Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI was spectacular, but in reading reviews of the show, you saw a lot of people fairly mention that the live crowd in Arizona seemed dead.
This makes me think back to Manias where the audience was more in tune with the matches — some shows that immediately come to mind were both Toronto Manias, WrestleMania XX, and WrestleMania III, which has its 23rd anniversary today. Mania III is still my personal favorite of the annual big shows.
Having grown up during the WrestleMania III period in the the 1980s, I still get an occasional chill watching the crowd explode when Hulk Hogan slams Andre the Giant to end their match. It was in a different era when a simple, well-timed bodyslam could mean something, but nonetheless Hogan and Andre had the crowd with them the entire match, which was impressive given the size of the audience.
Hogan and Andre also proved a match strategy that has sustained itself over and over: If you’re in a large stadium, you’ve got to play to the last row miles away. In other words, make sure everyone sees your moves, because subtleties won’t work as well. Hogan understood that well during all of his stadium Mania appearances.
I realize these days that Hogan vs. Andre comes across as pretty dull, and Andre was washed up by 1987. But you rarely see crowds so thoroughly with a match in wrestling any more.