The Getting Over series aims to detail the psychological rules that the world of pro wrestling has developed over the past 100 years to draw the biggest houses and biggest fan reactions possible.
Rule No. 1: It's all about the money
Rule No. 2: Fans will hate a heel more if he can make them respect him
Rule No. 3: A baby face should be billed as a believable underdog
Rule No. 4: Always exaggerate, even when the truth is impressive
Rule No. 5: A heel should have no redeemable qualities
Rule No. 6: A heel should use flawed logic to justify his actions
Rule No. 7: A great babyface needs a great heel to truly get over
Rule No. 8: The top job of an announcer is to get the on-air talents over
Rule No. 9: A wrestler's character should match true personality traits
Rule No. 10: Always overload supercards with great matches and unique elements
It should not come as a surprise that The Undertaker's (presumptive) last match ended in a clean, middle-of-the-ring pinfall loss to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. The "Dead Man" has always been an adherent of the old-school traditions of the professional wrestling world, and therefore abided by the next rule in the "Getting Over" series.
Rule No. 11 - A wrestler should always put someone over when leaving a promotion
Why it works
Whenever someone leaves a territory, other wrestlers in that territory still have to make a living by drawing a crowd to see their shows. If the performer leaving the territory puts someone over before departing, it raises the profile of one of the star wrestlers on that promotion and therefore should make it easier for the remaining crew to continue getting an audience to pay to see them work.
This type of unselfishness was certainly on the mind of The Undertaker. Vince McMahon himself has said that no one wants to give back to the business more than Mark Calaway, and that The Undertaker knew it was important to give back to the business.
It was selfless of The Undertaker to agree to end his WrestleMania win streak against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, but it also made Lesnar look like an even more unbeatable, main event-caliber monster. Reigns won't get quite the same impact from his win, but he now can say that he is the one who retired The Undertaker -- and that is a claim that will make fans even more furious with Reigns than they already are.
Continuing a WrestleMania tradition
The Undertaker's defeat continued a WrestleMania tradition that has seen the greatest superstars on the planet end their WWE careers with a clean pinfall loss. Ric Flair started this by ending his WWE tenure via a classic super-kick finish in his WrestleMania 24 match against Shawn Michaels. As high of a bar as that match set, Michaels and The Undertaker topped it in one of the best matches of all-time at WrestleMania 26.
The Rock's loss against John Cena at WrestleMania 29 may not have technically been a retirement match for him, but given Dwayne Johnson's drawing power in Hollywood, it is likely that particular match was his contribution to this WrestleMania tradition (at least if one does not count The Rock's six second win over Erick Rowan in an on-the-fly match at WrestleMania 32).
Protect the championship provenance
Leaving with a loss is especially important when it comes to protecting the provenance of a wrestling championship.
The WWE has shown on repeated occasions how important this is to them. It started with the first time the WWE title changed hands back in 1963. Buddy Rogers was the promotion's inaugural champion, but he was battling serious health issues that would end his career in the near future. Given that the WWE was only a few months into its existence, having Rogers surrender the title outside of the ring could have been a crippling blow to the promotion, so they came up with a plan that had Bruno Sammartino defeat Rogers in a match that lasted only 55 seconds. This put Sammartino over as a powerhouse babyface and also assured that Rogers could get through the match in relatively good health.
This set the tone for the WWE protecting future title changes at any cost, a mindset that led to The Montreal Screwjob, but also spawned the Fabulous Moolah defeating Wendi Richter in what has been termed the Original Screwjob. Richter was in a contract dispute with WWE management, so the promotion had Moolah steal a win without Richter's approval to remove Richter's potential bargaining chip of being the reigning champion.
The WWE also benefited from other promotions not protecting their championship lineage. This was the case when Flair (via Bobby Heenan) brought the WCW title with him to his introduction on Prime Time Wrestling. Flair and WCW couldn't come to terms on how Flair would lose the title before leaving. Since WCW wouldn't return to Flair the bond money he put down as a guarantee to drop the belt upon request, Flair decided to take the belt with him to his initial WWE appearance. This didn't last long, as the WCW eventually got its belt back, but in the meantime it made the WCW promotion look second rate because its champion left without losing.
Another similar instance of this nature occurred when the AWA couldn't come to contract terms with Hulk Hogan in 1983. This caused the AWA to change its storyline at Super Sunday from a Hogan title change win over champion Nick Bockwinkel to a screwjob finish that saw Hogan pin Bockwinkel, but then lose the title shortly thereafter on a technicality. This caused AWA fans to see Bockwinkel as a paper champion and did the promotion no favors in trying to keep Bockwinkel over as the best in the business.
To be fair, the WWE hasn't always benefited from this rule, as evidenced by Madusa Miceli throwing the WWE Women's championship into a trashcan on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro, but in nearly every other case the WWE has found a way to assure the successful provenance of their championships. It's one of many ways this promotion shows it knows the value of this rule.