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The XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, was stunned into silence during the 1990 Survivor Series. Ahead of the four-vs-four elimination match between The Million Dollar Team and The Dream Team, Ted DiBiase grabbed the microphone and took to the centre of the ring to reveal his mystery partner. And as soon as his macabre funeral-style theme hit, The Undertaker emerged in his iconic black trench coat and black hat and made his ominous walk down to the ring with then-manager Brother Love. The WWE universe was treated to an instantly memorable debut, to a man who would become an icon of wrestling and to a man who will enter into an incredible third decade of his career in 2020.
The Undertaker, real name Mark Calaway, has built an illustrious wrestling career ever since his debut at Survivor Series. The 'Deadman' has won multiple championships with the promotion and stuck with the WWE during the height of the Monday Night Wars with WCW in the 1990s. But The Undertaker, above anything else, has continued to evolve his character. Just when it seemed that The Undertaker might have done everything, the character was freshened up and perfectly fit into that era of WWE. But Calaway, who turns 55 in March next year, could be weighing up the possibility of calling it time on his career. The future Hall of Famer has made sporadic appearances with the promotion in recent years, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of WWE superstars that could step up for a final clash with the 'Phenom' should he retire in 2020.
Here are SPORTbible's 10 picks for WWE superstars that could face The Undertaker in his final wrestling match.
10. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura against The Undertaker would make for a strange pairing inside the ring, but it could be fireworks from start to finish. The WWE superstar, widely revered for his time in Japan, hasn't reached the height of success with his current employers as many fans had predicted. That's not to say that the 'King of Strong Style' hasn't put on some instant classics in NXT or the ability to put on a mesmerising in-ring wrestling performance now.
Ahead of his main roster in-ring debut at Backlash in 2017, WWE legend JBL praised the Japanese star and made an interesting comparison with him to The Undertaker.
He said on Bring It to the Table: "[Nakamura] is a special attraction and I guarantee you he is worth the wait. Wait until you see this guy perform in the ring. He is that unique, he is that good, but also to me... you keep this guy special. Like The Undertaker in the 2000s -- you don't want to see him every single week. Fans would say, 'Yes, I want to see him every single week,' but you make it special. He [Nakamura] is that good, he needs to be special."
9. Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe has been out of WWE in-ring action since his involvement in the King of the Ring semi-finals in September. But the former TNA star, who has been sidelined due to a thumb injury, has continued to maintain an on-screen role and is underrated on the mic. That's not to mention the 'Samoan Submission Machine' is fantastic in the ring and he could push The Undertaker to roll back the years in what could be an epic encounter.
Speaking ahead of The Undertaker's clash with Triple H at Super Show-Down in 2018, the 40-year-old WWE superstar said he was disappointed that he never had the chance to face the 'Phenom' in a match.
"You know, timing is probably one of the greatest regrets that I think you can have in this business," he told WWE in a backstage interview. "And for the timing not to match up where me and the 'Deadman' could have crossed one another in the ring and got down, it's probably one of the unfortunate checks that I won't be able to mark off my bucket list."
It's never too late, Joe.
8. Aleister Black
Aleister Black is only waiting for the right opportunity to be thrust into the main-event picture, and a feud with The Undertaker shouldn't be taken off the table.
Black's dark and mysterious persona would make him a fantastic pairing with the 'Deadman.' Gothic look? Check. A Count Dracula-themed opening to his entrance? Check. Does excellent promos? Check. While he might not be one of the biggest stars in WWE right now, the 34-year-old superstar has proven he can put on superb performances in the NXT ring.
When Black was asked if he could see the comparisons made between himself and The Undertaker, he told Lilian Garcia on her Chasing Glory podcast in 2018: "No, I don't. I understand that people think that because there is a certain element of me that has stepped over to the dark side, but there is only one Undertaker and I can never fill that void.
"And there is only one Aleister Black and I am the first one, and there will never be a second one. The legacy that The Undertaker has had -- I can't even put into words. He changed the landscape."
7. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman is no stranger to sharing a ring with The Undertaker. After all, the 'Phenom' crossed paths with Strowman during a segment on Raw in 2017. The Undertaker was feuding with Roman Reigns in the build-up to their No Holds Barred match at WrestleMania 33 and came out to the ring while Strowman was calling out Reigns. After a brief confrontation between the two in the ring, 'The Monster Among Men' exited without breaking eye contact with The Undertaker.
The 6ft 8in Strowman, real name Adam Scherr, also issued a clear warning to the wrestling legend that he is ready to put him into retirement permanently.
"Just the opportunity to share the ring with The Undertaker, but maybe be the final hammer to nail the coffin shut at the 'Deadman,' the 'Monster' is up to the challenge," the 36-year-old WWE superstar told The Daily Express in May.
"I don't know how many more retirement matches he can have. I can put him out to pasture like I did to Big Show."
6. Seth Rollins
The Undertaker has already clashed in a heated feud with Roman Reigns, but there's no denying that Seth Rollins had his eyes on a clash with the 'Deadman.' During a 2017 interview, the former Shield member admitted that he would love a dream match with the WWE veteran at WrestleMania.
"I got to step into the ring with The Undertaker once in a six-man tag team in London," he told Bandwagon Asia. "It was a tremendous experience getting to look him in the eye across the ring. He's an absolute legend, a first-ballot future Hall of Famer, it was very surreal considering our age difference, but he could still put on a great performance.
"Is The Undertaker retired? I don't know, the way he left the arena at WrestleMania 33 it would look like it, but you never know in this business. If he's up for another match at WrestleMania, I'd love to be his opponent."
Seeing as Rollins was open to the idea of facing Undertaker in 2017, the 'Beastslayer' should have the opportunity to step up to the challenge at The Grandest Stage of Them All.
5. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was forced into early retirement in 2016 after suffering multiple concussions coupled with head and neck injuries. But since he was cleared to make a sensational in-ring WWE return in 2018, the 38-year-old superstar hasn't lost his touch with wrestling and fans can dream about several blockbuster matches that can now be booked.
The Undertaker has previously wanted to work with Bryan, according to reports. The WWE legend fought Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, but the Wrestling Observer Newsletter claimed that Calaway had personally asked to work with Bryan for the event in New Orleans.
"It's not even clear what the direction is, except apparently as a way to make [Bray] Wyatt into a star capable of working with [John] Cena at WrestleMania, as is the plan," the publication said at the time. "Where Bryan fits into the show is unknown. It is said that Undertaker asked to work with him at 'Mania this year, and such a match would at least have the turn make sense."
The Undertaker has the chance to finally have that match now and WWE shouldn't brush the idea aside if Calaway decides for one final WrestleMania match in 2020.
4. AJ Styles
AJ Styles was always going to be an instant success in WWE. Ever since he stunned fans with his surprise entrance in the Royal Rumble match in 2016, the ex-TNA superstar has enjoyed three years of success with WWE and competed against the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar. But Styles, who penned a new WWE deal in March, has once again confirmed that he will retire from professional wrestling after his time with his current employers.
"I had no doubt that you know this is what I was going to do for my career," the 42-year-old wrestling veteran told Garcia on Chasing Glory in August. "It really was. And you couldn't have told me any different. And I can tell you that the contract that I signed, here in the WWE, is my last. This is it for me. This is where I'm going to end my career, no matter what happens. I got to, you know? I want to be there for my kids."
This is the newest member of my family. Also, I've signed a new contract with the WWE. What a cute little guy. pic.twitter.com/PNqh9shgTH- AJStyles.Org (@AJStylesOrg) March 18, 2019
Before Styles does call it time on his wrestling career, it would be disappointing for WWE fans not to see him step in the ring for a major clash with The Undertaker. Calaway has fought his fair share of WWE legends, but Styles is one of the longstanding veterans that could put on an enthralling final contest with the 'Phenom.'
Styles, real name Allen Neal Jones, also revealed in 2018 that he would welcome the idea of a dream blockbuster match with the 'Deadman.'
The WWE United States champ told Ringside Collectibles: "Would I love to be in the ring with The Undertaker? To learn from this man would be unbelievable. Will it ever happen? I don't know. But yes, that would be a dream match for me as well."
3. Finn Balor ('Demon King')
Finn Balor's return to NXT last month was one of the best decisions that WWE has made in some time. Not only is NXT now the fully-fledged third brand of WWE, but also Balor put on some instant classics in the ring and deserves to be one of the biggest stars on the brand. And there's no doubt that the Irish superstar could put on an intriguing feud with The Undertaker, despite his return to NXT.
While there's a considerable size difference between the 6ft 10in 'Phenom' and the 5ft 11in Balor, it would be a different story should the 'Demon King' make an appearance. When the fan-favourite WWE superstar puts on his demonic-themed face and body paint, the stakes are instantly raised and has him in the same supernatural being status as The Undertaker, Kane and 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt.
Balor, real name Fergal Devitt, uses the 'Demon' only when it's necessary, so it's always a rare treat when he turns to his persona. And it would be a special sight to see the former WWE universal champ step into the ring as the 'Demon King' against The Undertaker. In March, Balor told The Kris Fade Show that he would have 'loved' to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania 35.
2. Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre against The Undertaker could turn into one hell of a showdown. The 6ft 5in Scotland native wouldn't look out of place opposing the 6ft 10in 'Deadman' inside a WWE ring, and fans are still waiting to see the much-needed main-event-level push McIntyre needs (and rightfully deserves). McIntyre could put on an excellent feud with The Undertaker and bring the best out of Calaway in a potential retirement match.
The Undertaker also seems interested in working with the so-called 'Scottish Psychopath,' too. According to Sports Illustrated, Calaway reportedly expressed his desire to work with McIntyre after his infamously disappointing clash with WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg at Super ShowDown in June. And McIntyre has previously spoken highly about The Undertaker, who was an "inspiration" for him during the early part of his career.
"Undertaker, right up until his last day was working full-time constantly, even when he was beat up, had fire in his eyes," he told Planeta Wrestling. "If he couldn't walk, he was flying around and he was The Undertaker in every way. That was such an inspiration."
1. 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt finally feels like the natural heir to The Undertaker's throne. The WWE superstar's previous persona had reached its apex before the company slapped Wyatt with a new slick of paint, all the while not scrapping everything positive about the original character. While not everyone was happy with the Hell in a Cell outcome between Seth Rollins and Wyatt last month, the way that 'The Fiend' has been handled has been fantastic. From the Firefly Fun House segments with Wyatt's eccentric children's program TV host persona to the eventual reveal of 'The Fiend,' the WWE superstar rightfully deserves to be the WWE Universal Championship.
It would only be fitting for 'The Fiend' to come up against The Undertaker, a man who could match him with similar demonic powers. There would be a bigger 'hype factor' than their WrestleMania 31 clash in 2015, especially with how far along 'The Fiend' has come. Just as 'The Fiend' adopted Foley's Mandible Claw into his arsenal, it would be amazing to see him take something from The Undertaker after their feud (from an actual move to one of the match types more associated with the WWE legend).
Either way, it would be the perfect opportunity for the 'Deadman' to pass on the torch to Wyatt. After all, WWE Hall of Famer Bubba Ray Dudley argued in July that WWE must protect 'The Fiend' in the same way as The Undertaker was protected.
"The key to this working and having longevity is Bray Wyatt and the willingness to protect this character," the 48-year-old ECW legend told SiriusXM Busted Open. "The same way The Undertaker protected The Undertaker, you have to. This is a special character that cannot be overexposed -- it cannot be allowed to get burnt out."
Featured Image Credit: WWE
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