Lesnar, he just showed up to Wrestlemania and pinned Bray Wyatt like it was another day at the office. Undertaker appeared on Monday Night Raw this week and finally acknowledged his Wrestlemania loss, only a year and some change later.
Let’s get caught up on the timeline. Coming out of Wrestlemania 30 last year, Brock Lesnar was the top heel in the entire company. He ended the streak, a huge draw for Wrestlemania, and his manager and mouthpiece Paul Heyman put this fact over in all of his promos ever since. Shortly after that, Brock Lesnar won the WWE championship and subtly turned babyface around the beginning of this year. Sure, fans still resented the fact that Brock Lesnar was the guy who beat the streak, but they still loved to cheer for the giant ass-kicker. To really seal the deal, WWE paired him against a the top heel and current champion, Seth Rollins. After considering a UFC return, Brock re-signed with the WWE for a 3 year contract. Undertaker is revered by most of the audience as well. Pitting these two goliaths against each other ends up as a babyface vs. babyface match up. Unless something changes in the build up to SummerSlam, Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar will end up with a divided audience.
Where do we go from here?
Brock has not been legitimately beaten since Wrestlemania 29 in 2013. He’s been booked as an unstoppable force and even more so since ending the streak. Whoever would finally defeat Brock would theoretically get a huge rub from doing so. Roman Reigns was close to being chosen as that guy at Wrestlemania this year but ultimately the WWE decision makers backed down. SummerSlam takes place August 23rd and Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar is the main event. After nearly a year and a half, it looks like The Undertaker is going to get his win back. Whereas this huge boost in momentum could go to a younger wrestler in hopes of building up a new star to carry the company into the future, they’re presumably going even-steven with The Undertaker defeating Brock.
Despite the questionable outcome this match works for me. Undertaker is a guy who will rehearse spots and matches in his free time in order to put on the highest quality wrestling match he can for his age. If I had to guess, he wants a rematch in order to show what he and Brock could have potentially put on last year, if the concussion didn’t take place.
Wrestlemania 32 next year takes place at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. Undertaker is from Texas and all signs are pointing to this being his victory lap. It would certainly make sense for The Undertaker to go out with a bang and retire in his home state. The WWE could certainly have Undertaker win at SummerSlam and put the rubber match at Wrestlemania next year. However, Brock would still have 2 years on his contract left after Wrestlemania 32. Then what happens? Undertaker and Brock go in to the match tied with one win each. Does Undertaker hang up his boots and defeat Brock by going out on top? Do the WWE decide to have Brock assert his dominance by defeating Undertaker once again? Brock’s character could probably recover from these losses over time, but putting The Undertaker over for one last time really benefits neither performer in my opinion.
I’m definitely excited to watch these two larger-than-life superstars collide in the ring at SummerSlam. I’m hoping they can revive the match that could’ve been at Wrestlemania last year. The final RAW before SummerSlam takes place in Minneapolis and I bought tickets as soon as I heard Brock and The Undertaker would be there.
The Undertaker has always been one of my favorite wrestlers. Of course I’m glad to see him back in the fold since the WWE could use some star power, but on the other hand, why aren’t they able to function without bringing in these relics of the past? Calling up these part-timers to push some network numbers won’t work forever, but that’s another article. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the ride.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)