I don’t know how to feel about WrestleMania XXVI. The first WrestleMania of the 2010s took place in Arizona, and saw yet another legend retire, a thirteen year beef settled, and a battle between two of the biggest stars of the late-2000s. among other things. But despite such historic occurrences, it’s hard to pinpoint my exact feelings for the show. Is it particularly awful? No. Is it great? I don’t know if I would say that. Did it have some disappointing moments? Oh, you better believe it. Did it have some good action? Yes, of course it did. But what does it all amount to? I honestly have no idea. And this is the only WrestleMania of this entire series that I have this feeling for; while most WrestleManias range definitively as great, good, bad, or terrible for me, I haven’t made up my mind on this one. Hopefully, but the end ofthis post, I will have. Let’s take a look at WrestleMania XXVI.
Pre-Show Battle Royal
May as well talk about the pre-show Battle Royal. Yoshi Tatsu won, and that’s all you need to know. Actually, something else you need to know is that I wish WWE still had the Cruiserweight Championship around so that there would have at least been a chance this guy would have actually won a title. I actually think he was an awesome wrestler. Right up there with Ayako Hamada, Tajiri, Asuka, and Hikaru Shida on the list of Japanese wrestlers I’m glad I’ve been exposed to.
America The Beautiful
You would think more stars from the soon-to-be-cancelled juggernaut American Idol would have performed “America The Beautiful” at WrestleMania by now. However, only one has actually done it, and it’s my mother’s favorite Idol winner ever. Fantasia Barrino of Season 3 fame opened the ceremony by contributing her unique vocal, Grammy-winning abilities to the anthem, and compared to Nicole Scherzinger and John Legend the years before her, I actually did enjoy her singing here. Sure, she was a little over the top, but that’s just how Fantasia normally sounds, especially when she’s passionate.
The Miz & Big Show vs. John Morrison & R-Truth
The previous year, Miz and Morrison lost the Tag Team Championship to Primo and Epico on the WrestleMania XXV pre-show. On this show, they were on opposing sides, teaming with some very strange bedfellows. Fresh off his pairing with Chris Jericho, The Big Show sided with Miz while R-Truth aligned with John Morrison for some reason. This is a tag team that did not belong together. It’s like when they bought Vinnie onto Family Guy to replace the temporarily-deceased Brian; it just seemed like a weird fit you knew wasn’t gonna last, unless their shared love of breakdancing was endurable enough. The team went into WrestleMania as title challengers and left as the losers of the shortest, least exciting match of the show. You know, I think WWE puts less thought into the Tag Team Championship match for WrestleMania than they do the Divas match, and that’s saying something.
Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes
The next match was a lot better, both in hype and execution. While I can only imagine someone having a tiny beach pail of excitement for the Tag Team Championship match, this bout pitting Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase against their Legacy leader Randy Orton was likely to be more well-recieved by both hardcore fans who crave new talent getting an opportunity to break out and the many fangirls who worshipped at Legacy’s feet. The two second generation youngersters were at the point where they were ready to break free of their third-generation mentor but since this was a Triple Threat Match, only one of the two would get the headstart to a better career if they won. Only they didn’t; the man who just finished ruining Kofi Kingston’s main event career won. This match started out not the most exciting thing in the world, but business really started to pick up and get exciting with Rhodes and DiBiase started to show friction and fight. But after Cody was hit with the punt and DiBiase was dropped with an RKO, it was all over. I really only enjoyed the second half of this match; luckily, after this match, Cody Rhodes didn’t suffer too badly from this. He went from evil henchman to entertaining Dashing gimmick to one of the best modern Intercontinental Champions and potential Future World Champion material to the butt of moustache jokes…to comedic comic book villain who lost to got his ass handed to him by a CW actor. Still better than DiBiase’s fate.
Backstage Divas Segment
Vickie Guerrero, Michelle McCool, Layla, Maryse, and Alicia Fox appear in a pre-taped segment where Vickie brags about how great she is while the other girls just stand in the back and react to everything. Then Jillian comes in and “sings” and everyone leaves. You should totally just stare at Maryse’s face the whole time she’s on-screen; her reactions are golden. That charm is exactly what made Maryse one of WWE’s all-time funniest Divas. Anyway, after Santino comes in and bites into a Slim Jim three times, turning Jillian into Mae Young, Mene Gene Okerlund (in a strapless dress), and the lovely Melina, who was injured at the time. Again, Maryse was the highlight and she didn’t even get any lines.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
The WrestleMania resumes of MVP and Shelton Benjamin are 95% Money in the Bank matches, none of which either of them won. This was one of them. This match also marked the WrestleMania debuts of Evan Bourne, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Drew McIntyre. McIntyre was referred to as “The Chosen One” and “The Future” of WWE in 2010, and that claim was so accurate that he became the World Champion of TNA in 2016. Funny how things work out, huh? Rounding out this very crowded ten-man field are then-one-to-watch Kofi Kingston and veterans Christian, Kane, and Matt Hardy. I preferred this match over the previous year’s one: between moments like Evan’s Airbourne Off The Ladder, Evan being hip tossed off the ladder, Christian’s reverse DDT off the ladder, and Kofi Kingston’s stilts stunt, this one had some more eye-popping moments. Unfortunate Jack Swagger won, because reasons; don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented technical wrestler. Sadly, that doesn’t exactly translate to “great World Champion”. In his case, it translated to “Man who gets upstaged by a Guerrero in an eagle costume“.
Hall of Fame
This was a Hall of Fame class with not a single former WWE Champion in it, but no one said that was a requirement of every Hall of Fame class. This year’s Hall of Fame doesn’t have any Former WWE Champions either, but Sting‘s many WCW Title reigns will do. As long as they’ve left a legacy, that’s all that really matters. The Bella Twins were in the segment, assisting wheelchair bound Mad Dog Vachon and Gorgeous George’s 97-year old ex-wife to the stage. The lineup was rounded out by Wendi Richter (who kept saying “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” so much, she might have owed Cyndi Lauper roylties if she wasn’t her former manager), Stu Hart (represented by his family), Antonio Inoki, celebrity inductee Bob Uecker, and the Million Dollar Man himself. I hope if a physical Hall of Fame is ever built, Ted DiBiase‘s entrance music is playing when you get to his exhibit because I’m listening to it as I type this part and I kind of don’t wanna turn it off now.
Triple H vs. Sheamus
I don’t remember if I was interested in this match at the time it was booked, but if I had the same mindset then that I usually do now, I definitely wouldn’t have been. Sheamus is a star that most fans are either bored by or love riiculing for looking ridiculous, and if I can be honest, I’m on the list of fans who doesn’t care much for him. Oh, he can wrestle, but I’m as much a fan of him as Max Black is a fan of snooty rich people. And when he came to the main roster, it seemed like WWE wanted to push him big straight out the gate; not only did he get the WWE Championship immediately, but he also got a WrestleMania program with The Game himself. After delivering a stinker of a main event the previous year, could Triple H bounce back and not go two-for-two?
Well, he was the best part of this match for me. Like the crowd, I was most into this match when Triple H was on the offensive. For some reason, anytime Sheamus got the advantage, I just wanted to turn on a Disney movie or something so I could watch something more lively. I actually kind of feel bad for not enjoying Sheamus’ much because again, he’s very clearly talented; it’s not his fault that it doesn’t always translate to “fascinating”. And while Sheamus did lose this match, it hasn’t affected his future any. WWE still obviously see him as a valuable superstar worthy of main event or upper-midcard fueds.
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
Ladies and Gentlemen, the one and only WrestleMania appearance for Serena Deeb. The former SHIMMER star sacrificed her hair for this (she eventually grew it back, of course), and before being fired for not method acting, this had to be considered a big deal for her. She stands alongside CM Punk at his hairiest, preachiest, and arguably creepiest. He cuts a promo on his way to the ring, looking to get more people to pledge to the S.E.S. Then Rey Mysterio arrives looking like one of the Avatar aliens. Hard to remember seeing as the movie has undergone a Shakespeare In Love-like backlash over the years, but this movie was a huge deal at the time, so it was almost guaranteed to be the inspiration for Rey’s WrestleMania attire. Meanwhile, CM Punk’s attire looked G.I. Joe-themed; not sure if that was intentional or not.
This was CM Punk’s first non-Money in the Bank WrestleMania match and while I did like the action, it went by WAY too quick. It was more exciting that Sheamus vs. Triple H, but had only half the runtime. Luckily, the two would have longer, better, more dramatic matches later on, including one which saw CM Punk lose that hair that was so intrigal with his image at the time. But it’s kind of a shame that their WrestleMania confrontation was ultimately the least of their feud.
Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon
First of all, let me just say that the hype video for this match is one of my personal favorites; WWE should probably use Civil Twilight songs more often because they always put them to good use when they do. That said, this is a rivalry that started in 1997 and was finally settled in the ring in 2010. Call me crazy, but that seems just a bit late to be paying this story off. Bret Hart and Vince McMahon were both over the age of 50 when this match took place; even though they’d both had great matches in the past, especially on the grand stage of WrestleMania, there was no way this match would measure up. An old strokes hindered Hart’s mobility severely and despite his impressive physique, Vince’s days of believable physicality were very much behind him.
But since they were finally able to make up so long after the Montreal Screwjob, they decided to do the match anyway, and it went about as well as you would expect. It was slow, it was awkward, it was not as physically intense as it would have been if they’d made up years earlier, and the rest of the Hart family took up most of the work. Even Natalya slapped the boss in the kisser pretty hard. After some tame-looking weapon shots, Hart did what we’d all been waiting for him to do and locked that Sharpshooter in. It was a satisfying moment, but it was tacked on to the tail end o of a match we could not possibly have expected to be great going in.
Edge vs. Chris Jericho
Canadians are just genetically the best wrestlers on the planet, are they not? Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Christian, Angelina Love, Trish Stratus, literally the entire Hart Family. The list goes on and it is lengthy. So when two Canadians face each other in the ring, only good things can come from it, right? Well, Jericho and Edge would try to prove that as the comeback kid armed with a lethal Spear challenge the arrogant champion, Chris Jericho, still under his effective heel persona. These two had history, going back to the previous year when Jericho shaded Edge for having the audacity to get injured during their Tag Team Title reign. Edge would not let Jericho get away with this and would fight hard to snatch Jericho’s title away.
So why were the fans so silent during most of the match? You would think the crowd would be anxious to see Edge win the title from Jericho, but they were disappointingly silent for the most part. I assume the fans had a hard time investing in Edge as a hero after he’s been a despicable villain for so long, because though the action in the match was just OK, it wasn’t awful. They’ve both had better WrestleMania matches, but I feel like the crowd’s minimal interest helped a bit in killing this one. Jericho won out of nowhere and tried to attack Edge post-match, leading to an awesome Spear through the barricade, and even then, the crowd kind of shrugged it off after a few seconds. I guess that’s why Edge turned heel again soon, but it would be his final heel turn; we’ll see why tomorrow.
10-Diva Tag Team Match
Two positives about this match: It was better than the previous year and Vickie Guerrero‘s tribute to Eddie at the end was touching. Aside from that, was this really the best WWE could do for the Divas that year? When I said this was better than the previous year, it’s not like that was a high hurdle to jump over. And his match was full of talent: Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Mickie James, and Michelle McCool were the technical masters of the bout while Eve Torres, Layla, and Maryse could also hold their own. This was when Alicia was a little messier and still developing into the better rounded athlete she is now while Kelly‘s skills seemed to stall a bit, but she was still recognized, beloved face. But for the second year in a row, all these women had to take a backseat; this year, at least it wasn’t to a man again. But a minute of finishers followed by a non-wrestler getting the pinfall victory does not a great WrestleMania match make.
Batista vs. John Cena
Five years after they both won their very first WWE and World Championships in WWE, The Leader of the CeNation and The Animal would meet in the ring, but not for the first time. The hype for this match made sure to mention that the two had faced off on SummerSlam before. In that match, Cena would be shelved after suffering a terrible shoulder injury. Batista, who had reinvented himself into the funniest primadonna around, made sure to remind John Cena of that, saying that bad things happen to Cena when the two are together, and that it would be guaranteed at WrestleMania.
Boy, did that not happen. I think I appreciate this match more than I enjoyed it; I appreciate Cena trying to do more than just his regular five moves, I appreciate Batista’s reversal out of the AA into a DDT, and I appreciate them calling back to the SummerSlam match by repeating it. I especially appreciate Cena winning the title and turning Batista even harder into a whiny state in the coming months. Really, Heel Batista was glorious; even the way he quit was entertaining. So yeah, I do appreciate this match and everything it resulted in; it actually is worth your time to watch.
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
A match so nice, they did it two WrestleManias in a row. It seems like WrestleMania is where iconic careers are set to either end or be threatened, and that was the case with Shawn Michaels. A man obsesed with ending Undertaker‘s streak, he was given an ultimatum from the Deadman that if Undertaker was to defeat Shawn Michaels, that HBK would have to hang up his boots and chaps and retire the sport. So the stakes were definitely heightened from the previous year, and the fact that this match was the main event made it even more of a bigger deal.
This match is nowhere near as talked about as their WrestleMania 25 bout; that doesn’t mean the match was bad. It certainly wasn’t; I don’t think it’s possible to book a bad Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels match. It just meant the original was too good to top. Like the last match, I don’t think this match was 100% perfect from a technical standpoint. Big shock: I’m still not a fan of Shawn Michael’s ‘inverted’ Figure Four. Also, he missed that moonsault on the table by quite the margin. But looking at the overall work of art and not just tiny corners of it, it was a good match to go out on, especially with the defiant ending. Undertaker jumping on the DDT after that slap still gets me out of my seat. I wonder, with HBK returing Ric Flair, then being retired by Undertaker two years later, I wonder who’ll retire Undertaker and which WrestleMania it’ll happen at. Maybe it’ll be Shane this year…..You have to wait until my FearlessRiOT Forecast of WrestleMania 32 for my official two cents on that.
And that was WrestleMania XXVI; wasn’t too bad, right? Actually, it overall wasn’t terrible at all. But there was several elements present that kept it out of “great” territory for me. The McMahon/Hart match was the definition of too little too late, the Tag Team Title’s bad luck streak at WrestleMania continued for the most part, I still wish the Divas got something better to do on the card, and I stand by my statement that Rey and Punk deserved more time. But for now, I think this WrestleMania ranks in the tail end of “good” for me. Which is WAY more than I can say for what’s coming tomorrow. Prepare yourselves: it’s about to get ugly again.
Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania XXVII.