I recently re-watched WrestleMania XXX for the first time in eight years. After watching the show in its entirety, I still feel the same way now that I felt then. Brock Lesnar absolutely should have defeated the Undertaker and ended the streak.
It’s safe to say that if you go back and look at columnists’ articles over the years, the vast majority of people feel the streak should not have ended. Not just fans, but even executives and established talent in the business feel that Taker should not have lost that night. Even former executive and on-air talent Jim Ross was recently quoted saying “I was not for it when Undertaker’s streak was ended by Lesnar. We’re talking in 2021 in the month of February, and I’m still wishing he was undefeated.”
It surprises me that someone like Jim Ross, who has been in the business longer than most of us have been fans, can be that short sighted. To me personally, it didn’t matter who defeated the streak. It also didn’t matter to me if it “put over” anyone in the process. In the wrestling business, just as soon as you’re over, the WWE can easily bury you. But in hindsight, the Undertaker’s streak ending that night did two big things.
Even though it personally did not matter to me if it put anyone over or not, the bottom line is that Brock Lesnar’s win over the Undertaker setup one heck of a ride with Brock as WWE champion. A few months after WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar squared off against John Cena for the WWE Championship and absolutely squashed Cena in a match that resulted in Brock winning the title for the first time since his initial run in WWE. Brock went on to have a lengthy reign, destroying everyone in his sight until WrestleMania 31 where he lost only because Seth Rollins cashed in his “Money in the Bank” contract. Brock would then come back and have multiple runs as champion such as when he held the Universal title for over 16 months from 2017 to 2018. He the became WWE champion again and dropped the title to Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania 36. He took some time off, and has since won the WWE Championship twice in the past few months. The Undertaker arguably gave Brock the rub of a lifetime setting up one of the most dominant stretches any wrestler in WWE has ever had.
The point is, prior to ending the Undertaker’s streak, Brock Lesnar was known for having “one off” matches at big PPV events. He lost to John Cena, traded wins with Triple H, and beat CM Punk and The Big Show. Brock Lesnar was certainly a beast prior to defeating the Undertaker. But he truly became an unstoppable force and established himself as the overall favorite going into big matches after he ended the Undertaker’s streak.
Making Brock a bigger star was not the only thing that happened that night.
If you recall, shortly after the streak ended, all of the air was sucked out of the Mercedes Benz Arena in New Orleans. The world was in an utter state of shock. The next match was a multi-women’s match, but nobody cared. The crowd was stunned in disbelief, and completely deflated. But, there was a small glimmer of hope. Because the main event was Daniel Bryan VS Randy Orton vs Batista for the WWE Championship. It’s almost like the crowd even forgot about that match until Randy Orton’s music hit. Suddenly, everyone’s interest was back on the ring.
Then, Daniel Bryan’s music hit, and the crowd went electric. Maybe there was a chance the crowd could be sent home happy. Maybe Daniel Bryan could overcome the odds and win the WWE championship despite having the company against him every step of the way. Just maybe, we could salvage what was left of this WrestleMania and cross our fingers that this “feel good” story could materialize. Of course, we all know what happened. Daniel Bryan won the match and the WWE championship. The crowd went absolutely nuts and there was confetti everywhere.
The build of Daniel Bryan’s ascension to the top in the winter/spring of 2014 to his main event match at WrestleMania was the biggest thing to happen in WWE for quite some time. It made so much noise, not just in the wrestling world but even across various sports platforms. The “Yes Movement” became a huge deal, and in arenas across the country during all sporting events you could see people throwing their arms in the air and shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Vince McMahon, the genius that he is, knew that the only way to exploit the “Yes Movement” further and make Bryan’s win even bigger, was to completely rob the crowd in attendance that night of it’s hope in WWE. If they were willing to end the Undertaker’s streak, there is no way they would allow for Daniel Bryan to beat two of WWE’s biggest stars on the grandest stage of them all.
But he did. Daniel Bryan overcame the odds. And when that final bell rang and Daniel Bryan was announced as the new WWE Champion, the Undertaker’s streak was completely forgotten in that moment and the crowd and everyone at home were overjoyed with emotion. Vince McMahon and the WWE more than anyone know how to tap into people’s emotions and get the most out of his fans. The Undertaker losing that night not only did a favor to Brock Lesnar in setting him up as a massive star for the next several years, but he also made Daniel Bryan’s main event win even bigger than it could have ever been.
Yet again, leave it up to the evil genius that is Vince McMahon to make such a smart business decision. If we’re still talking about it today, it means he did something right.