Thursday, 26 February 2015

WrestleMania XXVI

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 487 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 5 2010

The year 2010 was a bit of an anti-climax in the world of wrestling. TNA signed up many big names and attempted to relive The Monday Night War by going head-to-head with WWE, which could have potentially led to another boom period. Instead, TNA's lack of creativity meant that the Raw-iMPACT feud lasted mere weeks, and TNA has declined in importance ever since.

Meanwhile, in WWE itself, key storylines were a bit bungled, many big names left, and whilst it wasn't a terrible year of 2004 levels, it was the weakest annum in WWE since then, and business reflected this.

Partly due to this, some forget about the top event of 2010, WrestleMania XXVI. I attended this so, yes, I'm biased, but WM 26 is somewhat overlooked in the annals of Mania history. Yet beforehand the line-up promises what could have been the best WM of all-time and whilst it did misfire in some places, when re-watching the event on DVD it is by no means a bad show; it is probably the most underrated Mania to date.

Held on March 28, 2010 at the University Of Phoenix Stadium, WM XXVI opened with a brief Unified Tag Title match between ShowMiz and the team of R-Truth and John Morrison (well, the first match was actually a 26-man battle royal; it was on and is here on the DVD, but was not broadcast on the Pay-Per-View).

The second match is the first of what, beforehand, seemed like a selection of EIGHT bouts that either featured main event talent or were very important. Randy Orton battled Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes as Legacy implodes in a match that may be Orton's least memorable at WM, but only because most of the others were more high-profile. Match 3 is Money In The Bank VI, a ten-man affair with several notable spots, although at the time the sight from which one took memory of this was Jack Swagger's very long attempt to unhook the MITB briefcase (this is shortened for DVD). Both matches should be more fondly remembered than they are.

As should Triple H vs. Sheamus, which is a really good collision that began to justify the then-new Celtic Warrior's headline spot (a Sheamus win would have been more effective to emphasise this). Next is Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk, a fun little match that would be more memorable had it lasted another few minutes; it felt like filler, but could have been a big match in its own right.

Then came Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon, which is somewhat of a controversial presentation. Bret's return to WWE had been anticipated for years, and Vince was a natural foe. Their feud started great, but faltered a bit as it went on; however, come Mania day, it was still an eagerly awaited clash as fans wanted to see Bret finally get revenge on McMahon for the Montreal Screwjob.

Bret did gain retribution; however, the beat-down was long-winded and at times unnecessarily vicious, and for legal reasons relating to Hart's health, Vince didn't lay one finger on Bret (plus, Hart family members including The Hart Dynasty pummelled Vince too, meaning about a dozen or more babyfaces were destroying one heel). The booking and execution were not the best, leading some to say this was one of the worst WM matches ever - but let's put things into perspective.

This was Bret's first match since 2000 due to a concussion and later a stroke, and even Vince was 64. Who honestly expected a classic match here? Fans were watching this one to see Bret destroy Vince, and that's what happened. Okay, so it lasted a bit too long and maybe 18 chairshots was excessive, but had the same scene occurred at, say, WM 22 in Chicago, it would have been lapped up. I think it was a case of the right idea where the layout was a bit off, at a time when the crowd would be less accepting of the moment. Overall, nowhere near a classic, but did it deliver the payoff? Yes.

Edge and Chris Jericho follow that with a World Title scrap. It's a good match but slightly less than what people had hoped for, and with Edge surprisingly losing. His post-match attack didn't really make up for it, either. And since Jack Swagger would cash in MITB on Y2J after another Edge attack on the following SmackDown, why didn't he just do it here after a more severe beatdown, on the grandest stage of them all?

A short ten-Divas bout precedes an underrated WWE Title match between John Cena and Batista. Whilst this isn't amongst the best championship bouts in WM history, it deserves more praise than it has received and, if nothing else, has a better atmosphere than the title bouts at Mania the year before and the year after as Cena becomes a 9-time Champ.

Which brings us to the main event: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, Streak vs. Career. This was a rematch of their classic WM 25 bout, and was set up brilliantly with a months-long storyline where HBK was determined to have another chance at ending The Streak, even if it meant the risk of his own career ending.

This had a very high standard to live up to - and it did and then some in what may have been the greatest WrestleMania main event of all-time. There were plenty of big moves, and the No DQ rules meant more major spots, including Shawn's utterly insane top rope moonsault onto Taker and through the announcer's table.

But what makes this stand out from the original was the drama and emotion of the stipulation: it is an incredible moment as Taker is reluctant to Tombstone HBK into retirement for the win, only for Michaels to mock and slap Taker, which sees an angered UT respond with a huge jumping Tombstone for the win. Undertaker goes 18-0: Shawn Michaels' career is over after an absolutely phenomenal match. The post-match embrace and Shawn's farewell to the fans wrap up an unforgettable match presentation, and end WM 26 with a very memorable WrestleMania moment.

The DVD set loses a bit of steam on the Hall Of Fame 2010 section. The ceremony is here in full, and is entertaining enough (the inductees are Mad Dog Vachon, Wendi Richter, Stu Hart, Antonio Inoki, Bob Uecker - the celebrity inductee whose speech is hilarious - Gorgeous George and star inductee Ted DiBiase), but the remaining extras consist of a match or footage of each. A good theory on paper, but as all wrestlers besides DiBiase are very old-school, most bouts fail to leave an impression. DiBiase's WM 6 clash with Jake Roberts is the most recent, and even that suffers via the absence of Jesse Ventura's commentary.

On the whole, then, the DVD set of WrestleMania 26 is like the year in which the show took place. There are big moments and a true classic, but what should shine brightly are slightly underwhelming, leaving some parts which are deserving of greater praise to be ignored. That being said, I still recommend this set: it's an underrated Mania which should keep you entertained for most of its duration, and you should get a kick out of the HOF ceremony. Just don't expect a lot from the bonus matches involving the HOF inductees.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

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