411’s Instant Access 03.28.10: WWE WrestleMania XXVI
Hey kids, I’m Scott, and this is 411’s Instant Access: WWE WrestleMania XXVI. Instant Access is the companion piece to 411 Live Pay-Per-View Coverage and features immediate reaction to wrestling pay-per-views. The focus in Instant Access is on first thoughts and initial reactions instead of play-by-play with the goal of providing you with instant access to
one two three four five SIX writers’ thoughts on the show. That’s right, Instant Access will now feature multiple analysts for all WWE pay-per-views. Here’s the team for WrestleMania XXVI:
• Scott Slimmer, author of Don’t Think Twice.
• Chris Lansdell, 411’s Games Editor and author of Lansdell’s Lair.
• Jeremy Thomas, editor of 411’s Wrestler of the Week and author of The Hush-Hush Movie News Report.
• Aaron Hubbard, author of the The Contentious Ten.
• Mike Uphoff, author of the 411’s WWE Smackdown Report.
• Jeff Small, author of the Tuesday Small-For-All News Report. Small is LIVE at WrestleMania XXVI and will be texting in his comments all evening.
Okay kids, enough with the explanations. Let’s get to the wrestling.
26-Man Battle Royal
Match Result: Yoshi Tatsu wins the Battle Royal.
Small: Yoshi Tatsu won the Battle Royal. If Mania is anything like the Battle Royal, then we are in for a big show. The NXT rookies watched from the stage. Khali dominated the opening until those playa haters took him down. Then Santino cobra’d everyone until Finlay took him down. Then the roof opened. Then that midget helped Finlay. Boo.
Unified Tag Team Championship Match
ShowMiz (Champions) vs. John Morrison & R-Truth
Match Result: The Big Show defeats John Morrison with the Knockout Punch.
Match Length: 3:16
Slimmer: WWE usually does a great job of picking the right match to open a show, and under different circumstance this could have filled that role nicely. Unfortunately, the match was given a insultingly short amount of time, and as such it did absolutely no favors for John Morrison and R-Truth. I will admit that ShowMiz do now look like world beating tag team champions, but their success comes at the price of two upcoming stars and a poor opening for the biggest show of the year. As for ShowMiz’ next opponents, they’ll need to find a solid pair of faces who are ready to take the next step in their careers. I can think of a heel tag team that might fit the bill, but they would need to turn face in order to make such a feud really work…
Lansdell: My son actually called this match starting. Good thing too, because it was the only likely opener that he really wanted to see. Even a 9-year-old was disappointed with this. Say what you want about booking for the ADHD generation, but this was insanely short. Very little to get anyone excited, and the sick neckbreaker on the apron spot was wasted on Raw a week ago. Did the right team win? Absolutely. Morrison and Truth are a thrown together team with no history and no reason to hold titles, and in fact the only reason they were in the match was probably to get them on the card. This was one of the matches from which I expected least, but I still expected more. Now, what’s left for ShowMiz?
Thomas: R-Truth & Morrison vs. Show & Miz: Well, that was…short. They had a good match moving along there until the abrupt ending. Morrison got a few good moves off and they were working well together until it ended with a single fist to the head and a pinfall. I predicted that one, but I expected them to get a little more time. As it was, we had the match ending dead in its tracks and they never got the chance to make anything worthwhile.
Hubbard: Not what I expected the opener to be, and it probably benefited from being on first. This was a short but solid opener. Nothing amazing here, but it’s nice to see Big Show get a WrestleMania win and Morrison, Miz and R-Truth get Mania paydays. No complaints, nothing to rave about.
Uphoff: Interesting choice for an opener. Good match to start with, but this match was way too short. Miz and Morrison had some great work in the ring, and the Pele kick/leg drop combo on the Big Show was pretty sweet.
Small: Big Show is so dominant, and Miz is so awesome. No wonder they won in four minutes. Hot though very short opener. Roof closed again.
Average Match Rating: *¾
Triple Threat Match
Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes
Match Result: Randy Orton defeats Ted DiBiase with the RKO.
Match Length: 9:00
Slimmer: This match certainly wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but it was helped immensely by the insane love that the crowd was giving to Orton. Orton’s fan support has built organically over the course of the last few months, and tonight the crowd was simply molten for everything that he did. Orton and his legions of supports seem ready for a return to the top of the card, but unfortunately I assume that he still can’t challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship. I’d like to see him moved into a feud with a big-name heel and see how he actually works in the face role. The trick will be to not change his character at all, because the fans could easily abandon him if he became too much of a face. As for Rhodes and DiBiase, I am at a bit of a loss as to where they go from here. This isn’t the same situation as we had back in Evolution where the young stars moved on when they had achieved top levels of success. Instead, it appears that Rhodes and DiBiase are now adrift with very little to show for their time in Legacy. The next few months could be very telling for the future of their careers.
Lansdell: Ah yes, the triple threat that wasn’t until tonight. There had been so little tension teased between Rhodes and DiBiase that when the explosion came, as we all knew it would, it felt weird. Still, the match told a good story despite not being the most technically proficient match on the card, and the right person went over. In fact any other result would have been ridiculous. Shame about the shoddy camerawork on the punt to Rhodes, and I have to wonder what he will do while he’s gone, but otherwise this did what I wanted it to do. Mostly.
Thomas: Well, nice to see that Legacy had their ‘Mania match; now it’s time to completely rebuild them, as their last shred of credibility went down the hole. At no point did it really look like Ted or Cody was going to win because even when they had control, it seemed as if they were just biding their time until they started arguing or Orton took over. Not to mention, the match was as dull as all get out. The crowd was bored and so was I. This thing would have frankly been a puRgatoRy at best on a Raw R’s, much less WrestleMania. They could have at least made Ted or Cody look strong in defeat but instead they both looked like bitches, and the only thing remotely saving this match was strong face reaction that Orton got.
Hubbard: I was glad to see the crowd into this, and when Orton was in control, it was a good match. There were a few spots in here I loved, like DiBiase going for the cover when Rhodes went for the moonsault and the Double DDT. I also liked the finish as Orton punted Rhodes and hit DiBiase with the RKO. Where do DiBiase and Rhodes go from here? I don’t know, but Orton looks like he could become one of the biggest stars in the company again.
Uphoff: I marked out for some stuff in the match. Here’s a list of my favorite stuff: Alabama Slam, double hangman’s DDT, the RKO, and THE POSE after the match. All that aside, I felt that the three men each performed admirably and put on a good, respectable triple threat. I don’t exactly agree with DiBiase taking the pinfall, but whatever. Good match anyway.
Small: Orton wins. Good handicap / triple threat match. The crowd loved Orton even though Rhodes is the Zac Efron of WWE.
Average Match Rating: **½
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Christian vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger vs. MVP vs. Evan Bourne vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Matt Hardy vs. Kane vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler
Match Result: Jack Swagger wins the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Match Length: 13:44
Slimmer: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match is always a spectacle, and I cannot begin without giving a ton of credit to all of the competitors that risk their careers and their lives in that environment. That being said, while this was a good match, it did feel a bit underwhelming by the standard of past Money in the Bank matches. I think part of the problem was that there were more competitors in this MitB match than in any MitB match in the past. Some of the competitors seemed to be lost in the shuffle, and this was most apparent in the case of Shelton Benjamin. Shelton is almost always one of the standout stars of the MitB matches, but this year I can hardly remember a single spot that he hit. Of course, this match will be memorable for the unpredictability of Jack Swagger’s victory. All of the previous MitB winners have seem poised for a big push at the time of their victory, but Swagger’s stock actually seemed to have fallen quite a bit as of late. His win tonight would seem to indicate that WWE has a renewed faith in his ability to be a star, but we might also be looking at the first MitB winner to cash in and not win the championship.
Lansdell: A lot of (IWC) people called this the worst Money in the Bank ever. Probably because their darling Christian was the man who got knocked down at the end…AGAIN. Hardly anyone picked Swagger for this, although I had him fourth on my odds list. I expected more from the match, it’s true, but it wasn’t bad at all. They seemed caught between trying to tell a story with the match and making it a typical adrenaline-fest. I would have liked to see more of McIntyre trying to get the win through opportunity instead of skill, only to be foiled. Kofi was practically invisible, as was Shelton, but Evan Bourne played the Kofi role from last year very well and might be able to parlay that into a decent push. Exciting, quality, but as is becoming the theme tonight I just expect more from Mania.
Thomas: This was the first enjoyable match on the card. I think the presence of ten people hurt the match because it turned into a small battle royal with ladders. That said, they did a pretty good job spotfesting here. Kane looked good at times, the little guys flew around nicely and they had some fun spots. I enjoyed Kofi using Stilt Ladders, Bourne’s maneuvers were well-executed and few things looked sloppy. The fact that we had no clear favorite left some suspense in there…but Jack Swagger? Really? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy but I don’t see him making much impact in his World Title shot. There wasn’t as much memorable stuff as in previous years and that brought this down, but it was still a good match.
Hubbard: Well, nobody picked Swagger to win, and I like surprises. This one was creative, the Swagger Sandwich spot was cool and Kofi using the ladders as STILTS was inspired. My favorite spot was Bourne’s shooting star press off of the ladder. Visually pleasing, but it was a bit too clustered to really be great. I think at this point the match concept is a little played out; they either need to go back to six people or just get rid of the concept. I’m glad they are finally doing something with Jack because he has a ton of upside, so let’s hope he makes the most of this.
Uphoff: This match had 10 competitors, but it never felt that way to me. They did a great job of working people in and out, and put on some amazing spots. Here’s a list of my favorite stuff: the monkey flip by Christian, Kane/Kofi ladder spot, Swagger in the ladder getting hit by ladders, the SSP, chokeslam on ladder, and the inverted DDT. Interesting with Swagger winning here. He may be the first winner to lose after cashing in MITB. Great match, great psychology, great spots.
Small: Whoa, WWE has Swagger like Old Spice. As for the ten guys, it worked much better on “Just the Ten of Us”. Too many guys disappeared between the Saw-esque spots.
Average Match Rating: ***½
Triple H vs. Sheamus
Match Result: Triple H defeats Sheamus with the Pedigree.
Match Length: 12:03
Slimmer: This may not have been the most memorable match in the world, but it was certainly a fun display of power wrestling. You could argue that Sheamus should have picked up the win to maintain any credibility that he may still have as a potential main-eventer, but I would argue that he truly may have been a one hit wonder. Triple H will almost certainly be looking to return to the title picture now that his D-Generation X days are once again behind him, and so I like the decision to give him the win tonight in order to push him back into the singles spotlight.
Lansdell: Quick, name the last WrestleMania where HHH was literally in the middle of the card. This wasn’t horrible at all, the two seemed to have some decent chemistry that will only improve if they keep the feud going. Once again though, I expected more from these two. I never felt any emotion from either man, and the physical, hard-hitting contest I expected did not materialize. It was just…there. I don’t know why HHH went over, the first match in a feud is rarely won by the face and HHH has never had a problem putting people not named Chris Jericho over at WrestleMania, but if the feud continues maybe this means Sheamus wins the feud overall.
Thomas: This was a really solid power match between the two men. Sheamus looked fairly strong in defeat at ‘Mania and took the Game to the limit. These guys worked well together in the ring and while Hunter went over, Sheamus got credibility nonetheless. I have to admit, I cringed when Striker said “It says a lot about the respect Triple H has for Sheamus by going for the cover so early.” Booker T is watching TV somewhere in Houston, and is cursing up a storm. But I digress. The booking here did for Sheamus exactly what it didn’t do for Rhodes & DiBiase, and I give them a lot of credit for that. People will be pissed that Sheamus didn’t get squashed but I’m fine with it, and the final call here is that I thought this was a well-executed match. Extra credit for Sheamus taking that Pedigree like a freaking champ.
Hubbard: I was hoping for one of two things: Sheamus winning or a good match. Well, the former didn’t happen, but I felt this was a good match that exceeded expectations. Triple H was very motivated and worked a good pace, and I enjoyed the match. Sheamus…was along for the ride. The crowd was hot for Triple H’s offense but didn’t’ really care about the match when Sheamus was in control. I don’t know where The Celtic Warrior goes from here, but he had a good match with a big star at Mania, and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
Uphoff: I told everyone I watched this with the only way I wanted Triple H to win is if he made Sheamus look good. I truly believe that is what happened. It took a while to get people into it, but near the end with the false finishes it kicked into a higher gear. Loved the figure-four. Sheamus looked good in defeat.
Small: Triple H wins. Shocker. Good match though. I was expecting worse and both men are over in Phoenix.
Average Match Rating: **¾
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk w/ Luke Gallows and Serena
Match Result: Rey Mysterio defeats CM Punk with the 619
Match Length: 6:29
Slimmer: This match was one of the most disappointing matches on the card for me, and it had absolutely nothing to do with Mysterio, Punk, Gallows, or Serena. I thought everyone in the match played their roles brilliantly, and it was clear that Mysterio and Punk have tremendous chemistry with each other. My disappointment stems from the fact that this match was given less than seven minutes. Mysterio and Punk were headed to an amazing match, and with double the time they very well may have gotten there. But unfortunately they simply weren’t given the chance to shine on this night, but I still give them both a ton of credit for making the absolute most out of the time they were given. In fact, I would be more than happy to see this feud continue next month at Extreme Rules. Mysterio and Punk looked like stars in this singles match, so I’d love to see what they could do with a little plunder involved. Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention that CM Punk was wearing the BEST… TRUNKS… EVER… Seriously, Punk’s homage to G.I. Joe brought one hell of a smile to this child of the 80’s.
Lansdell: Six minutes thirty-two seconds. The match many people picked as the sleeper of the undercard got six minutes and thirty-two seconds. In that time there were precisely 0 spots I will remember tomorrow. These two guys could have had a stellar encounter, but their time got cut short so Bret could hit some more chair shots. Although there was nothing really wrong with the match, there was nothing here that yelled “WRESTLEMANIA!” at me. These two had a better match on…I think it was Raw. Still, when you’re given six minutes and thirty-two seconds to tell a story, you’re going to miss something. As is often the case with Rey, they booked themselves into a corner with the stip and as such the winner was barely in any doubt. I still think Rey being forced to be a heel and slowly coming around to Punk’s way of thinking would have rocked.
Thomas: This was a very good match for the time it got. Punk and Mysterio had a masterful timing and it paid off in spades here. I wish the match had been just a little longer, but for the time it got I couldn’t have asked for much more. I’m actually surprised that they had Rey Rey pick up the win here since there was mileage to be had in making Rey be a part of the Straight Edge Society against his will until he got his revenge at Extreme Rules. Instead we had Punk take the loss to Rey, but he won’t lose even half a step off of his game because he’ll come right back and do something typically amazing. Kudos to all involved in this match for making a great effort. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rey catapults up toward a feud with someone else in the main event, but I could also see them continuing this feud regardless of the finish here. I certainly wouldn’t complain if this is what we’re going to be getting (albeit with more time).
Hubbard: Two things before the match: Punk’s promo before the match was great to hear, and two, Rey’s Na’vi costume was unexpected and really cool. As for the match, these guys were ON. Not much of a story, just a series of great spots that all clicked. It was exciting and worthy of it’s very high position on the card. These guys tried to steal the show, and they didn’t, but that wasn’t for lack of effort on these guy’s parts. Very much lived up to my expectations.
Uphoff: This match was kinda underwhelming, because of the match they had at Armageddon 2008. They worked together really well, but what got me is what happened to the Street Fight stipulation? Where did that go? It was a great match between the two, but not as good as they are capable of. I wonder if they continue the feud, or if they don’t where does Punk go?
Small: Too short but pretty darn good match. Sure I wanted some more time and pretzels but I’ll take this. Rey’s Avatar costume was kinda silly.
Average Match Rating: ***½
No Holds Barred Match
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon
Match Result: Bret Hart defeats Vince McMahon with the Sharpshooter.
Match Length: 11:09
Slimmer: This match could never have been expected to be as good as Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon from WrestleMania 22, but unfortunately it also wasn’t even as good as Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon from WrestleMania XIX. I understand that Bret Hart is in worse physical condition than either Shawn Michaels or Hulk Hogan were at the time of their encounters with the Boss, and I also concede that this was really intended as more of a angle than a match anyway. However, I think the drama of the match could have been increased substantially by having a series of surprising run-ins rather than shooting your wad entirely at the beginning as they did. Everything after the double-cross was a foregone conclusion, and Bret’s cathartic closure simply felt underwhelming given the length of time that it has been building.
Lansdell: I’m really disappointed WWE. REALLY disappointed. Let’s look at all the things you did wrong in this match. First you had Bret tell Vince before the match started that his plan had backfired. He should have shut up after asking if they all got paid up front. The double cross should have waited until a crucial moment. As it was, we did not have a match. We had 10 minutes or so of Vince getting beaten up by Harts, including 20 chair shots from Bret. Seriously, why so long? It didn’t looks like 13 years of retribution, it looked weak and tame. This needed to be far more violent and weapon-filled, or it needed to be shorter. Again, I expected more from this. Hart is my all-time favorite, and seeing him get revenge was to be one of the highlights of tonight, but that’s not what I got. I got his whole family getting revenge and taking far too long to do it. Not to mention the ludicrousness ageism of Vince scaring off 11 people, including 3 young pro wrestlers, with one small crowbar.
Thomas: Was this a great match? No. HELL no. But it was a lot of fun and it did exactly what it needed to do. I was about ready to roll my eyes when Vince came out and announced lumberjacks, and the fact that it was the Harts gave me pause. I kinda knew what was going to happen there, and happen it did. The way it played out was nicely done, and seems like it will have the added effect of turning the Hart Dynasty face, possibly in a high-profile angle against Vince. Once we got to the match there was…well, nothing to do. This was Vince getting his ass handed to him by everyone in the family, particularly the Harts and then of course Vince. I will admit that watching Bret beat down Vince again and again almost got a bit uncomfortable, but it was exactly what we needed to have. It went on perhaps a bit too long, but oh well. I give this half a star for in-ring work, three and a half for story and two and a half for the overall booking. Average it out and add a touch for overall flow, and you get about two and a half stars.
Hubbard: I loved the swerve thing with The Hart Family, because it was a great way for Vince to get beat up without Bret exhausting himself. Also, The Hart Dynasty deserved to get SOME kind of rub from this feud, and The Super Hart Attack to the floor was AWESOME. As for the Bret-Vince showdown…meh. I got bored. The chair shots went on to long. But hey, we saw Bret put Vince in the Sharpshooter and make him tap. Not really a match, so I’m not going to rate it, but I’m glad it was on the show.
Uphoff: I knew this wasn’t going to be an all-time classic, but I knew what I wanted, and I got it. Hell, I even got a Hart Attack. Vince tapping out to the Sharpshooter was great, and I’ll always remember it. Sure it wasn’t the greatest, and Bret didn’t work too well, but the chair shots were great, and Vince lost.
Small: Vince vs. Bret was way too long. Three minutes too long.
Average Match Rating: *
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Chris Jericho (Champion) vs. Edge
Match Result: Chris Jericho defeats Edge with the Code Breaker.
Match Length: 15:47
Slimmer: This was a good match that seemed to not quite be able to slide over onto the side of great. Edge and Jericho have great chemistry together, but for some strange reason the crowd seemed totally dead during the majority of this match. It’s difficult for me to believe that Edge’s return will not eventually culminate in him winning the World Heavyweight Championship, so I would expect this feud to continue until at least Extreme Rules. However, I do think we need to ask whether Edge is really best served by trying to remain a pseudo-face. We know that Edge is a phenomenal heel, but his face stints never quite feel comfortable. Some guys are just natural heels, and I have to believe that Edge is one of them. Whether he does end up defeating Jericho for the championship at some point or not, I think the entire Smackdown roster would be best served by Edge returning to his comfort zone as a heel.
Lansdell: I did enjoy this one. The card seemed to pick up here and really, it had to. Up until this point the show felt like a good Raw. Edge and Jericho were always going to put on a good match with the potential to do much more. They did not fulfill their full potential but at least they gave us a good match. Plenty of reversals, some nice teased finishes and a good story told throughout. I was hoping that the Codebreaker counter to the Spear would finish the match, but the beltshot ending was frustrating. Understandable though, as Jericho SHOULD be winning nefariously. Maybe now we can have this feud be about something more than the Spear. Spear. Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear! Spear!
Thomas: This was, much like a lot of the card, good but it could have been much more. It kept me engaged for the most part and I felt that Edge and Jericho worked hard, but something just didn’t click the way it would have needed in order to go over the four star mark. They did some fun spots and enjoyed seeing them counter each other–the Codebreaker that countered the Spear was impressive–and the story was more than solid. I would have liked to see more from them and despite the solid story of Jericho attacking the tendon, this just quite didn’t do what I hoped. Do they continue the feud here? Honestly, I think they have to. Edge and Jericho have a lot to offer, and I think they know they can outdo this. If not, I can see one of them getting moved away from each other via a brand switch so they can move on to feuds of their own.
Hubbard: I didn’t care who won this match. I love both guys and I just wanted to see them have a good match. They did; not the wrestling clinic I would have loved, but then, most people don’t go for that sort of thing. The spots were good and on point; I marked for the return of the top rope facebuster and the Edge-O-Matic after the missed lionsault was a great visual. I’m glad this went on early because it could have really been lost in the shuffle; instead the fans cared about it. Jericho gets arguably the biggest win of his career in retaining a championship match at WrestleMania, and Edge gets an EPIC SPEAR to end the night. I want to see these two feud for the next several months, just because they are awesome.
Uphoff: People may rate this differently, but I loved this match. I loved the story of Jericho avoiding the spear and countering it at all costs. Targeting the Achilles’ tendon was another great part of the story. I liked Jericho retaining, but that gave away the ending of Batista-Cena. Still, great match by both men, and a HELLACIOUS spear after the match.
Small: Edge and Jericho had a tough spot since the crowd was tired and it was really hot once they closed the roof. Match was good but not classic or anything. Not enough heat for that. Jericho got a good face pop towards the end. The spear after the match was cool.
Average Match Rating: ***¾
Ten Diva Tag Team Match
Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Gail Kim, Eve Torres, & Kelly Kelly vs. Michelle McCool, Layla El, Maryse, Alicia Fox, & Vickie Guerrero
Match Result: Vickie Guerrero defeats Kelly Kelly with the Hog Splash.
Match Length: 3:20
Slimmer: I seriously just want to pretend this never happened. And I probably could if the image of Vickie’s Hog Spash wasn’t permanently burned into my retinas. Luckily, this match will most likely mean very little in terms of ongoing storylines, so we may be able to pretend it was all just a bad dream. It’s time to finally pull the trigger on Beth Phoenix’s face turn over on Smackdown, so she needs to be next in line to challenge for Michelle McCool’s Women’s Championship. It seems like Eve is going to be the next in line for a shot at the Divas Championship on Raw, and unfortunately that as good an option as any at this point.
Lansdell: 10 women, 7 wrestlers, one match. Recipe for disaster, no? Actually, no. I expected this to be the worst thing I saw all night, but it wasn’t. Oh it was bad, with Gail and Layla both botching and a weird-ass finish that led to Vickie pinning Kelly Kelly twice, but I am a sucker for finisher suites.
Thomas: Seriously, what the hell was this? How do you have the only person in the match LESS talented than Triple K take the pinfall? There was one moment I enjoyed in here, and that was Mickie’s DDT which Michelle sold like a freaking champ. I give her a hard time but she did that well. Kelly’s leg drop looked as usual like it was half-botched, most of the parade of finishers were far from perfect and the end? I don’t even want to talk about it, other than that it was a botched top-rope flop and a botched PINFALL. You can argue that Vickie’s a non-wrestler, but that didn’t stop us from piling crap on Jenna and Sharmell last year. if she wasn’t ready, she shouldn’t have been in there. This made last year’s Miss WrestleMania Battle Royale look good.
Hubbard: Everybody beat up Vickie. I liked that. Everybody did finishers, most of them cleanly. I liked that. Then Vickie did a horribly Hog Splash and pancakes for the win. I did not like that. Pointless filler, but the finishers were cool.
Uphoff: I didn’t like this at all. It should have been a dark match, and not on the show.
Small: I think I missed most of the Divas match as I took a piss and got ice cream (no funnel cake WTF?). BTW, the stadium is 99% out of food and merch – kind of sucky for 72K fans. I assume the Divas was the same. ½* for Vickie’s frog splash.
Average Match Rating: ¼*
WWE Championship Match
Batista (Champion) vs. John Cena
Match Result: John Cena defeats Batista with the STF.
Match Length: 13:30
Slimmer: John Cena and Batista are never going to put on a mat classic, but they have that rare gift of being able to make a match feel special simply by stepping into the ring with each other. These two men legitimately are the two biggest stars of their generation (just narrowly beating out Randy Orton and Edge, in my opinion), and so this match was sort of like this generation’s version of Stone Cold vs. The Rock. Cena and Batista both seemed to have stepped up their in-ring game for this match, and the result was probably as good as we could have hoped for from these two men. It seems like a natural choice to let Cena regain the title, but figuring out his next move is far more difficult. Triple H and Randy Orton are both faces at the moment, so they probably wouldn’t be the best choice as Cena’s next feud. It’s unclear if Batista is headed back to Smackdown after losing the title, but it might be best to have him stick around and continue his feud with Cena until at least Extreme Rules.
Lansdell: If anyone had told me before tonight that this match would be the match of the night going into Michaels-Taker, I would have had you committed. But that’s exactly what we got. Cena and Batista did everything that Sheamus and HHH should have done and more besides. Hard-hitting, plenty of counters, near falls, drama…what more could you want? Cena going over was a foregone conclusion, but once this feud is over I have to wonder what they do with Batista. Not many people he can credibly feud with on Raw right now…or does he go back to SmackDown? Ahhh brand split, how little you mean.
Thomas: Let’s start with the entrance. Cena’s special little entrances are getting more and more complex, and less and less enjoyable. The Air Force group was talented, but it went on too long and killed the crowd some. Bottom line: keep it simple, stupids. Anyway, onto the match. I thought this was pretty good for the most part. The story of Cena not knowing whether he could beat Big Dave played into this match pretty nicely and these two guys know each other well enough that they worked very nicely together. People will bitch about how Cena and Batista suck, and if you want to that’s your prerogative. But he almost always delivers in bit match situations, and this was one of those times. Dave’s in-ring work was well above his usual also, and his facial expressions were fantastic to boot. The only thing that hurt this, I think, was the fact that the number of counters and kick-outs were a running theme throughout the three main events, and it seemed repetitious after Edge/Jericho. Otherwise, good stuff by both men and I have a feeling this continues until Extreme Rules at least.
Hubbard: Holy crap. This was epic. I loved this match, the whole thing. Easily the best wrestling match Batista has ever had, and one of John Cena’s best as well. I expected big spots and they did that, I expected finishers and they did that. They also had a good deal of psychology with the neck, and counters that were very smooth considering both of these guy aren’t exactly known as great scientific wrestlers. I also marked out when Batista hit the huge spinebuster when Cena tried the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, as well as for the top-rope Five-Knuckle Shuffle. The sunset roll-up into the STF was a great finish. I loved all of this. Both guys deserve a ton of credit for this match.
Uphoff: I went into this match hoping it would be as good as SummerSlam 2008. What I got was a slightly better match. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Batista’s expression when Cena kicked out of the Batista Bomb. This was a great effort by both men, worthy of being the main event of WrestleMania.
Small: Cena’s entrance was okay, but I liked how he ran to fight and instead of taking his time. We have time limits here. The match was everything I expected from the two: slow start, hot finish, another Cena win.
Average Match Rating: ***¾
Career vs. Streak Match
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Match Result: The Undertaker defeats Shawn Michaels with the Tombstone Piledriver.
Match Length: 24:00
Slimmer: I’m honestly not sure if two professional wrestlers have ever had to step into the ring with the kind of pressure that has been placed upon Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Last year they had one of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, and this year they were tasked with nothing less than surpassing greatness. If I’m being completely honest, then I do have to admit that the actual in-ring action of this year’s match was not quite up to the level of last year’s match. This year’s action was outstanding, but it just couldn’t quite live up to the standard set by last year’s epic encounter. However, we’ve seen great in-ring action before, and we’ll certainly see it again. What we seldom ever see is the kind of storytelling that Michaels and Taker gave us tonight. This was the story of two men fighting not just to win a match, but to preserve their very identities. In the end Shawn Michaels knew that he was beaten, but he did not want to be pitied. He wanted to be beaten like a man, and as such the finish of his career was eerily reminiscent of the way that he ended Ric Flair’s career two years ago. This was a match that played off of our shared emotional connection to both Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker while simultaneously paying off years of continuity. And if this really is the end of Shawn Michaels’ career, then it is only fitting that the Show Stopper really was the Main Eventer one last time.
Lansdell: Last year these two had what is widely considered the best match in Mania history. I disagreed and gave it four and a quarter. It degraded to a finisher fest and didn’t do enough for me. THIS match was better. It added drama, with the two stipulations both seeming equally impossible. The story was better, with Michaels doing everything he could to stay in the match and save his career and Taker equally motivated to save his Streak. There was selling, with Taker’s leg playing a big part in the match. The match itself was better, with different counters, more “Holy fuck” moments and just a bigger feel to the whole thing. I won’t go nuts and say this was the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it was the best I’ve seen this year and a fitting end to a stellar career…if it was in fact the end.
Thomas: Frankly, I’m having trouble rating this fairly. Anyone who’s heard me talk about him probably knows how much of a Shawn Michaels mark I am. Always have been, always will be. I will NOT say that this beat out last year’s match. It didn’t, and that should be obvious to anyone who has seen both of them. However, they worked very well around their limitations and what was most important here was the story of the match. In that aspect, Shawn and the Dead Man are true masters of their craft. No one sells like Shawn. Not a single person. But Taker did a fabulous job selling the ankle injury, and I don’t think I ever saw him slack on it during the match. The story and the drama here was off the charts. Both men knew that this was their last hurrah and they gave it their all. I enjoyed seeing Shawn bust out some submissions; clearly they had the leg injury planned out at least by Monday, considering they were trying to get us used to Shawn as a submission man in his match against Kane. They started this one off fast and furious, and it settled down into a good solid flow from that point forward. With twenty minutes in (and almost twenty to go), they had kicked out of all of each other’s finishers at least once, and Shawn had countered the Hell’s Gate. It became something even better from that point forward as they just started topping each other again and again. Both men’s expressions were incredibly done, and I actually believed several times that the match was over. The end was a wonderful play on Shawn/Flair, except that Shawn didn’t quite roll over like the Nature Boy did. This is a match I may be overrating, or I may be underrating because I’m trying too hard to be balanced. But I loved every moment of it and as a Shawn Michaels mark, I was fighting a few tears at the end. Thanks for the memories, HBK.
Hubbard: You know, everyone is going to compare this to last year’s match. Was it as good as that? I don’t know, but I felt this one was more emotional, had a better pace, less lying around, and played off of last year’s match beautifully. They could have used the No DQ stips to go with weapons instead of a good match; in reality, the only huge spots were the moonsault into the Tombstone on the Floor (which was amazing) and the moonsault through the table (which is a great spot to retire on). The opening struggled a bit but after Shawn prevented Taker’s big dive with a spear, it was all great from there. No sloppy counters, several great false finishes. And wow, what a finish. Similar to Ric Flair’s retirement, but different. Defiant to the end; there was no better way to end it. I’m glad they chose to put this on last: what a great match. I may bring it down later, but this match had me hanging on every move and I clapped and cried at the end. That’s what it’s supposed to do. On this night, there is only one rating I can give it.
Uphoff: I never thought that this match could top last year’s, and in my mind, it didn’t. It was every bit as good as last year’s, but not better. Still, it was a 44 year old and a 45 year old putting on another classic. Here’s a list of my favorite stuff: Tombstone on the floor, moonsault through the announce table, HBK and Taker kicking out of everything, HBK doing the throat slash and then slapping Taker, Taker looking like he was going to kill HBK (for real), and then putting something extra on the last Tombstone Piledriver. There were a couple botches, and I didn’t get to see Air Deadman. Guess what? This match still was off-the-charts entertainment. It was a perfect match for HBK to go out on, and I will miss HBK in the ring, because he is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever.
Small: Wow, I’ve seen both Flair and Michaels retire. How crazy. Match was superb as expected, though last year’s was the better match. This one had the better ending though and neatly wrapped up HBK’s career. Wow.
Average Match Rating: ****¾
Match of the Night:
Slimmer: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (****½)
In some ways this show was a one match card, but luckily that one match delivered on nearly every level possible. The in-ring action was great, the finish was one that will live in our memories for years, and the post-match show of respect from both the Undertaker and the fans was exactly the kind of catharsis that we all needed.
Lansdell: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (****½)
Come on now. What else could it be? I’ve been privileged in my time with 411 to have witnessed HBK retire Flair, and now Taker retire HBK. The match itself was the best on a sub-par night, and will probably be match of the year.
Thomas: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (****¾)
Hubbard: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (*****)
By a long shot. This was the main event, it’s what I paid to see and it was amazing. Thank you Undertaker, and thank you Shawn Michaels. You may have just had the greatest career in the history of professional wrestling, and this was a great way to end it.
Uphoff: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (****¾)
Without a doubt in my mind, this matched their bout last year and was every bit as good. Again, a worthy match for HBK to go out on, and I will miss him on RAW.
Small: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (****½)
Trash of the Night:
Slimmer: Ten Diva Tag Team Match (¼*)
Pointless match. Useless match. Crappy match. And one of the more ludicrous finishes that we’ve seen in recent memory. This was three minutes of our lives that could have been used much more productively by Rey Mysterio and CM Punk.
Lansdell: Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon (DUD)
I wish I didn’t have to. I really do. But this was not what it needed to be in my mind. I don’t buy PPVs to see eleven man beat down one man non-stop for 10 minutes. That’s not a match, it’s the LAPD questioning a minority.
Thomas: Ten Diva Tag Team Match (¼*)
Hubbard: Ten Diva Tag Team Match (¼*)
Um…it’s a piss break with one of the worst finishes in Mania history. Pretty obvious this would take it; shouldn’t have been on the card.
Uphoff: Ten Diva Tag Team Match (DUD)
This sucked and was not needed on the card. I really did not need to see this.
Small: Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon (DUD)
Could have accomplished the same thing in half the time.
Slimmer: This was a show in which almost every star gave an admirable performance, but unfortunately those performances were often tempered by circumstances beyond the performers’ control. The tag team championship match and Mysterio / Punk match were both criminally short, and the Hart / McMahon match suffered from poorly planned booking. The Divas were never really given a chance and didn’t deserve to be out there in the first place, and the Money in the Bank match simply suffered from having too many cooks in the kitchen. However, both championship matches were entertaining, and for once the main event was actually the best match of the show. Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker gave us a WrestleMania memory for the ages, but unfortunately it seems as though that may be the only truly memorable moment from this year’s show.
Lansdell: WrestleMania is supposed to feel a certain way. The glitz, the glamour, the spectacle, the feuds ending…it all adds up to an event that feels like the culmination of a year’s worth of WWE programming. Sorry, but this didn’t. No celebrity cutaway shots in the crowd. Only one special entrance. Only 2 matches that really felt like WrestleMania matches. huge stadium hurting crowd noise on TV. Matches being built in the last month. With that said it wasn’t a bad show, but it was not a WrestleMania-level show. Letdown city.
Thomas: This was such a strange show. They were all over the place with the booking and the match quality was very worrying to start off. But they picked up at Money in the Bank and then fluctuated around until the three main events which all delivered (obviously, Shawn/Taker the most). I refuse to give this a rating that will place it in the upper level of WrestleManias because one great match and a few very good ones. I think that ultimately this will rank somewhere in the middle of the road for the WrestleManias to date and while it’s one that was worth seeing for the last couple of hours, what came before that in the first two hours made this only a good show at best.
Hubbard: This was one of the greatest PPV’s I’ve ever seen. Everything except the Diva Match had something that was worth watching. Not everything was a classic, but the two title matches were great, Punk vs. Rey was great, and Taker-Shawn may be the best ending to a WrestleMania ever. I can’t say this is the best, but this is one of the best WrestleManias ever.
Uphoff: I loved this WrestleMania. Absolutely loved it. I felt that the tag match should’ve been longer with the Diva’s match not on the card. That’s about the only knock I have against it. Finally, a WrestleMania that truly lived up to the hype and the card. Just under X-Seven in my mind. The only thing that drags it down is the Diva’s match.
Small: While this year’s show failed to pass WrestleMania X-7 as the greatest ever and had issues with match lengths (due to the ten matches on the card), it’s still a damn good show.
Average Verdict: ***¾