image Lesnar vs. Undertaker: WrestleMania XXX controversy

Controversies have always been associated with sports entertainment/professional wrestling, events like the rise of the New World Order (n.W.o.) faction with the revelation of Hulk Hogan as the third man, the Montreal Screwjob, the end of Goldberg’s streak, or Ric Flair’s 2nd WWE run back in 1991, have etched into minds of the fandom.  Yet, nothing compares to what has erupted in the aftermath of what could have been the biggest match in the history of WrestleMania asides from any title matches combined, former 7-time pro-wrestling’s heavyweight champion and “The Phenom” The Undertaker (Mark W. Calaway) made his 22nd WrestleMania appearance to face the only person who have never won against: Brock Lesnar. Neither men looked intimidated during the buildups, and both men were looking to cement their legacies at the grandest stage in pro wrestling: WrestleMania. Then, an anti-climatic decision changes the landscape in one defining moment as Lesnar pinned his archrival and ended Undertaker’s streak. Within seconds, the Twitter reactions exploded with such negativity and unbearable that was unforeseen and vitriol went awry by literally permeated all over social media. To the audience that had spilled such hatred towards WWE booking, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and anyone who holds contrary opinions, to the point that some were willing to commit constitutional violation on one’s freedom of speech via any means unnecessary to silence contrariety such as cyber-bullying and death threats. Such negative reactions as well as the rivalry between Lesnar and Dead Man Inc., are the focus of this entry since this issue was just a microcosm to larger narrative: the age of extremism and the critical yet scornful comments such as attempting to commit murder and beyond. Before getting into the hatred, however, we must take a trip back in time when this situation came about as how they converged into collision course, to which included how both men scripted into this epic trilogy of matches, and the aforementioned controversy.

Undertaker’s career spanned more than three decades as he was known “Mean” Mark Callas in the earliest stages of his career, his agility with such tall body frame made him a potential star in the making, then he got noticed from World Championship Wrestling as was signed by that promotion by late 1989/early 1990. However, due to instability within WCW, his stardom was rather limited at best; but that perception was changed when Calaway was signed with WWE and debuted as the Deadman. However, a gimmick character wouldn’t have worked if there’s no guidance from an experienced manager, after initially plugged with Bruce Pritchard, the brother of veteran wrestler Tom Pritchard who played the on-air personality Brother Love, as his manager while had his own interview segment called “The Brother Love Show”, entered William Moody, who was “Percy Pringle III” in the territory prior to being brought up by WWE, was a licensed mortician by trade, and such expertise made both him and Calaway inseparable as characters The Undertaker and Paul Bearer were made household names. They have added one additional item into the mysterious characters by introducing an urn into the supernatural aspect into the act, and the combination made the most successful characters that WWE have even introduced. With everything set in motion, making him as an invincible force was in order as he plummeted his opponents with them barely dented, the late “Superfly” Jimmy Stuka felt his wrath and soon he made his charge towards his first of many WWE Heavyweight Championship by defeating the company’s marquee star Hulk Hogan albeit interference from NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, who signed with WWE in retaliation against his former employer WCW after a major disagreement with then-executive Jim Herd, who was a station manager in St. Louis and was managing Pizza Hut prior to joining Ted Turner at Turner Broadcasting. Undertaker’s career, in the meantime, took off and his popularity was surging immensely as the traditional acts by “babyface” such as Hog and Ultimate Warrior became stale. With an addition to the infamous steroid trial occurred within two-year time, the over-the-top characters with muscle development that resembled bodybuilders soon departing WWE, the spotlight moved towards the likes of Shawn Michaels, the Hart Foundation, and the Deadman alongside fellow WCW rejects such Steve Austin, Triple H, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, and the rest was history.

Brock Lesnar, meanwhile, was wrestling for the collegiate championship with University of Minnesota when Pat Patterson and Jim Ross recruited him, he soon signed with WWE and made his way to Ohio Valley Wrestling, the promotion’s feeder system where he made his transition to professional wrestling. About three years later, he made his debut on the night after Wrestlemania X8 on Monday Night Raw by plummeting Spike Dudley, and after defeating the Hardy Boyz, he streamed through his competition at King of the Ring tournament and became the #1 contender for the WWE Championship against “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson at Summer Slam 2002. After winning the title, he made his stunning switch to Smackdown and soon embroiled with a rivalry against The Undertaker, during which Calaway had taken the moniker ” The American Badass” since late 2000, and was embroiled with his own rivalry against Matt Hardy, whose brother Jeff had also lost to the Deadman some mons prior before the inaugural WWE Draft. Brock’s interference led to the Deadman challenging for the former’s championship at No Mercy that year within the confine of Hell in a Cell, but Calaway fell short for his effort as Brock dominated the match. This was the beginning of the extensive rivalry, to which both men faced each other a few more times until Lesnar’s abrupt departure after Wrestlemania XX after a mere two-year stint with the main roster, he soon found himself in battling for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship after joining New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2005, and he was invincible against most but former Sumo Yokozuna (no, I’m not referring to Matt Anoai, but the actual one) Akebono until NJPW and Lesnar couldn’t reach a contractual extension agreement, and Lesnar kept that belt until finally agreed to face then-recent signee Kurt Angle at Antonio Inoki’s own promotion named Inoki Genome Fighting after being bought out at New Japan. Lesnar then proceeded to lose that championship and left Japan with decision to move onto mixed martial arts, and after his victory in his MMA debut against Hong Man-Choi in Los Angeles, Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, signed the former WWE superstar and thrusted him into a match against Frank Mir, who was a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, in a losing effort. After defeating Heath Herring, he destroyed Randy Couture for the title before beating Mir in a rematch of the earlier encounter, then after beating from Shane Carwin, he was supposed to face Junior dos Santos but the match was postponed infinitely due to an intestinal issue. His spot was instead filled by Cain Velasquez, who went on to win the title match, and Lesnar made his return facing Velasquez for the title but lost the match in a first round knockout. Afterwards, he faced the former K1 kickboxing and MMA World Champion Alistair Overeem in a losing effort before returning to WWE.

Here’s an interesting news that, whether Lesnar was even aware or not, there was a certain figure amongst the audience who has been watching UFC during his off days alongside Austin and commentator Jim Ross, and that was Calaway. In fact, he is an avid supporter of combat sports at large, so his appearances, particularly those for Las Vegas was impossible to be missed by those who were in the arena audience alongside. However, for the post-fight of this match caught the eyes of all sports entertainment world as a confrontation between them during Lesnar’s exit was shown on ESPN SportsCenter and other sports programming. Apparently, there was an unconfirmed rumor that Brock may be heading back to WWE for a second run, and the comment “you wanna do it?” implied that prospect. Months went by with little news concerning the comeback, until the Raw show after, yet again, WrestleMania that Lesnar made his shocking return in the midst of John Cena’s promo, and as usual, Brock made a statement by dismantling Cana with an F5, the same very move that led Lesnar into 3 WWE titles and an IWGP title prior to MMA career. After he was finished with Cena and the recently-appointed Chief Operating Officer Triple H, he set his sights on the Deadman and his WrestleMania winning streak, to which technically had never mentioned until perhaps WrestleMania X7, if I recall, at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. This was also the first showdown between the Undertaker and Lesnar since the biker chain match at No Mercy 2003 (excluding any and all other live events or dark match after Smackdown), and with the passing of Paul Bearer just a year prior, the question posted by the commentators and wrestling insiders alike was whether the Undertaker could continue that streak despite of Calaway’s age marched towards 50, considering the fact that Calaway has had a lot of injuries spanning from the Attitude Era to that point, something that, let’s be frank, has taken a toll on his health. Then, if this assumption was proven correct, the question would have instead be focusing towards whether he could walk out of the ring unassisted rather than focusing on continuing the streak. Under normal conditions, the answer would appropriately be chosen towards walking out unassisted to the hotel where wrestlers stayed in; for this occasion, however, the overwhelming choice was for the Deadman continued the streak.

The scenario I’ve just mentioned was weighed heavily for Vince McMahon and the creative team, and as it should be, considering the accusations made by equally-controversial CM Punk, who was sacked by WWE (or by someone who had gripes with Punk within the office), due to his interview on Colt Cabana’s podcast “Art of Wrestling”, to which Punk stated that WWE didn’t care about his injuries that led to staph infection, amongst other things. Such accusations eventually forced Vince’s hand by changing the call by giving Lesnar the victory and thus ending the streak, in spite of initial opposition from Calaway himself for wanting the streak, only to be told that it would be a great setup for a future return bout. So the match proceeded and as it was scripted, Lesnar and his advisor Paul Heyman, who once managed Calaway back with WCW before latter joined WWE, kept the promise by breaking the streak at 21 wins and 1 loss. As soon as the news broke, just about anyone and everyone included wrestling insiders didn’t see that result coming as they had hoped for Undertaker being victorious yet again with the streak intact, everyone except Vince, Calaway, the referee of the match, Lesnar, and ironically, me. This is where many haters started spilling such venomous and vulgar vocabularies that resembled death threats, without ever thoroughly thinking about and realizing the rationale behind it:

  1. The Undertaker was not as young as he once was, considering the fact that he had taken quite a bit of nasty hits and bad landings, such as the first of two WrestleMania matches that would lead the retirement of Shawn Michaels. If you don’t believe me, go watch that match in its entirety, and you’ll be able to spot one that involved a cameraman.
  2. Calaway has also taken a lot of bruising hits towards his bodies, which exemplified by a hip replacement surgery he has recently taken, as well as countless other injuries incurred from during the Attitude Era. The clue originated from interviews via 20-part documentary “Monday Night War”, particularly with one episode concerning the cornerstone of the rosters with one comment made by Triple H concerning Calaway’s condition post match scenes at locker room.
  3. To my limited knowledge, the Undertaker has never really beaten Lesnar in any of their confrontations. Considering he had lost to Lesnar in both No Mercy PPVs in 2002-2003. In addition, many of Lesnar’s rivalries involved with Kurt Angle. Therefore, beating Lesnar with such odds against him would be rather minimal at best.
  4. The damaging accusations made by CM Punk just weeks prior to WrestleMania went viral, and the last thing that Vince McMahon, or the creative team would have ever wanted to hear was who Punk wanted to promote and how to run WWE according strictly to Punk’s standard, to which WWE must just ETERNALLY listen to wrestling marks and not trusting his decades-long experience, especially when some of the marks had made less-than-friendly remarks that resembled to aforementioned threats with violent intentions.
  5. The ghost of Chris Benoit still haunts WWE as the concussion crisis was rearing its ugly head, and since WWE is the flag bearer of sports entertainment, McMahon wouldn’t want one of their spectacles becomes part of the statistics and made the breaking news on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, Associated Press, Reuters, or even ESPN. Otherwise, WWE lost credibility in an instant.
  6. As Black Widow’s line from Avengers: Age of Ultron” said: “nothing lasts forever.” Let’s be frank, everything that all humans live on this green Earth have witnessed have a due date. Quoting from “Marvel’s Doctor Strange”: “the bill comes due.” From Bruno Sammartino to Goldberg’s streaks, to off-topic comparisons such as baseball’s Joe DiMaggio, World Series droughts by the likes of Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Francisco, Boston Red Sox, and auto racing’s Michael Schumacher during his time with Scuderia Ferrari, they all shared that trait. In short, more you want things to change, more they stay the same.

With all that said, and to its effects of such decisions being made, Lesnar won the day but Undertaker earned the respects from the WWE universe post match. Backstage, however, was chaotic as Calaway collapsed in front of Vince, and was taken to local hospital for extended observation, to which it could have been worst case scenario had he died, thus proven correct on McMahon’s decision. Fortunately, he survived that scare; however, but ended up spending most of the year resting at home. Then, after months of resting, the match towards the much anticipated rematch was set after his character defeated Bray Wyatt, the grandson of Blackjack Mulligan and son of former WWE Tag Team Champion Mike Rotunda, who had wrestled as Irwin R. Schyster in WWE back in the 1990s as well as being a tag team partner with Wyatt’s uncle Barry Windham. Undertaker then made his intentions clear by interfering into the WWE Championship match between Seth Rollins and Lesnar by tombstone pile-driveling the latter in the middle of the ring to reignite the rivalry. Still, the result is the same, though Taker did win in the immediate rematch, only to have Lesnar returned the favor. In short, Taker’s record against, to my understanding, is 1 win with 4 losses.

Yet, in spite of the results, there are still a section of wrestling marks that still won’t accept what had happened, and hold grudges towards McMahon and the WWE for snapping the streak. Made worse by the fact that some began spilling vulgarities towards anyone who defended the decision (myself included) in spite of the immediate aftermath with Calaway’s sudden collapse backstage, which was shown as part of WWE 24/7 documentary. They felt that Lesnar’s victory was rather tainted due to some sorts of conspiracy theories that Vince had concocted against The Undertaker, rather than factoring in the advancement of age and amounts of injuries that Calaway has accumulated over 30 years after wrestled hundreds, if not thousands, of matches, which included multiple beatdowns with steel chairs, steel steps and ladders, along with crashing through the stage, announcer tables, and beamed by Triple H’s favorite weapon in the form of a sledgehammer on various body parts. Need I digress any further? Still, they insisted on pressing forward with cyber bullying and violent death threats an thus effectively made it personal, much like the Chicago Cubs fans blaming Steve Bartman for Moises Alou’s meltdown in 2003 National League Championship Series after competing for a foul ball that was muffed by To even Bartman himself, along with the lack of concentration by the Cubs immediately afterwards that led to Marlins victory that evening. That is why it became controversial to this day. As for me, personally, though in general I don’t really care what the marks say … until one individual on social network opted to threaten me with threat, only to earn a permanent blocking from me for the trouble. Such acts have become a larger issue that the society are currently facing as part of so-called “post modernism”, to which a small group of people use whatever means necessary for sakes of dismantling the establishment, to the point that they would resort in using tactics that is “ruder the better” and could result in potentially turning into a murderous nightmare down the road.

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