In the words of Kevin Rudolph, esteemed author of the Wrestlemania theme song, I MADE IT...................to the keyboard to finally write this article! It's been a long couple of days, but through rainstorms and holidays, there were some epic wrestlng moments that I have been dying to discuss. Of course, the moments start and end with the fact that Sunday was the 26th edition of Wrestlemania, and for the wrestling purist, this show might have been the best one in a long time. With a stacked card, heated feuds, and a beautiful venue, it seemed that Wrestlemania was a can't-miss show. While it would be impossible for me to argue that the show was perfect, it was very enjoyable, and for reasons I will discuss later in the article, unforgettable.
Before I divulge into the matches, I'd like to discuss the matters external to in-ring performance. First off, I loved the venue, but I beg and plead that the WWE never does a show there again. The University of Phoenix Stadium is an absolute wonder, and if you haven't seen this thing, I highly recommend it. Looking like a futuristic spaceship on the outside, it is a modern wonder on the inside and absolutely fantastic for sporting events. With that said, Phoenix is notoriously an apathetic city, as are many on the west coast, and in a staged sports entertainment event, crowd reaction is everything. Therefore, a crowd that is not fully invested in the show can be detrimental to the perception of the show as a whole. Luckily, some well wrestled matches overcame the sometimes lackluster crowd, because a mediocre card could have been a disaster in the state of Arizona.
Rumors swirled about the elaborate set design for the show upwards of two weeks in advance, with word being that this set would blow people away. When I first saw the set, I must admit that I was quite impressed. The grandeur of the video screen sculpture was certainly not something I had seen before and it definitely set the mood for a big time event. However, one chink in the armor ruined the whole aura of the set for me. While unnoticeable on Pay Per View broadcast, Rey Mysterio's entrance was botched. It seemed a little odd to me that Rey was "playing mind games" as stated by the announce team by taking his time coming out while his music played. The truth of the matter was that he was supposed to be shot out of the stage like he used to back in 2003, but the mechanism failed and he crawled out. If the rumors are true and the set had been constructed over a 2 week period, how is it possible to not have everything running absolutely perfectly? I know it seems minute, but given all the time alotted for construction and testing, there is really no excuse for Mysterio's entrance to fail. Luckily, Undertaker's entrance from under the stage did not fail, because if it did, that might have ruined a much larger moment.
While we are on the subject, something I look forward to at every Wrestlemania are the elaborate entrances. From Triple H's sledgehammer through a mirror to the "The Real Slim Cena" entrance just last year, even a mediocre show can entertain with creative entrance. You could argue that this year's show did not need the extra juice, but elaborate entrances have become a staple of Wrestlemania, and this year lacked in that regard. Again, not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it could have added a little bit more flash to the event.
Now, let's get to the matches themselves. The show opened up with the Tag Titles on the line. It's good to see that these titles, which are the only ones to allow superstars to appear on both shows, moved up exactly ONE spot from last year, going from pre-show match to opening contest. Of course, with a stacked card, where else were you going to put it? The match itself wasn't too long and saw ShoMiz pick up the victory when Big Show knocked out Morrison from the outside, came in and pinned him with ease. This match didn't get much time, and was an average opening contest at best. Given the feud is all of 3 weeks old, I suppose you couldn't ask for much more, but the most interesting thing will be whether Morrison and Truth continue to tag with each other moving forward.
Next up was the Legacy triple threat match. While low on the card, this match solidified Orton as a hugely over face for the forseeable future. It was a pretty good match with excellent storytelling, and as expected, Orton won with an RKO to Ted Dibiase after a punt to Cody Rhodes. While this match seemingly does very little for the future of the Rhodes and Dibiase, it certainly procured the long term future of Randy Orton as a babyface. I do, however, predict that Cody's return from the punt will at least get him a reaction as returns always do. However, the spotlight was and is firmly on the beloved (boy that's hard to say!) Randal Keith Orton moving forward.
Before the next match, a weird backstage segment occurs in the form of a mock Slim Jim commercial. About the only positive to come from this segment is Santino being a little funny and Melina appearing on WWe television. It's good to see her smiling and hopefully we'l see her back in the ring sooner than later.
After that weird segment, it was back to reality (sort of) with the Money in the Bank ladder match. Obviously there was no storytelling in this match, it was a spot-fest as expected. While I don't tend to enjoy such contests, I would like to give kudoes to the "ladder sandwich that Jack Swagger endured, the Shooting Star press off the ladder was pretty cool, and I cringed at the bump Hardy took on the wedged ladder. To go through all the spots would be crazy, but know that one happens just about ever 15 seconds. In that sense, it's enjoyable to spot junkies, but for me, it wasn't exciting to see 2-3 guys fight on top of ladders while 7 others lay outside the ring, only for them all to inevitably fall. In the end, a briefcase smash to the skill of Captain Charisma was the difference, as the new Money in the Bank holder was crowned and it was.........Jack Swagger? Boy was I off on that prediction. Although if the way he won is any indication, he may sink before he swims at the top of WWE cards. The guy simply could not unhook the briefcase and it looked like he was supposed to struggle so that someone could stop him. To me, this is indicative of his career. He has been handed every opportunity a young guy could ask for, but seems to struggle with grasping hold of them. Let's hope this victory lights a fire under his ass and he becomes someone WWE fans might be interested in watching.
To change up the pace from the high flying action of the ladder match, the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2010 was introduced next. At first, I thought the idea of having the class during Wrestlemania was a buzzkill, but I'm beginning to enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed Mad Dog Vachon doing a dog growl and pose from his wheelchair. It's great to see a hall of fame wrestler actually make it to old age, and even in a wheelchair have that passion and spirit.
Perhaps this generation's Vachon (though most compare him more to Harley Race), Triple H, had his match next with Sheamus. Although I thought Sheamus might go over in this one, the match itself did enough to solidify Sheamus as a main eventer regardless of outcome. It was a tough match between two quality mat workers. There are a lot of similarities in the styles of these two men, and because of that, they meshed extremely well in the ring. I really liked the ending where Triple H kicked out of the bicycle kick, becoming the first man to do so. Some might say this weakens Sheamus as someone kicked out of one of his 2 finishers, but given the look on his face, it'll only drive Sheamus to think of more destructive ways to take out an opponent. Of course, he might want to figure out how to kick out of a Pedigree first, as that move did him in like so many before him. Great effort though, and I expect Sheamus to continue reeking havoc on the babyfaces on the tops of cards.
The next match was my "dud of the night". After some bitter confrontations between the two men, CM Punk and Rey Mysterio proceeded to have a lackluster at best match that was both lacking in believability and predictable. When a heel has a stable behind him and uses his stable against the opponent, it should tip the scales in his favor faster than an Elephant's ass. However, the diminutive Rey Mysterio somehow overcame those odds in a matter of minutes and took down the Straight Edge Superstar with his signature move. I mentioned previously that I thought this had the potential to be a great feud, but how can the feud move forward from here? Rey already overcame the odds and beat Punk and his Society, so what motivation would he have to face Punk again? Obviously Punk will want retribution, but Rey has no incentive to oblige. The feud could continue, but I won't buy into it. This match was a huge letdown for me and I'm beginning to think that Punk is seen more as an ongoing joke than as a legitimate main event heel.
From one abomination of a match to another, next was the "13 years in the making" grudge match between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart. The match itself was atrocious, but something about the outside factors made it at least somewhat watchable. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I dug the "double cross" angle, as Vince payed off Bret's family and the family in turn helped out Bret. Specifically, it was good to see the Hart Dynasty helping their uncle, as it might give them something for their characters to build on, and perhaps is the start of a face run. The end of the match was exactly what everyone was waiting for, as Vince tapped out to the sharpshooter. Maybe we should all feel cheated because Vince got in exactly no offense and it was more of a group beating than a match, but the end result is what long-time fans wanted to see, so it did its job. Bret can walk away from the WWE with his head held high now, and the last memory of Bret in the WWE is now no longer the anguished look of a double-crossed former champion.
After 2 poor matches, it was finally time for a solid one, and that's exactly what fans were treated to with the Edge/Chris Jericho contest. This was a really good match with a lot of near falls. I really liked the midmatch exchange where Jericho tried a spear in Edge that was countered, leading to Edge setting up for a spear which was countered into a codebreaker by Jericho. Interesting ending, as the "hit the face with the belt" trick didn't work, leading most to believe Edge would then get the victory, but that momentary bout of joy was killed by the Codebreaker, leading to Jericho picking up the win. I was quite surprised by this victory, as it makes it 3 years in a row that the Royal Rumble winner has been unable to win at Wrestlemania, and I really felt Edge's return was leading up to that big moment. However, Edge did get a big moment in a sense, as he speared Jericho off of the announce tables after the match. Typical "holy crap" moment for the crowd, but outside the Money in the Bank match, there wasn't a ton of those moments, so this one was worth seeing.
Before getting to the main events, we all had to suffer through the 10 diva tag match. This match might as well have been on Raw, as the booking was no different than anything we would have seen on regular TV. Faces beat on Vickie a little, heel interferes which starts a run of finshers, and ended with what might be the ugliest wrestling move in the history of the business. Vickie went top rope and attempted the frog splash which her husband famously used, but she didn't move at all and it was basically just an ugly splash. This led to Vickie unfortunately getting the victory and subjeting us to her victory dance which may have been worse to see than the "hog splash". I'm not sure why this match was on so late, as it killed the momentum from the Edge/Jericho fight, and I believe the end of the card should be what people paid to see. Put that match anywhere before the Hart/McMahon match and I would have been a lot happier. I sitll wouldn't want to see it, but I'd be a lot happier.
I was happy to see Batista/Cena next, as that meant HBK/Undertaker 2 would be the main event as it deserved to be. The only bad thing about this match is that even before it started, I think most of us knew who'd win. While there was always a doubt in my mind of taking Batista to beat the top face in the company at Wrestlemania, I knew I was royally screwed when Jericho went over. No way was WWE booking 2 heels to go over in championship matches on the grand stage, so even though the match was very solid, it was hard to believe that anytime Batista went for a pin the count would get to 3. Even still, the match was entertaining, though I think Batista needs to be more vicious in the ring now that he's a heel. He still works too much like a face for me to believe he's a killer in the ring. I'm also not sure if I liked the ending. Even though Triple H survived losing his toughness due to tapping out to Chris Benoit in 2004, it certainly didn't do any wonders for Batista's "tough guy" image. It was interesting to see the fans cheer for Batista's punches and boo Cena's even though Batista got booed like crazy during his entrance. I hate fans sometimes. As for Cena, he can now say "the champ is here" again, so I'm sure he's excited. I hope this feud continues though, as Batista needs to pick up the win and become even more dominating as a heel.
Finally, the main event arrived and I got giddy. Unfortunately, the crowd did not, as reactions for HBK and Undertaker were too weak for my liking. Any crowd with half a brain knew that this match would steal the show, so it would behoove the crowd to give the veteran performers their due. Both men deserved it, as the match they put on had every necessary element to being a classic. There were high spots, tons of cool counters, kickouts of finishers, and immense energy exerted by both performers. By the end, any fan couldn't help but hang on every move, but for one man, it was his final moves. Although Taker told Shawn to "stay down", the ever defiant Heartbreak kid staggered to his feet, mimicked Undertaker with his throat slash, and slapped the Phenom as a desperate way to say he refused to go down. This led to Undertaker forgetting the remorse he showed to Michaels just minutes before and picking him up for a vicious Tombstone to pin Shawn for the last time. The reality set in quickly, as I realized right away that Shawn was done. A lot of people questioned whether Shawn would reitre or whether this was an angle to get Shawn off of TV for a few months, only to return and override the match stipulation. I don't think there was any question though, when Undertaker somewhat broke character and hugged Michaels as they both could barely stand. It was a nice moment as Taker left Shawn to himself in the ring to say his goodbyes, and I couldn't think of a better way to end Wrestlamania than Mr. Wrestlemania making his way out of the ring and to the back for the last time. You could see in his eyes that this truly was the end, and that he was content with it, as I believe he has made peace with the demons that haunted his early career and finshed off as a different man, a better man. We will all miss seeing HBK perform, but what a way to go!
In all, this was a great Wrestlemania for the wrestling purist. Nowhere to be found were celebrities and special attractions, but in their place were WWE's top performers putting on the best show they could. While I have stated that a few of the matches were duds and some that were average could definitely have been better, this card was very enjoyable for me. There was intrigue, surprises, big spots, and an epic final match for one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. What more could a lifelong wrestling fan ask for? Perhaps the show could have used more "glitz and glam" which has become a staple of recent Wrestlemanias, but the event was created to be the top wrestling event of the year, and in that regard, there is no doubt that this event from Glendale, Arizona lived up to that billing and more.
EXTRA! I found an awesome video that highlights the Undertaker/Michaels match very well. It's a cool video, but I recommend to anyone that missed it to rent or buy Wrestlemania on DVD when it comes out. It is definitely worth seeing even if you know the results!