Although the average fan who watched WrestleMania 33 probably thought that was it for The Undertaker, that obviously wasn’t the case. Whether Vince McMahon convinced “The Deadman” to do one more match or he himself got the itch to wrestle again, The Undertaker will most likely face Cena in a dream match that hasn’t happened since 2003 and that likely will never happen again.
Truth be told, it shouldn’t happen again.The Undertaker should wrestle his last match at WrestleMania 34 and do so in a losing effort to “The Champ.”
WWE, for some reason or another, felt the need to bring back The Undertaker for one last match when it is completely unnecessary both as a creative and a business move. From a creative perspective, this rivalry has one been one big swing and a miss, a feud that’s relied far too heavily on the overused “work shoot” and the laughable idea that Cena would be left off the WrestleMania card instead of becoming a battle between two legends fighting to save their careers. The average fan, quite simply, hasn’t bought into the possibility that Cena would actually be left off the WrestleMania card, just like fans don’t seem to buy into the WWE Network because certain stars appear on it.
A look at WWE’s Key Performance Indicators shows that the WWE Network subscriber count is cyclical in nature. Generally speaking, it peaks at WrestleMania time near the end of Q1 and the beginning of Q2, and then for the rest of the year (Q2 and Q3) it consistently drops until it starts trending back in the right direction around the time of the Royal Rumble in January. It doesn’t seem to matter which stars are around at what time of the year or how many dream matches take place. Fans will tune in at a rapid rate in March and April, then tune out in droves afterwards.
That seems to remain true regardless of the amount of star power involved. Take, for example, September 2017 when the No Mercy pay-per-view featured Roman Reigns vs. John Cena and Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman. Despite those being perhaps the two biggest dream matches WWE could have given fans at the time, the average subscriber count dipped by 186,000 subscribers in Q3 in comparison to Q2.
That really shouldn’t surprise anyone because most of the evidence indicates that WWE’s biggest stars aren’t moving the needle, The Undertaker included.
This also applies to TV ratings as well. The star-studded Raw brand’s TV ratings flat-lined in 2017, despite Lesnar, who has been called WWE’s biggest draw, holding the Universal Championship for most of the year and despite dream matches like Reigns/Cena, Lesnar/Strowman, the in-ring return of Kurt Angle and that star-studded 5-on-5 match at Survivor Series all taking place during that span. In other words, there was not an individual star who seemed to boost the WWE Network count or TV ratings consistently.
Even The Undertaker’s recent history suggests his drawing power has been limited as his surprising presence at the 2017 Royal Rumble had a very minimal effect, if any, on the WWE Network subscriber count even though the pay-per-view also featured Cena, Lesnar and Goldberg. Now, The Undertaker is probably returning yet again for what may or may not be his last hurrah, and the recent lack of success of part-timers when it comes to drawing in new fans makes you wonder why anyone feels like the return of “The Deadman” is a necessary creative or business move.
It’s the WrestleMania brand, worth a whopping $195 million according to FORBES, that will sell WrestleMania 34. After that? The rest of the year ebbs and flows with the times rather than because of the presence of one particular star, and WWE doesn’t need The Undertaker to make a difference because, quite frankly, he probably won’t.
WWE already has an overabundance of part-timers, a list that includes Cena, Lesnar (if he re-signs), Angle, Triple H, Ronda Rousey and Randy Orton, just to name a few. If the company remains hellbent on utilizing those part-timers throughout the year despite what appears to be very little, if any, sustained benefit to TV ratings or the WWE Network subscriber count, then The Undertaker’s presence is even more unnecessary than it already is.
That’s what makes WrestleMania 34 the ideal time and place for Cena to send The Undertaker into retirement and do so for real this time. WWE, after all, hasn’t exactly booked Cena strongly since his loss to Reigns at No Mercy last September, and believe it or not, he could use a major win over “The Phenom” to get back on track. The Undertaker, meanwhile, doesn’t need to win what could be his last match ever after WWE already ruined “The Streak” by having him lose not one but two WrestleMania matches since 2014.
Give Cena the win. Let Undertaker ride off into the sunset. Move on with one fewer part-timer and one extra main event spot for a full-timer.
That’s the route WWE should take at WrestleMania 34, unless by some minor miracle, The Undertaker suddenly proves to be a draw the likes of which WWE wouldn’t have without him.