WWE held their pay-per-view of the year last night with WrestleMania 25 from Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. 72,744 fans packed into the home of the Houston Texans to witness the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Below are my thoughts on a segment by segment basis of the show.
The WWE Tag Team Championship Unification bout was moved from the main card to a DVD exclusive dark match which I found to be very disappointing. Other than the people that were live in the arena, I don’t believe anyone else even saw it. Primo and Carlito are the new Tag Team Champions but does anyone even care? One can only hope this will revamp WWE’s decimated tag division by focusing on one set of titles. When I first broke the news of the tag team championships being unified, I was told the belts were going to be based out of ECW. I haven’t heard if those are still the plans but I hope they move the belts to one brand and revamp their tag division to create some respectable action.
WrestleMania kicked off live on pay-per-view with Howard Finkel introducing Nicole Shrezinger who sung a great rendition of America the Beautiful. Jim Ross gave us the formal welcome and they went right into the Money in the Bank Ladder Match which is always great to start a show. The work in last night’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was good but there were some botches in the middle of it. There was one spot in particular where MVP and Shelton Benjamin were working on a ladder and it turned into Botchomania. There were some spots in the beginning with suicide dives to the outside which I felt were well done. I liked how six workers teamed up to take out Kane and Mark Henry and think Shelton Benjamin is insane for doing the dive off of the top of the ladder on the outside. Christian hit an Unprettier from the top of the ladder in the ring that I popped for and CM Punk’s work was very solid. The go-home sequence was good but I did not like how WWE put CM Punk over for the second year in a row. Does anyone remember his reign last year as World Champion? I do, but barely. Definitely an eye rolling call from creative but at least the work in the match was good, Mark Henry didn’t kill anyone, and everyone else worked at a level that I felt was sufficient. Not the best Money in the Bank Ladder Match ever, but certainly not a bad effort.
Kid Rock’s performance was up next and I’ve got to say I wasn’t impressed. Nothing against Kid Rock as I am actually a Kid Rock fan, but I could have done without this. He performed some new material (which I don’t think as good as his older stuff) but some of the stuff he did was popular ten years ago. This went too long and I would have preferred it have been scrapped all together. It cost the Divas their entrances which started off the disaster that was about to happen.
Terrible, just terrible. Those are the words I used in my WrestleMania report last night to describe the 25-Diva Battle Royal. I didn’t like the entrances being scrapped, I didn’t like how the returning Divas were given very little camera time, and I didn’t like how the commentary was handled. Knowing what I know today about the Santina gimmick, I understand why the announcers were ordered to play captain dumbasses and I have to admit Santino’s victory dance was priceless. The match was forgettable and shows me that WWE has no intentions of creating a credible and competitive women’s division. Santino for Women’s Champion!
Chris Jericho vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat went just how I expected other than the fact that Jericho ended up going over. I thought Jericho would eliminate Snuka and Piper, and then Ric Flair and Mickey Rourke would help Steamboat get revenge on Jericho. Jericho ended up eliminating all three before getting to Flair and eventually being knocked out by Mickey Rourke. Before I get into that I want to give credit where credit is due and my hat is off to Ricky Steamboat. Putting aside the fact that the guy is four years from being 60 years old, he hasn’t wrestled in years and actually looked very good in the ring. He didn’t care to go high risk and moved pretty well. I didn’t like how Jericho handled the legends, took out Ric Flair, before getting “put in his place” by Mickey Rourke. The legends looked weak and the way Jericho took care of Flair made him look bad. Maybe WWE did it because Flair is working with Ring of Honor but I don’t like how he came off as inferior to Jericho. The legends should have saved Rourke, not the other way around.
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy was a good Extreme Rules Match that featured tables, ladders, and chairs but it wasn’t the classic I expected. It’s tough to do a hardcore match without the use of color. It looks like WWE is eliminating the use of blood as they are editing it from WWE 24/7 and no one bled at last night’s show. Jeff had the two riskiest spots of the match as he set Matt on a table on the outside, put a chair on him, and then put another table on top only to crash through it. The other high risk spot came from 20 feet on ladder inside the ring when Jeff went off and missed on a leg drop. Jeff is insane for doing both spots, but nothing surprises me for him. I don’t like Matt going over as Jeff was one of the hottest things going in WWE just a couple of months ago and now he’s nothing more than another mid-card talent.
When JBL came out with a microphone, I think we were all expecting an announcement regarding his future. Instead, he cut a heel promo and ended up getting squashed with a 619 in 21 seconds and did the announcement after the match. At least they gave it more time than the ECW Championship bout from last year (that went 9 seconds) but to promote a match and not do it, especially at WrestleMania, is inexcusable. It looks like JBL’s career as an in-ring performer is over, but he went out very weak. Rey Mysterio is one of the greatest workers of all time yet the title he is holding is nothing more than a prop. I liked his Joker-themed mask he wore last night but other than that, this sucked.
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were given a daunting task heading into their bout. It was up to them to salvage not only a “big four” show but the biggest show of the year. Up until this point, the pay-per-view wasn’t terrible, but it was certainly below my expectations. Sure the Money in the Bank Ladder Match wasn’t bad but it wasn’t outstanding. Kid Rock’s performance was weak, the Divas Battle Royal was a disaster, and Jericho vs. the Legends could have been done on Raw. Matt and Jeff worked hard, but wasn’t the classic I think many were expecting. Thirty minutes later, everything changed.
Forgive me for marking out as I know I will get some heat but Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had one of the greatest matches of all-time last night. Michaels and Undertaker put on a thirty minute masterpiece that was perfect in every way. Obviously the big draw to the match was Undertaker’s undefeated streak was on the line, but how it was executed made it much more than “another WrestleMania victory”. I could name spot after spot but since it was a five star match that would be next to impossible. Multiple near falls and kick outs, multiple finisher attempts, and still Michaels looked like he had a chance to end the streak. Flawlessly, two of the best to ever step in the ring, put on a match that will forever be talked about. Not only is it mind boggling that two people could create such a match in the first place, to do it at 43 and 44 years old gives me chills. Mark my words; this will be the Match of the Year. Nothing is going to top this. Shawn and Undertaker not only stole the show, but they put on a match that was impossible to follow. It didn’t matter what happened in the next two bouts – there was no way that anyone was going to top this match. This bout is a must-see, if you missed it; you need to make sure you see it.
John Cena, Edge, and Big Show had a good match and I hope it silenced a lot of people who were skeptical about Show. Big Show is not The Great Khali, he is not Vladimir Kozlov. Big Show can work and he has proved that. Last night was no different as these three had a good triple-threat bout that showcased the strength of John Cena when he got Show and Edge up for the Attitude Adjustment. I liked how Vickie and Chavo were involved yet didn’t affect the outcome. Not only does that allow for an angle to continue between Show and Edge, it allowed for the ring work to overshadow overbooking and gimmicky finishes (something I hate). Cena becoming the World Heavyweight Champion shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially with WWE wanting to give him the spotlight with 12 Rounds out (even though it’s tanking). Like I said, there was no way they were going to follow Undertaker and Shawn anyways.
WWE honored the Hall of Fame Class of 2009 next and Steve Austin received the loudest ovation of them all. Austin bid farewell to WWE with a memorable beer bash segment where he rode a four wheeler to the ring. Not only did I look at this segment as the end of Austin, but I looked on it as the end of an era. PG programming looks like it’s here to stay and whether we like it or not, it is the direction WWE is going forward with. Thanks for the memories Steve; you deserve your place in history as one of the greatest of all time.
The main event between Triple H and Randy Orton was good but not great. It was physical and realistic and captured the intensity of the feud, but left the program open. Triple H used the sledgehammer to win and I could see that being disputed by Orton on tonight’s Raw. There was nothing notably bad about this match nor was there anything great. It was physical and realistic, which is really the only way to put it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the early RKO and Pedigree and am not really sure what made them seem like that would be a good idea other than to capture the intensity of the feud. Hunter and Orton are both top guys so there was no way this was going to be bad, but anything after Undertaker and Michaels was bound to be a letdown. I know McMahon likes the titles to be considered superior to anything else, but creative made a mistake by not letting Shawn and Undertaker go last.
Any way you look at it, WrestleMania 25 was a one match show. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had a match for the ages that will forever be remembered. Other than that, there were not many WrestleMania moments. If this had been any other pay-per-view, it would have been a great show, being as it was WrestleMania, I’ll say it was a respectable effort but below my expectations. Other than Shawn vs. Undertaker there were four matches that were good but not great. The other three matches – JBL vs. Rey Mysterio, the Divas Battle Royal, and Chris Jericho vs. the Legends were forgettable and not WrestleMania material. As for my recommendation, I would check out the show because it is WrestleMania, and the crowd was amazing but the only moment that will still be talked about in the years to come is Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.
Richard can be contacted at richard [at] grayinternet.com
Richard Gray is a professional wrestling journalist and frequent contributor to Rajah.com. He has been covering the world of professional wrestling since 1999 and has had the opportunity to cover ground breaking stories such as the demise of ECW, the WCW buyout, the Benoit tragedy, Bobby Lashley leaving WWE, and more. For more on Richard check out his web site, Wrestling News World.
– “Richard Reacts” Archive By WrestlingNewsWorld.com’s Richard Gray