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Gently does it Wrestlemania XXVI

April 1, 2010   ·   0 Comments

Gently does it Wrestlemania XXVI
By Michael Campbell

This years incarnation of the supershow looked an absolute doozy on paper. With good old-fashioned wrestling taking precedence over the Entertainment side of proceedings, it looked sure to be an event that appeased the older fan, but without alienating the PG crowd. And the long-awaited return bout for Bret Hart, taking on Vince McMahon, thirteen years after his tyrannical employer screwed him on live pay per view, balanced the sports entertainment side with a storyline that long-term fans actually wanted to see.
Unlike WM 25, the WWE also arrived on March 28th in Phoenix, with a commendable degree of momentum. Last years effort was scuppered by the promotions inability to properly pace the main feuds, with the WWE title programme between Randy Orton and HHH effectively killed before the evening began. While the card was satisfying overall, for most it ended once Shawn Michaels stared at the ceiling for The Undertaker in their superb encounter.

This time round, creative clearly played it extremely carefully in terms of booking the leading scenarios. Batista and John Cena benefited from some genuine history, without overexposure, combined with a Mania storyline that only kicked into gear at Elimination Chamber. Involving both as peripheral characters in the Bret/Vince feud also added a dimension to their programme that prevented repetitiveness. Last weeks segment between the two on Raw then, was hardly essential stuff, but it did provide an adequate, satisfying cap to a fine, heated rivalry.
White-Hot is perhaps a more appropriate term to describe the majority of the Undertaker/Michaels storyline. While many will insist it was predictable that they would clash on the event, right up to the last PPV, there was still much debate amongst fans as to whether Michaels would face Triple H or The Dead Man. The WWE deserve the utmost credited for the manner in which they told the story of Shawn Michaels, and his seemingly impossible quest to earn the opportunity to face Taker for the second year running.
Edge and Chris Jericho werent as lucky, in the sense that they really havent interacted in a variety of situations over the past months, bar Edge repeatedly Spearing the champion. It appeared that the WWE simply didnt wish to tinker with Edges opportunistic character too much, but at the same time, were determined to get him over as the clear Babyface. Despite the flaws in variation, the angle has succeeded mainly because its been firmly entrenched in logic, and has been a bout that fans wanted to see, since last July.
With hindsight, Bret Harts return occurred either too early, or his rivalry with Vince commenced too quickly into said tenure. We were treated to a couple of incredible moments early on, but as the weeks went by, the WWE saturated the feud with a rubbish worked injury, that achieved the opposite of what was intended. The storyline between the two was designed to reel in fans who have abandoned the product since Brets original departure, and who recall the Montreal screw job, without alienating the younger generation. For this purpose, most of those older viewers required nothing more than the truth, and the addition of a lousy stunt car/broken leg, etc subplot, did nothing but undermine the real issues at stake for those audiences. With all that said though, we did arrive at Mania with anticipation still relatively high.. A testament to the popularity of Bret Hart, and the unfortunate historical importance of what happened all those years ago.

On paper then- arguably the best Wrestlemania card in years. But Mania is such a bloated, gargantuan entry into wrestling lore, that theres always room for error, and the quality of the results are always in doubt.. So did it deliver?
Well, err yes, quite frankly. But within reason. WM XXVI was not the colossus it possessed the potential to be, however neither could it be regarded as a disappointment. To put it in perspective, it appeared to be one of the companys finest cards in years, however for it to reach that level, every single element would have to hit the right note. They didnt. Thats not to say it wasnt good, but rather it was satisfying for the most part, rather than exhilarating.

The show really did take a while to get going, whilst doing nothing especially wrong in the meantime. The tag title match was an efficient opener, but nothing more. With hindsight, Morrison and R-Truth should almost certainly have been in the MITB, with perhaps Cryme Tyme, and/or The Hart Dynasty taking on the champs here. Finish was the right one, as Morrison can move on to something else now, rather than struggling in a make-shift team. Im guessing by about May, the tag titles will be all but forgotten once again.
Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes ended up being a basic, but entertaining three-way dance that probably exceeded most peoples expectations, thanks to the Phoenix crowd rallying behind Orton. People have been saying they expected one of the heels to win, but this feud has been booked in such a baffling manner, that a win would hardly have done much for the career of either. I think the victory here was necessary to stabilise Ortons momentum, and actually solidify him as the good guy. Its going to be crucial how they follow up with the either too though.
MITB was less dynamic, but on the other hand, less dangerous, than previous years. There were definitely too many guys included though, and a couple were barely involved at all .I didnt notice Benjamin doing anything worthwhile , so why bother putting him in the match at all? They botched quite a few spots, but amidst the attempts at a few speckles of originality, it hardly mattered. Swagger winning was a big surprise but really, this spot-fest was just kinda there.

Seamus and Hunter followed this with a solid mid-card match, that took a while to get going. HHHs win somewhat spoiled the whole notion that his opponent needed to beat him at Mania, in order to truly step up and be somebody. While he did give Seamus a hell of a lot of the bout, a win would have meant so much more.
CM Punks tussle with Rey Mysterio was spoiled by time constraints, sadly like almost all of Reys Mania appearances. What they did, was done superbly, but really, anything under ten minutes was never going to be able to develop into a Mania match that appropriately complimented such a great feud. Im all for saving the big blow-off bout in their story for another time, with Punks hair perhaps being on the line, but that doesnt mean this should have been so lightweight. Not the breakout Wrestlemania performance that many people speculated it would be for Punk.

Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon was a complete disaster. It didnt just discredit the long-hyped comeback of Bret though, it was also a disappointment from Vinces point of view. Given his history of capably working such matches, one would have expected him to provide a well-thought out scenario, that masked the weaknesses of both guys, and emphasised the entertainment aspects. Instead we were provided with a lousy, dragged out, and poorly executed segment that was devoid of heat. The revelation at the beginning that Vince had hired the Hart family as lumberjacks was completely mind-boggling. And Brets weak mic work, that indicated hed double-crossed the boss, was an awkward, embarrassing shambles Running this convoluted angle also achieved two unwelcome feats, it sucked the bout dry of heat, and alienated those who had never seen this ramshackle assortment of non-wrestlers before. It absolutely amazes me that at one point they were considering going on last with this one. If we can be grateful for anything, at least that idea was nixed.
Similarly toilet-fodder was the womens bout, a cluster of ill-equipped ladies trying to remember a rapid-fire succession of spots. At least it was short though, and the comedy Frog Splash by Vickie was arguably worth sitting through this. I cant help but think though that it would be much more sensible to completely disband the womens division if this sit he level of commitment theyre going to show.

In terms of positives though, the title bouts, and Undertaker vs. Michaels all delivered. The first of these to go on, Jericho vs. Edge, was the most low key, but I really got into the repeated attempts by Edge to deliver the spear, and the slow-building story they told. Jericho was on fine form ,and its really a shame that the crowd were so deflated by Bret/Vince at the beginning of this. Of course, at the weekend I wrote that this would not be Chris Jerichos moment, but Edges. Well, it worked out that it was positioned as such that it wasnt a Mania moment for the ages for either. What it was, was a massive show of confidence for Chris Jericho, and a potentially intriguing stage in the development of Edges character. Unquestionably, the feud will continue, and possibly Main Event the next PPV, and on the strength of what they showed here, thats something to really savour.

Batistas clash with Cena wasnt as technically sound, with a number of really awkward, and dangerous bumps, but it had the big match feel ,that everything else prior to it was lacking. And despite the protests of those older fans who dont appreciate Cena, him going over was happy ending that the majority of WWE fans will have wanted. Hopefully though, Big Dave is not neglected on the back of this, because his work over the past few months has been pretty gob-smacking, and a fresh feud would be most welcome. Both these guy carried themselves tremendously well, despite some uncouth moments, and a predictable finish. They managed to reel the crowd in to some of the near-falls, with dramatic results. Obviously though, the real pant-soiling tension was reserved for the Main Event, and what is for now, Shawn Michaels last match.
The big question that everyone is asking, is was it as good as last year? Well, it was different, and for that reason ,and not inclined to compare them. This rematch saw Michaels do everything within his power, to attempt to capitalize on a weakness exposed in Taker. I didnt feel that the live crowd bought some of the earlier near-falls like they did last time, but that was to be expected. They compensated by doing a lot differently, and really mixing up the formula. The closing moments were also superb, recalling both the Flair retirement, and elements of last year. It couldnt have been more an appropriate ending to the Wrestlemania career of the Heartbreak kid.

And with that, it was done. What was interesting, was that everything was fairly straightforward. The top two contests were great, yes, but they did end as expected. The other aspects of the show that were a little less obvious on the other hand, were deflating. However Id also concur with Bryan Alvarezs assessment that the live crowd at least, probably werent completely buying the Main Event as the end of HBK, rather a storyline orientated break. What Michaels did though, was so good, that they played along with it 100 per cent.
Wrestlemania 26 is probably going to emerge as a glistening relic in the future, much like the 19th edition. Itll probably take some re-evaluation once the surprises of Edge and Swagger, the disappointments of Hunter and Bret, and the inevitability of Shawn Michaels retirement wear off. Right now though, it certainly shouldnt be written off but neither should we go over the top. A thumbs up then, but a polite one.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out. I welcome any and all feedback and I can be contacted on Facebook, on MySpace at www.myspace.com/michaelwrestlingetc or simply by emailing me at bazilalfonso@hotmail.com


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