This time last year, we all sat at our keyboards, typing feverishly about how WrestleMania XXVI was going to be the greatest of all time. It was Jericho’s return to the WM main event. Cena and Batista was hailed as this era’s Rock vs. Austin. Then of course there was Shawn Michaels’ retirement match.
But overall, while WM 26 was an excellent show, the comparisons to the vaunted WrestleMania X-7 fell short. Fans’ hopes were so high that they were inevitably going to be disappointed. It’s backlash of having 13 annual PPVs that are expected to be better than the one before. What constituted the biggest and best show of the year in 1991 doesn’t work 20 years later.
But realistically, we may have been far too close to the situation to really know what we were getting at last year’s show. The tag titles match was thrown together last minute. The Legacy triple threat wasn’t as much about work rate as it was the official kickoff to Orton’s face turn. The low-lights that brought down most opinions were the snore of a HHH-Sheamus match we received, the excessively long Hart-McMahon segment which likely led to the criminally short time Punk and Mysterio received.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad show at all. All of the main events delivered and MITB was the enjoyable spotfest we all have grown to love. It was the fallout that left many of us frustrated. Michaels retired and Taker went on his annual hiatus. Batista left a few months later and Bret Hart and McMahon were gone for the most part. HHH spent the better part of the last year injured. Swagger’s main even push was rushed, aborted, Shelton and Hardy are gone, McIntyre’s push stalled, Bourne was injured and the tag titles have been relegated to a joke.
All of this gives WWE the opportunity to turn in a truly surprising, strong show this year that will help transition the company to the next decade.
Read all of the forums. Read these columns and comment threads. “This is the worst WrestleMania ever.”, “This card is such a joke.”, “WWE is dying.”—none of these comments could be any further from the truth.
I’ll start with the undercard.
First, Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus has a chance to be the match of the night if given time. The Irishman has grown as an in-ring performer since last year, and Bryan is the guy that can pull a great match out of him. Both of these guys could be major players for the next 5-7 years and this could be viewed as the start for Bryan and the re-start for Sheamus.
The eight-man match won’t win any match of the year votes. SPOILERS with the change in the line-up and Kofi added to the match, it will be better than if Kozlov was the one to pick up the hot tag. Kane and Big Show have gotten their big WrestleMania moments. Santino, and three-fourths of the Corre probably won’t see much beyond this in their careers. This match is about Kofi and Barrett, two guys that weren’t anywhere near title contention last year, but have had some major exposure this year and the next few Manias should see a lot more of both.
Mysterio reportedly hand-picked Cody Rhodes for this match, and the former Legacy punk has become one of the hottest young heels in the industry. A win here or at least a great match with an extended feud to follow will greatly push Rhodes. Mysterio’s time left in the ring is limited, but he can still pop the crowd and help get over a heel. See: Alberto Del Rio. Rhodes could be on the same trajectory.
What’s being called the “Snooki Match” is universally hated, but nobody has seen the match yet. Have we forgotten IWC darlings Morrison and Ziggler are going to wrestle the majority of the match? How about the fact that the greatest Diva in WWE history is back in the ring and LayCool have more than held their won as part of inter-gender matches repeatedly? The shock and anger about a celebrity competing at Mania blows my mind. Is it lost on people that Mr. T competed in two Mania matches, including the first-ever main event? What about Lawrence Taylor beating Bam Bam in a main event? This is the ONLY match on the card where the Divas are competing and boy would I rather see the Divas/Celebrity portion of the show combined and elevated with two great workers like Morrison and Ziggler than suffer through another Playboy Catfight or Diva battle royal or big tag match with no heat. This match will probably last 6 minutes along with just as much time dedicated to entrances and celebration.
The other match drawing heat is Lawler-Cole that is one of the best built matches of the show. It’s predictable. But I could care less. I’ll tell you exactly what happens. Lawler pummels Cole. Swagger gets involved, distracting Austin, Cole take advantage. Cole is a smug jerk, apples the “An-Cole” Lock and Lawler escapes. Swagger panics, gets involved and eats a Stunner. Lawler hits a piledriver, pins Cole. Drinks all around, Cole and Swagger pull themselves to their feet, both eat Stunners and get beer dumped on them. Predictable. But nonetheless awesome fun.
Orton-Punk should be the match of the night. While Sheamus-Bryan and Mysterio-Rhodes have the workers needed, I don’t think they’ll get the time. Punk-Orton should got at least 12-14 minutes and we may get a real showstopper.
Taker-HHH will be what it is. A brawl between two old men that will supplement what they can’t do any longer due to their age with some really great storytelling. Knowing the two men involved, I don’t see how this is any less than a 3+ star match. If HBK gets involved, it will only boost the rating.
Edge-Del Rio may get screwed for time if Lawler-Cole-Swagger-Austin runs too long, so I’m worried about the match quality. Both men can go and a truly great match is what ADR needs to get over as a credible top heel champion. Christian’s involvement will bolster the match quality, though, and I have confidence in all men involved to give us a good segment.
Miz-Cena is going to be memorable. One way or another, this is the match we’ll be talking about through the summer. Questions abound over what the Rock will do and whether or not he’ll get physically involved and cost Cena the belt or whip up on the Miz.
I’m honestly more excited about this year’s show than WM 26. As you can tell, I’d probably write another 1,000 words if I thought anyone would read them.