The X-Factor: WrestleMania – The Streak, and The Rock

When it comes to business, there’s one fact you can’t dispute: numbers don’t lie.

WrestleMania XXVI had a buyrate of 885,000. The next year, it jumped up to 1,059,000. That’s a jump of 19.6%. XXVI featured the second take of probably the greatest match at WrestleMania or at least the greatest of Undertaker and Shawn Michaels’ lives, and it dropped 8.4% from 2009.

That jump in 2011. Could The Rock’s presence have something to do with it? The next two WrestleMania’s broke a million buys apiece. What were their main events?

How did “Once in a Lifetime” do? The highest buyrate of all time at 1,217,000 buys. The next year saw it drop to 1,048,000, but it’s still the 6th most bought WrestleMania of all time. It was also the first to reach a $10 million gate and made $72 million overall. 

People bitch about the part-timers, but it’s easy when it’s not your investment, your company, and your money. The high and mighty attitude is played out.

WrestleMania XXVI

In 2009, Shawn had made a decision. He could still go, but he had to put his family first. 

The Undertaker refused Michaels’ challenge for a rematch at XXVI. HBK was obsessed with handing the Dead Man his first-ever loss at a WrestleMania. 

‘Taker was the World Heavyweight Champion. Shawn tried to win the Royal Rumble. Failed. He wanted to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. Failed. Michaels snuck into the Chamber and cost him the World title. That worked.

Undertaker wouldn’t accept the match unless Michaels’ career was at risk too. 

Featuring the best pre-match video ever, HBK and ‘Taker gave us another classic.

This one was built more on emotion, as Shawn’s obsession meant that ‘Taker would have to dig deeper to keep his Streak alive. By the end, HBK was unwilling to stay down, even slapping him in the face. The Dead Man had to add some extra force to his Tombstone, and that was all she wrote. 

WrestleMania XXVII

Yep, this will never make any top 10 lists.

The challenge was made with no words spoken. The haters often mock the “pointing at the sign” trope, and yet it was used to great effect. The Undertaker and Triple H were fighting for a title: “The Last Outlaw.”

My favorite spot has to be the spinebuster Undertaker took through the Spanish announce table. There was a chokeslam, a Pedigree, the Last Ride, the Tombstone, all near-falls. Triple H delivered a DDT onto a chair, two more Pedigrees, a ton of chair shots – including to the head – and even a Tombstone. Kick-out!! Finally, ‘Taker ended it with Hell’s Gate.

We didn’t need to hear Triple H – in yet another display of insecurity – say he was the only one worthy of being ‘Taker’s opponent. There was someone else being eyed to face the Dead Man.

Oh, what could’ve been?

There were promo videos showing an old cabin in a rainy night, some dude with a trench coat, and the numbers 2.21.11. Check out those middle three numbers. Prophetic, right?

March 13, 2011. Jeff Hardy caused TNA and himself a buttload of embarrassment, and it rubbed off on Sting as well. When the fans said it was bullshit, his response was “I agree”. As he got to the back, he must’ve been thinking this. 

“I could’ve had a match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania, in Atlanta, and gone into the Hall of Fame. I turned it all down for this.”

Even when he was the Corporate Champion, The Rock was nobody’s bitch. The Miz is a terrific character, but he’s not an alpha. He was the third wheel whether he liked it or not.

WrestleMania XXVIII

It was the end of something that began in 2009, when Shawn Michaels – also the special guest referee – challenged The Undertaker and put on one of the finest matches of all time. It would end inside Hell in a Cell, the match that defined the three men involved.

There were question marks all over this war. Would Shawn end the Streak to repay ‘Taker for ending his career, or would he stop his best friend from doing what he couldn’t do? 

The story that was told by all three men was legendary. However, not even that would take away from what came at the end of the show.

In the Mt. Rushmore of pro wrestling, both John Cena and Dwayne would be there, alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan.

It was worth the wait. It was treated like the big deal it was. Cena doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The Rock looked gassed partway through the contest and Cena had to pick up some slack.

WrestleMania 29

Ok, maybe they didn’t need to repeat “Once in a Lifetime”, but come on. It netted them their highest buyrate of all time. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Their first bout felt like it was dragging it’s feet. Not so much this time. The Rock was more conditioned and it was 7 minutes shorter. Respect for soldiering on after being injured.

Anyone on Team Punk will look to the closing match as proof he was right to complain. The Rock claims it was to be a triple threat with Punk added in. It didn’t happen. Hence his walking out eight months later.

Yet, what about the match he did have? If people think he was a whiny bitch, they’ll point to that as evidence. Anyone else would give their left arm to face the Undertaker! They had the best contest that night. 

It was the last ‘Mania to be held as a traditional PPV.

One year later, and everything would look very, very different.

Don’t mess with the X.