wrestling / TV Reports

Kevin’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania XXVI

January 31, 2020 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Shawn Michaels Undertaker WWE WrestleMania
WWE WrestleMania XXV
April 5th, 2009 | Astrodome in Houston, Texas | Attendance: 72,744

So, this was an interesting WrestleMania to set up. You had the Randy Orton/Triple H rivalry that was way over the top and the same could be said for Matt and Jeff Hardy’s rivalry. Then, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had next to no build for a match that should have been filled with a great build. Throw in a World Heavyweight Title match oddly focused on Vickie Guerrero and you had one of the weirder built WrestleManias in history. Still, there was loads of potential on paper. I recall being underwhelmed by this show but I haven’t watched it again in full since the day it aired.

Also, technically wouldn’t this be the 24th anniversary of WrestleMania?

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Did the event have logical booking decisions for the stories they told
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity interaction, concerts, etc.

Match Quality

Money in the Bank: Christian vs. CM Punk vs. Finlay vs. Kane vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Mark Henry vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin ~ Back to eight participants this year. I liked this mix of wrestlers. Guys like Kofi Kingston came in and showcased his athleticism, while you had Mark Henry and Kane bringing the power game, and then Finlay just wanting to brawl. It was a good combination. For example, I loved Kane and Henry getting stopped by everyone from climbing, so they just tossed the ladders aside with ease. Though Shelton Benjamin was four years removed from his show stealing performance in the inaugural MITB, he had a huge spot as well. The spot where Kofi tried to climb up the closed ladder was a weird idea but it came off quite well. The World’s Strongest Slam on a ladder looked especially brutal. The end saw Christian on the verge of winning to a huge pop only for Punk to springboard in. He got hung up by his leg and Kane took care of Christian. Punk kicked Kane from the top and pulled down the briefcase for a second straight year at the 14:23 mark. Not quite where some prior MITB matches ranked but not the worst. It had a lot of good spots and kept the energy up for the entire duration. [***¾]

Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal ~ Oh, it’s this match. This was supposed to be something of a celebration of women at WrestleMania. Instead of entrances, the ladies came out to no fanfare or announcements as part of a shitty Kid Rock concert. What a mess. The match is even more of a debacle. The bell rang before the announcements were even done. No respect. Women got thrown out with no fanfare and nothing registered. In the end, Santina Marella won, which was Santino in drag if you don’t remember. The whole thing went 5:57. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I can just imagine Vince found this hilarious. [-***]

Chris Jericho vs. Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper ~ Chris Jericho against two legends and a murderer. This was reportedly supposed to be Jericho vs. Mickey Rourke but that fell through and they pivoted to this. When Jimmy Snuka was in there, this was terrible. When Roddy Piper was in there, it was slightly better because he at least had fire behind his stuff. After Jericho eliminated those two, Ricky Steamboat came in to save the day. The dude looked fantastic and better than some of the active roster members. He came close to winning on more than one occasion and it felt believable. Alas, Jericho finished him off with the Codebreaker at 8:53. A great carry job by Jericho and then Steamboat came in and made it worthwhile. [**½]

Extreme Rules Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy ~ I feel like people forget how insanely over Jeff Hardy was in 2008. Fans wanted this to be great considering the history these two have in wild matches. However, this never seemed to have the level of animosity that it needed. You had one brother who burned down the other one’s house down and you just never felt that in the match. They busted out some creative spots and a few extreme moments. The splash through table tables was a particularly cool bump. That’s not the way you usually see that move go down so I dug it. That would’ve been a good way to end the match but Jeff Hardy wanted more. He went for a huge leg drop off a ladder. Matt moved and Jeff crashed on his ass. A chair assisted Twist of Fate ended it after 13:13. It was pretty good but nowhere near what it should’ve been given their penchant for big spots and the animosity of the feud. [***¼]

WWE Intercontinental Championship: John Bradshaw Layfield [c] vs. Rey Mysterio ~ This was such a random IC Title match for Mania. JBL cut a long promo before this about being Texas’ hero. Or something like that. He was kind of rambling. Rey Mysterio was dressed like the Joker from The Dark Knight. All of JBL’s smack talk was for naught as Mysterio hit the 619 and stuff to win the title in 0:21. [NR]

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker ~ Mr. WrestleMania vs. The Streak. Outside of battles at the end of the 2007 Royal Rumble and the beginning of the 2008 iteration, these two hadn’t met since 1998. Shawn’s entrance from the heavens opposite Undertaker’s ascension from hell was perfectly done. I loved how Michaels wasn’t intimidated at all. He stood right up to Undertaker from the start. He had a game plan, looking to cut Undertaker down to size and try some submissions. It worked to an extent but Undertaker had some answers for a lot of it. Everyone remembers the classic spot where Undertaker went for his signature dive and nearly broke his neck. The idea of a desperate Shawn pulling the cameraman in the path of destruction was a great touch, as was his plea with the referee to try and win by countout. He was going to end the steak by any means necessary. That’s where the match turned up a notch. It’s where they began throwing bombs and bringing in the dramatic near falls. Close calls on the Last Ride, Chokeslam, and Sweet Chin Music. The “skin the cat” into the Tombstone near fall will probably never be topped. Undertaker’s sell of the near fall was perfect. The Sweet Chin Music one was also good but Michaels taking a while to cover took a bit away from it. They ultimately found a way to top the incredible previous Tombstone by having Undertaker catch Michaels out of a moonsault. That signaled the finish after 30:44. What more is there to say? One of the greatest matches of all time. [*****]

World Heavyweight Championship: Edge [c] vs. Big Show vs. John Cena ~ A feud that was more about Vickie Guerrero than the World Title. A lot of this match was your typical triple threat fare. Each guy got their array of near falls and big spots, while we also had plenty of moments where one guy was knocked out and the other two did battle. That made it feel more like a bunch of short singles matches with a few notable spots thrown in. For example, I liked Show blocking Edge from tapping out to the STF and then throwing Cena outside. I’m not saying the finish isn’t impressive but it has been overblown. Cena lifting Edge and Big Show for the Attitude Adjustment was cool but it was over too quickly for it to sink in. He hit Show with the move and then delivered one on Edge onto Show to win in 14:42. A pretty good match but one that is largely forgettable and generic. [***]

WWE Championship: Triple H [c] vs. Randy Orton ~ By now, I think everyone knows the glaring problem with this match. The build for it was bitter and personal. That called for a war. Instead, they added a stipulation where getting disqualified would result in the other man walking out as champion. That took away every bit of heat. I understand trying to force Triple H to keep his cool and they attempted to tell that story a few times. It’s not a horrible idea but it wasn’t what people wanted here. That led to a dead crowd watching two guys have a match that kind of made no sense. People point to HHH/Jericho from WM X8 as a lackluster main event but even that was a lot better than this. Triple H using the Punt was a nice touch, though, and after a Pedigree he retained in a ho-hum 23:33. Blah. [**]

I’ve heard the term “one match show” thrown around for WrestleMania XXV. For the most part, I feel like that’s pretty accurate. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker is an absolute classic. The rest of this card is ho-hum but it’s not like it’s all bad. I find the World Heavyweight Title match to be solid, Hardy vs. Hardy was good, and Money in the Bank was a lot of fun. The main event is a massive disappointment and the women’s battle royal is atrocious. There are eight matches; one is great, one is really good, two are solid, Ricky Steamboat saves one, and the rest is kind of just there.

SCORE: 6.0





Let’s be honest, most of the memorable things about this installment are negative. Everyone recalls how much of a lackluster disappointment Randy Orton vs. Triple H was. We all remember the debacle of Santina Marella and the Kid Rock concert. On the flip side, I do really appreciate how things like John Cena’s entrance is remembered. Of course, the one thing we remember above all is Undertaker/Shawn Michaels and for good reason. So it has memorable moments, even if most are bad. I’ll go slightly below average for this score.

SCORE: 5.0



Historical Significance


There’s much more here than I realized. For starters, CM Punk became the first two-time Money in the Bank winner, which is a historic accomplishment. This show also happened to be the final match in the career of JBL. It gets some points for marking the return of several legends, giving guys like Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper their final WrestleMania match. Lastly, this show also marked the Mania debut for future WWE Champion Kofi Kingston. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were watching someone truly special.

SCORE: 7.0



Booking Decisions


The biggest question mark on this show was Triple H retaining in the main event. I understand that the good guy should have prevailed when you consider everything that Randy Orton did to his family. That being said, Orton was the hottest thing in WWE and this killed his momentum. Winning the title in a lame six-man tag a month later was a bad move. They also had Santino Marella in drag win a women’s battle royal, which is just a terrible idea. I’m pretty good with every other choice made on this show. Those are two glaring problems that really bring the score down.

SCORE: 5.0





As is usually the case with the WrestleManias from this era, the setup of the show looked good. The stage was nice and the Astrodome made for a sweet venue. The company did a great job on the special entrances for this one. John Cena’s “The Real Slim Shady” entrance was great and looked cool, while the contrasting entrances for Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were stellar. The video packages were very good. The commentary team of Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole was grating. I honestly can’t wait to reach the shows without JR and King.

SCORE: 8.0





Everyone has pointed out that nothing could have followed Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. And that’s true. That being said, I don’t think it was placed in the wrong spot here. The WWE Title match belonged last and the crowd wasn’t really dead for Edge/Show/Orton after HBK/Taker. I think the show was paced pretty well. Anything lackluster or bad was followed by something solid and entertaining. There were clear problems, like the lengthy Kid Rock concert and how long the main event felt.

SCORE: 7.0





I feel like they did well picking Nicole Scherzinger for “America the Beautiful.” On the flip side, who the hell wanted to see Kid Rock perform for like 15 minutes? And it came at a terrible time. Not when people needed a break and could go to the bathroom or something. It was right after the opener. We don’t need a rest at that point. Mickey Rourke did well in his short stint, even if he was scheduled to do more. It was a good use of a celebrity, though the segment took a little too long. The same could be said for JBL’s retirement gimmick.

SCORE: 5.5





The lowest scoring WrestleMania since we got to the 20s. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Undertaker/Shawn Michaels, I don’t think anyone would have anything overly positive to say about this show. It’s not bad, it’s just that it ends disappointingly and doesn’t have much that stands out. Ultimately, a forgettable event but not one that you’ll regret watching.

TOTAL: 43.5/70


WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania XIX – 62/70
2. WrestleMania X-Seven – 61/70
3. WrestleMania XXIV – 59/70
4. WrestleMania III – 55/70
5. WrestleMania 21 – 52.5/70
6. WrestleMania X – 52/70
7. WrestleMania 23 – 51/70
8. WrestleMania VIII – 50.5/70
9. WrestleMania XX – 50/70
10. WrestleMania I – 50/70
11. WrestleMania XII – 48.5/70
12. WrestleMania 22 – 48.70
13. WrestleMania VII – 46/70
14. WrestleMania XIV – 46/70
15. WrestleMania VI – 44/70
16. WrestleMania XXV – 43.5/70
17. WrestleMania X8 – 43.5/70
18. WrestleMania 2000 – 39.5/70
19. WrestleMania V – 39/70
20. WrestleMania 13 – 37/70
21. WrestleMania XV – 35/70
22. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
23. WrestleMania XI – 31.5/70
24. WrestleMania IX – 31.5/70
25. WrestleMania II – 29/70

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Wrestlemania 26, Kevin Pantoja