WrestleMania 34: How to best book John Cena vs The Undertaker
Cena vs Undertaker is happening at WrestleMania, and the only way to book it is with the American Badass going over. Hard.
John Cena is all but certainly fighting The Undertaker at WrestleMania next month, and WWE has to book this match perfectly. That’s wishful thinking, but it’s the truth. Fans have been clamoring to see this match on the grandest stage of them all, so it’s only fair that it be booked to perfection and tear the house down in a style reminiscent of Hart vs Michaels, Stone Cold vs The Rock, and too many others to name.
The brief lead-up to the match has been good so far, but it’s a bit too similar to when ‘Taker fought Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 31. Cena has cut some great promos in calling out The Deadman, but the outcome seems inevitable. He’ll continue to do just that, and ‘Taker will show up at the go-home Raw before Mania to seal the deal.
That’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t exactly give the match must-see status despite great promos being behind it. This is an instant classic on the names involved alone, and it should be booked as such.
Thankfully, I have an idea of how to do that. While we don’t often take a pure “fantasy booking” angle on things and lay out how WWE should write a storyline, there is something unique about the clash between John Cena and The Undertaker. Perhaps more than ever before, it’s crucial that WWE give the match a proper build heading into the event and execute it as pristinely as possible. There is a right way to do this, and this is it.
Where we are now
As it stands now, Cena is acting like a man obsessed. He wants a match at WrestleMania, and damn anyone who gets in his way. He’s called out The Undertaker much like a child playing the “Bloody Mary,” in which one stands in front of a mirror in the dark and calls out Bloody Mary’s name three times hoping to summon an evil spirit. That hasn’t worked, so Cena continued his tirade this week in calling out Undertaker further, labeling him as a coward for wanting to step away from the squared circle. The 16-time champion got a response, but in the form of Undertaker’s brother Kane, with a match between the two set for next week’s Raw.
Thus, we’ll pick up from this point and book a WrestleMania match much more fitting for the end of Undertaker’s career.
The road to WrestleMania
Before we go on, we need to establish this so it’s crystal clear. For all intents and purposes, John Cena is the heel in this match. It just has to be that way. Between calling ‘Taker out for posting workout videos on wife Michelle McCool’s Instagram to calling him a coward last night, Cena is definitely entering uncharted territory. He is so focused on being a part of WrestleMania that he’ll take personal shots at an aging legend, even if it means incurring the wrath of his family.
This brings the conversation to Cena’s match with Kane next week. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the match is about midway through the evening. Kane can have a brief backstage segment in which he says though he himself has no personal issues with Cena, nobody calls his brother and former tag team partner a coward. The match can then go on, probably with Cena cutting another promo beforehand, when suddenly, right after Cena downs Kane with an AA, the gong sounds.
The lights go out. They come back on again, but Undertaker is nowhere to be seen. Cena stands bewildered, only to realize Kane has disappeared. A sign appears on the Titantron that reads as follows: “Next week.”
It is advertised that Undertaker will indeed be at Raw next week for a “face to face” with Cena, and this will close the show. The point is to keep the fans waiting in anticipation for this legendary staredown. Cena comes out to his usual fanfare and expresses during his subsequent promo just how excited he is that Undertaker is finally meeting him in person. The gong sounds, Undertaker comes out in his Deadman garb and picks up the microphone. However, what he says next is unexpected.
We all know Undertaker as the one so dedicated to kayfabe, he rarely makes appearances or posts pictures where he is out of character. Though he is in costume this time around, his tone is noticeably different. He certainly is The Undertaker, but his softer speech hints that we’re getting just a small taste of Mark Calaway too. Anyway, moving on.
‘Taker makes it very clear to Cena that as exciting as the prospect of facing him is, he took his last ride against Roman Reigns last year. As hard as it is, he has to turn down the match. However, ‘Taker then takes a firmer tone and inches closer to Cena. The personal digs at him and those close to him will stop. This isn’t about them. This is about the two men facing each other in the ring at that very moment, nobody else.
“I’m telling you right now that I don’t want to hurt you, John,” ‘Taker says. “But I promise you that if you keep this up, it won’t end well.”
This is a reminder that though ‘Taker’s gimmick as the Deadman is just that, he is still human. Think of his first rivalry with Kane. He didn’t want to fight his brother, his own flesh and blood, but his hand was forced. A similar approach must be taken with Cena.
Speaking of Cena, he responds to ‘Taker immediately, playing on the legend’s association with this year’s WrestleMania location, New Orleans. Cena says though he respects what ‘Taker has to say, he doesn’t accept it. He knows ‘Taker wants this fight just as much as he does, especially after seeing his WrestleMania undefeated streak end at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans four years ago. Cena then pushes ‘Taker’s buttons further, recapping the match and how he looked like a broken man throughout its entirety, and then describing in great detail how he was pinned after a third F5.
“I know you want this match,” Cena says. “But let’s be honest. You just can’t stand facing your biggest failure because, underneath that tough-guy exterior, you’re scared you’ll fail there again.”
‘Taker can’t take it anymore. He grabs Cena by the throat and chokeslams him with an authority that shakes the crowd to its core. He looks up at the WrestleMania sign, looks down at Cena, nods his head, and exits the ring. It is announced as he walks back up the ramp that the match is official.
In terms of the match itself, card placement is key. It shouldn’t open the show, nor should it be the last match of the night. Putting it halfway through also seems off so, for argument’s sake, we’re going to make this match third-to-last, right before AJ Styles faces Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship and Roman Reigns’ match against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.
Cena enters the ring first, running down the ramp with excitement. He wants this match so badly and should act accordingly. Cena’s whole demeanor since losing at Fastlane is as though beating Undertaker would give him some sort of self-validation, that he still belongs in the business, that he isn’t old and washed up, so his determination needs to be through the roof.
Enter Undertaker, except he’s no longer the Deadman. He comes out as the American Badass, and on a motorcycle. We’re booking him as this character because he’s angry about Cena’s New Orleans comments. He’s still angry about losing there and hates being reminded of it, as we saw in his promo against Lesnar following Battleground in 2015. This match just became personal on so many levels, so ‘Taker is pulling out all the stops to show that this is more than just a match for him.
The American Badass music hits. ‘Taker is here for a fight and he’s just as determined as Cena, albeit for a different reason. He suffered his greatest defeat in New Orleans, and it’s time to right that. He enters the ring, stares Cena down once again, and the bell sounds to signal the start of the match.
The action kicks off, and at breakneck speed. The two lock up, trade blows, throw everything they have at each other. Cena kicks out of a chokeslam and also winds up on the receiving end of a Last Ride through an announcer’s table. ‘Taker kicks out of not one, but two AAs. Cena can’t believe it, and now he’s frustrated.
“I deserve this!” he cries, as he sweeps Undertaker’s leg and locks in the STF. Things look grim for a minute, but ‘Taker slips out of the hold and chokeslams Cena one more time. The iconic throat slash is made as Cena slowly gets up, but Cena isn’t done yet. Just as Shawn Michaels did at WrestleMania 26, he slaps ‘Taker across the face, daring him to finish him off. ‘Taker, with fire in his eyes, picks Cena up for the Tombstone Piledriver, the first of the match.
The referee counts three, and Undertaker has won a last match for the ages. He has redeemed himself in the Big Easy, and against a fellow WWE icon. He can now ride his motorcycle off into the sunset and enjoy retirement.
Cena, on the other hand, sits up in the middle of the ring in absolute disbelief, much like he did after his loss to AJ Styles at SummerSlam 2016. He gets up, looks at the applauding crowd, and quietly walks up the ramp to disappear until summer when he will challenge Nakamura for his WWE Championship.
But that’s another story for another time.
Is this how you think things should go between Cena and The Undertaker? Let us know what you think in the comments below!