When WWE made the announcement that Wrestlemania 36 would be moved to the Performance Center amidst concerns over the global pandemic, fans and performers were rightfully disappointed. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa would have packed in well over 70,000 screaming fans.
The Performance Center would have none…
For an event that was meant to be a coronation for rising star Drew McIntyre, a triumphant return for Hall of Famer Edge, and a showcase for NXT women’s division dynamos Rhea Ripley and Shayna Baszler, the fact that no fans would be on hand to witness some of these seminal moments and matches was a tremendous disappointment.
The silver lining — at least for right now, however — is that WWE introduced a fairly new concept to its brand: the “Cinematic” match.
Two pre-produced contests aired across the two-night event, including a Firefly Funhouse Match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt. The match that got people talking, though, was the “Boneyard Match” between AJ Styles and The Undertaker.
While many believe that Styles, even at age 42, is one of the top in-ring performers in the world, The Undertaker has not inspired in the majority of his in-ring performances for the past five or six years. Had this match been contested in front of a live audience, there is a chance it may have fallen flat and, even worse, been another blow to the incredible legacy of “The Dead Man.”
The cinematic Boneyard Match, however, allowed for Taker’s age, mobility, and physical limitations to be masked. In return, a variation of “The American Badass” returned and looked every bit the part. Even at 55 years old, it’s easy to believe that Mark Calaway could throw down in a graveyard.
It appears that WWE is returning to this well with the upcoming “Corporate Ladder” themed Money in the Bank match. It remains to be seen if the company can execute another heralded cinematic masterpiece, but one has to wonder: what dream matches could we get out of The Undertaker before he retires?
With the possibility of careful editing, coordination, and retakes, there are some incredibly high-profile contests that could still take place that may not work in a traditional arena setting.
5 Cinematic Dream Matches for The Undertaker
Yes, we have seen Undertaker vs. Kane numerous times. The “Brothers of Destruction” have been interlocked off and on for the past twenty-three years. They have held tag team gold together, and they have clashed on two occasions at Wrestlemania.
In terms of career history, however, it’s hard to find a single name that has been more important to the other than Kane and The Undertaker. While kayfabe has been pulled back and the reality that Mark Calaway and Glenn Jacobs are not real-life brothers is common knowledge among most wrestling fans, a cinematic clash between the two could put a sense of much-needed closure on two Hall of Fame careers.
Borrowing elements from the Firefly Funhouse match, we could finally see parts of each character’s origin story that, to this point, have only been alluded to on television. Some clever editing could even incorporate the late Paul Bearer into the mix, adding to the depth and emotion of the contest.
As it stands, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for these two to cross paths an foes at this stage, but both men could truly shine in this type of environment.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
“The Texas Rattlesnake” has not wrestled a traditional match since losing to The Rock at Wrestlemania 19 — now over seventeen years ago! At 55, Austin still looks to be in incredible shape, though, and has a history of performing in action films.
Many fans felt that Undertaker’s Boneyard Match with Styles had some of the elements that made Austin’s film The Condemned so enjoyable.
With both men having a penchant for playing rough-and-tumble rebels, their history could warrant one final showdown.
Consider this: two nasty, gritty, aging Texans squaring off on a ranch or in the desert, both wanting one last moment of glory before hanging up the boots forever. The respect and admiration they have for one another is evident based upon a recent sit-down interview on Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions.
A battle of the outlaws, though, this would be a perfect sendoff for one or both men.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be turning 48 soon. As we have seen with legends like Chris Jericho and Japan’s Minoru Suzuki, a great professional wrestling can still have a great professional wrestling match even in their late 40s.
When you are one of the highest paid entertainers in the entire world, however, things are a little different.
After suffering an injury during his main event match with John Cena at Wrestlemania 29, The Rock has not returned for a full-length match since. His 8 second squash of Eric Rowan at Wrestlemania 32 was nice, feel-good moment, but it was certainly not an “electrifying” contest.
A cinematic contest could allow “The Great One” to return for one more epic contest against a former rival while displaying his acting chops in a WWE setting in a new and exciting way.
Pairing the brash and defiant Rock — the larger-than-life star who left for the greener pastures of Hollywood in the early 2000s — against the stalwart Undertaker who has, for the past three decades, been a permanent fixture with the promotion, could be the type of mainstream blockbuster that Vince McMahon and Company are always looking for.
When “The Eater of Worlds” faced off against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 31, the contest seemed little more than a redemption match for the then 21-1 Phenom. While Wyatt made for a compelling opponent — so much so that fans believed the contest could be a legitimate passing-of-the-torch — the outcome, paired with Wyatt’s loss to John Cena the year before, left much to be desired.
As the central figures in WWE’s double-shot of cinematic exploration, however, the possibility of The Undertaker revisiting his career in The Firefly Funhouse has endless possibilities.
Imagine seeing Taker dawn his original attire circa 1990, travel through his ascension at Royal Rumble 1994, assume his Ministry of Darkness persona, go “Rollin'” as the original incarnation of “The American Badass,” and relive the night Brock Lesnar ended The Streak, all in one match. As two of the most cerebral and gifted performers on the roster, Wyatt and Taker could definitely put together a cinematic thrill ride that could serve as an incredible end to one of the industry’s most storied and beloved careers.
At 61, and now retired for several years after an injury sustained in a contest against then-champion Seth Rollins, Sting’s WWE came far too late and, in hindsight, fell short of its potential.
After falling in both of his marquee contests for the company — in the aforementioned contest with Rollins, and in his Wrestlemania 31 WWE debut against Triple H — the one match that never came to fruition was a highly anticipated showdown with The Undertaker.
Teased and dreamed about for years, Sting vs. Taker represented a showdown between one of WWE’s most enigmatic characters and, at least during Sting’s “Crow” run in the late 1990s, the WCW counterpart. Both ominous with vigilante tendencies, the two could have had one of wrestling’s premier showdowns had this contest taken place fifteen or twenty years ago.
Despite it being thirty years since the pair faced off in WCW, a cinematic element could allow these men to have a sense of closure and finality that the entire wrestling community could benefit from.
Are there any other cinematic dream matches that you would like to see for The Undertaker? Let us know in the comments below.