Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 25

Time to talk about the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!

Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done, with masterful storytelling, a couple of insane dives that probably should've killed each of them, and a few of the most shocking false finishes anyone had ever seen.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

How did this not kill him??

The 4th biggest match on the show was Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy in an Extreme Rules match.  While their feud was very convoluted (centered around Matt's jealousy of being the "#2 brother"), the match itself was fine with some decent highspot wrestling.

Once again there was a Money in the Bank match, and once again CM Punk took home the briefcase.  WWE had squandered Punk's first World Title push and since they weren't bothering to make any new stars in 2009, this was almost a do-over for him.  What's disturbing is that over three WrestleManias, Punk hadn't yet graduated from the Money in the Bank match.

The award for Biggest Waste of Talent goes to the Chris Jericho vs. The Legends handicap match.  Somehow the company couldn't come up with anything better for Jericho than fighting three retired wrestlers with a combined age of about 180 - Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat.  I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but amazingly Jericho's segments with Steamboat were pretty decent, and it led to a show-stopping singles match between the two at Backlash.  Why that couldn't have happened at 'Mania I'll never know.

The other two matches totaled about four minutes - Rey Mysterio beat JBL for the I-C Title in seconds, and WWE brought in a ton of former Divas for a Battle Royal, and then didn't introduce any of them or show them clearly onscreen.  Seriously, they were eliminated so fast I wasn't even sure who I was looking at.

WrestleMania XXV has aged decently, despite being a show I really didn't care much about at the time.  Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker more or less saved it from being a rather forgettable event, but watching it now there are a good five matches worth seeing.

Best Match: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Worst Match: Divas Battle Royal - and why did they have Kid Rock play them all down to the ring??
What I'd Change: CM Punk should've been a semi-main eventer and in one of the top matches by this point, and Chris Jericho should've fought Steamboat one-on-one.
Most Disappointing Match: JBL vs. Rey Mysterio - not that I was expecting a classic, but why bother booking a match that only lasts 21 seconds?
Most Pleasant Surprise: Edge vs. John Cena vs. Big Show - so much better than it really should've been
Overall Rating: 7/10

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