WWE did many things right for WrestleMania 26 that they incorrectly at WrestleMania 25. The show was built around the same match – Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. But for WrestleMania 26, rather than try to sell the title matches as the main event like they did at 25, they decided to put Shawn Micheals vs. The Undertaker on last and let them close it out.
They booked two strong title matches before the main event and overall, this was a very strong show. But there was one thing missing that is very apparent from the second you turn on the show. And it didn’t hurt my live viewing so I didn’t even know about it until I watched it back. What’s missing is Jim Ross.
The announcing was so subdued on this show that I barely noticed it. Sometimes that isn’t a bad thing. You can let the wrestling speak for itself. But at WrestleMania, nothing can be subdued. Everything has to be up another level. And without Jim Ross, the announcing took this show down a level. Live, I thought it was much better than it came across on the DVD. The announcing crew of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker were off their game. Striker was stepping over Lawler’s punchlines and Cole was just pushing everything as positive which came off fake. If JR was there announcing, it might’ve made it one of the classic WrestleManias of all time.
For the most part, all the matches made complete and perfect sense. Like what happens at most WrestleManias, many matches were cut short on time. If some of the matches had more time, they could’ve been all-time classics. But, in a four hour show, you can’t have all classics. All the matches have to give the viewer and the audience something a little bit different. And WrestleMania 26 did this very well.
For your die-hard in-ring wrestling fans, Edge and Chris Jericho had a near 4 star quality match. Live, it was definitely 4 stars, but back on DVD it wasn’t as hot. I’m not exactly sure why. The finish, where Jericho won clean with the code-breaker was fine live, but seemed a bit anticlimactic on DVD. Also, after the match, when Edge speared Jericho off the announcer’s table and through the barricade, it was awesome live, and on the DVD, was just a fun stunt.
For fans of a good old fashioned big man brawl, John Cena vs. Batista was their cup of tea. This match will probably go down as one of the more under-appreciated WrestleMania matches of its time. The crowd was fantastically hot for this match and it ended just as it should’ve, with the obnoxious bully Batista getting his.
If you wanted something fast paced, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk brought it. This was one of the matches that could’ve been an all-time classic, but that wasn’t the job of the match. The job was for it to be a change of pace and really get WrestleMania going, with Rey getting revenge on the hairy man who scared his daughter. I think Rey Mysterio will go down as one of the greatest WWE superstars ever. There’s no wrestler I’d rather watch.
For those fans of revenge stories, you had the ultimate with Bret Hart against Vince McMahon. Before the match came on, WWE produced a perfect video package of the angle, going from the Montreal Screwjob to Hart coming back to WWE to shake hands with Vince, only for Vince to kick him low. And then they moved onto Hart faking an injury so that McMahon would get in the ring with him. It didn’t play out week after week as good as it did in this video package. The angle was good, though not great. But the video package made it seem like it was the greatest angle ever. The match itself was pretty poor, but I’m not sure what they were going to be able to do. Bret and his family beat Vince up like no one else has ever beat Vince up, including Teddy Hart and David Hart Smith doing a version of Bret and Jim Neidhardt’s Hart Attack move, but off the top rope and to the floor. Vince’s head snapped hard against the mats on the outside in a sickening thud. Bret won with a sharpshooter to end the feud and a 13-year storyline.
Here are some other thoughts on the matches before I get to the main event:
– The opener was disappointing as John Morrison and R-Truth lost to The Miz-Show. It wasn’t disappointing that they lost, but only that Morrison was treated like a jabroni in the match.
– Randy Orton was over with the crowd and his handicap match against the former Legacy was fine and exactly what it should’ve been, but it felt pretty unimportant all the same.
– Triple H beating Sheamus was the right finish for the show, though, I’m not sure anyone in the building thought Sheamus had a chance. There’s being over strong, and there’s being over too strong. Interestingly, HHH doesn’t always win at WrestleMania. It just feels like he does.
– Money In The Bank wasn’t the usual spot fest, but the match made sense. Jack Swagger winning was a true surprise as we all thought Drew McIntyre was going to win the match.
– The less said about the Divas match, the better.
Now, the main event was a rematch from the previous year. How did they create intrigue in the rematch? Well, Shawn Michaels said that if he didn’t beat the Undertaker, he was going to retire. He made beating the Undertaker more important than anything else. And it worked.
What made this match just as special (or more special than their previous encounter based on how you felt) is that the idea was that Michaels was going to give everything he had in his body to win, and if he couldn’t win, he simply wasn’t the better man. The psychology was off the charts, ending with the Undertaker showing a tad of sympathy for Michaels, and Michaels getting mad at him for doing so. Then Taker brought out the jumping tombstone to end it. It was a fantastic match in ever sense of the word.
The Blu-ray version of the DVD features the dark match Battle Royal as well as the Hall of Fame speeches from the evening prior, lead by Ted DiBiase. Bob Ueker was the best of the speakers.
Overall, this was a strong effort. But the show was better live. There were things in the matches that were better for the live crowd, and live, we didn’t have to hear the bad announcing.