The Undertaker declared that WrestleMania would no longer define his career during his memorable return to SmackDown this past November, despite being poised to compete on the grand stage in what would be an astounding 25th appearance this coming April. He hasn’t graced the blue brand since, but two episodes of RAW and the Royal Rumble later and the Undertaker is once again prominently featured on the road to WrestleMania.
Last June, we reported that the Undertaker’s relationship with Vince McMahon was strained. The details were somewhat foggy, but it had apparently stemmed from Vince’s creative input during the build-up to the Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell match with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.
For weeks after that match, the Undertaker would not return any of Vince’s phone calls and was telling some people in WWE that he was done with wrestling for good. Obviously, the two sides were able to mend fences to the point that the Deadman returned to WWE television, aimed at another significant storyline heading into WrestleMania 33.
However, a new report suggests (and sheds light on) that last year’s contention stemmed from the Undertaker’s desire to retire after one final match at WrestleMania 32. It also turns out that it was at least the third time that the Undertaker expressed his wishes to Vince, dating back to 2012. The Phenom conveyed to Vince that he wanted to retire following WrestleMania 28, but McMahon convinced him to continue for two more years.
They had a similar discussion around WrestleMania 30, with Vince again convincing the Undertaker to perform on the grand stage two more times. The 2012 WrestleMania certainly could have been a fitting ending which saw the Undertaker defeat Triple H inside Hell in a Cell with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee, billed as “The End of an Era.” WrestleMania 30, of course, played host to the end of The Streak, in which Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker in New Orleans.
As noted on several occasions, Shane McMahon was brought back to the WWE in large part due to the rash of injuries that overcame many of the company’s top stars. One of those marquee names was John Cena, and the original plan was for Cena to face the Undertaker in the main event of WrestleMania 32. The match would have been the Deadman’s final bout, one between two legends in front of more than 100,000 people in the Undertaker’s home state of Texas.
Because Cena was hurt, those plans were scrapped for the out-of-the-box decision to insert Shane McMahon. Neither the Undertaker or Vince wanted the Phenom’s final match to come against Shane, so there was a plan in place to write the storyline in a way that it would have culminated a year later at WrestleMania 33.
The scripted stipulation in the match between Shane and the Undertaker was written in a way that if Shane lost, he would never appear on WWE tv again. If the Undertaker lost, he would never be allowed to wrestle at WrestleMania again. They threw logic out the window and rendered the angle meaningless when Shane continued running RAW with Stephanie despite losing the match.
For several weeks leading up to the big show, the parties involved agreed to a finish to the match that was much different than what played out. Originally, the Undertaker was going to deliver a tombstone to Shane, only to pull him on top and let Shane gain the pinfall and the victory. In kayfabe, the Undertaker would have justified his actions by saying that Shane was better for the future of the company, thus allowing him to win.
However, Vince decided the day before WrestleMania that the Undertaker would go over in the match and deal with the consequences of the irrational storytelling.
At the time our article was published highlighting the damaged relationship between the Undertaker and Vince, the Chairman still felt confident that a match between Undertaker and Cena could headline WrestleMania 33. But yet again, those plans have been scrapped. The Deadman nearly faced AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship, which would have set up his ‘Mania date with Cena. However, because he wasn’t fit enough to wrestle a full match, he was inserted into the Rumble match itself.
They canceled plans for ‘Taker and Cena and are now moving forward with a program between Undertaker and Roman Reigns, though that, as it turns out, appeared to be their third option. Reigns was a late addition to the Royal Rumble match, and as a result, a late add to a WrestleMania bout with the Undertaker.
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