Wrestlemania 26 found itself toward the west coast as the franchise drew another massive crowd to a stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. Overall, the event lacked some of the usual hype in the weeks ahead, but there was anticipation for the rematch of the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels classic from the year prior, especially because the stipulation of HBK’s potential retirement had much speculation that it would be his final performance at the signature event. The show opened with a tag team title bout with Big Show and The Miz defending against R-Truth and John Morrison. While the tag team runs that Big Show had with Jericho and The Miz worked well because it gave him something meaningful to do and added variety to his career, this particular contest was more or less an average match with a throw together team that seemed more suited for Raw than a WM card. Big Show and The Miz retained the belts in roughly five minutes. Next up was a triple threat match between the members of Legacy, and I’d guess its spot as second on the card after Randy Orton was in the main event the previous year was a direct result of how disappointing that match was at WM 25. The contest itself was fine, but again, this seemed more like a TV bout than anything that had something special to offer. Randy Orton won the contest and this more or less concluded the Legacy stable that seemed to start with a lot of potential before it completely fizzled out. Ted DiBiase is still a puzzling situation, as it seemed like he had all the tools WWE management looked for, but they never really ran with him, even when he brought back the million dollar championship, it wasn’t used for any major angles. If I had to guess, I would say that there was a ceiling for how far DiBiase was going to go, simply because the WWE already had the arrogant third generation heel star with Randy Orton, and there basically wasn’t a need for an Orton clone that was less established them the former WWE champion. The totality of the Legacy stable was that it was a concept that could’ve worked in theory, but was underwhelming in application.
Another storyline that was underwhelming in application was the result of the Money in The Bank ladder match, as Jack Swagger won the briefcase to eventually cash-in to win the World championship, but the booking of his title reign was completely lackluster. As far as the actual match, it was the standard copy and paste format that is to be expected from the previous years, which is fine when the match was done specifically at Wrestlemania instead of its own pay-per-view that dilutes the stipulation. The match was entertaining with a lot of risky spots, but with ten wrestlers booked for it, the setting occasionally resembled a traffic jam with certain wrestlers waiting for the next spot.
The Triple H/Sheamus contest was another match that probably resulted from the lackluster main event the previous year because Triple H dominated the main event scene for most of this era, but found himself in the mid-card at WM 26. Sheamus, much like the previously mentioned Swagger, was given a mega push relatively early in his WWE run and it appeared that management rushed the process in an attempt to make new stars to boost sluggish ratings instead of allowing him to organically get over to reach that level. Don’t get me wrong, Sheamus is a solid performer, but was there really a demand for him to win the WWE championship in 2009? The match itself was fine, but how the angle was booked and presented didn’t do Sheamus any favors. The premise of the storyline was constructed through a Triple H promo that was reinforced with a video package before the bout that if Sheamus can beat Triple H then he solidifies himself as a top star, but if he doesn’t then he will fade into obscurity. When Triple H pinned Sheamus, what exactly does that say about his career? Sure, Sheamus was booked in another title scenarios in the years that followed, if management really thought he had the ability to be a top level star then why not completely run with him? Again, at a time when the ratings were down, it seems like WWE brass threw something to the wall to see if it sticks, but pivoted in another direction rather quickly after it.
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk was good for what it was, but with roughly six minutes, these two should’ve been given the time to build a better match, which they proved they could do when they were given the chance to have the time for quality matches later in the feud.
I’ve already mentioned the concept of something that had potential in theory, but was underwhelming in application and that’s exactly how the Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon match was presented. After the Montreal incident and Bret’s extended hiatus from the company, there was certainly a demand to see him get a measure of revenge again McMahon, but the reality of the situation prevented a quality performance here. Bret’s serious medical problems, including the concussion in 1999 that ultimately ended his career and the stroke he had in 2002, prevented him from taking any major damage in the ring. Granted, they tried to use some bells and whistles with the involvement of the Hart family, but the extended introduction along with the extended beat down of Vince with several chair shots dragged on way too long during this. Bret won, but it probably would’ve worked better if there was just a confrontation at Wrestlemania that wrapped up in five minutes than an attempt at a match.
Both title matches on this show of John Cena/Batista and Edge/Chris Jericho are basically in the same category. Both contest were really solid and provided some much needed substance to a card than was mostly just sizzle at that point because the previously mentioned Rey/Punk bout wasn’t given enough time, while Bret/Vince went too long with a lot of gimmicks to cover for it. That being said, the anticipation of the Undertaker vs. Shawn Micheals rematch almost had both title matches overlooked in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, putting that match as the main event was absolutely the right call because nobody was going to be able to follow it, but it seems like these title matches are sometimes forgotten on the card.
There was a 10-diva tag team match that was about two minutes so there’s not much to say about it.
The main event was a really great match and while it didn’t overshadow the original bout, it was still a quality Wrestlemania main event. I think the circumstances of the angle weren’t going to allow for the rematch to overshadow the initial WM contest because the result didn’t have nearly as much doubt because there was already speculation of HBK’s retirement before the match was booked. That being said, it was a memorable match that provided a fitting retirement for HBK. However, it’s very disappointing that Shawn Micheals made the one-off return to the ring for Saudi money because this was a better conclusion to his career.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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