Counterfeit Pennies: WrestleMania XXVI (a.k.a. Thank You, Shawn)

All I can say is WOW. With two capital Ws and a capital O. I am writing this just after WrestleMania XXVI wrapped up from Arizona, with the hope of giving you my unfiltered reactions to the granddaddy of them all.

It’s been two minutes since The Undertaker effectively ended Shawn Michaels’ storied WWE career, at least for now. We all know retirements in wrestling don’t usually last forever, and in fact I can even see this match as the second of a three-match angle, with Shawn’s “retirement” being planned all along. Would that cheapen this match in the long run? Probably. But would it make this rivalry even more legendary if this was part of a bigger plan to have HBK eventually flip the script and retire The Undertaker one day? Absolutely.

After all, as the Johnny Cash song says, “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down.” And if you think about it, there is a trinity at work here:

1. Undertaker claims HBK’s soul at WrestleMania XXV, in a battle billed as Heaven vs. Hell;

2. A vengeful Michaels enters the darkest phase of his career, only for The Undertaker to kill the HBK era as we know it at WrestleMania XXVI;

and 3. Shawn Michaels, the changed man who has been to Hell and back, will rise again, completing his resurrection and besting the Deadman (and the Devil) once and for all. At a time and place to be determined.

If what we saw tonight was indeed Phase II of this plan, just think about this: Shawn was the first person to ever counter a move called Hell’s Gate. Meaning that while HBK lost the match, he’s not quite ready for the darkness to overtake what’s left of his already-claimed soul. He might have been taken to Hell, but by reversing that move, it just shows that there is a possible way OUT of Hell as well.

Maybe I’m harping on this because what we saw tonight was something I didn’t think would happen: a rematch for the ages that topped last year’s epic main event. And perhaps I simply don’t want this to end, for HBK, for The Undertaker, for all of us who were privileged enough to see professional wrestling at its best for at least a few more minutes at a time where there is so much to criticize.

But let’s save the complaining for a different day, because if I am not right, and if this truly was the last match we’ll ever see from Shawn Michaels, then let me say this: Shawn, thank you for tonight, for last year, for the last 25 years. You are a true showman, a real icon, and you will always be Mr. WrestleMania.

I can only hope that there really is a Phase III and that there really is one more story left to be told, even if we have to wait two or three years for it all to unfold.

Take your time to rest and heal and to be with your family. We’ll be right here waiting for you if you do come back to steal the show – and our hearts – once more.

The Undertaker will be waiting, too.

That’s all from me this week, from this fan’s first-draft perspective on WrestleMania XXVI –- CB.

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