Super ShowDown turned out to be a controversial show and not necessarily for the expected reasons. The majority of the online vitriol seemed to be reserved for the Universal Championship victory of a 53-year old Goldberg, but an even older Undertaker pinning AJ Styles also earned its fair share of criticism.
There were several reasonable qualms: the match lasted seconds; Undertaker didn’t even remove his jacket and hat and AJ was defeated after being hit with a solitary move that hasn’t been used as a finisher in years. Perhaps understandably, fans were concerned that Styles had been “buried” and not in the way that Taker’s gimmick would suggest.
How could this build up The Phenomenal One for the rumoured clash with the Deadman at Wrestlemania?
The events of RAW strongly pointed to this match still being the plan — ultimately, it’s still an Undertaker match at WrestleMania and it should still be a big deal. AJ Styles is also the kind of opponent who could give Undertaker the strong match he clearly wants. So how can this feud develop into the major showdown it deserves to be? Here are five options.
1. Taker’s Last Ride at WrestleMania
WrestleMania is a key part of the Undertaker’s legacy and vice versa. The legendary streak became a major part of any WrestleMania card and, in the eyes of many, became more important than the main events. His matches (and arguably WrestleMania as a whole) have certainly lost some allure since Brock Lesnar conquered the streak six years ago.
The end of the streak wasn’t the end of the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Even a second loss against Roman Reigns followed by a fitting retirement ritual still wasn’t the end. The sad truth is that all good things must come to an end and the Undertaker’s final match at WrestleMania should come sooner rather than later.
AJ Styles is a smaller, faster opponent and one of the top ring generals in the game today. The quality of their match is likely to be better than most recent Undertaker matches, which is exactly the kind of match needed to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania legacy.
WWE could simply promote this as Undertaker’s last WrestleMania match, but a stronger option would be for AJ to goad Taker into putting this on the line. It’s not quite a career ender as it still allows Undertaker to compete at lucrative Saudi shows or other events if he wishes, but it would be a true end of an era and a feather in the cap of AJ.
2. Careers on the line
Why would Undertaker even want to fight someone he just defeated easily? After all, it’s pretty hard to make an issue personal with a man who burned his parents’ home and repeatedly faced his vengeful pyromaniac half-brother. For an answer, we need to go back to part two of his epic WrestleMania rivalry with Shawn Michaels.
‘The Heartbreak Kid’ was obsessed over a second chance to break the streak, but it took him putting his career on the line to get the shot. If the ‘Phenomenal One’ offers this trophy, it may be too tempting for the Undertaker to ignore. However, this is a different Undertaker to ten years ago. He is no longer invincible on the grandest stage and he no longer has his streak to wager against a career.
To make this match the biggest it can be, both AJ Styles and the Undertaker need to put their careers on the line. AJ Styles offers this to get his rematch and revenge for an embarrassing loss, while Undertaker’s motivations are based around his pride.
There is one big issue with this option: Does The Undertaker want to retire? He has gained enough respect over the years to retire whenever he wants and on his terms. If losing to AJ in these circumstances suits him, however, Styles could ride a wave of momentum to be a top challenger for either the WWE or Universal championships as a top-level heel.
Undertaker could retire having had a match more reminiscent of his classic WrestleMania clashes rather than one of his more lacklustre matches.
3. The OC versus Deadman Inc.
If you had to name the best quality Undertaker match you’ve seen in recent years, you might point to Extreme Rules last year when Roman Reigns and Undertaker teamed up to take on Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon. Although a big singles match is more of a traditional WrestleMania spectacle, a tag match would hide the negatives and accentuate the positives of The Undertaker at this point of his career. There’s also the option to use this match to build to an even bigger singles match next year if there are plans for another WrestleMania for the Undertaker.
Conveniently, AJ Styles already has a team in the form of The OC which makes a six-man tag the more likely option, but who could team with the Undertaker? This is the part of this option that could really help out in terms of elevating talent. Being selected by the Undertaker to team with him at Wrestlemania would boost any wrestler’s standing.
The most obvious choice at this point would be Aleister Black, who will face AJ Styles at Elimination Chamber. Black’s character fits in very nicely and this would be a good spot for him at this year’s WrestleMania. The remaining spot could also be used to enhance another talent, but my personal choice would be to go all-in on Aleister Black and have Kane as the third man. Being treated on a similar level to the Brothers of Destruction would only help Black going forward.
A standard one-on-one match may be a big enough attraction for WrestleMania thanks to the star power involved, but it would be wise to give the match an extra dimension to work with. Even a simple stipulation like a No-Disqualification match could really improve the big-fight feel and quality of the match.
There’s also the option of using one of the Undertaker’s signature matches. However, Buried Alive, Casket and the oft-forgotten Last Ride matches usually do not result in great action, which leaves only Hell in a Cell as a viable option. There’s a lot to consider here. Bad memories still linger from the Rollins-Fiend match last year, but Styles has never actually had his shot inside the cell and the structure still remains an impressive spectacle.
Personally, I would favour the no-disqualification option, but the cell might fit the grandeur of WrestleMania a little better. A special referee could also add something, but only if it leads to a true dream match in the future. If a deal can be worked out to build to AJ Styles versus Shawn Michaels, a special referee role for HBK would be a great way to ignite that.
5. An unthinkable result
The last idea on this list has nothing to do with the build-up to the match, but rather it focuses entirely on the nature of the result. Generally speaking, I think there’s more to be gained from an AJ Styles victory and this could be a massive win if he can do something that nobody else has – Tap out the Undertaker.
In his entire career, The Undertaker has only tapped out to two of the best (Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar), but in both cases he didn’t lose the match, meaning he’s ‘technically’ never submitted. AJ Styles might not seem like the obvious candidate to win in such fashion, but he does have the established Calf Crusher to lean on. Making the Undertaker tap out would represent a truly unprecedented accomplishment for the Phenomenal One setting him up for a big year towards the top of the card.
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