Wrestlemania 26 Preview

This evening sees the pinnacle of the wrestling calendar.  Although there’s a small upstart in TNA trying to muscle in on things in the big time, as far as any pro-wrestling fan worth the name is concerned the only event that should matter is Wrestlemania.  I remember the fuss made about Wrestlemania 17 how it was stacked to the top with main event matches almost from top to bottom culminating in what to my mind is still the best main event of a Wrestlemania – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock.  They don’t make them like that anymore, but that’s what happens when you do something so unique – by its nature it is not to be repeated.

I also remember the Wrestlemania that ended with the triple threat between Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit.  It was an effort to put Benoit over the top and it did it beautifully.  I remember that end picture of both Benoit and Guerrero the unlikely lads who were fan favourites finally at the top of the mountain on the biggest stage of them all.  (I wonder if there are any more cliches to come?)  It is sad that both men died and especially the circumstances in which Benoit left so that now he’s virtually persona non grata in WWE circles, I understand the reasons but it does prevent them showcasing a great storyline.

So to this year’s bunch and I’m not really all that excited about the line-up, but that’s not to say WWE hasn’t put in the effort to make it a card worth watching.  The two main championship belts are on the line, the tag team belts are up for grabs, the Money in the Bank looks to appoint the next person to have a reach for the top, a feud brewing for over a decade is looking to reach its climax and a brilliantly set-up rematch to possibly end all Wrestlemania rematches should headline the card.  This is aptly supported by a number of other mini-feuds that feature either the up and comers or possible career establishing opportunities.  It’s not a weak card at all.  Lets have a look at some of these in detail.

The minor ones first – it’s sad that CM Punk and Rey Mysterio hasn’t been that much promoted in the run-up to the big event, but perhaps it can be one of the few feuds that might carry on after the event and blow off at the next PPV.  Punk is such a strong character that he can make this match work and of course Mysterio’s in-ring performance can hang with the best of them so there’s little concern about match storytelling.  I’d expect a Mysterio victory because rarely is WM about heels coming out on top.

The Legacy triple-threat isn’t that interesting really.  Still unsure about how you establish Randy Orton after a match like this, but it’s really about how Dibiasie and Rhodes take this opportunity to make a name for themselves.  If they get over well it could set them up for a good solo run this year.  There’s still some work to be truly convincing and that’s just as much about creative material as it is about the personalities themselves.  Not really bothered so much with who wins, so I’ll say Dibiasie because he’s the one I’d plug for to make it up to upper mid-card and possible top tier level.

Triple H vs. Sheamus.  Well this is just odd to see Triple H at this level – it’s not a major feud at all however much Trips has put in effort to make it seem that way.  You can view this match in one of two ways.  The first sees Sheamus’ run as champ as one of a transitional champ who was not completely entrusted to do the job up top and although is showing some promise now, needs more time in the mid card to sort out his character and come good again.  Thus Trips decisively winning this match would be the obvious outcome.  As well as that when you consider Trips has been doing a few jobs at this stage for a couple of others in over the last ten Wrestlemanias, then he could answer it’s about time he got a decisive win at this level.  The other main argument is that this is a chance to give Sheamus proper rating as a contender to be considered and that Triple H has had more than his fair share of glory, with it being this far down the card it won’t hurt Trips to give Sheamus a push and perhaps even make an unlikely bid to steal the show with a character turning match.  Now I’m not Triple H’s biggest fan but if I were to invest in one argument or the other, I’d possibly go for the first one and give Trips the win.  They need to use the building process for other wrestlers and Sheamus, if he’s good enough, will rise to the top anyway.

Tag team titles match which sees Miz take on Morrison again this time matched by their new partners Big show and R Truth respectively.  The feud hasn’t been that gripping but the matches in the interim period have been passable.  I’m not convinced by the team of R Truth and John Morrison at all.  Their rapport is too contrived even for the contrived world of pro-wrestling and giving them the champs belts sends the wrong message to an already depleted tag team situation.  ShowMiz remain entertaining with Miz a more than suitable replacement for Chris Jericho as a hell who can hold his own on the mic and in the ring.  So I’m hoping that the champs retain.

Money in the Bank – ten contenders with the ingredients for lots of thrills and spills and a good mix of those who have tasted success and those yet to really get over.  Some of the names in it aren’t worth mentioning because there’s no way they’ll win the thing.  I feel for some other guys who should be given the chance but probably won’t.  My own preference for who should win it is Kofi Kingston.  Why they pulled the plug on his push earlier on is still a mystery and the last thing that WWE need is another wasted opportunity like Shelton Benjamin.  So I hope they give the guy a chance by winning the briefcase and truly being catapulted to the upper echelons of the WWE Universe.  Characters like MVP and Christian will make it to the top anyway with their own charisma and fan support, if they persevere, so they don’t need the briefcase to get a chance.

So we move on from the undercard matches to the main ones.

First of all we come to the feud that’s been brewing since the Montreal Screwjob of 1997.  Ever since that event whenever there’s an event in Canada or the names Bret Hart and Vince McMahon are mentioned, never too far from those same lips is the phrase Bret screwed Bret.  For this match to be taking place at all is a tribute to one of two things – the power of water under the bridge and healing all wounds, or the cynic might suggest that there’s money to be made and Bret isn’t so choosy how he makes that money.  Let’s go with the first one because it works better.  Now the build up to this match has been one of the least exciting of a match involving Vince McMahon.  In as much as there’s obvious affection for Bret and everything, I’ve just not been convinced by the sell for it.   What’s also of concern is seeing a man who prided himself on being the ‘excellence of execution’ looking to bow out of action properly on the greatest stage you can as a pro-wrestler in a no holds barred.  It’s like Pele coming out of retirement to play at centre back for a side managed by Sam Allardyce (that’s ugly football, by the way).  It just doesn’t fit the man’s legacy at all and I’m saddened that this had to be pulled out this way.  Still, it’s a marquee event and a possible headliner on another PPV and seeing Bret Hart in a fighting capacity after all he’s gone through is a tribute to the man’s strength to overcome the odds.  It’s a nothing kind of match in terms of prestige and who needs the win more than the other.  I would say in the light of that then that it is only fair that Hart walks out of the big stage as the winner.

Then we come to the truly big time matches and start off with the ones for the titles.  Now I’ll go in order of my preferences rather than the order they’ll go in.  It’s been clear for the last few years that WWE has looked to build itself on the shoulders of Batista to an extent and definitely on John Cena.  That he’s a merchandising machine isn’t a dispute.  That he’s popular with elements of the crowd is also unmistakeable.  That he’s anything like on the level of some of the main eventers before him is a lot more questionable.  What Cena has going for him is a charisma of sorts.  When he’s good on the mic he can be an intense straight-up tough guy willing to take on all-comers, he can really bring it on the mic.  Yet, in my opinion, he doesn’t bring it regularly to the mic and his ring work is fairly basic.  It’s not even thrilling storytelling because he often breaks that element of beliveability about his performances.  He does enough though to keep up with competent wrestlers, but shouldering the responsibility of leading a match himself and telling a great story is not one of his strongest points.  This is a problem, because the same can be said for Batista.  Indeed here is a guy who’s turn to heel couldn’t come soon enough to make an effort to breathe new life into the character.  So far it’s worked out alright, without putting him as the best heel in the company.  He still holds his own and can still affect the crowd’s reaction to him as a heel.  His power moves are still effective to an extent and he can do the Animal schtick if he wants to.  As it is, WWE are placing their faith in two men who are their poster boys for the company, but don’t necessarily deserve on sheer skill and ability.  Also for the sake of the match there’s not a lot of desire for Cena to win the match, though you get the impression that will happen, just because it is more often than not the way things run at Wrestlemania.  Hey, it doesn’t bother me too much either way.  I’d prefer the belt quickly move onto another guy that they’ll try and shift into the main event picture rather than some of the tired usual suspects.

So because of the time spent in investing in those two stars I’d expect them to be nearer the top of the card, thus leaving the Edge vs. Chris Jericho title perilously close to mid-card status.  This is of course a travesty because in both characters you have men who can bring it across the board – in-ring technical skill, good storytelling, great mic work and characters who ooze the ability to sustain fans interest.   don’t think, though, that Edge should stay as a face.  It plainly doesn’t suit him and already I’m wondering how long that will last.  Still it’s the usual case of coming back from an injury and so having the sympathy of the fans and playing up to that.  There’s also been the big thing in this feud about the Spear as if it’s the deadliest weapon in Edge’s arsenal that Jericho fears so much.  That has also gone to some degree in ensuring that I know they’re not serious about making it a top match.  Thus it is down to these two men to make a match to remember, and that they can do.  I have every confidence in these guys to pull out the stops to make this match one to remember when people think of Wrestlemania.  The beauty of Jericho is that he doesn’t need the belt to get over.  He can do it quite well with the character he plays.  Meanwhile Edge needs to sign off on the recovery scheme of things the right way.  So all indications would be that Edge will take the title off Jericho.  That’s what all indicators would suggest. Plus with the possible rematch where they can even push themselves further, there’s every chance that this will act as a good point in the feud.

So we come to what must surely be the main event.  It’s career vs. streak as Shawn Michaels the Showstopper, takes on again The Phenom known as The Undertaker.  Now of all the matches for Wrestlemania, this has been the best put together and has the greatest excitement behind it especially because of the stipulations.  The size of these two wrestlers in the WWE Universe underlines why a match with no title on the line is likely to headline the big one.  This is indeed the archetypal much anticipated rematch.  Others may have been a bit intimidated to try and improve on what already had gone before, but in Undertaker and Michaels there’s no reason to think any kind of intimidation would prevent them from going full guns a-blazing to outdo last year’s incredible efforts.  I was a bit puzzled as to why the exact nature of the match is only winning by pinfall or submission.  Why not just call it No DQ and have done with it?  Small quibble though, the excitement is at fever pitch for what these icons can pull together.  I’m sure they can top last year.  I’m sure thy can set a new standard for wrestling.  What is the right outcome though?  Well in as much as I like the guy and would want him to keep going, I think it would be wrong to let Shawn Michaels be the one to break the streak.  That is the ultimate in ego stroking to allow that to happen.  It would be a lot more fitting to end the streak on an outstanding year as well as get a serious up and coming fuy over by letting it happen.  that, rather than Michaels win it.  It is a match well worth waiting for.

That’s the line-up and predictions for this year’s Wrestlemania.  Roll on the show now.  Enjoy.




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