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Friday, April 2, 2010

Great (Too Great?) WrestleMania Expectations and Even Greater HBK

Stick me right there in the majority of those who thought WrestleMania 26 was just a so-so overall show. One great match, some good matches, some OK matches, and, so sadly, Bret vs. Vince.

This was one of those rare—to me, anyway—WrestleManias of recent years that looked great on paper, only to turn out not so special (though I would hardly rank it as one of the worst). More typically of late, it seems, WrestleMania cards haven't look particularly spectacular on paper to me, only to turn out pretty damn entertaining (obviously, the same can be said of many PPV shows throughout the year). Not this one.

One of the people with whom I watched the show said several times that "it just doesn't feel like WrestleMania," meaning that it just didn't seem like the biggest show of the year once the action was under way. I've heard that comment in years past, too. I'm not even saying that I disagreed with the assessment this year.

But then, what exactly can we realistically expect out of a WrestleMania? Besides the requisite stadium crowd, all the bells and whistles, and so forth, WWE usually tries to give us maybe one special attraction-type match, whether it be LT-Bigelow, Floyd Mayweather-Big Show, or Mickey Rourke getting involved with Chris Jericho. This year, it was Bret vs. Vince, 13 years in the making, in what unfortunately has become the front-runner for Worst Match of the Year. (Really, now, would it have been so hard to book this as a two-minute squash, with Vince getting no offense, tapping to the sharpshooter, then getting stretchered out of the ring?)

Other than that, it really is just a bunch of wrestling matches (OK, an extra hour's worth), and we have to hope for the best as fans. Other than Bret-Vince (in theory) and Undertaker-Shawn, both of which belonged on no smaller stage than that of WM, what matches could not have easily been placed on any other PPV on the WWE calendar? In fact, I am sure rematches of many will be placed on other PPVs to come.

We all rightfully assume that the men and women competing on the show will have a little extra effort for us at WrestleMania, but again, in the end, it is just wrestling on the marquee. You either like the matches or you don't. Maybe we just expect too much. Maybe WWE screwed itself in a sense by putting together what looked like such a good card on paper and hyping it so well for the most part.

On a related topic, I agree with Stu Saks' post from earlier in the week about Shawn Michaels' streak being more impressive than Undertaker's. I, too, believe a case could and should be made for HBK as the greatest of all-time. While watching his match with 'Taker on Sunday, I found myself thinking about how Shawn clearly is the best of this generation. When I read Stu's post, I realized that maybe there was no need to qualify it with the "of this generation" part.

I think we all are a little reluctant to take a "greatest ever" tag away from a legend and put it on someone else, especially if that "greatest ever" (Ric Flair to most fans) is still (unfortunately) around. It just kind of feels sacrilegious in some way. For the longest time, most of us considered Gordon Solie the greatest wrestling broadcaster of all-time. It was just like an accepted fact. But I think it's fair to give Jim Ross (who was sorely missed on Sunday) that tag now, and I think a lot of people agree with me. The greatest doesn't have to stay the greatest forever.

Anyway, back to Michaels, it is interesting to see how we now seem to judge the greatest ever more by actual wrestling skill than accomplishment. Think about how Flair was considered the greatest for so long based quite a bit on how many world titles he had won. OK, world titles meant more 20 years ago. But Michaels hasn't sniffed a world title in nearly eight years, and it doesn't matter. Triple-H, John Cena, and Randy Orton might all finish with more world titles than Flair, and I'm not sure any one of them should be mentioned in the same sentence as him or HBK.

Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

--Dave Lenker, Senior Writer, PWI


Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

I totally agree with you on the part where you agree with me. :)

Stu Saks

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

We can count all of HBKs great matches, but try counting the crappy or disappointing matches over his career. Aside from WM 15 when he could barely walk due to an injured back, when has Michaels ever failed to deliver or at least hold up his end of the bargain?
--Frank Krewda

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct...and think about many WM's have there been when a World Champion did NOT wrestle the last match? None until now & it was the right call on the WWE's part

Anonymous said...

Psst PS Frank, Shawn did not wrestle in WM15, his last match before the surgery was WM14

Lou said...

Psst, anonymous: WrestleMania has ended without a World Champion wrestling the last match three times now.

One of them, in fact, featured Shawn in the title match (WM 11, where LT vs. Bam Bam was the "main").

Also, Hogan vs. Sid was the final match at WM8; Savage vs. Flair was in the middle of the show.

And if you want to count it, the main of WM 1 wasn't a World Title Match, although Hogan was in it.

-Louie Dee

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

Anonymous. Good catch.

Carlos Pimentel said...

WrestleMania to me was the 'Mania of botches. Who in the blue hell was standing in front of the camera just when Shawn Michaels was to deliver the moonsault onto the announce table? Did no one teach Swagger how to unhook a MITB? Let alone the camera spots that kept cutting in and out of ring action for no apparent reason.

WrestleMania hasn't felt like WrestleMania in years due to the lack of real wrestlers and larger than life gimmicks. We no longer have the technical skills of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit (RIP), or the charisma of The Rock and Stone Cold. All we have now in this industry is hype with no deliver. Which is exactly what the last five weeks leading up to Mania was... hype.

Bret Hart, once considered the Excellence of Execution, let everyone down. I was expecting a Rocky Balboa moment, where he would train to at least put up something that resembled offense, instead of having the Hart family beat the holy hell out of McMahon. The real problem was, Bret was just too old and too long removed from the game. (Stroke victim or not).

The real dilemma now is that Shawn is gone. Who's going to carry WrestleMania to deliver that one match to be considered a front-runner for Match of the Year? Undertaker is only going to be with WWE for so long before he finally hangs his boots and goes back to rest in Death Valley. WM25 proved that Orton-Triple-H are unable to create that Mania magic. John Cena, call him the face of the company, but how often do we want to see him collect another title in yet another Mania championship match?

And for the women's division, I mean the models division, either get actual trained wrestlers or scrap them out of the whole Mania card. Because seeing Vickie do a "Frog Splash" may be a weird sense of paying homage to her late husband, but most of us see it as a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Dave get outta here!
Cena or HHH not even being allowed in the same sentence? Please!
These 2 men have been burning the town down for a couple years now.
Please give them a inch of honor