In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
Unified WWE Tag Title Match: ShoMiz vs. John Morrison & R-Truth
Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase Jr. (Triple Threat Match)
Jack Swagger vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Matt Hardy vs. Evan Bourne vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
Triple H vs. Sheamus
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
Vince McMahon vs. Bret Hart (No Holds Barred Match)
World Heavyweight Title Match: Chris Jericho vs. Edge
Michelle McCool, Layla, Maryse, Alicia Fox & Vicky Guerrero vs. Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Gail Kim & Beth Phoenix (10-Diva Tag Match)
WWE Title Match: Batista vs. John Cena
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Streak vs. Career Match)
Has there been a recent WrestleMania moment that was more uncomfortable than Vince McMahon versus Bret Hart? The correct answer is no.
The Hitman’s long-awaited return to the WWE was a very big deal, and rightly so. Neither before nor since has a wrestler as beloved as Hart left the company in such an infamous fashion. Nearly thirteen years after the ‘Montreal Screwjob’, bridges were mended and a reunion was at last made possible.
Of course in the fictional, upside-down world of professional wrestling, the WWE creative team decided that burying the hatchet wasn’t ‘best for business’, so immediately set-up a Bret/Vince feud for ‘Mania season.
It might not have been that bad of an idea, if weren’t for two reasons: Vince McMahon is not a professional wrestler; and Bret Hart has had a long career of sustained injuries, resulting in doctors refusing to clear to wrestle. So we’ve got a major pro wrestling rivalry, in which neither many can actually wrestle. You see the problem here right?
The ‘match’ turned into an overly-booked, overly-long mess. It began with a bizarre plot-point, involving the entire Hart family (and that’s a lot of people) coming down to the ring and seemingly siding with Vince. This made absolutely no sense whatsoever, so when they ‘dramatically’ switch sides to align with Bret, nobody was shocked in the least. Terrible booking.
For the second year in succession, WrestleMania was all about one match and two men: Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
After their unforgettable battle at WrestleMania 25, it seemed unlikely, nay impossible, that the two in-ring veterans would be able recreate that kind of magic. Having said that, this time they were correctly placed in the main event, and if anybody could bring the house down two years in a row, it was these two. Taker’s ‘Streak’ matches had been steadily progressing, while Michaels hadn’t had anything less than four-star ‘Mania match in over a decade.
Unlike twelve months previously, this match had the added jeopardy of HBK’s career being on the line. It sounds crazy to say now, but at the time this stipulation really cancelled out the apparent ‘invincibility’ of the Undertaker’s streak. Nobody wanted to believe this was going to be Michael’s last match (how could it be given he’s still capable of world-class performances?!), so for the first time in many years, fans were genuinely considering the option that the Undertaker might actually lose.
Right from the first bell, the match was special. Michaels and Undertaker engaged in the mother of all stare-downs, while the crowd were going absolutely berserk. The opening 10 minutes are at a slow pace, with Michaels trying to weaken Undertaker’s knee with a variety of shots and submissions. The crowd let out a glorious ‘Wooo!’ when HBK locked on the Figure-Four, which was perhaps him calling back to his match two years earlier against Ric Flair.
The match picks up pace and builds to an exhilarating finale. The Streak looked to be under threat several times throughout the bout, but in the end it remained unbroken. Undertaker began to make his trademark ‘Cutthroat’ gesture to signal another Tombstone Piledriver was imminent, but he stopped halfway through and simply told his opponent to ‘Stay Down’. A rule-breaker through and through, Michaels defies him, instead making his own ‘Cutthroat’ signal while on his knees. ‘Taker sees red and nails him with a thunderous Tombstone which brings about the end of the match and, sadly the end of HBK’s legendary career.
In an act of sheer class, Undertaker kept his celebrations to a minimum before the leaving the ring and allowing Michaels time to soak up his moment. It’s a moment that eerily mirrors WrestleMania XXIV, where Michaels did the exact same thing after ending Flair’s career.
The debate between which Michaels/Undertaker match was better will rage on, but for me, this one just about nicks it. The added drama of HBK’s retirement and the fact that they were given the main event just gives the bout at WrestleMania XXVI the edge.
In addition to the classic main event, there is a lot more to enjoy at this event. The two matches for the premier titles (Jericho/Edge for World Heavyweight, Batista/Cena for WWE) were both of a great standard. The angle between Batista and John Cena was particularly well done, building on the fact that both competitors had risen to prominence at the exact same time. Somewhat surprisingly, the triple threat match between the three former members of ‘Legacy’ (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase) also told a thoroughly engaging story.
WrestleMania XXVI was a decent showing, and is worth watching if only for the spectacle of the Michaels/Taker match. Elsewhere on the card though, there are still a fair amount of treats to keep you entertained prior to the main event.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn