WrestleMania XXVI: A Review of the Sports Entertainment "Eh"-xtravaganza

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WrestleMania XXVI: A Review of the Sports Entertainment

Since I started watching wrestling again back in June of 2003, WrestleMania has been an event to both anticipate and fear.

Sometimes that anticipation was fully realized. Sometimes, it wasn’t even close. The same goes with the fear: sometimes justified, sometimes unwarranted.

But this year my anticipation and fear has been met not relief or disappointment, but a strange sense of neutrality.

WrestleMania XXVI was simply...okay.

Using the classic five-star rating system, let’s look at the matches:

 

Unified WWE Tag Team Championship: ShowMiz (The Big Show & The Miz) (c) vs. John Morrison & R-Truth

For the record, this was the shortest opening match ever at a WrestleMania.

And history has proven that there has never been a great match or even a decent match that lasted only three-and-a-half minutes. It’s just logically impossible.

So there was nothing these four could do but try to make the most of the time they were given, and on that level they succeeded. On every other level, though, this match was a disappointment.

Not only was this the first time since 2006 that the Tag Team Championship has been defended at WrestleMania, but the titles have spent the last eight months in the spotlight thanks to Jeri-Show, D-Generation X, and now ShowMiz.

They were even defended in the main event of TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs just over three months ago.

We all know what an opener is supposed to do, and we all know what an opener at a WrestleMania needs to do, and this match just couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t bad by any means. Morrison and Miz had a couple of good exchanges, Truth flipped all over the place, and Big Show played the power game where he could, but this felt like nothing more than filler for the pre-show.

With all due respect to the competitors, these three-and-a-half minutes could have gone to another match, and no one would have noticed.

**

 

Triple-Threat Match: Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase

Even though this storyline went progressively downhill, the culmination was everything I hoped it would be. The in-ring story made sense, everyone had an opportunity to shine, and there wasn’t one dull spot.

It’s just a shame this angle never really came together, and the match couldn’t feel like more.

**1/2

 

“Money in the Bank” Ladder Match

The tradition of the “Money in the Bank” ladder match reminds of the Saw movies: annual, innovative, and hit-or-miss. Much like some Saw movies are better than others, so too is the case with “Money in the Bank.”

The question of which is the best will always be open to debate, but the question of which is the least has now been answered.

While there were some eye-catching spots, there was just too much clutter, too many botches, and not enough gasps to match.

I think it might be time to put “Money in the Bank” to rest.

**3/4

 

Triple H vs. Sheamus

I’ve wanted to see this match since it was first rumored, and it did not disappoint. These two were perfectly matched, the story made sense, they had a couple of great exchanges, and the right man won.

***1/4

 

Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk

Another example of what could have been if the competitors were given more time.

This match was full of non-stop action, and the interference at the end actually added to the story. But the wrong man won, and for this length, it might as well have been the opener and not in the mid-card.

**3/4

 

No Holds Barred Lumberjack Match: Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Mr. McMahon

As far as I know, this match had the greatest amount of combined years between two competitors at a WrestleMania: Hart is 52 and McMahon is 64. So what does 116 years of experience get you in the assisted situation of a “No Holds Barred” match? Sadly, not much.

First of all, what made McMahon think he could buy off the Hart Family? The revelation that they had taken McMahon’s money but were still going to side with Hart turned out to be the least surprising surprise of the evening.

And while I understand that Hart couldn’t take any bumps, he barely moved, and McMahon got in zero offense. It turned into an 11-minute squash.

The best part was the repeated chair shots to McMahon, which looked real enough to be painful. And, of course, there was no more perfect an ending than McMahon tapping out to the sharpshooter.

At the very least, I’m still glad the match took place.

I’m glad that Hart’s last match was something of historical importance, I just wish it was historically relevant for the content, and not merely because it happened.

*

 

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Edge

Edge is a legitimate storyteller; he often prefers to wrestle a match that builds slowly, instead of relying on wall-to-wall action. Just look at his encounter with The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIV.

Here, again, the match started off slow, and built up gradually as these two traded some very nice counters.

The finish also simultaneously gave Jericho credibility as a top heel and Edge credibility as a contender for the World Title. 

***1/4

 

10-Diva Tag Team Match

Was there a match here? All I could see was another three minutes that should have gone to Mysterio and Punk.

Another question: if the real feud was between Vickie Guerrero and Beth Phoenix, why, then, did Phoenix’s team come out to Eve’s music?

As for the match itself, it was somewhat entertaining, mostly because it was nothing but the divas hitting their finishers on each other, and then the pretty memorable ending.

But go figure: Vickie could hit a frog splash on Kelly Kelly, but she somehow botched the pin.

*1/4

 

WWE Championship: Batista (c) vs. John Cena

I would have bet good money that if John Cena and Batista were going to have a slower-paced match than the one they had at SummerSlam in 2008, that it was probably going to be a bit longer, or that if they were going to wrestle for only 13-and-a-half minutes, that the pace was going to be even faster.

Sadly, neither was the case.

Much like the World Title match, this started off slow and then picked up towards the end. The problem was that just as the match was getting good, it ended.

These two had an opportunity to deliver on the match that was only teased in their prior encounter, but they didn’t.

At any other pay-per-view, this would have been fine, but John Cena vs. Batista for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania should have been epic, not passable.

***

 

Streak vs. Career: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

In relation to the original, this rematch reminded me a lot of Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle II.

While the first match was very fluid, the second threw a lot of things at the wall to see what would stick.

The psychology of Michaels working on Undertaker’s leg made perfect sense, but it also made it apparent that the pace was going to be much slower than their previous clash.

The finish was appropriately anti-climactic, similar to the end of the match between Triple H and Randy Orton at WrestleMania last year, or the end of the match between The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIX.

It was a perfect conclusion to the storyline, but also the downer that everyone was afraid it would be, and an awkward way to end the biggest wrestling show of the year.

They could have at least played Michaels’ music. As far as I can tell, this is the only time WrestleMania has ended without entrance music playing.

While the story in the ring made up for the methodical pace of the action, I don’t think that it equaled their match at WrestleMania XXV. But it was as good as it could have been, and a worthy sequel to a classic.

***3/4

 

Bottom Line

WrestleMania XXVI just never took off. The card ranged from “solid” to “very good,” but for the first time since WrestleMania XV, nothing stole the show.

A lot of the matches didn’t get enough time, there were no real surprises, and the lack of backstage segments lessened the sense of importance throughout the evening.

And for the record, this might have been the worst crowd at a WrestleMania in years.

Any other city would have popped mightily for Hart and McMahon, Jericho and Edge, and especially Cena and Batista. Let the lesson be learned: don’t go back to Phoenix.

It was also disappointing to see that there was no highlight video at the end of the show, which might have washed away the bitter taste left by the realization that Shawn Michaels’ career was now over.

Whether or not this was better than WrestleMania last year is open to debate, in my opinion, but at best, this will go down in history as one of the most mediocre WrestleManias of all time.

 

What did you think of WrestleMania XXVI?

Let me know.

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