John Cena vs. the Undertaker: Their time is up or their time is now?

Jake McDonnell, Sports Editor

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     The thirty-fourth installment of WrestleMania commences on Sunday, April 8 from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. WrestleMania is WWE’s biggest show of the year and all signs point to WrestleMania 34 being another classic.

     One of the rumored matches for this year’s show pits two all-time greats against one another – the Undertaker vs. John Cena.

     Cena, tied with Ric Flair for the most world championships of all time at 16, is one of the most decorated superstars in WWE history. He’s main-evented the big dance against names like The Rock, Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

     In recent years, Cena has transitioned into a part-time role while pursuing Hollywood endeavors. Although his time as a full-time Superstar appears to be over, he’s still a top merchandise seller and one of the most popular names in the company.

     Cena’s latest WrestleMania appearance ended with a real-life proposal to his longtime girlfriend and fellow WWE Superstar, Nikki Bella, following their tag-team victory over the Miz and Maryse.

     The man across the ring needs no introduction. For over twenty-five years, the Undertaker has cemented his legacy as perhaps the most dominant in-ring performer in WWE history. He’s performed at twenty-five WrestleManias, sporting a 23-2 record at “The Grandest Stage of them All.”

     Up until WrestleMania 30 (the first ‘Mania at the SuperDome) in 2014, ‘Taker held a perfect 21-0 undefeated streak at ‘Mania that ended at the hands of Brock Lesnar.

     After rebounding with wins over Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon at the next two WrestleManias, Undertaker fell to Roman Reigns at last year’s show. After the match was over, the 52-year-old Deadman left his jacket, hat, and gloves in the ring, signifying what may have been the end of the greatest character the wrestling business has ever seen.

     However, just like every other year, WrestleMania season means one thing: Undertaker return rumors. Even though dropping his gear in the ring and disappearing afterwards still seems like the perfect ending to an amazing career, WWE may have already penciled in the Deadman on this year’s WrestleMania card.

     As recently as Feb. 12, Brian Alvarez reported on “Wrestling Observer Radio” that the supposed match between Cena and ‘Taker is a go. All we have to go on right now are simple rumors, but if we’re being technical, the Undertaker never officially retired. The rumors of a supposed return are, to me, warranted.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of this match for weeks now, and there are pros and cons to doing it. This would potentially be the most colossal match on the WrestleMania 34 card. Undertaker and John Cena are two of the biggest names in WWE history that, aside from a few matches on Raw and SmackDown and a single pay-per-view matchup, have never squared off on a stage like WrestleMania.

     Undertaker’s long list of WrestleMania opponents has names like Jimmy Snuka, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Kane, Edge and CM Punk on it, but Cena’s name is absent.

     Out of all of Undertaker’s years in WWE, Cena and the Phenom have rarely crossed paths. Cena said himself in a recent interview that shows like WrestleMania can “bring legends back from the dead.” You have to wonder if that statement was directed at the Deadman.

      Although this match has plenty of star power attached to it, it may be too little and too late to give it to wrestling fans. From a storytelling standpoint, after we saw ‘Taker leave his gloves in the ring and ride off into the sunset, bringing him back again for another match would not make sense.

     Let’s not forget that the Deadman is 52, and will be 53 by April 8. In his bout against Roman Reigns last year, ‘Taker looked old, slow, and he struggled to make it through the match. You have to wonder if bringing him back for another match is really worth it.

     You could also make the argument that Cena’s role in a legends match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania would not be a smart decision. Instead, having Cena put over a young talent like Elias would do more for WWE in the short and long term. That is hard to dispute.

     If I was in chareg of this year’s ‘Mania card, I’d be keeping Undertaker off of it. As much as the wrestling world would love to see this match, it makes little sense to pull the trigger on it.

     You couldn’t ask for a better career ending than what we got last year after Undertaker lost to Reigns. He didn’t say a word after the match. He simply left the ring, kissed his wife, and walked up the ramp for perhaps the final time. He needs no explanation, and should go into the WWE Hall of Fame as soon as next year.

     As for Cena, have him put over Elias or another up-and-coming star. Instead of beating or losing to the Undertaker in a legends match that has no bearing on the current or future landscape of WWE, have Cena elevate a young name to the next level.

     Nostalgia acts are always fun and there are times and places for them. A match between the Undertaker and John Cena in 2018 would be a tantalizing meeting of the past and present, but going in a different direction is the right move for the future.

 

 

16-time world champion John Cena has taken more of a part-time wrestling role in recent years.