WrestleMania 25 from April 5, 2009, at the Reliant Stadium in Houston with 72,744 people in attendance
It's too bad that the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania was so poorly timed out and executed because there was some serious potential for more here. Yes, WrestleMania 25 has the first Shawn Michaels/Undertaker match which was fantastic. But, guess what, that doesn't make this a great show.
See WrestleMania 13.
Triple H and Randy Orton main evented the show for the WWE Championship in a really, well-done intense feud that was billed as a five-years in the making type of thing. Orton and Legacy (Cody Rhodes/Ted DiBiase) beat the hell out of the entire McMahon family, Randy attacked Stephanie twice and kissed her while HHH was handcuffed just feet away. It was intense, the match was solid and then it was over out of nowhere.
We'll get into the obvious timing issues below, but other than that it was the Money in the Bank Ladder match, Jeff Hardy vs Matt Hardy in an extreme rules match, Edge defending the World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena and the Big Show, Jericho vs the team of Piper, Snuka and Steamboat with Ric Flair, and JBL vs Rey for the Intercontinental Championship. No, I won't talk about the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal that was won by a man.
This is a monumental show that feels and looks special, but is ultimately dragged down by the bullshit Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal, Mickey Rourke taking way too long for one crap punch and Kid Rock playing a 10-minute concert. By the end of the night, Lillian Garcia is announcing people before/and as their entrance music hits. So, you know how the crowd pops like crazy whenever "I hear voices in my head" hits the speakers? Yeah, at WrestleMania 25 for the main event Lillian is talking about the rules to the match as Randy's music hits and then just moves right into introducing him. A bad look for the 25th anniversary of your biggest event.
Favorite moments and matches
Before getting into the obvious Undertaker and Shawn Michaels praise that we all know is coming, I just want to point out that the stage, theme, set, ring and arena all looked amazing for WrestleMania 25. There was a special feel that night, and it's almost like the cameras applied one of those WWE 2K camera filters. A very aesthetically pleasing show.
Undertaker and Shawn Michaels put on an absolute clinic this night in their native Texas. For 30 minutes, these two legends beat the hell out of each other, hit high spot and told a beautiful story in and outside of the ring. This one is pretty pedal to the metal right from the get-go with Shawn hitting a weird moonsault bump to the outside, Taker taking his iconic dive over the ropes only to land on his head when the cameraman fails to get under him which left a sweaty forehead mark on the mat outside. Scary moment, but Undertaker was not only able to get up but he managed to sell the count out loss in the process. They tease the count out so hard and that just drives home the point of how badly Shawn Michaels wants to beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, kill the streak and cement himself as Mr. WrestleMania by any means necessary.
When Undertaker chokeslams HBK to hell, the match turns into a beautiful counter, finisher and near fall heart-wrenching classic. Shawn skins the cat into a Tombstone and kicks out of a clean one, which gives us the iconic shot of Undertaker's shocked and exhausted facial expression.
This is amazing work across the table for WWE. The end of the match is gold as both kick out of clean finishers before Taker catches an HBK moonsault off the top rope into another Tombstone to get to 17-0. Considering the run that these two legends had from WrestleMania 19 through now is truly just unbelievable. What they were able to achieve this night and the next year at WrestleMania 27 is impressive beyond comprehension at any age. It went a little more than 30 minutes, and doesn't even begin to feel like that long of a match.
While the Jericho vs Mickey Rourke inspired legends team of Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper and Ricky Steamboat was tough to watch at time, Steamboat could absolutely still go in his late 50s. He enters the match off the top rope, hits his famous deep arm drags that gives JR "chills" on commentary and even takes a dive to the outside. So very impressive, and he went out and did it again in a singles match with Jericho at the next month's PPV.
Parts of the Triple Threat World Heavyweight Championship match with Edge-Big Show-John Cena were great little fun parts, but it never really exceeds that level. Cena hits some impressive spots, Big Show is at a good working point here and Edge is Edge. Solid work all around and I thought that these three meshed together fantastically, but were dragged down by the convoluted Vickie Guerrero love triangle and the hot potato WHC. Edge had just lost the WWE Championship and won the World Heavyweight Championship in one night at the previous PPV in the Elimination Chamber. Edge would go on to lose it to Cena who qualified for the match by blackmailing Vickie. At the next PPV, Edge would beat Cena to regain the championship in a last man standing match. Do you see how crap/inconsistent stories weigh a solid in-ring product down?
Listen, of course, the match was crap, but JBL beating the piss out of Rey and begging for the bell to be rung in his native Texas only to get 619'd and splashed in 21 seconds was brilliant. What a way for a heel to retire. For real.
I thought that the Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy match was solid enough to fall on this section of this retrospective but it was between the good vs bad section due to its hype and great vignette. They perform some cool spots with Jeff on Matt who is sandwiched between two tables with a chair on his chest (to protect from the other table) was good stuff. The ending might have been the best part, and I don't mean that in jest, as Matt dodged a high-risk move, put his brothers head entwined into a steel chair and hit his Twist of Fate finish for the win. Worth a watch, even though it only got a second or two more than Kid Rock and Mickey Rourke.
Least favorite moments and matches
The Kid Rock concert went on for three songs too long, and the Mickey Rourke appearance might have been the worst executed in the history of WrestleMania. He wastes time for 10 minutes then delivers a terrible punch that Jericho TRIES SO HARD to make look cool. Sucked, sucked, sucked and both of these crapily executed segments affected the rest of the show.
The ending to the main event haunts me to this day. I loved this feud, knew the match wasn't going to be a 5-star but I expected so much more. I remember watching live and looking at my friend Mike and saying, "uh oh" when Randy's music started playing over Lillian's instructions. Bad sign, especially for a WrestleMania main event when the entrance is just as much a spectacle as the match. When Triple H suddenly ended the match with a Pedigree we both looked at each other in amazement. He swore he heard the ref call for HHH to quickly finish the match, and by god, he did. Very disappointing especially considering Randy would win the WWE Championship in a six-man tag match the following month.
That's how this period of wrestling was. Hot potato championship swaps that rivaled the Attitude Era in both longevity and logic.
Man, the Money in the Bank Ladder match on this show just felt like repetition between those involved, the spots performed and the winner. Even though I loved CM Punk winning as it kept him in the conversation, and would set up a beautiful, long feud with Jeff Hardy, it still felt like a replay from the previous four years. Punk had been in three in a row, Finlay had been in four, Shelton had been in everyone except for WrestleMania 23, Kane had been in a bunch and so on and so forth. It was a pretty standard ladder match and had some very impressive spots including another scary one with Shelton leaping off a ladder on the outside only to not get caught and land on his head. The thing that brought it down was a couple of botches right in a row, the crowd will take a couple slips here and there especially in an 8-man ladder match but when they come back to back to back, it's hard to look past.
Does it hold up?
The show holds up as every match carries a certain level of appeal for the current watcher of the WWE product. Edge and John Cena are brilliant performers at this point, Randy Orton is a disgusting heel and Shawn Michaels and Undertaker are proving that two older men were the company's best workers when given the chance together.
This show will hold up because of that one match and the solid but not spectacular card.