Comments by Greg Oliver unless noted.
Undertaker rises from below the stage for his bout with Shawn Michaels, who came out first, and appeared to be perplexed when some pyro didn’t go off.
From Bob Kapur: Okay, maybe this makes me a complete mark, but I always get excited over the Undertaker’s entrance. Either a mark or a pyro, since I’m always yelling “Fire! Fire!” like Beavis. They’re standing in the centre of the ring, and I’ve actually got goosebumps. Not sure if it’s the anticipation of what is going to happen, or because the roof’s open again, and there’s a breeze flowing into the building.
Storyline so far is Undertaker has a bum left knee, and HBK has targeted it, including a Figure Four leglock.
From Andy McNamara: HBK channels the spirit of Kurt Angle as he sinks in an ankle lock to continue to wretch on the Dead Man’s leg. This truly has that big match feel. Taker catches Michaels on a second rope spring board splash to the outside, which Undertaker turns into a Tombstone. Taker does not have the energy to roll him in the ring.
Some great counters, a Hell’s Gate, a flying elbow, a Last Ride, great escapes.
Andy: Wow what a moonsault by Michaels! Off of the top rope through the announcers table onto The Undertaker’s bad leg! HBK hits another Superkick…and Taker somehow kicks out! Unbelievable match!
Defiant to the end, Shawn Michaels goes down to The Undertaker after two tombstone piledrivers. Career over. What a match. ‘Taker told HBK to stay down, he wouldn’t, so he had to tombstone him again.
From Bob Kapur: They’ve done it again. What a match! This is a match that wrestling fans should show their non-wrestling fans to make them understand why they’re fans.
The pyrotechnics continue after the match, with Undertaker leaving the ring first. Then he reconsiders and helps Michaels up. Then a great show of sportsmanship afterward. There’s the feel good moment to go home with. Speaking of which, bye Shawn. See you in a few months.
It’s lovely the way the announcers have quieted down, and are letting Michaels leave to the cheers and praise of the crowd.
From Bob Kapur: Not sure when the cameras went dark, but after the match, there were fireworks at the entrance stage, and the sign changed to read 18-0. Fireworks were also seen through the open roof. Taker embraced HBK and left the ring. Shawn then acknowledged the crowd, and made his way up the ramp to a standing ovation (no music). At the top of the ramp, he kneeled, presumably in prayer, and then waved to the crowd one last time before heading to the back. Now I’m sad.
Match Nine: WWE World title
After a good video package, Batista, the champ, is out first, by himself, no gimmicks. Michael Cole keeps throwing out the stats, and the latest is that it’s been five years since the WWE World title changed hands at WrestleMania.
Cena has a military guard for his entrance.
From Bob Kapur: At the press conference today, Cena promised that his entrance this year would be the best one ever. He joked, “hopefully the match will be as entertaining as the entrance.” It was a bit underwhelming in my view (which is not to say I don’t support the troops, so no angry e-mails, please). Hopefully that’s not a portent of the match to come.
It’s been a real slugfest so far, all about power, wearing the other guy down, and more than one show of strength. Pretty even too.
Each other’s finishers — no good. No finish, but crowd is really into the close falls.
Cena gets the STF out of nowhere. It’s locked in. Cena wins. Only submission win of the next. New WWE champion.
From Bob Kapur: “You can’t see me” is right. Stupid orange spotlights. Down in the photo pit, Mike Mastrandrea is probably whining up a storm now about how they’re affecting picture quality. Seriously, though, it’s like the entire arena is under one of those McDonald’s heat lamps. For a minute, it looked like Cena’s new catchphrase would have to be “you can’t lift me”, but he eventually got him up for the Attitude Adjustment. Nice block into a powerbomb – and equally nice transition into the STF. So far, this has been a night of good matches.
From Bob Kapur: The crowd here has been fantastic all night – wonder if it will come across on TV, but people are insanely into everything. Both guys got huge reactions. Can’t wait to hear what the place will be like during the main event. They’re shining some really terrible spotlighting into the crowd that’s giving the entire building an orange glow. Not sure why they thought this would be a good idea. The glare from the spotlight is pretty offensive, as it’s right underneath the big screen hanging over the ring, so even looking in the direction of the ring is like staring into the sun. The ring is a big purple spot now. Roof check: opening yet again.
Match Eight: 10 Diva Tag Team Match
Andy: Well this is literally the popcorn match as Greg is popping some fresh kernels and the Divas make their way to the ring.
Vickie Guerrero and Gail Kim start things off, however, tags are quickly made between Beth, Eve, and Mickie James who all want a piece of the Smackdown Adviser.
Thank goodness this one ends just as the popcorn is ready. Guerrero delivers the worst looking top rope splash, “The Bullfrog Splash”, then covers Kelly Kelly…then gets off of her…and pins her again for the three count.
From Bob Kapur: Seeing Vicky wrestle reminds me of the classic WM days when managers like Mr. Fuji and Bobby Heenan would don the tights for a match. It’s a toss-up as to which of them looked better in tights.
From Bob Kapur: Didn’t notice it before, but the roof must have opened at some point during the Bret-Vince match, because it’s closing again in the opening minutes of Edge-Jericho. I heard that in a recent interview, Edge said that he was in the best shape of his life, except for his “muffin top” belly. If that’s the case, then I have a full bakery.
Really liked this match. Lots of creative counters to each other’s moves – the Codebreaker out of the Spear attempt was stellar. Effective use of a referee bump to affect the outcome of the match, but not overdone to the point of ludicrousness (one can only hope that Vince Russo is watching and learning something from this).
Up next, it’s Edge against Chris Jericho for World heavyweight title. Since when does the champ – Jericho – come out first, though? Edge gets a good reaction, but not massive.
Pretty routine match, to be honest. Mat wrestling. Edge hit his facebuster from the second rope, but nothing much else of note yet.
Missed spear turned into Walls of Jericho. Will Edge tap? No. He makes it a small package, for two.
Andy: Y2J tries for a spear and receives a big boot for his trouble. Edge goes for the finish with a spear of his own, but has it turned into a Code Breaker for a near fall. The pace is picking up nicely.
Jericho gets the belt, Edge, knocks over the ref, then uses the belt on Edge, but doesn’t get the win. Moments later, Jericho hits the Codebreaker for a three count in the middle of the ring. After the match, Jericho tried to hurt Edge more, and now Edge is destroying Jericho on the announcer’s tables. Spear! Spear! Spear! after the bout that might be the bump of the night, Edge goes from one announce table to the next, and takes Jericho off the table into the ring barrier, which topples over. Did I saw bump of the night so far?
Announced attendance: 72,219. They didn’t say that tickets were available today, but they were.
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon is on tap next. A recap of the Hart/McMahon history is shown.
Greg: One complaint a lot of older wrestlers talk about is looking like a wrestler, wearing proper outfits. And here’s Bret in jean shorts. Vince is on the microphone, berating Bret, promising a “Wrestlemania sized screwing.”
Vince bought some lumberjacks, and a special referee.
Hart Dynasty sold out to Vince! The rest of the Hart siblings are apparently lumberjacks too, still dressed up for the Hall of Fame honour for Stu. Bruce Hart is the referee, and just hugged Vince. As Andy just pointed out, 99% of the audience won’t get any of this.
Then Bret announces that the Hart Family is actually united, and we will remember this as the night that “Bret screwed Vince.” Just hope he wears protection.
All the Harts are laying it into McMahon.
In reality, why would Tyson Kidd, Natalya and David Hart Smith attack their boss. C’mon. A little reality please. Tyson & DH just delivered a Hart Attack on Vince outside the ring, from the ring ropes. Vince’s head bounced off the floor.
Slow motion match, until Bret whallopped McMahon with the chair again and again. He’s killing him. The chair shots don’t stop. Ridiculous. Now he’s working over Vince’s legs with the chair. The fans seem pretty dead, as this is going on waaaaayyyyyyyy too long.
Finally, Sharpshooter to win. Vince taps immediately.
From Bob Kapur: If my boss is reading this, I would never hit you with a crowbar. Now, can I have that week off I wanted? Wow, I know this is supposed to be Bret’s revenge, but he’s putting on such a beating, I kind of feel sorry for Vince. Maybe they’re trying for a WM-13 double turn?
From Bob Kapur: The Punk-Rey video package was simply tremendous, as was Punk’s promo. The hydraulic system that was presumably supposed to launch Rey up through the entrance stage? Not so much. Liked the way the SES was used during the match. They didn’t interfere to the point of taking away from the story in the match.
Rey Mysterio against CM Punk is up next. Punk gets to be the first guy to talk to the live crowd.
Segment: The feud between Rey Mysterio and CM Punk is recapped.
Andy: Mysterio’s outfit is underwhelming in comparison to his past super hero themed gear such as the Joker and The Flash. Michael Cole’s broadcasting follies continue as he claims tonight is the largest live sporting event ever…hello WrestleMania 3?
Andy: Some interference from Serena and Gallos does not slow Rey as he delivers a 619 and caps it off with a splash from the third rope for a 1-2-3.
From Bob Kapur: Not sure if this was shown on TV, but Triple H’s pyro just shot out of the top of the giant pyramidical trussing that is holding up the lighting and video screens, and out of the open roof of the building. That was pretty cool. From way up here, Sheamus’ paleness really stands out. It’s amazing – he’s almost as white as the ring ropes.
At the pre-show press conference, HHH was very complimentary to Sheamus. HHH said that Sheamus has got a strong passion for the business, and is a young guy who has really stood out for his willingness and desire to improve his game. Good match.
I just remembered I have a pair of mini binoculars with me. Glad I remembered before the Divas match!
For those keeping score, the roof is closed again.
It’s Triple H against Sheamus. Hard to believe that Sheamus didn’t get any sun in Phoenix at all. Like Orton, HHH must be wondering why he’s on so early in the card. He’s out real plain too, no King of Kings outfit or anything. Maybe he’s saving it for an Easter parade next weekend.
Best sign so far: “HHH fears divorce.” (And maybe getting snipped — we hear kid #3 is on the way!)
Lots of near falls, yet not a ton of drama. Like the fans aren’t totally into it. HHH kicked out of the big boot.
Trips wins with a pretty loose Pedigree, not a real driven one at all. Okay match, but no biggie. The announcers — Cole, Lawler & Striker — sure had to put HHH over though.
Segment Preview for Triple H against Sheamus. First one to get that treatment.
Segment WWE Hall of Fame recaps. Could Betty Wagner work a midget match? Or maybe take on Mae Young?
Match Three – Money in the Bank
Order of introduction: Kofi Kingston, MVP, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Kane, Christian …
Ouch! Swagger got sandwiched, then stood on. Neat move. Bourne almost got it. Unprettier on the ladder? Almost.
Kane just broke a ladder on Dolph Ziggler, who is a little broken too!
Kingston is stilt walking with the two pieces. Cool spot. McIntyre interrupts.
Andy: Hardy almost breaks the glass ceiling while fiddling with the brief case, but is foiled by Kane and Christian. Jack Swagger then clocks Christian off the top and after an awkwardly long struggle with the hook brings down the case! Surprise win, by the All American American.
From Bob Kapur: It looks like Jack Swagger bought one of Kurt Angle’s outfits on e-bay.
The roof is opening again. Not sure if they’re doing that to vent the arena from the pyro smoke, or if it’s a technical glitch. Hmmm, they never did catch the guy who raised the briefcase at the 1999 King of the Ring. Yes, I remember that. And no, I don’t have a girlfriend.
All of these MitB guys deserve a bonus. The crowd is collectively cringing in pain with every ladder spot. The stilt-walking was hella-cool. Really fun match. Gotta feel bad for Swagger as it looks like he was struggling to get the briefcase off the hook – that has to be embarrassing with 70,000 eyes watching you fumble around with it.
Vickie Guerrero — getting her boos — “Excuse me!” — is debuting with the diva heels. And then Jillian Hall brings it all home with a song.
Now it’s a Slim Jim joke with Santino, anything is possible when you bite into a “Slam James.” First Santino got Mae Young, then Gene Okerlund in a dress and then a hottie — was that Savannah?
It’s the triple threat match between Legacy. Ted Dibiase Jr. is out first, Cody Rhodes second, and, naturally, Randy Orton is out last.
Rhodes and DiBiase are working together, beating down Orton. Wanna bet they turn on each other eventually?
Wow, we’re a couple minutes in, and Orton hasn’t done any offence, not even his dreaded headlock.
Oh, it’s an elimination match. The King just confirmed. Was that clear ahead of time? Orton briefly fired up.
There we go. Rhodes tossed DiBiase from the ring, and Ted just broke up a pinfall. Now they are rolling around like a couple of lovers.
Orton just sent DiBiase flying — really flying — over the top rope. He didn’t get the ropes to slow himself down either, but Ted was back in real quick.
Hah. Michael Cole just said “we’ve never seen this” with Orton having a double facelock thing from the ropes on both Ted & Cody — it’s on the cover of the SLAM! Wrestling book, Michael! Go get a copy and learn some history.
Orton RKOs Ted DiBiase. Match over. Didn’t King just tell us it was an elimination match???
Orton at the end HAD to be thinking, “Man, how did I fall so far to be in the second match at WrestleMania?”
From Bob Kapur: I never really liked Orton before, particularly when he relied too heavily on headlocks in his match, but he’s grown on me so much in the past year. Here’s an example of why. In the first few moments of this match, he threw Cody over the top rope. He then went to attack DiBiase, but as he did, he stopped for a second and looked back to check that Rhodes actually went over. It’s a little nuance that makes you forget that they know what’s supposed to happen – makes the match that much more believable, and therefore enjoyable.
Video package: Nothing like some self-publicity, showing off all the stuff that happened around Phoenix.
WrestleMania 26 is off and started. First match is going to be Big Show & The Miz defending the tag titles against R-Truth & John Morrison.
Michael Cole just said it’s been nine years since the tag titles changed hands at Mania. That says something about how little the tag titles have mattered.
Wow! What a fallaway slam by Big Show on R-Truth.
No idea how John Morrison got that high to kick Big Show in the head while he was on the second rope, and Morrison ran along the apron.
Hmm, that ended surprisingly quick. ShoMiz win. Show nailed Morrison in the head and covered for the win.
From Bob Kapur: Tag team match was good, if unspectacular. Nothing you couldn’t see on RAW, though. Crowd seemed more into R-Truth’s “What’s Up!” introduction than the match, though it’s hard to really gauge from up here in the media section.
Greg: Man, that’s a lot of fireworks! I’m to understand they’ve been working on the site for at least a week. It shows. Weather co-operated too (well, it IS Phoenix), so the roof is open. They wouldn’t be doing that at SkyDome in Toronto, er, the Rogers Centre.
From Bob Kapur: I’m sitting beside some local TV guys who’ve never been to a live show before. We’re seated near the entrance stage, and when the pyro went off, he jumped and spilled his Diet Coke all over himself. Ha!
A stellar introduction video package, talking about Mania being the showcase of the immortals, ending (I believe) with images of the Undertaker and HBK – perhaps a forecast of what match will go on last?
As for the pyro, the entrance stage looks like a layered pyramid. Pryo shot from each of the layer bases, and up the front. Maybe about 20-30 seconds in total. Nice visual to kick off the show.
From Bob Kapur: 26-man battle royale featuring the roster members that weren’t booked on the main card: Mark Henry, Cryme Tyme, Goldust, Yoshi Tatsu, Santino Marella, Kung Fu Naki, Slam Master J, Jimmy Yang Wang, Chris Masters, Vladimir Kozlov, the Great Khali, Finlay, William Regal, Mike Knox, Luke Gallows, Carlito, Tyler Reks, Vance Archer, Caylen Croft, Trent Baretta, Tyson Kidd, DH Smith, Zach Ryder, and a couple of names that I missed.
Winner: Yoshi Tatsu (eliminated Zach Ryder to win).
– Judging from the crowd reaction when he got thrown over the top, Santino was the definite favourite.
– During the match, Hornswoggle made an appearance, distracting Mike Knox and leaving him prone to a shillelagh shot from Finlay.
During this match, they opened the roof of the building. With the sun blinding a good portion of the audience, a chant broke out to “Close the roof!” It got better soon thereafter when the sun started setting.
WrestleMania 26 is about to get under way, and Andy and Greg will be offering up their thoughts on the show as it happens. One of the most intriguing things, of course, is the question of what goes on last, in the main event slot. We’ll see soon enough!
Before we go too far into the show, though, we want to remind people that Dale Plummer and Nick Tylwalk will be offering up their typical PPV report after the show, and Bob Kapur is in Phoenix in the press box. Mike Mastrandrea, the SLAM! Wrestling staff photographer, is shooting from the stadium in Phoenix as well. His photos will be up on the SLAM! Wrestling website on Monday morning.
Bob and Mike have already provided some great stories and photos from Phoenix. Aside from Mania, they are scheduled to go visit “The King of Belts” Reggie Parks on Monday in nearby Tuscon, and then attend Monday Night Raw as well. It’s a trip for the ages for those two.
Now we wait for the show to begin!
Greg Oliver is the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling and Andy McNamara is a longtime contributor to the website, primarily via the Smackdown reports.