The Undertaker vs CM PunkStraight Edge v Streak. The Phenom v The Second City Saviour. The Undertaker v CM Punk. The much rumoured match-up between the two finally came to fruition on Monday Night. CM Punk won the right to face The Undertaker in New Jersey and the chance to try and end the streak, which runs at The Undertaker 20, challengers 0.
While the match-up could be a great success, the way it has been handled so far leaves a lot to be desired. First The Undertaker returned from his lay off at a house show in Texas, rather than on TV. While this had its benefits, it meant that any element of surprise had been sucked from his return on Raw. Then, when The Undertaker did finally make his return on Monday Night Raw, all he did was half his ring-entrance. That was it: gong, lights out, smoke, stand and look scary. To make it worse, his second appearance later on that night would see him doing exactly the same thing, again.
Now on to his opponent. CM Punk lost to John Cena last week on Raw, and so is now removed from the title picture. After his record breaking title reign though, WWE had to give him a main-event status match at Wrestlemania. In The Undertaker, he is facing a legend of wrestling, undefeated at Wrestlemania, and that is a serious addition to any resume. This is big for CM Punk, whether he wins or loses. But the set-up was wasted. There are a hundred and one interesting and creative ways WWE could have set up the match between Taker and Punk, but instead we got a Fatal Four-Way where there was only ever going to be one winner.
CM Punk came out after The Undertaker's return and ranted about how he should be main eventing Wrestlemania, and how seeing Taker return has given him a purpose, so he's going to beat him in New Jersey. That was it, no need for depth or anything silly like that apparently. This is the man who has just lost his title belt, has been doing battle with his two ultimate nemeses John Cena and The Rock, and knows he should be main eventing Wrestlemania. But instead he completely switched his attention and thought he'd challenge someone entirely different who had just turned up. The lack of care for the storyline is startling. Anyway Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show all decided that they to all had the same purpose, so the Raw main event would see the four of them fight it out to see who got the right to face The Phenom. That's right, one of the biggest matches of the year, facing perhaps the most legendary wrestler still active, was decided by a last-minute match thrown together by Vickie Guerrero. Give me strength.
The match was watchable, if not somewhat disappointing after last week's main event, and to no ones surprise CM Punk got the pin and the right to face The Undertaker and challenge The Streak at Wrestlemania. The logic of Punk beating three of the biggest names in WWE to claim the spot and look strong is logical, but so short term. After losing to Cena and The Rock in three huge matches recently, a quick win over these three will not re-establish his credibility to go and beat The Undertaker. After the match Taker came out again to do his walk on to the stage, and very little else.
The reason The Undertaker's last four matches have been so riveting is because of the storyline behind each one. Shawn Michaels wanting to take down The Phenom to crown his career at Wrestlemania 25; then HBK becoming obsessed with getting a second chance and putting his career on the line at Wrestlemania 26; Triple H returning to avenge his best friend and the resulting dynamic between the three men at Wrestlemania 27; and then Undertaker challenging Triple H to a rematch to prove himself at Wrestlemania 28. Four great stories, that made the matches captivating and unforgettable. Then compare those matches to this year. What reason does The Undertaker have for wrestling Punk, or for putting himself up for an open challenge in the first place? After his last four matches, why should Taker care about this match? He could literally be facing anybody in the locker room, and the fact that it is Punk makes no difference to Taker. Even for Punk, he basically said this is just while he cannot get his hands back on the title.
What if instead, CM Punk had spent a couple of weeks saying there was only one way to show he was still the best, repeatedly calling out The Undertaker, then attacking him when he made his return, demanding a match to prove himself. Undertaker would refuse at first, until eventually he snapped, saying he would put Punk in his place. It could be a simple as that.
Putting the poor set-up to one side, this could yet be a great match. The Undertaker has stolen the show at the last four Wrestlemania's, and with one of the best in-ring technicians in the ring with him in New Jersey, he could be set to do it again. They are both great storytellers in the ring, and if The Undertaker can still go for 30minutes, this could work out as a classic. And while it is off to a bad start, the combination of Punk on the mic walking the line between a work and a shoot, and The Undertaker simply being who he is, there could be some great confrontations in the lead-up to their match. I am not writing it off already, merely saying it could have started from such a better position.
As for who will be victorious, the odds are still massively stacked in the favour of The Undertaker going 21 - 0 at the big show. However, CM Punk's odds are worth considering. If Taker was to ever sacrifice his streak, it would be huge for whoever took the win. The likes of John Cena, Randy Orton and Big Show don't need it anymore, while superstars such as Sheamus and Ryback aren't ready for it. CM Punk is the only superstar on the current level where breaking the streak would instantly make him the man, and solidify him as a great. It would be unexpected, and it would be huge, and it could save the show.
Prediction: While a win for CM Punk would be huge, The Undertaker is still by far the odds-on favourite to take the win and extend his streak.