Records are made to be broken.
Heroes fall. Legends fade. History is rewritten.
We’ve learned to accept these truths about many things in this world, but not The Undertaker’s Streak. It was WWE’s one constant — a decades-long unbeaten WrestleMania run that had never been done before, and will never be done again. Every year, The Deadman would face down a worthy adversary — be it Triple H, Shawn Michaels, his brother Kane — and every year he would add another number to his win column until it stood at a towering 21-0.
The Undertaker’s match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania was meant to make it 22-0. The Phenom would conquer The Beast — although he’d suffer a tremendous beating in the process— and he’d return at WrestleMania 31 to do it all over again.
However, stories don’t always end the way we want them to. And numbers never lie.
On April 6, 2014, Brock Lesnar did the very thing his T-shirt promised he would do: He beat The Streak.
It took countless punishing blows, multiple wrenching submissions and three F5’s, but Paul Heyman’s manmade monster became the first competitor to pin The Undertaker on The Grandest Stage Them All, and mark a 1 in The Deadman’s loss column.
There’s a story about the night Bruno Sammartino lost the WWE Title to Ivan Koloff in Madison Square Garden to end his 11-year reign as champion. The crowd was so quiet you could hear the whoosh of the cars passing on the street outside. A new generation of WWE fans will talk about the night The Undertaker lost with the same reverence. The sound of 75,167 rowdy people going silent all at once? It’s indescribable.
To see The Streak end was the single most shocking moment in the grand history of WWE. No one imagined it could happen. Even The Undertaker himself had made his victory all but guaranteed by preparing a specially made casket for Lesnar, which sat at the top of the entrance ramp next to a long row of coffins — one for each of The Deadman’s WrestleMania victims.
If Brock was intimidated by this psychological freak-out, he didn’t show it. As an athlete who fist fought the world’s most dangerous men inside cages for a living, Lesnar doesn’t scare easily, and he went at The Undertaker from the opening bell with an unbridled rage that has become his trademark
The Deadman’s choice to immediately stand and bang with the former UFC Champion proved to be a mistake as Lesnar battered him with fists and elbows before launching him out of the ring. The Phenom couldn’t outfight The Beast Incarnate — the amount of men who could would fit comfortably inside a midsized sedan — but he had a chance to outmaneuver him.
Employing his underrated technical abilities, The Phenom dissected The Beast by focusing on the vulnerable joints and tendons in his elbows and shoulders. Old favorites worked just as well — chokeslams, the guillotine legdrop on the ring apron and Snake Eyes all rattled Brock. But Lesnar has always been the type of Superstar you’d have to hit with a Buick if you wanted to beat him on sheer force alone.
Lesnar’s fighter’s mind quickly adapted to The Deadman’s gameplan as he began to target The Undertaker’s knees, which had been weakened by decades of Tombstones. Brock took pleasure in picking The Deadman apart, even running up behind The Phenom and kicking him in the back of the knee with all the recklessness of a kid trying to boot a football.
Yet Brock’s arrogance would often get the better of him and he spent too much time taunting The Undertaker in a way a schoolyard bully like Lesnar just can’t resist. The crowd saw The Deadman’s chance to recuperate in those brief moments of gloating in-between Brock’s debilitating strikes, and The Phenom nearly did it.
When he kicked out of a pin attempt after getting blasted with an F5 and locked in Hell’s Gate, The Phenom seemed to be in control. But Brock countered the submission (and a second) by picking the icon up and slamming him back down. An attempt at Old School — always one of The Deadman’s riskiest maneuvers — was countered into a second F5, but again The Undertaker found his way back to the surface before the count of three.
In the thick of the match, each competitor was overwhelmed by the feeling of “What do I have to do to beat this guy?” Paul Heyman’s cry of “You’re Brock Lesnar!” seemed to inspire The Beast Incarnate to bash his opponent further, but Undertaker managed to counter his physical flurry with a Last Ride. When he followed up with a Tombstone, Lesnar kicked out at two. Even Heyman seemed shocked by that.
And then the final seconds of The Undertaker’s Streak played out like the slow-motion footage of a car accident that could have been avoided had the driver only known what lay ahead. The Deadman went for the Tombstone again, Brock reversed, powered the unearthly icon onto his shoulders and hit a third F5.
He went for the cover. The official counted one, two and The Undertaker kicked out. Didn’t he? He had to have. He always does. Every time.
But he didn’t. Not this time.
Seconds of mass confusion inside the Mercedes Benz Superdome felt like minutes. A bell rang. A graphic flashed on the massive screens reading “21-1.” Heyman’s jaw dropped. WWE cameras panned across fans who wore expressions of horror on their faces like the rubber masks in a Halloween store.
They said no man could break The Undertaker’s vaunted WrestleMania Streak, but what about a Beast?
Lesnar was the Superstar who did what everyone from Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka to Randy Orton couldn’t do, but his victory celebration didn’t last long. Soon, Brock and Heyman were gone and The Undertaker was alone in the ring in front of 75,167 WWE fans whose shared sense of shock was quickly giving way to adoration. People stood on their feet and cheered the single most enduring Superstar in WWE history.
He rose, too, but he barely acknowledged the scene. His mind was elsewhere. On broken Streaks. On a friend who once stood at ringside. On a career in the ring that may have just ended.
It took a long time for The Undertaker to make that long walk up the ramp as every step literally took him further away from a WWE Universe that thought he’d always been there.
And then he was gone.
A Streak had been broken, yes, but the legend lived on.