WrestleMania XXVI Reviewed
I have to start by saying I haven’t watched wrestling regularly for some time, the last time I took any real interest in the WWE in particular was last August to be precise while writing a blog post about Monday Night Raw. With that being said I was still vaguely aware of what was going on in the world of professional wrestling by way of various dirt sheets and the odd half hour of Raw or Smackdown here and there, but despite an ever-increasing lack of interest in the product I was still eagerly anticipating WrestleMania this year. I’ve watched it every year since WrestleMania XII, and I probably will do for many more years to come, so after watching my fourteenth wresting extravaganza I decided to give a match-by match review of the event.
As always comments, critique and opinions are more than welcome, I’d love to see what fellow wrestling fans thought of WrestleMania XXVI.
ShoMiz vs John Morrison & R-Truth for the WWE Unified Tag Team Championships
As expected the Unified Tag Team Titles match kicked off the show, between four guys who quite honestly should be doing better things. The Big Show is a proven main event player, and in a day and age when big names (no pun intended) like him are few and far between he should be mixing it up with the likes of Triple H, The Undertaker and John Cena rather than floundering in the midcard region in a tag team that has no real relevance. I say that with no disrespect meant to The Miz, over the past year or so he’s vastly changed my opinion of him by becoming a very good singles wrestler in his own right. Why on earth two decent singles wrestlers should tag together with a really poor team name (it’s better than JeriShow, but still) is beyond my comprehension, I can only assume the WWE writers are trying to revive a division that’s been essentially dead since the glory days of The Hardyz, Dudleyz and Edge & Christian.
The same bodes true for R-Truth and in particular John Morrison, for a while he’s been hyped as the future of the WWE and that’s something I agree with – he just needs that one memorable feud to make it all happen. He’s not going to get that while teaming with a guy who does little more than sing his own theme tune and pull off a couple of unique moves in the ring, neither are really tag team wrestlers anymore and seeing all four men pointlessly congealed together made me wonder what could have been if they were all allowed to continue along their paths as singles competitors.
Overall the match was poor considering the occasion, a typical Smackdown television match with nothing of any real interest to pick up on. ShowMiz retained courtesy of a knockout punch from The Big Show on Morrision, this was a short bout that succeeded in warming up the crowd so it did what it was presumably booked to do.
Randy Orton vs Cody Rhodes vs Ted DiBiase
This was a match I was really looking forward to, closure to the gradual self destruction of the Legacy faction formed eighteen months or so beforehand. We all knew this was coming and it gave Cody Rhodes in particular reason to be grateful it all happened, before DiBiase and Orton came along he was losing to everyone under the sun and teaming with Hardcore Holly at the time, his career looked all but dead in the water so to see him competing in a big match at WrestleMania was great for him. DiBiase is a guy I personally see as a big draw in the future, Legacy was a perfect platform for him to achieve greater things much like Evolution did for Randy Orton before him. Orton himself is one of the most over guys in the company at the moment, he has an incredible persona that he plays to perfection.
That takes us to the match itself, both Rhodes and DiBiase didn’t get much of a reception for their long walks to the ring but the arena exploded when Orton’s music hit. He reminds me of Steve Austin back when he started developing his Stone Cold gimmick, he was supposed to be a heel but a small section of the crowd cheered him for his badass attitude, and of course the rest is history and the ‘anti-heel’ persona became the stuff of legend. Randy Orton is the next guy to utilise it to his advantage in matches like these, all three guys were heels so somebody had to be cheered. Truth be told most of the match was poor, the students predictably worked together to take out the master, and of course the inevitable breakdown in the partnership was heavily anticipated as the match went on. And on, and on. Basically the two on one beatdown with Orton getting in the occasional punch or clothesline lasted for far too long, and when the match eventually did become a proper triple threat affair it was over before it really got going. Orton rather easily punted Rhodes before nailing an RKO on DiBiase for the win, which at the time surprised me as I thought DiBiase would perhaps take the surprise victory. Looking back and judging by the differences in fan reaction I think whoever booked the match made the right choice, neither DiBiase or Rhodes are quite ready for that next step in their careers and Randy Orton’s is continuing to grow from strength to strength.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match
Sometimes it’s nice to shuffle up to the end of your seat in anticipation for the yearly WrestleMania spot-fest, and this year certainly delivered in that department. However, with ten men involved in the match it turned out to be a bit of a clusterfuck if you’ll pardon the expression, with barely any room for each man to breathe. Fortunately for them they spent the majority of the time outside on the floor, only venturing into the ring in pairs or sometimes three at a time to pull of planned spots with the ladders.
There were a few good ones with Evan Borne hitting his Shooting Star Press finisher from a horizontal ladder and so on, but the big surprise was who won it. After what seemed like an eternity trying to unhook the Money In The Bank briefcase from its perch high above the ring Jack Swagger finally managed to wrench it free, ending what was a solid but again an underwhelming match. Perhaps my biggest problem was with Shelton Benjamin in fact, he’s taken part in every Money In The Bank Match to date and literally only still has a job with the WWE because he’s capable of pulling off that one big move – you know the one, HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THINGS MERCIFUL as he dives 40,000 feet onto his opponents below. He didn’t do that this year which was a shame.
Triple H vs Sheamus
Now then, this was a match that took everything I expected it to be and rammed it up my bottom. In all honesty I had no idea why this match was even on the card, leading me to conclude that Triple H simply HAD to be a part of the show in some capacity as the son-in-law of the boss. Fortunately before the match started we were treated to a recap of exactly why the match was happening, which turned out to have a pleasantly surprising reason. Essentially Sheamus wanted revenge due to Triple H eliminating him at the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View while he was WWE Champion, but there was a history lesson thrown in for good measure too. Triple H informed Sheamus that despite his meteoric rise to the top of the company he was still effectively a nobody until he’d beaten a big name player at WrestleMania. Trips went on to talk about how he’d attempted exactly that himself at WrestleMania XII in 1996 as a new-ish guy himself, taking on The Ultimate Warrior, having his Pedigree finishing move completely shat on and being beaten in just over a minute with a couple of clotheslines and a simple splash. So that added that extra incentive to the match from Sheamus’ perspective, if he won he’d be made for life.
That didn’t take much away from the fact that I assumed the match itself would be pants. As it turned out I was hopelessly wrong, with Triple H carrying the still green Sheamus through a match that was far better than it had any right to be. Despite Trips marrying the bosses daughter and having his main event status practically gift-wrapped as a wedding present he’s still a damn good wrestler, but I wasn’t expecting even him to get a good bout out of a much bigger and clumsier guy. He did exactly that, and credit goes to the both of them for finally steering WrestleMania XXVI in the right direction. For the time being at least.
Rey Mysterio vs CM Punk
This was another match I didn’t know an awful lot about leading into it, and the hype video that preceded it didn’t help matters. Mysterio sang happy birthday to his nine year old daughter in the ring on Smackdown for reasons that were beyond me, and Punk came out and slapped him around for a bit with the use of the word ‘coward.’ The next thing I knew a match was made where Mysterio would be forced to join Punk’s Straight Edge Society if he lost, which was all dandy but nothing was at stake for his opponent which was somewhat of a disappointment.
Members of the internet wrestling community were whispering about this match potentially stealing the show. Personally I don’t think it did, it was still a great match with lots of cool moves and counters between two great wrestlers but it was all over before it really got going due to them only been given ten minutes or so to compete. I’d like to see the two go at it again one day with a little more on the line and more time to show what they can do, Mysterio won this one but perhaps his mask could be at stake next time.
Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon
This was a match that was never going to be a classic. In fact it was never even going to be good, what with a man who made a courageous recovery from a career-ending injury followed by a stroke and his 62 year old opponent who even the great Shawn Michaels could only get an average performance out of, but despite all that it was something that had quite literally been almost thirteen years in the making. Any wrestling fan will be familiar with the infamous Montreal Screwjob, and this was the encounter to finally bring closure to all of it. Bret had previously made peace with Shawn Michaels and even his own family who he’d been estranged from for some time as well, but this was the golden opportunity to have retribution on the man who masterminded the entire screwjob in Vince McMahon.
In all seriousness I cannot say anything positive about this match at all. Vince started out by introducing the entire Hart family as his lumberjacks to surround the ring, but Bret immediately informed him that they were in fact on his side in a predictable promo – everyone knew he’d built bridges with his family after they all inducted his father Stu into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before. That just paved the way for the atrocious ‘match’ that followed. For more than ten gruelling minutes we were forced to witness Bret slowly beat up McMahon with a combination of his fists, a crowbar and a steel chair, plus a brief scene where the lumberjacks took turns to plant a punch on the Chairman of the WWE. It finally ended with a Sharpshooter and a quick tap-out, and much respect goes to the fans in attendance (some of whom paid thousands of dollars to be there) for not booing the two out of the building. It was awful, and truly a sad ending to perhaps the most notorious feud in wrestling history. I’d have preferred to see Bret vs HBK, at least that might have been more worthy of the occasion.
Chris Jericho vs Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship
Y2J vs The Rated R Superstar was for a time my most anticipated match on the entire WrestleMania card, both are phenomenal wrestlers and have the chemistry to pull off great matches which they’ve done in the past. However, Edge was fresh back from a long-term injury and didn’t look his best, plus he’s a babyface now which really doesn’t suit him. Before his injury he was in my opinion the best heel in wrestling, but as a face it doesn’t quite work. Jericho on the other hand excels in either role, playing the heel champion for this one.
The build-up to the match itself was admittedly very weak, the idea being that Edge could hit Jericho with the spear whenever he wanted to do so, and proved that fact in the weeks leading up to the Pay-Per View. Jericho responded by smacking him with the belt on what turned out to be the final time he attempted the spear… and that was more or less the basis for one of the main events on the biggest event of the year. The match followed the same formula along with solid but largely unspectacular back-and-forth action, with Edge unable to hit the spear and the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah nailing him with the World Title belt after the referee took a knock. The aftermath was the best part after Jericho pinned Edge with the Codebreaker, with the retaining champion being speared right through a security wall which that looked nasty.
Michelle McCool, Layla, Maryse, Alicia Fox & Vickie Guerrero vs Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Gail Kim & Beth Phoenix
I can’t even begin to fathom why a pointless divas match took place right between two world title matches, but it did and it sucked. Fortunately it was only three minutes long but it was a typically dire performance from the divas who (as sexist as it sounds, my apologies) have no place inside a wrestling ring with the exception of a small handful who have had more than two hours of training. Anywho, after the heels took charge of the situation Vickie Guerrero hit an abysmal frog splash in tribute to her late husband Eddie, a man who’s legacy she’s long since pissed all over so this didn’t really matter all that much. Still, this was marginally better than Bret vs Vince… if nothing else for being a lot shorter.
John Cena vs Batista for the WWE Championship
Seeing as I’m over the age of 11 I’m not much of a John Cena fan, I appreciate his efforts and talent on the microphone but he’s simply not a very good wrestler as has been well documented. His opponent on the night isn’t much better, so botches were expected and injuries a very real possibility – Cena had his neck broken after a botched powerbomb the last time they met in a singles match.
The storyline was cookie-cutter stuff in fairness, but with Cena’s intensity and brilliance on the mic and Batista’s gradually improving talking ability it had that something extra about it. Jealousy was the catalyst for the feud, Batista stating that he should be the posterboy of the WWE rather than Cena, simple enough but it told a very compelling story. What followed the promo video was a lot better than any of their previous matches I can remember perhaps excluding their first one, these are two guys who have had most of their best matches with some of the best in the business. My most memorable John Cena matches involve him being carried by the likes of Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels, and similarly Batista has been carried by Triple H and The Undertaker in very much above average matches. As mentioned this had all the ingredients to be nothing short of a disaster with their obvious lack of in-ring ability and neither having the knowledge to put together a psychologically compelling bout like the Angles and Helmsley’s of the wrestling world, but it was good. Hell, it was batter than good, as barring the inevitable botched powerbomb they put on a spectacular match with Cena hitting a huge F-U… sorry, Attitude Adjustment at one point that looked pretty awesome. In the end he reversed a Batista Bomb finisher into an STF, forcing the big man to tap and start something like his ninth reign as WWE Champion.
The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – Streak vs Career
Universally considered to be THE main event, bigger than both title matches put together and the entire card on the whole, this was what almost everyone in attendance had been waiting for – the rematch between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXV the year before. I have to say as enjoyable as that match was I didn’t think it was the classic a lot of people said it was. Yeah, it was a great match but perhaps it was just me hyping it up too much for myself. I’ve been a wrestling fan for more than fifteen years and these guys have consistently been two of my favourites, particularly HBK in recent years who amazes me with what he can do in the ring at the age of 45. But still, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after their first encounter, even disappointed dare I say it.
This match changed all of that.
It was INCREDIBLE.
Granted it was a little slow to get going with ‘Taker hurting his knee early one and Michaels taking advantage, but my goodness once it picked up it was relentless and dripping with emotion. After numerous chokeslams, Sweet Chin Music and Tombstone Piledrivers it looked as though this might last forever, and by all accounts I wish it did seeing as nobody wanted the streak nor the legendary career of The Heart Break Kid to end. After a wonderful moment of disbelief on the face of The Undertaker after Michaels had taken almost everything he could throw at him he nearly destroyed HBK with the most insane Tombstone I’ve ever seen in my life, ending a true classic between two of the best wrestlers I’ve ever had the pleasure of growing up with. The only downer was that Jim Ross wasn’t on commentary, but that couldn’t be helped.
Of course, that led us to the moment where Shawn Michaels career was over. He was given a deserving hug by The Undertaker followed by a huge show of respect and adoration by the 72,000 fans in attendance, and walked out with his head held high. It’s hard to tell if he will legitimately retire, you only have to look at Ric Flair a couple of years ago and The Macho Man Randy Savage years before to know the losers of ‘retirement matches’ very rarely follow up on that promise. However, Shawn Michaels is a very honest man who lives in considerable pain talking about retirement for a while, and to see him call time on his career after one of the best matches he’s ever had would be well deserved. It would be a real shame if we never saw him wrestle again, but if he has legitimately retired we’ll all no doubt have fond memories of him entertaining us for so many years rather than going on well past his prime.
WrestleMania ended with Jerry Lawler speaking for everyone watching that event and anyone who has ever had the privilege of watching Shawn Michaels wrestle from the mid 1980’s until Sunday night. “Shawn, it’s over. Goodbye. We will miss you.”
If I were to give WrestleMania XXVI an average score based on how I’ve rated each individual match it would only receive a 5.5 (rounded down from a 5.65 average), but that’s due to two absolutely horrendous bouts which if ignored would bring it up to a 6.5 (rounded down from 6.75) which is much closer to how good I feel the event was on the whole. Unfortunately there were more bad matches than good and more letdowns and disappointments than I was expecting, but it did pick up towards the end and the Michaels/Undertaker match absolutely stole the show and ultimately saved the Pay-Per-View from being one of the worst ever.
WrestleMania XXVI final rating: 6.5/10
Posted on April 1, 2010, in Sport and tagged Batista, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Edge, John Cena, John Morrison, Legacy, MITB, Money In The Bank, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, Sheamus, ShoMiz, Ted DiBiase, The Undertaker, Triple H, Vince McMahon, WM26, WrestleMania, WrestleMania 26, WrestleMania XXVI, Wrestling, WWE. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.