Written By: Alexander Settee
Wrestlemania 25th Anniversary, April 5, 2009, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX
Announcers: Jim Ross, Michael Cole, & Jerry “The King” Lawler, plus with only one announce team for this show, we have the return to ringside of the Spanish announcers, Carlos Cabrera and Hugo Savinovich
So here’s the big event for the year, Wrestlemania XXV. They’re calling it the 25th Anniversary, which technically would be next year, but why should we bother to get wrapped up in little details like that when they sure as hell don’t? Most people seem to be in agreement that the build has not been impressive this year, and with no major celebrity involvement or any special comebacks it feels like just another show. But who knows, maybe something great will sneak up on us or something.
Opening Match, Money in the Bank Ladder Match: CM Punk vs. Mark Henry (w/Tony Atlas) vs. United States Champion MVP vs. Fit Finlay (w/Hornswoggle) vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Christian vs. Kane
So we start things off with Money in the Bank featuring a lineup that seems like it could have been better. It’s hard to make a strong case for any of them winning, but pretty much anyone has a pretty good argument for not winning so it’s just about wide open. I was pulling for Kofi Kingston, but figured that wasn’t too likely. Michael Cole makes his first dumbass comment of the night during the introductions, reminiscing about how close Finlay came to winning MITB last year. That would have been fine, except for the fact that Finlay wasn’t even in the match last year. All out brawl starts us off as usual until Henry and Kane clear the ring to go at it themselves. Benjamin and Christian get the first ladder in and go for Kofi, but he leaps right over it in an impressively athletic move. He then dropkicks it over on them and does his funky legdrop spot. Finlay comes over and tosses Kofi, but the takes a big boot from Kane. Kane and Henry climb now, but the rest are all there to make the save. Next the rest of the guys climb, but Kane and Henry make it back to end that by tipping them all over. Kane takes out Henry and climbs, but Henry is back quickly to stop him. Henry tosses the ladder at Finlay on the floor, but misses, so Finlay comes in and dropkicks him out. He then dives on Kane and Benjamin on the floor to kick off the trainwreck spot. Christian follows, then MVP, Kofi, and Punk. Benjamin, meanwhile, has set up a huge ladder in the aisle, and he leaps off of it on to all of them in the craziest move of the match. Even Henry teases coming off the top (Yeah right), but Finlay nails him with the shillelagh. But the divefest is not complete yet, as Hornswoggle brings in a step ladder to get up top, and he then comes off onto everyone. Finlay looks for the win, but Kofi is back so Finlay beats him up instead. Kofi comes back with a nice looking dropkick through a setup ladder, and then he nails Finlay with it. He charges, but Finlay grabs the stepladder and nails Kofi on the way in. Punk makes it in, but falls victim to the Finlay Roll. Finlay climbs now, but Kofi kicks him down. Kofi’s turn to climb, but Henry tips him over. In another crazy cool spot, Henry looks to setup a ladder, but Kofi leaps up and climbs it before Henry gets it fully set up. It looked good, but was pretty ineffective strategy as all Henry has to do is drop the ladder. Henry then drops Kofi with the World’s Strongest Slam on the ladder for good measure. Henry goes to climb, but MVP nails him with a ladder. There’s now a ladder straddling between the ropes and another one that’s standing up in the ring. Benjamin attacks MVP from behind. MVP recovers and sends him to the corner. Benjamin comes off the ladder, but gets caught with a powerbomb. MVP and Punk both climb now, but Christian is back and he pulls MVP down. He then gets Punk on the ladder that’s straddling the ropes where the GTS is teased, but Christian counters and takes him down with the Unprettier. MVP climbs again, but Benjamin has recovers and comes for him. Benjamin tries a sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder, but the screw it up. So Benjamin just picks MVP back up and uses a regular powerbomb to send MVP out to the floor. Finlay and Benjamin are climbing, but Finlay gets knocked down and Benjamin gets pulled down by Christian. A second ladder gets setup with Benjamin and Christian climbing, and it gets tipped over, but Christian manages to land feet first on the ropes, keep his balance, and maneuver himself back into climbing position. Punk joins him, with Christian being the crowd favourite of the two, but ends up hooked in the ladder. Christian goes for it, but Kane finally makes another appearance and chokeslams Christian off the ladder. Punk has gotten out of his predicament by now, so he kicks Kane off the ladder, and that leaves him all by himself and able to grab the case for the win for the second year in a row at 14:24. If nothing else, this match has become reliable year after year to guarantee something in the good to great range, but I’m starting to think that the concept is getting a bit stale. Of course most of the product is feeling that way too, so it’s not just a problem here. ****
Now we get some video highlights from Fan Axxess with some soundbites from people who’ve traveled a long way to be here. Then Kid Rock performs. For like fifteen minutes. By the way, our Tag Team Championship unification match was relegated to the dark match because they didn’t have enough room for it on this four hour show. The Colons won if anyone cares.
25 Divas Battle Royal
I guess they really are strapped for time as the match actually begins at the same time as Justin Roberts starts going over the rules. All the women on the roster are there, with a few from the past brought back as well, but considering they didn’t even do introductions and give them a moment to shine, they may as well have not even bothered. Oh, and also we have Santino Marella in drag. A pretty crappy battle royal ensues with no one standing out at all. It comes down to Mickie James, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, Melina, and Santino. Mickie and Michelle eliminate each other, then Santino pushes the other two out to win it at 6:11, which is about three minutes longer then I thought it would get. Post match sees Santino introduce himself as “Santina”, who is Santino’s twin sister, and then dances after being awarded the sash and crown, while Beth looks on in disgust. Santino somehow finds a way to make this crap amusing so I’ll give the whole segment ½* instead of the DUD that the match would have earned on its own.
Handicap Elimination Match: Chris Jericho vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (w/Ric Flair)
It’s match time, so they finally had to make a firm decision on what the rules were going to be here, so we have handicap elimination. Jericho’s been cutting the best promos in wrestling today to set this thing up, but it’s just too bad it’s not a particularly intriguing match. Respect for legends is great, but there’s definitely a point where they no longer have any business being in the ring. Piper stars out by attacking Jericho and clotheslining him to the floor. He rams Jericho to the table and gets him back in. Sunset flip gets 2, and then Piper follows with a sad looking dropkick. After some shots he tags Snuka, who looks terrible here. He nails a big chop and tags Steamboat, who comes in with a chop off the top rope, followed by a couple of armdrags. Jericho, by the way, was a huge fan of Steamboat as a teenager, so this must be the thrill of a lifetime for him. If you haven’t read Jericho’s book, it’s a good read, and it includes a great picture of a young Jericho meeting Steamboat at a car show here in Winnipeg in 1987. Jericho’s got the dorkiest looking smile ever going on, while Steamboat’s eyes are only half open. Steamboat works the arm for a bit and then tags Snuka back in. They get a double chop and Snuka gets a headbutt, but Jericho scoops the legs out of nowhere and hooks the Walls of Jericho for the submission. Both Piper and Steamboat come in, but Jericho knocks Steamboat back out. Piper takes advantage, getting the eyepoke and hooking the sleeper, but Jericho runs him to the ropes to break. Ensiguiri gets the 3 count and leaves Jericho one on one with Steamboat. Now it picks up a bit as Steamboat comes in off the top with a bodypress for 2, but Jericho is back up with a clothesline. They trade shots, and then Jericho takes him down with a snapmare and holds a chinlock. Steamboat fights up and hits a shoulderblock. He charges again and gets tossed, but skins the cat back in. Jericho gets distracted by Flair, so Steamboat backdrops him out of the ring, and then hits him with a dive. Back in, Steamboat gets a top rope chop. Corner whip is reversed, but Steamboat comes back over with a rollup for 2. Jericho comes back and hits the bulldog, but the Lionsault misses. Steamboat runs into an elbow anyways. Jericho charges, but gets powerslammed for 2. Jericho ducks a shot and looks for the Walls, but Steamboat counters to an inside cradle for 2. Jericho goes for a suplex, and Steamboat slips out, but Jericho gets him with the Codebreaker for 3 at 8:58. Post match sees Flair get in there, but Jericho knocks him out too. He challengers Mickey Rourke, who eventually gets in the ring and nails the knockout punch. Rourke didn’t get much of a reaction, but that’s not surprising since they all but dropped him from the angle after he backed out of the match and lost the Oscar. Considering his age, and the fact that he hasn’t had an official match since 1994, Steamboat looked great. They brought him back out on Raw too, and he looked just as good there too. But for anyone looking for a full or even part time comeback, I’m sorry, but I hope we don’t get it. The novelty of seeing him wrestle would wear off very quickly, and there’s not really too much you can do with him anyways, so it’s better to let it be. We don’t need to see him become another Piper or Snuka who are still out there way past the point that they should have hung ‘em up for good. Just looking at this match however, he made what was looking to be an on paper trainwreck in to something pretty decent. *1/2
Extreme Rules Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy
They storyline they used to set this one up really makes no sense if you think about it for more than about a second and a half, so let’s not even give it that much thought and just move on with the match, shall we? Jeff smacks Matt and tackles him, but Matt escapes to the floor. Jeff chases and grabs a Wrestlemania poster, which he nails Matt with, and then he tosses him to the post. Matt blocks a garbage can shot, but Jeff in turn blocks a shot to the stairs and rams Matt instead. Jeff then gets Poetry in Motion off the stairs against the barrier. Back in the ring, Jeff has a chair and tries Poetry again off of that, but Matt avoids it. Jeff still recovers first and tries Whisper in the Wind, but Matt nails him with the chair coming down, and then nails him again for 2. Matt pulls out a Shop Vac of all things and nails Jeff with it for 2. He rams Jeff to the buckle and charges at him, but Jeff gets the boot up. Then when Jeff comes out of the corner, he walks into the Side Effect for 2. Matt then wraps him around the post and gets a table setup on the floor, but Jeff blocks the attempt to suplex him through it. Jeff knocks Matt off the apron and nails him with a flying clothesline, then boots him into the stairs. He then nails Matt with a kendo stick. A garbage can gets placed on Matt’s head, and Jeff nails him with a crutch, and then gets him with the seated dropkick for 2. Jeff hits a reverse suplex and goes up, but misses the Swanton. Matt gets the Twist of Fate, but it only gets 2. Matt then goes up, but Jeff nails him and takes him down with a superplex. After a chair shot, he sets Matt on the table outside, stacks another one on top, and then splashes him through both tables. Back in the ring, Matt is still able to just get the foot on the ropes at 2. Jeff sets up some ladders and goes for the big legdrop off the top, but Matt gets out of the way. Matt then puts a chair around Jeff’s neck, hits another Twist of Fate, and that gets 3 at 13:14. This was a good little garbage match, but the lack of a believable storyline behind it kind of hurts the intensity. ***
Intercontinental Championship Match: John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr.
JBL comes out insulting the crowd and promises us the most decisive victory in Wrestlemania history. Mysterio comes out dressed as The Joker. They actually give this one the World Championship style introductions, which is a nice touch. JBL boots Rey during instructions and then pounds on him. The ref gets JBL back and calls for the bell at which point Rey connects with an ensiguiri, the 619, and top rope splash for the 3 count and the IC Title at 0:20. JBL then announces that he quits, which is apparently legit as he’s officially done with the company. DUD
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
This match has had by far the best buildup, and is definitely the one I’m most excited for, and that’s really saying something when the result of the match isn’t the least bit in doubt. Shawn starts out using speed to avoid Taker and gets him with some chops. Irish whip is reversed, Shawn ducks, but ends up getting tossed to the corner. Shawn comes back off the 2nd rope and acts like his knee is hurt, but Taker is not buying that for a second. Shawn attacks, but gets tossed to the corner again and nailed with punches, but soon reverses position and hits more chops. Corner whip is reversed and Shawn flips, then comes out into a backdrop. Taker press slams him and drops the elbow for 1. Hen then gets some short shoulderblocks, and goes for Old School, which he hits. He then charges at Shawn, who moves, and then Shawn takes advantage by going to work on the leg. That sets up the figure four, which he hooks, but Taker has the reach necessary to punch his way out. Shawn stays on the leg, but ends up charging into a bearhug and getting driven to the corner. Taker hits a couple of corner clotheslines and then gets Snake Eyes. Big boot and legdrop get 2, and next he goes for the chokeslam, but Shawn counters to a crossface. Taker rolls him over and gets 2, but Shawn maintains the hold. Finally Taker just lifts him up and breaks it by dropping him with a side slam for 2. Irish whip, but Taker puts the head down and gets kicked. Shawn follows with the flying forearm and a couple of inverted atomic drops. Clothesline leads to Shawn going up, and he jumps right into a chokeslam attempt, but avoids it again. Shawn looks for the Superkick, so Taker drops down. Shawn goes to reapply the figure four, but Taker counters to Hell’s Gates. Shawn just gets his feet to the ropes for the break and goes to the floor. Taker rams him to the stairs and sets him on the apron, but misses the legdrop. Shawn hits a baseball slide, and then goes up for a moonsault, but Taker avoids it and Shawn hits the floor with a splat. Shawn tosses the ref to the barrier and then turns just in time to see Taker coming with a dive of his own, so Shawn pulls the cameraman in the way. That looked kinda scary as Taker came down pretty much head first on the floor, but he appears to be ok anyways. Shawn gets the ref up and they get back in the ring where Shawn sits back looking for the countout. The fans are into this one that’s for sure. This streak is like one of the very few things they have anymore that generates genuine emotion from the crowd. . Regardless of whether we “know” the outcome or not we’re on the edge of our seats worried about whether he’s gonna make it in or not. Of course he does make it in at 9. Shawn goes for the Superkick, but Taker catches him by the throat and hits the chokeslam for 2. He goes for the Tombstone, but Shawn slips out. He goes for the Superkick again, and it’s caught, but on the second try he nails it. Cover, but Taker kicks out at 2. Taker kicks him to setup the Last Ride. Shawn gets out once, but gets caught again and this time takes the mover. Taker covers, but now Shawn kicks out at 2. Taker goes up, but misses an elbow. They get to their feet and Shawn charges. Taker tosses him, with Shawn looking to skin the cat, but Taker grabs on and drops him with the Tombstone. Everyone is in shock as Shawn kicks out at 2 again. No one believed that wasn’t the finish. Taker sets up the Tombstone again, but Shawn floats over and hits a DDT. He goes up, drops the elbow, and tunes up the band. Superkick hits, but Taker kicks out of it for the second time. They get up and start trading shots. Shawn gets sent to the corner, but gets the boot up on the charge. He then goes up for a moonsault, but Taker catches him and hits the Tombstone again. This time there’s no kickouts left and Taker gets the 3 count to win it at 30:42. For sure the best match on the show, but I don’t think it was a perfect match. I’m going to call it ****1/2, but it’s definitely a great one in any case.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge vs. The Big Show vs. John Cena
Chavo Guerrero brings Vickie out in the wheelchair before we start. The story of the winner of the match getting her appears to have been dropped as it’s not mentioned once. Cena goes right for Edge, and then ducks an attack from Show who ends up nailing edge instead. Cena then gets Edge with the bulldog, but runs into Show’s shoulderblock. Edge tries to negotiate an alliance with Show, but Show just picks him up and drops him on the ropes. Show whips Edge right into Cena’s arms for the Attitude Adjustment, but then breaks the up with a big boot. Cena fires back at Show, but gets dropped. Big boot misses, and Cena dumps Show out. On the floor, Edge dropkicks the stairs into Show, and then Cena comes down with the legdrop off the top to the floor. Cena and edge go in the ring now where the AA is countered to a DDT for 2. Edge goes up, and Cena knocks him to the floor, but then falls victim to a side slam from Show. Cena fires back and comes off the ropes, but Chavo trips him up. That earns Chavo an AA on the floor. He then gets Show tied in the ropes as Edge makes his way back in. Cena gets Edge with a couple of clotheslines, followed by the Protobomb and Five Knuckle Shuffle. He sets up the AA, but Vickie is on the apron now to provide the distraction. Cena goes for it, but then avoids the attack from Edge and he knocks his wife to the floor. Cena rolls him up for 2 and then they double clothesline each other. Show orders the ref to set him free, which he does and Show now works over both guys. He goes for a double chokeslam, but Cena gets out and only edge takes it. AA is tries again, but Show escapes and hits the Knockout Right to send Cena to the floor. Show then goes to chokeslam Edge on the floor, but Edge counters to a DDT. He then leaps at Show off the stairs and drives him through the barrier. After unsuccessfully trying to get Show back in, Edge turns his attention to Cena and gets him in instead. Cover only gets 2 though, so he sets up the spear, but Cena gets him with a drop toe hold and hooks the STF. Show returns to prevent a submission and takes them both down. He goes to the 2nd rope, but misses the pump elbow. Cena tries a suplex on Show, but can’t get it until Edge helps out. They then clothesline Show to the floor, but then Edge immediately turns on Cena and covers for 2. Edge hooks a sleeper, but Cena gets out and hits the Throwback. He goes up, but Show shoves him off right into a spear. Edge covers, but Show makes the save at 2. Edge gets the sleeper on Show now, with Cena managing to pick both of them up for the AA, which is pretty impressive. Edge gets off and only Show takes the move, but it doesn’t matter because Cena gets Edge with one of his own right after anyways. Cena covers Show and gets the 3 count to win the World Heavyweight Championship at 14:43. Not a bad match, but much like pretty much everything here tonight there’s no real Wrestlemania feel to this match. I mean, what was special about this? We could have seen this on any old PPV. Plus they were in a bad spot having to follow the previous match. ***
Hall of Fame roll call: Terry Funk, Dory Funk, Jr., Cowboy Bill Watts, Howard Finkel, Koko B. Ware, The Von Erich Family, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin then takes a couple of final laps on the ATV and salutes the crowd as only he can. To think that going into this show many of us were expecting a comeback match, and now here they are all but telling us that he’s done with wrestling for good. Nice moment.
Main Event, WWE Championship Match: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Like the Hardyz match earlier on, the story isn’t really making much sense the more you think about it, so let’s not think about it. The Title can change hands if HHH is disqualified or counted out, and an appearance of the sledge hammer is supposed to mean an automatic disqualification. So of course HHH has one with him has he comes out, but he only uses it to smash a plate of glass that was there for some reason and doesn’t bring it to ringside. HHH tackles Orton and works him over, but when the ref pulls him back, Orton gets the RKO out of nowhere. He goes for the punt, but misses and takes the Pedigree. So now we’ve seen both finishers by the two minute mark, but the match is still going. Perhaps to establish that it’s more personal than it is about the Title? HHH rams Orton to the table, and then gets him back in, but soon knocks him out again. Orton boots HHH, but he still gets sent to the post. This match has pretty much no heat so far. Orton gets in the ring and begs off, but no dice. HHH catapults him into the bottom rope, then drops some knees and hits a neckbreaker. To the floor where a whip to the stairs is reversed and HHH hits them. Orton then whips him to the barrier and gets the ref to count, but of course HHH makes it back. Unlike in the Shawn/Taker match, there was pretty much no reaction to the idea he might be counted out. Orton stomps him and drops a knee for 1, and then goes to a rear chinlock, but HHH suplexes out. HHH charges, but gets powerslammed for 2 and Orton is back to the rear chinlock. HHH gets out and a slugfest ensues leading to a HHH high knee and corner clothesline. Whip is reversed, but HHH gets the facebuster anyways. Pedigree attempt is countered to a catapult to the post. Orton charges, but the gets clotheslined for 2. HHH mounts him for punches, but Orton drops him on the buckle. To the 2nd rope, but he jumps right on HHH’s boot. Pedigree is tried again, but is also countered again, this time to a rollup for 2. In turn, Orton tries the RKO, but HHH counters to a rollup for 2. Irish whip sees HHH put the head down and get kicked, but Orton the charges into a spinebuster. Pedigree is countered yet again, to a backbreaker for 2. HHH elbows him and goes up, but Orton dropkicks him on the way down. He sets up the punt, but HHH catches the leg and tosses him. Orton gets rammed to the table and HHH goes to use the monitor, but the ref reminds him that he’ll lose the Title on a DQ, so he thinks better of it. Instead he tries the Pedigree on the table (Can anyone explain why that wouldn’t be a reason to disqualify him?), but Orton backdrops him on to the Spanish table, which must have been doing some serious training since we last saw it on PPV, because it holds up. Orton then DDT’s him off the table and tries to get the countout again, but HHH gets in just in time. Orton chokes him with the boot. HHH fires back, but the ref ends up bumped just before the RKO hits. So Orton finds the sledge hammer instead, but HHH punts him out of nowhere on the way back in, and then nails him with the sledge. The ref is back up as the Pedigree hits and HHH gets 3 to retain at 23:35. Again, this one was ok, but fails to come across as special. Orton never really has the great matches you’d expect from someone in his position, while HHH is starting to show his age. Also, this is the first time HHH has won a main event at Wrestlemania since 2002, and ironically enough he also got overshadowed on that show by a match earlier on the card and got a burnt out crowd for his big moment as well. **1/2
Alright, so that’s Wrestlemania XXV. Shawn/Taker leads the way as match of the night which I pretty much expected, while MITB was solid as usual. From there the rest of the card doesn’t really stand out. Going in I though that there was nothing special about the two championship matches, and they both proved me right. *** and **1/2 are not terrible ratings, but this is supposed to be the equivalent of the Super Bowl for these guys. Shawn and Undertaker certainly understood that at least. I’m in the camp of people who believe that they should have gone on last. Having the Title match on last is fine and all, but when it’s clearly overshadowed, they need to make the right call. I can’t in good conscience go thumbs up, so it’s only thumbs in the middle for what was not a bad show by regular standards, but what was not a good show by Wrestlemania standards.