There is always the question of who is the greatest in ring performer of all time. Some say Ric Flair, others go to Japan and say Mitsuharu Misawa or Kenta Kobashi. For me, the choice isn’t exactly the hardest choice in the world: It’s Shawn Michaels, dude.
Misawa and Kobashi are awesome but Shawn was able to take the biggest stiff and have a great match with them. In WWE, they always look for the story in the match. Shawn managed to do that every single time, even if the story was the goofiest one of Earth. He pulled it off each and every time, and never faltered. I don’t remember a Shawn Michaels match that truly sucked. He performed to the best of his ability every single night and will stand the test of time as the best in-ring performer WWE has ever seen.
Following his tremendous match against the Undertaker at the previous year’s WrestleMania, Shawn wanted to face the Undertaker again. The Phenom, however, wasn’t that interested. What would he gain if he were to beat Shawn again? The Heartbreak Kid’s answer was simple, that he would give up his career if he could not take the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Undertaker accepted, and the stage was set for WrestleMania 26 in Phoenix — Streak vs. Career.
I didn’t believe that Shawn was retiring when it was announced. I figured he’d be back around next year’s WrestleMania, due for another match against whoever. That’s just how the business is now; everyone retires then unretires so many times the stipulation has been killed to death. Hell, Ric Flair got one of the greatest send offs of all time and still came back but Shawn Michaels…he didn’t return. He went home and proceeded to hunt. And what’s he doing now? Probably hunting some more. He really did retire from the ring that night, something not a lot of people expected, but it seems like as the years go by, the less of a chance there is to make a return. But maybe that’s for the better. After all, who would want to see a Shawn Michaels that didn’t have it anymore?
What’s even funnier is that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have crossed paths once again. Just as Shawn was leaving the WWE, Bret Hart was making his return. Thirteen years had passed since the infamous Montreal Screwjob occurred at the 1997 Survivor Series, an event that is played every year even though for the most part, a lot of people have moved on from it. The relationship between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart had thawed enough that there was interest in doing what seemed to be the inevitable match between the two. On the first Raw of 2010, Bret Hart did make his return. He hugged Shawn Micheals, and their animosity immediately ended. For Vince McMahon, however, he wasn’t ready to let things go. He wanted Bret Hart, once and for all, and eventually Bret wanted a piece of Vince McMahon as well.
The angle leading to the show should have been an easy one. But like with most of WWE’s storylines this decade, there has to be more, there has to be a STORY that overcomplicates the simplest stories told. Vince instead concocted this plot that involved Bret Hart getting in a car crash and breaking his leg, thinking that he’d accept the match and would have to wrestle an injured man. Nevermind the fact that Bret Hart was injured enough as is, they had to go this route to tell A STORY, even though the story was already laid out for them. Eventually Bret Hart revealed his leg was not broken, it was all a ruse for Vince to agree to the match, which leads to tonights events.
Fantasia (from American Idol) performed America the Beautiful this year.
WWE Unified Tag Team Championship – Showmiz (c) vs. John Morrison and R-Truth: This was the state of the tag team division at the time. I don’t even remember how Morrison and R-Truth became a team, I think they just started to team because. Same with Showmiz. This was extremely short. Big Show, of course, got the win after making a blind tag to Miz and punched Morrison as he hopped onto the middle rope. *
Cody Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Orton: I don’t even remember this storyline, which goes to tell you how much this whole Legacy stable meant in the long run. All I know is that the Legacy was supposed to be the launching point of both Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Boy, did they launch off alright. All I remember about this feud was that there were times where it looked like Ted DiBiase would have made it big as a face if they went with it when they did, but instead they turned Orton face facing off against the heel Rhodes and DiBiase. So they have this match. It was a handicap match as DiBiase and Rhodes both said they didn’t care who won, as long as it wasn’t Orton. But of course, as soon as one of them made a cover (DiBiase) they had words and soon turned this into a three way. Of course, this leads to Orton coming back and destroying them both. DiBiase tries for the million dollar slam but Orton counters into an RKO for the win. So to sum it all up, this Legacy storyline did zilch for either DiBiase or Rhodes. The former would linger on for a few years, never really finding his niche before being released. The other hasn’t found his niche either, but who knows, maybe he will someday. **
Josh Matthews was in the back and gave a big introduction to Vickie Guerrero. She said some stuff, mostly just plugging the upcoming diva tag match later on in the show. This led to Jillian singing. This was immediately followed by Santino coming in to plug Slim Jims. He kept taking bites and Jillian soon turned into Mae Young, who turned into Mean Gene, who then turned into Melina, with the punchline anything can happen when you snap into a Slim Jim. Cute I guess.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: I think this is the last one, sadly, since it soon turned into it’s own PPV. Participants are Kofi Kingston, MVP, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Kane and Christian. Bodies flew everywhere, of course. Kane chokeslammed Evan out of the ring and to a bunch of people on the floor. Kofi tried to run up the ladder like Shelton Benjamin did a few years ago, but his leg got caught and it ended up looking bad. Swagger ends up getting caught inside the ladder as guys rammed him through both sides with ladders. Taken out of context, that sounds really lewd. Bourne hits a shooting star press off the ladder, then climbs but Matt Hardy suplexes him all the way to the floor. Kane comes back in and does big guy spots, and also squishes Dolph Ziggler in between a ladder. Kofi, who will be known for his somewhat contrived spots in the rumble, proceeds to grab the remnants of one ladder that’s split in half and climbs up the ladder, but McIntyre comes back and starts to climb. At the time, he was the big pushed guy and it seemed like he had the best chance of winning the match. Of course, it didn’t happen, people lost faith in him, and I think he spent the rest of his run never really winning a match. It boils down to Christian and Jack Swagger. They fight a good while, but eventually Swagger smacks Christian with the briefcase, climbs up and wins the briefcase. He’d go on to cash in and win the title, but was probably booked even more poorly as champion than Rey Mysterio, if you can even imagine this. He’d go on to lose the title, and after a few more failed runs is now pretty much a jobber to the stars. That’s what happens when you’re in an environment where people change their minds on a daily basis. ***3/4
Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Mad Dog Vachon, Wendi Richter, Stu Hart, Gorgeous George, Antonio Inoki, Bob Uecker and Ted DiBiase all were inducted.
Triple H vs. Sheamus: Hey look, another push that bombed. Well, the first initial one anyway. Sheamus would have several pushes, as you’re well aware as he’ll probably be back for another big one after WrestleMania. Anyway, when he was brought over to the Raw brand he was immediately given a big push, destroying people left and right. Well, except for John Cena, whom he put through a table to win the WWE title. He lost the title in the Elimination Chamber thanks to Triple H, who pinned him, and now they’re here having this match. Sheamus started off with his offense, which was fine, but the crowd was mostly dead for it. Triple H made a comeback but Sheamus hit the brouge kick for a nearfall. They exchanged back and forth shots. Sheamus hits the brouge kick on the apron but doesn’t cover. This allows Triple H to pedigree him out of nowhere for the win. Cole immediately claimed that this match proved that Sheamus belonged in the main event scene. He lost. Out of nowhere. I guess he just wasn’t the guy. This lead to a match at Extreme Rules where Sheamus put him out of action for months, only for Triple H to return and DECIMATE HIM. I don’t care how many vignettes they air for his next upcoming return, anyone who saw the beating Triple H gave him when he made his return ensures he’ll never get over again. Oh, right, this was solid at best.**1/4
CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio: Punk was fully into his Straight Edge Society gimmick, and challenged him to a match. If he lost, he would have to join the SES. Punk jumps him immediately at the bell and spends a lot of the match working on him. They tried doing a lucha spot, a springboard into a DDT but it didn’t work at all. Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t show a replay of it. Serena and Luke Gallows try to interfere, but Punk accidentally collides into Gallows after a Mysterio hurricanrana, allowing Mysterio to hit the 619 and the springboard splash for the win. **1/2
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon: So Vince McMahon comes out and says he’s screwed Bret again. He brings out his whole family, including the Hart Dynasty. They’ll be the lumberjacks for tonight’s match. They all circle the ring as Vince enters, smirking. Bret says well guess what, we all agreed upfront that we’d be together as one tonight, so we’ve doublecrossed you. Vince didn’t like this one bit and charges at Bret as the bell rings, but Bret cuts him off and beats him up, sending him to the outside. The Hart Dynasty grabs him and destroys Vince with an assisted clothesline off the top rope by Kidd that sends Vince to the floor, bonking his head HARD against the mat. I’d be stunned if he didn’t have a concussion. Maybe that bump on the head caused him to go off the deep end. Vince escapes under the ring, but when he’s pulled out he has a crowbar. They back out as Vince enters the ring with it, but Bret cuts him off and beats on him forever and ever and ever and ever and EVER. There was one point where Bret was about to put him in the sharpshooter, but instead opted to let go and pummel him with the crowbar some more. He takes a chair and sits down, then when Vince finally gets up he beats on him forever and ever and ever with the chair. Finally Bret submits Vince with the sharpshooter. This was such a weird match. DUD
World Heavyweight Championship – Edge vs. Chris Jericho ©: Story here is that Edge and Chris Jericho won the tag team titles in July of 2009. Problem is, shortly thereafter Edge hurt his achilles tendon and was out indefinitely. After cutting a scathing promo on Edge shortly after the incident, Edge was hellbent on returning and made sure to utter “spear” at every opportunity, winning the Rumble and securing a title match against Jericho here tonight. This was a very WWE centric match. Lots of holds, lots of reversals and finisher attempts. Jericho manages to get in the walls at one point and the announcers are sure to mention the achilles tendon injury. A ref bump and title shot doesn’t take out Edge, but one more codebreaker does. This feels like a pretty anticlimactic finish to a pretty good back and forth match. ***3/4
Jericho jumps Edge after the match, but the latter is pissed and decides to do something more. He fights back and puts Jericho on the table, then spears him into the ring bell area through a barricade. Ouch!
They showed footage of Yoshi Tatsu winning a battle royal. Did wonders for his career here.
Ten Diva Tag Match – Laycool, Vickie Guerrero, Alicia Fox and Maryse vs. Eve, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Mickie James and Kelly Kelly: They made sure to establish that these divas ARE SEXY, SMART AND POWERFUL. The buzzwords are starting to creep in and it’s gross. Everyone hits their finisher on one another in the least convincing fashion ever. Beth Phoenix is left standing against Vickie, but McCool lays her out and this allows Vickie to hit a horrible looking frog splash on Kelly for the win. It was a match to put all the women on the show. DUD
WWE Championship – Batista (c) vs. John Cena: A good back and forth match. They played it up big that Batista took out Cena for a while with a serious neck injury. Each man kicked out of their opponents finishers. The announcers were a little less subdued than usual when they did the same spot they did at Summerslam that caused the neck injury as Cena was laid out with a spinebuster when jumping off the top rope. John Cena sold it by locking in the STF, with Batista eventually tapping. Well, this was a good match, at the very least, but nothing worth nothing in the grand scheme of things. Do you even remember John Cena winning the title at this here WrestleMania? Nope? Neither do I. ***1/2
Career vs. Streak – Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker: Shawn starts off strong by chopping Undertaker to the corner but he pushes him off. He teases the suicide dive but Shawn comes back with a spear. Lots of back and forth. Undertaker hits a chokeslam but Shawn kicks out, and is quick to avoid the tombstone. Shawn, who has been working on Undertaker’s leg from the get go, rolls out of the tombstone and tries an ankle lock, but Undertaker gets to the ropes. Shawn flies out of the ring looking to grab Undertaker but he grabs him and hits the tombstone on the floor. Undertaker follows with the Last Ride but his leg gives out and both fall awkwardly. That was such a great little moment in the match. Undertaker locks in the Hell’s Gate but Shawn counters with a roll up for a nearfall. Shawn follows with a superkick, but still can’t finish it. Shawn tries for another but Undertaker grabs him, lifts him up and drills him with the last ride for another nearfall. Undertaker throws him out and tries for the Last Ride through a table but Shawn reverses into a superkick and launches off with a giant moonsault through the table. Another super kick back in the ring doesn’t do it. This is a lot of finishers here. Another chokeslam by Undertaker. Tombstone piledriver, but Shawn kicks out again. Undertaker signals for another tombstone, but sees Shawn struggling to get to his feet. He tells him to lay down, and gives him a moment of pity. Shawn then does the throat cut gesture and slaps Undertaker. Undertaker responds by lifting him up and giving him a jumping tombstone piledriver for the win. Man that was great. Yes, they spammed finishers left and right but when you tell a story like this one, it works regardless. And incredible match that told a great story. Not A STORY, a story. *****
Huge pyro inside and outside the stadium as Undertaker poses. He notices Shawn still lying and picks him up. Undertaker, emotional, extends his hand they hug. Fans cheer for Shawn Michaels. He slowly makes his exit, shaking hands with the fans (one holding a “THIS MATCH SPONSORED BY THE AARP” sign) as he makes his way to the back as the show closes.
Final Thoughts: The main event was incredible, and there was some good stuff up and down the card. Not the greatest of all time in building the future of the industry, but with a main event like this one I can’t argue it wasn’t a great show. By the way, if you want to know which camp I’m in…this match is better than the previous years. No question.