After his exhausting Hell In A Cell match with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 this past April, many had begun to speculate that WWE legend the Undertaker was finally ready to hang up his boots for good.
The 51 year old defeated McMahon inside the steel structure before ripping off his gloves — which he recently defined as his legacy — and leaving them in the middle of the ring as he walked out. Some claimed this was the Phenom's symbolic way of telling us that his career was over. Furthermore, rumors had begun to circulate that he told Vince McMahon that he was truly ready to retire.
Check out The Undertaker's greatest returns below:
However, various reports have now claimed that McMahon has finally talked the Undertaker into returning to the "Grandest Stage of them All" for another bout at the premiere event in 2017. The feeling backstage is that he is in great shape — which has been true ever since his shocking 2015 summer return — and that he could definitely give us another legendary moment at WrestleMania. WWE programming seems to compound this as the Deadman has been featured heavily in all of the WrestleMania promos.
But the question is — who could his opponent be? Obviously it would have to be one of WWE's most elite superstars in order to make the match a major attraction. And with the Undertaker in the last few years of his professional career — not to mention his 25th match at the event — you can bet WWE will make every moment count. Let's take a look at some of the potential opponents for the Phenom.
- Background: Recent reports seem to suggest that WWE is considering having Kevin Owens take on the Undertaker at WrestleMania next year. With Owens being RAW's current WWE Universal Champion, there would certainly be a compelling argument to see this match happen. Rumors began circulating recently that the Undertaker would return at next year's Royal Rumble, and if this were true, he could always end up winning the Royal Rumble match and choose RAW's champion as his next victim.
- Why It Should Happen: Even without the title on the line, Owens would be a worthy contender for the Deadman. One of the most promising NXT call-ups, he dominated John Cena when he arrived on the main roster and rose to the top as the Universal Champion. He's a great athlete and incredibly agile. The Undertaker has worked very well with quick athletes in the past — including Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio — and would have no problem working with Owens.
- How It Could Happen: With or without the title on the line, this one would be very easy to pitch. After all, the Undertaker is all about respect — something Kevin Owens has a distinct lack of.
- Likelihood Of Happening: Likely. Owens is one of the company's top performers and this isn't the first time his name has come up. Don't be surprised if we see this match take place in April.
- Background: This is actually one of the most likely options. Despite the fans having another dream match in mind, rumor has it that WWE is really keen on pushing this match as the dream match that everyone wants to see. But, I can appreciate the value in it.
- Why It Should Happen: John Cena has dominated WWE for the past decade, the Undertaker has dominated WWE for almost three decades. Cena is called "the face that runs the place," the Undertaker is renowned for being "the measuring stick" and the "leader of WWE." While their paths crossed before over a decade ago, they were very different people and it was a different rivalry compared to the highly anticipated one we would see today. Since then, these two superstars have earned an immense amount of respect over their decades long careers and perhaps now is finally the time to see them go at it. Cena has really improved in the ring this past year and the Undertaker always delivers. This match is almost expected to happen, so if it does, it could be an instant classic.
- How It Could Happen: Undertaker has worked with more tenured veterans recently so the storyline could always be similar to the programs he did with Shawn Michaels and Triple H a few years back — legends who have done everything there is to do, except this. However, there may be an even more exciting angle. Cena has been known as "the face that runs the place" and commentator JBL consistently claims that "nobody has ever performed better and won more big time matches than John Cena" — both of those comments are technically untrue as they could also be applied to the Undertaker. Perhaps the veteran might take exception to all of those comments and look to prove who the real locker room leader is after all?
- Likelihood Of Happening: Highly likely. WWE were intending to make this happen last year, but Cena's injury prevented that. With Cena arguably running SmackDown LIVE — the former home of the Phenom — you can bet they will pull the trigger on this sooner rather than later.
- Background: Balor is one of the more recent names that have been added to the Undertaker discussion during WrestleMania season. The Undertaker always works well with younger superstars but Balor's addition to the list is based on his persona even more than his in-ring ability.
- Why It Should Happen: Balor is one of the best young superstars in WWE today. He's agile, flexible and can perform incredible gravity-defying feats. However, he has a dark side. The gifted superstar sometimes finds himself covered in demonic body pain, crawling down the aisle way. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Demon King. With the amazing entrance and gothic gimmick, it didn't take long for fans to draw comparisons with the Deadman and since then, we have wondered if we would ever see Balor's Demon King go head to head with the Demon of Death Valley. It would certainly be sight worth witnessing, based on both superstars' visually amazing entrances alone. But with Balor's incredible in-ring talents and the Undertaker's supernatural ability to keep up with younger superstars, I think we all know that this would be a showstopping clash.
- How It Could Happen: With both superstars being fan-favorites, this one isn't as easy to imagine as possible. But then again, one demonic force could end up surprisingly attacking the other one, and we would all love it, knowing that we were in for one hell of a mind-game filled rivalry.
- Likelihood Of Happening: It's possible. Sometimes WWE is known for picking less exciting matches over the ones we really want to see, but with Balor's dark persona, it's likely that they will at least consider him an option.
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- Background: Goldberg has come up quite a few times when people discuss the Undertaker's annual WrestleMania match. Being one of WCW's main attractions, Goldberg had a running undefeated streak, much like the Phenom's former undefeated streak at WrestleMania. When Goldberg had his brief stint in WWE during 2003, Undertaker was out of action.
- Why It Should Happen: Goldberg vs. the Undertaker is a WrestleMania main-event worthy match. The two are forces to be reckoned with in the ring. And WWE needs to give Goldberg something good after the less than stellar programs he was featured in during his last run with the company.
- How It Could Happen: Goldberg's recent comments made headlines when he claimed that he wanted to "kick the Undertaker's ass" in the video game WWE 2K17 so that could always factor in somehow, with Goldberg attempting do so for real. But in real life, that's easier said than done big man.
- Likelihood Of Happening: Quite likely. Goldberg recently reunited with WWE to work on 2K17, and now a rumor suggests that he's really close to making something happen with the company. This match just became a heck of a lot more possible than it ever was before.
- Background: The Brothers of Destruction have both enjoyed two of the most successful professional wrestling careers of all time. So, with rumors that WrestleMania 33 may be Undertaker's last match, and Kane winding down his career also — why not have the two brothers put each other through hell one more time?
- Why It Should Happen: Kane and the Undertaker were responsible for one of the WWE's greatest storylines in 1998 and ended up clashing at that year's WrestleMania. They also clashed at WrestleMania XX in 2004. It's always very natural when these two battle each other and they would have no problem putting on one "hell" of a show one more time. They have battled each other and teamed together since 1997 and I couldn't think of a more fitting way for them to end their careers than main-eventing WrestleMania one more time.
- How It Could Happen: Again, this would be very natural with these two. One could attack the other, a team-up could go wrong or they could just do the typical veteran storyline where the two legends would want to face each other one more time.
- Likelihood Of Happening: Always possible. Kane has been WWE's most reliable performer for the past two decades and has no problem slotting into any role when needed. If their plans ended up going awry again this year, Kane would be willing and able to take on his brother one more time. However, it's more than likely that these two icons will end their careers as brothers and partners rather than rivals.
- Background: The Undertaker vs. Sting. The Phenom vs. The Icon. Both mysterious superstars have enjoyed phenomenal but parallel careers. While the Undertaker dominated WWE, Sting dominated WCW and both men loyally remained by their companies' sides through the infamous Monday Night Wars. When WCW shut down in 2001, we all thought Sting would finally make his way to WWE. But he didn't and held out for another 13 years, before finally debuting at Survivor Series 2014. For the first time ever, the Undertaker and Sting were under the same roof at WrestleMania 31, and for some unknown reason, WWE inexplicably chose to have them wrestle separate opponents. Sting ended up getting injured later that year, and has since retired.
- Why It Should Happen: This has been the ultimate dream match for the better part of two decades. With the Undertaker's Deadman gimmick and Sting's Vigilante persona, both men are silent destroyers that have an affinity for mind games and command an immense of respect from their peers. But the parallels aren't just symbolic, they were both the flag-bearers for their respective companies, have both enjoyed 30 year long careers and are both phenomenal athletes. You couldn't get more parallel than these two, and I genuinely couldn't think of a better way for both men to end their careers than by finally crossing paths and clashing in their final match. It would be the perfect culmination of the two careers in professional wrestling history.
Check out WWE's fantasy promo for this match:
- How It Could Happen: Both men are pros at what they do. All that would have to happen is for the Undertaker to announce his retirement, or Sting to announce his return — only to be interrupted by the other veteran. All it would take is one staredown with no words and you would have the beginning of a rivalry we have all wanted to see for the part of 25 years.
- Likelihood Of Happening: 50/50. For years, we never thought we would see this, and then Sting signed with WWE and it almost become a certainty. But WWE missed their opportunity, Sting subsequently got injured and then retired. But the Vigilante's retirement was his own choice, and is seemingly willing to step back into the ring one more time if he gets that match with Deadman. He did recently referred to this match as "unfinished business" during an interview with JBL. And the Undertaker is one of the safest workers in the company. So together, they could make it happen. But the question is — will WWE?
With the knowledge that the Undertaker will return to the grandest stage of them all, we can rest assured knowing that we're in for one hell of a battle next year. Whichever gladiator steps up to face the Phenom, they face the possibility of being sent down, just like all those who came before. His 23-1 record at the premiere event makes him WrestleMania's premiere performer and I can't wait for the Deadman to rise once more!
Who do you think the Undertaker will face off against at WrestleMania 33? Let us know in the comments below!