For professional wrestling fans, the world stopped and stood still for a few seconds last night. The Undertaker, the Phenom, lost at WrestleMania XXX to Brock Lesnar, ending his string of 21 consecutive victories at the WWE's signature event. Fans are still struggling to make sense of it all.
Reflecting on it now, less than an hour after the show went off the air with Daniel Bryan a made man and harkening a new era of sports entertainment, I realized that WWE has been preparing us for this moment since the Undertaker returned in February and the "build" for the match began. I use quotes because, unlike in previous years, the build didn't feel so special.
Perhaps we'd finally realized that the Streak was never going to be broken. That we could never truly enjoy the build to an Undertaker match against an established player, and especially not someone who is only around for a few shows a year. I mean, if it had been Roman Reigns, perhaps us keyboard warriors would've at least fantasized about the prospect of Reigns ending the Streak with a thunderous spear and being made into the next big thing.
Ironic, isn't it, as when Brock Lesnar debuted about 12 years ago, the night after WrestleMania X8, he was dubbed the "Next Big Thing." At that point, the Streak was just beginning to take form, as Undertaker acknowledged it after defeating Ric Flair and showing 10 fingers, signaling that he was 10-0 at the Showcase of the Immortals.
I don't think at that time, anyone could imagine the Streak would have lasted this long. That it would become so ingrained in professional wrestling lore that it would almost become as big or bigger than WrestleMania itself.
Certainly, even with his catchy nickname and the Streak in its infancy, no one expected Lesnar to be the man to defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania.
It was even more certain Lesnar would never be that man a decade ago, when Undertaker returned at WrestleMania as his Deadman persona to run that Streak to 12-0 in Madison Square Garden, the same night Lesnar and Goldberg would be booed out of the arena -- the first time I can recall the crowd of "smarks" going into business for themselves, something that now seems to happen on Raw every week -- because they were leaving the company to pursue other ventures.
And even in 2010, with the Undertaker winding down his career and, at a UFC event, seemingly challenging Lesnar to return and face him -- "You wanna do it?" We all assumed that meant come back, and be the next victim for a Streak that would seemingly never be broken.
Even earlier this week, when rumors broke that Undertaker had offered in 2010 for Lesnar to break the Streak then, even though it was never seriously considered. We laughed it off and thought, boy, how crazy would that be right? Lesnar ending the Streak.
Then Sunday night happened. I commented to my friends I was watching WrestleMania with that the crowd had barely reacted to the nearfalls when Lesnar hit the first two F-5s in the plodding semi-main event. The magic wasn't there anymore. No longer could these "smart" fans in the Reality Era of professional wrestling, where nearly 100 percent accurate results can be found on social media sites like Reddit before the event begins, be fooled.
Heck, WWE hadn't even bothered putting a lot of effort into the build to the match. Probably, we opined, because they had been too busy re-writing the main event of WrestleMania XXX after we had hijacked the Royal Rumble and countless tapings of Raw, expressing our displeasure Daniel Bryan and Batista's respective positions on the card. Heck, last year's Streak challenger, CM Punk, had walked out, and they were busy dealing with that too.
But the Streak is the Streak. It'll take care of itself without a whole lot of creative booking. But they really should've built Brock Lesnar up a little more as a credible threat, rather than have 'Taker dominate him until the go-home Raw. But whatever. As long as the match is good.
It wasn't. And maybe therein lies the key to all of this.
More than any of us, the Undertaker knows his limitations. And more than anyone else's opinion when it comes to the Streak, the Undertaker knows what it means and what it meant to lose.
No one told the Undertaker to go out there and lose to Brock Lesnar at arguably the biggest and greatest WrestleMania of all time (and it did live up to the hype, from the Holy Trinity of professional wrestling in the ring at the same time to open the show, to Daniel Bryan's star-making moment as confetti fell at the end of the night).
Vince McMahon didn't. Triple H didn't.
It's clear the Undertaker knew it was time.
He also knew Brock Lesnar, despite any emotions you might be feeling right now to the contrary, was the right guy for the job.
Actually, it all makes too much sense.
While many have long-viewed being the One to end the Streak as a star-making moment, the reality is, it isn't. It's an albatross. A burden you would have to carry for the rest of your career. Instead of a rocket pack to the top, it could be the anchor that drags you down to the bottom of the sea -- a fitting metaphor considering 'Taker's own "swimming back to shore" promo on Raw last week.
Talk to any former pro wrestler and they likely will tell you, they never wanted to be that guy to end the Streak. Because once you've done it, what else is there? Nothing you ever do will ever be bigger than that. You could never be a babyface because you'd always be the guy who ruined one of the greatest things in pro wrestling.
But the Streak had become an albatross in and of itself to the Undertaker. As long as it existed, there was pressure for him to return and put his aging body on the line to defend it year after year. WrestleMania after WrestleMania.
I often find myself comparing professional wrestling storylines to Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight." Everyone remembers the scene near the end, where Batman tells Commissioner Gordon "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
He's says something after that quote that applies here. "I can do those things. Because I'm not a hero."
Brock Lesnar isn't a hero. Right now, he's the biggest villian in WWE history because he just killed the one last sacred cow in a land of meaningless belts and constant re-writes.
But what's ironic about Batman's words is that him taking the fall, in this case, for all the horrible things Gotham's perceived White Knight Harvey Dent had done as Two Face, actually made him heroic. He could take that, because no one else could, Gordon explained to his son.
If one had to make a comparison of Brock Lesnar to a comic book character, it would probably be Bane or Superman's Doomsday. I say, after tonight, Brock Lesnar is our Dark Knight.
Lesnar ended the Streak, and he'll take whatever comes with that, because no one else can handle it like Brock Lesnar can. And that's why, in addition to the subtle build, Brock Lesnar ending the Undertaker's Streak was absolutely perfect.
When Lesnar's contract expires after next year's WrestleMania, and he likely leaves for good, people will once again begin second-guessing why he needed to end the Streak. Why it couldn't have been a young player like Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Bray Wyatt or Roman Reigns. This assumes they are all still around and as over in a year as they are at this moment, and it's not someone else who emerged that could've been "that guy."
Instead, Lesnar will be a silent hero, but vocal villain carrying the burden that comes with ending the Streak back with him to Minnesota, where he'll disappear until his inevitable Hall of Fame induction. He'll carry that burden with him, so someone else doesn't have to.
Meanwhile, the Undertaker can finally ride off into the sunset, free of his albatross and do what he's been promising his opponents for decades: Rest in peace.