The Undertaker will no longer be appearing at Starrcast II. And neither will Kurt Angle.
Per usual in pro wrestling, the card is subject to change. This time it’s due to the burgeoning war between All Elite Wrestling and WWE, with the first battle centered around Starrcast.
Starrcast is the wrestling convention created by popular podcast host Conrad Thompson, which ran its first event in September in conjunction with “All In” and is centering its second iteration around AEW’s “Double or Nothing” show in Las Vegas next month. Though is not directly affiliated with any promotion, Starrcast II does feature many of AEW’s stars.
The featured talent at Starrcast is still overflowing with legends, but it is a blow to lose The Undertaker, especially after announcing he would be part of the event.
The Undertaker was officially booked and a deposit was made before an announcement was made on February 14 for his Starrcast meet-and-greet appearance. The response was overwhelmingly positive, except at the WWE offices in Stamford, Connecticut.
“The announcement went wide and viral,” said Thompson. “I was told it had gotten WWE’s attention and that Vince McMahon texted The Undertaker about the appearance. ’Taker’s representation, which is a company called Get Engaged, called to tell me, ‘WWE says he can’t do it.’”
Ultimately, Get Engaged returned the deposit to Thompson.
“I had a friend discuss the situation with Vince McMahon, and I was assured the ‘heat’ wasn’t on me or my event but rather that The Undertaker shouldn’t be doing personal appearances outside of WWE,” said Thompson. “I was assured that damages would be covered, a suitable replacement offered, or some sort of compromise to make everyone happy.”
Replacing The Undertaker is an impossible task, but that has not stopped Thompson from making an attempt.
“I suggested Vince McMahon, Hunter, or Stephanie McMahon,” said Thompson. “And I said I would donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Conor’s Cure and match the donation personally, which would turn a negative into a positive for everyone involved.”
Thompson was informed that McMahon would not allow any main roster replacements, so he set his sights on Shawn Michaels.
Michaels was originally set to be booked for the event, but backed out before signing because of the close proximity of Starrcast and AEW.
The new plan, internally, was to have Michaels replace Undertaker, and then team him with Scott Hall to provide commentary, followed up with a photo-op, for the 25th anniversary of their WrestleMania X ladder match for the Intercontinental title.
Thompson has yet to hear back on an official word about booking Michaels. In March, WWE released its own video of Michaels and Hall discussing their legendary ladder match on the WWE Network.
“I asked to keep Kurt Angle and announce Shawn Michaels as the replacement for The Undertaker,” said Thompson. “I offered to book everyone ‘through the office.’. I wanted to play by the rules but I felt like I already had, since each of these guys were actively marketing themselves for outside appearances via booking agents or their own social media. I have checked in daily for a week now and nothing is changing.”
Thompson is not the only one who has had a booking with The Undertaker suddenly change.
Kenny McIntosh’s U.K.-based Inside The Ropes had been promoting “Rise of The Taker” for the end of April and a multi-city tour was sold out. The idea behind the event was for a Q&A with The Undertaker, along with a meet-and-greet, pictures, and autographs. But McIntosh recently announced that The Undertaker was no longer allowed to do the Q&A, and instead would be replaced by Mick Foley.
The Undertaker will still be signing autographs and meeting fans at the Inside The Ropes event (while he won’t be appearing at all at Starrcast). The Undertaker and Kurt Angle both signed new WWE contracts, and WWE is exercising its right to withhold talent from any events deemed not in the company’s best interests.
But Thompson, who booked and announced both talents for Starrcast, has a legitimate gripe that neither will be appearing.
“I had an agreement in place with the talent,” said Thompson. “Without exception, I dealt directly with the talent or their management, they set their terms, and I complied. First class travel accommodations were made and marketing was done. Now, thanks to the influence of WWE, the performers are missing out on substantial income and the fans are being punished.”
With or without replacements from WWE, Thompson still expects Starrcast to be a success.
“I’m continuing my search for rare meet-and-greets and unique experiences for Starrcast,” said Thompson. “We have announced a very rare appearance from Tatsumi Fujinami and we’re working on another Japanese legend. We’ve got at least a couple more surprise names fans may not see coming in the next several days, and I’m most proud of ‘The Roast of Ric Flair,’ which is going to be extremely big.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.