WrestleMania XXVI has divided critics and fans perhaps more than any other WrestleMania in history.
Some have called it one of the best, others one of the worst, and everything in between.
What everyone seems to agree on is that, at the very least, WrestleMania XXVI was better than WrestleMania XXV.
And I’m not one of them.
Don’t get me wrong; I disliked XXV, incorrectly promoted as “The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania,” as much as the next person. But the difference between XXV and XXVI is that just about everyone was anticipating XXV to be a letdown.
Most fans, including me, thought that XXVI would be the best ‘Mania since X-Seven. It wasn’t. Not even close.
Here are the five reasons why WrestleMania XXV was better than WrestleMania XXVI.
WrestleMania XXVI opened with a three-and-a-half minute Tag Team Championship match that wouldn’t have been worthy of opening RAW.
And the “Money in the Bank” ladder match was a cluttered botch-fest; the worst of the six.
Compare that with the opener of WrestleMania XXV: the fifth “Money in the Bank” ladder match.
It was a better opening contest and possibly the best edition of “Money in the Bank” since the first.
One of the featured main events of WrestleMania XXVI was the “no holds barred” match between Hall of Famer Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Vince McMahon.
In spite of Hart’s limited mobility, many wrestling fans were drooling at the prospect of seeing his first WWE match in over 12 years, his first match anywhere in 10, and most importantly his opportunity to get revenge on the man responsible for the “Montreal Screwjob.”
What fans got was an awkward, nonsensical bore, in which Hart barely moved.
Compare that with the three-on-one handicap elimination match between Chris Jericho and Hall of Famers Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
Snuka and Piper held their own against Jericho (Piper even hit a dropkick!), but the biggest shocker of the match was that Steamboat, who had been retired for 15 years due to a supposedly debilitating back injury, displayed as much athleticism as he did at WrestleMania III.
On paper, Chris Jericho vs. Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship seemed like the sure thing: they had history together, were known to be tremendous on the microphone and awesome in the ring, and they never had a one-on-one match together on pay-per-view.
But someone thought that that would be enough, and their feud leading up to their match at WrestleMania XXVI never amounted to much more than Edge spearing Jericho on a weekly basis.
It would have been redundant for Jericho to lose the match and obvious for him to win, so WWE sort of chose both, and he retained the World Heavyweight Championship, only to fall to a post-match spear by Edge (this time through the ring barricade).
The match itself was watchable but slow-going. The problem was that they didn’t put on enough of a show to overcome the predictability of the winner.
In contrast, the World Title match at WrestleMania XXV was more suspenseful, largely because it was a triple-threat involving Edge, John Cena, and The Big Show.
Sure, Big Show had no chance of winning (he was only thrown into the mix because Cena and Edge had wrestled each other so many times before), but it seemed like the other two competitor’s chances were equal.
The match was also entertaining, fast-paced, and had a great finish. On paper, it didn’t look like it belonged at WrestleMania, but in execution, it sure did.
Fans and critics alike agreed that the match between Triple H and Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXV was one of the most disappointing main events in WrestleMania history.
But while the match was surprisingly restrained considering the storyline, it was, however, given enough time to progress logically, and the action picked up towards the end.
Unfortunately, it was only in retrospect that many (including myself) realized how perfect the ending was.
In contrast, Batista vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXVI was pretty much the opposite of their first match; sluggish, sloppy, and generally unexciting.
Then, just as it was starting to pick up the pace, it was over. And at only 13 minutes long, there simply wasn’t enough to cheer.
The match wasn’t the main event, and it didn’t feel like one, either.
Sure, the match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI had the greatest buildup for a WrestleMania main event since Triple H vs. Batista in 2005.
It was also a very good match with an intense ending, worthy of being the first non-title bout to main event WrestleMania in 15 years.
But that couldn’t disguise the fact that the match was nowhere near as athletic, exciting, or awe-inspiring as their classic at WrestleMania XXV.
The argument could certainly be made that they told a deeper story—Michaels targeting Undertaker’s knee throughout—but that only explained Undertaker’s lessened mobility after hip surgery; it didn’t necessarily make for a great match.
Whereas a year before Undertaker and Michaels traded holds, finishers, and counters, this year they both pretty much just walked into them.
At XXV, Undertaker twice innovatively countered Michaels’ offense into a Tombstone Piledriver. At XXVI, Michaels simply walked into it. After Michaels kicked out, Undertaker just gave it to him again.
It made sense, sure, but it wasn’t exciting.