If you had tickets to game 7 of the World Series, you might secretly root against your team winning it all in game 6. For similar reasons, I was half-hoping that this year’s WrestleMania would be a disappointing one – seeing as how it’s the first one in a long time that I haven’t attended.
At the end of the night, part of me was certainly sad that I wasn’t able to be in the building for the historic Undertaker – Shawn Michaels bout, and for the general pageantry that comes with the biggest wrestling show of the year. But I took some comfort in knowing that I had attended some better WrestleManias in recent years, and saw the better of the two ‘Taker-Michaels Mania matches in person.
By setting the bar so high at last year’s WrestleMania, the Undertaker and Michaels had a nearly impossible mission going into this year’s installment – delivering the greatest match in WrestleMania history. They fell just a tad short, but it would be foolish to describe what will likely be the best match I’ll see all year as “disappointing.” While the match may have lacked a little bit of the athleticism of their 2009 outing, it largely made up for it with the drama of watching the great Shawn Michaels wrestling what may have been his last match (although, I highly doubt that.)
However, I don’t think it would be inaccurate to describe all of WrestleMania XXVI as slightly disappointing. While the stellar performances of the two nearly-50-year old wrestlers in the main event may have sent fans home happy, the reality is that much of the other three-and-a-half hours of the show fell a bit flat.
Nowhere was that more the case than in the 13-years-in the making street fight between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart. When the match began, like most fans, I thought to myself, “I never thought I’d see the day.” By the end of the match, I was wishing I hadn’t.
WWE is usually great at pulling out all the smoke and mirrors to make even the most bizarre WrestleMania pairings quite entertaining. That was the case with McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan, Floyd Mayweather vs. the Big Show, and Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow. And while there were a lot of ingredients added to distract from the fact that a 63-year-old wrestling promoter was taking on a man who hadn’t wrestled in nearly a decade and is still battling the effects of a stroke – in the end they weren’t enough. This match was boring and uninspired.
It’s a shame that the lasting final image of Bret Hart at WrestleMania will no longer be his win against Steve Austin in a classic submission match at WrestleMania 13, but rather an out-of-shape “Hitman” taking a seat in the middle of the ring to catch his breath mid-match.
It’s a sad state of affairs when “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be” is nearly outworked by Vickie Guerrero.
There were other disappointments throughout the night. With wrestlers each year trying to one-up the stunts from the previous year, the Money in the Bank ladder match has stopped looking at all like a fight and instead devolved into a total circus sideshow act – complete with a man walking on stilts. Triple-H vs. Sheamus was too long. Rey Mysterio vs. C.M. Punk was too short. The ten woman tag team match was – well – it was on the show.
On the upside, John Cena defeated Batista in a match that very much felt like a WrestleMania-worthy main event. Chris Jericho and Edge, too, delivered an exciting world title match, although it may have lacked the star power and placement on the show to really make it stand out as something special.
All in all, I’m not entirely kicking myself for skipping the trip to Phoenix this year. But if its turns out truly to have been Shawn Michaels final WrestleMania, I’ll certainly be second-guessing my decision for years to come.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer