FearlessRiOT Retro Review: WWE WrestleMania 25

Out of every WrestleMania I have to review for this series, I would describe only three of them as “flat-out awful”, and while this one isn’t the hands down worst thanks to one or two matches on the show, this is definitely one of those bottom-of-the-barrel shows. Seriously, this was wretched. Do I even need to write anything else? Can’t I just place a picture of the DVD box on here with the word “WRETCHED” in big red capital letters stamped on it? No? I guess not; I did bring this on myself. Well, let’s get this one over with; this is WrestleMania 25, or as it was marketed, the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania.
World Tag Team Championship02_WM25_04052009jg_0090
Let’s start with one of the worst things about this show: the Tag Team Title match that got bumped to the pre-show. This isn’t like the World Tag Team Title match from WrestleMania XIX that WWE never even stated would be on the main show; I remember them saying that this would be on the WrestleMania 25 main show, but sent it straight to the pre-show last-minute. And this was years after Heat ended and before the WWE started doing Kickoff shows. So why did this match get bumped? So Kid Rock could sing? Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like the right way to treat a title unification match. And they had two teams at their disposal that could have use the airtime: the speedy Primo and Carlito and the crafty (and hilarious) Miz & Morrison. Primo and Carlito won this match that you’ve probably never seen, and seeing as Primo (who apparently took bullfighting lessons with his other cousin somewhere down the line) is up there with the Usos on the list of current WWE stars who can’t get booked on the WrestleMania main show to save their lives, this is likely the only real WrestleMania moment he will ever have. But if it never aired, how canon is that really?

Going into they show as a video package that was very good, not a surprised given that video packages has always had a strong video production department. The superstars were asked what the greatest WrestleMania moment was, and some of the most iconic moments in the history of the show were mentioned. Watching the video would actually get you hyped to watch the show and see which stars add to the long list of unforgettable WrestleMania moments; too bad it got your hopes up for absolutely nothing for the most part.

America The Beautiful46_WM25_04052009cm_0205
In 2009, the Pussycat Dolls were the biggest girl group on the planet, or at least in America. They lost Carmit (the redhead one who kind of looked like the woman from Desperate Housewives) before the release of their second album, Doll Domination, but they carried on as a five-some and scored literally a couple more hits. I dare you to try to name the four not named Nicole. You probably can’t, hence why I think Nicole Scherzinger was picked to do America The Beautiful by herself. It’s like being asked to name a member of Maroon 5 not named Adam. You gotta feel sorry for the other Dolls that Nicole was always seen as the only relevant one; even when Fifth Harmony was announced as the ones to sing it this year, they didn’t say “Eh, we just want the one who sang with that Shawn kid; send the other four to the iHeartRadio Awards”. Nicole was kind of shaky in this performance and I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a huge Pussycat Dolls fan, but to her credit, I do think that Nicole generally did have pipes and I always did believe she had talent behind her beauty. Too bad America quickly dumped her from our collective conscious and just let the U.K. have her after PCD disbanded.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match09_WM25_04052009dog_0695

For a match type that is usually always a highlight of a card, this is not one of my favorite Money in the Bank matches. The previous year’s match was built on a ton of creative uses for the ladders; this year, there seemed to be a little less, at least in my opinion. As usual, there were neat spots, such as Shelton Benjamin diving off of a really tall ladder onto his opposition; it took a lot of guts to be able to do something like that. By the way, did he ever get some sort of a ribbon or a refrigerator magnet or something for stealing the show in MiTB as much as he did without ever winning? Maybe a raise? Something for all his incredible risks! Also, they made a structure out of three ladders that was pretty cool to see, and Christian hit a Killswitch off it that was pretty nice. And Kofi Kingston delivered a few eye-popping moments as well. But compared to the MiTB matches before it, this one was kind of weak to me. It doesn’t help that they put two superheavyweights in; one superheavyweight is enough, but two is pushing my imaginative limits. CM Punk won for the second year in a row and we would soon find out that briefcase did not contain a contract, but rather the blueprints to maybe the best feud of 2009.

Kid Rock Concert
Look, I don’t have that much against Kid Rock. He did have one hit the year before WrestleMania XXV; “All Summer Long” may have been slightly overplayed, but it’s kind of a guilty pleasure song of mine. But how did7 that ONE little re-flash of relevance convince WWE that giving him TEN MINUTES to perform a medley of greatest hits songs from NINE YEARS EARLIER was a good idea? I don’t mind musical performances on WrestleMania; again, America The Beautiful is kind of mandatory and it’s always brief and sweet. And when a band comes on to perform someone’s theme live during their entrance, it’s usually badass. But a TEN MINUTE concert from an artist most people have long stopped caring about? That is where I draw the line! And to make it worse, you have the wrestlers of the next match make their entrance DURING the concert and have them stop and dance on the way down? Maybe this performance would have worked on an award show where he was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award assuming any award show would consider him worthy of the distinction, but that is not what this was.

Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal11_WM25_04052009jg_0886
A list of ideas better than what WWE came up with for this match: Letting Joey Rooney do your hair. Trusting SpongeBob SquarePants with your car. Trusting the people behind FoodFight to budget your movie. Challenging Brock Lesnar to a fight. Sorry for the pop culture references (no, I’m not), but I need to do something to find enjoyment out of reviewing this mess. Really, I need to control myself before I let this match send me into an uncontrollable rage. OK, so instead of a Divas Title match or a Women’s Title match, WWE decided to stick all the Divas they have, plus a few returning legends, into a single Battle Royal to crown the first Miss WrestleMania. Potentially good idea, right? A girl could totally use the rub from this, defeating not only her peers, but also some of the awesome women who paved the way for her, like Victoria and Torrie and Molly and Sun…uh…well, what about Jackie Ga…hmm…well, anyway, that would be a pretty good push for that Diva, right, right?

Not the way they did it. First of all, they all got ONE entrance DURING the Kid Rock concert. Second of all, why does Gail Kim have a habit of eliminating herself from Battle Royals? But worst of all, And since they didn’t need to go over the top rope for an elimination to count, there was little suspense and eliminations were incredibly easy and random. But none of that compares to the fact they had Santino dressed in drag win. Not even to make a political statement on gender roles or anything; the whole thing was booked like one big unfunny joke. I usually find Santino funny, but WWE doing the Divas like this legitimately pissed me off; I could only imagine what Mae Young, who watched from ringside, was thinking about what had become of mainstream women’s wrestling in 2009. I felt so sorry for the Divas that had to take part in this; girls like Beth, Maryse, Melina, Mickie, Eve, Michelle, and the returning Divas (excluding Sunny, who’s inclusion somehow makes me hate this match even more) deserved better. Avoid this match at all costs!

Chris Jericho vs. Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat14_WM25_04052009cm_1060
This match was both a lowlight and a highlight; the lowlight came anytime Piper or Snuka stepped in the ring. I consider Roddy Piper one of the all-time greatest; he was a good face, an incredible heel, and an entertaining force to be reckoned with. That said, he had no business stepping into the ring to compete at WrestleMania 25; for that matter, neither did Jimmy Snuka. They both competed in the Royal Rumble the year prior; they weren’t in the best shape then and they weren’t in the best shape here. Plus, did their characters make up after the coconut-thing…excluding that TNA segment? I meant in WWE canon. Or was their common goal of teaching Chris Jericho to respect the old school greater than a hard, exotic fruit to the face?

Well, Chris Jericho eliminated them both very quickly before having an outstanding showcase with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Turns out at the age of 56, the man who defeated Randy Savage in a clinic at WrestleMania III could still go in the ring. What is it about him and Sting that allowed them to still be so energetic past 50? I say if you’re gonna watch any part of this match, make it the part where Jericho gets Steamboat in the ring. And even after slaying the Dragon (which led to a one-on-one match at Backlash), Jericho still had one more person to face: Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke, star of one of the biggest movies at the time, The Wrestler. You know, that movie on the list of 1,001 things Jim Cornette hates. Jericho had been trash-talking Rourke, so the actor/former boxer dropped Jericho with two swift punches, giving him a WrestleMania moment that made up for his Oscar loss.

Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy23_WM25_04052009jg_1580
In 2014, we saw a WWE sibling rivalry at its worst with Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella. And this is not meant to be a knock on the Bella Twins as most internet commentaries mentioning them usually are; I’m just saying that I’ve seen more convincing acting, better writing, and less contrived execution on Nickelodeon sitcoms. Even the bad ones. Well, before the Bella Twins, there was another sibling rivalry in WWE that concluded with the siblings making up right the hell out of nowhere despite one sibling trying to destroy the other for months: It was Hardy vs. Hardy.

Yes, this storyline saw Matt Hardy going heel, something I only care to see if the Matt Facts make a comeback. It started with him going heel on his brother and ended months later with Matt Hardy turning face and standing side-by-side with his brother again. If there was a reason for that, I don’t remember it. But before it happened, at least we got this, one of the better parts of the show. Jeff and Matt had a pretty decent hardcore bout, even if some of the weapons were a little out-of-place. For real, why did Matt bring out a vacuum cleaner? Was there a reason Jeff utilized a giant magazine cover? But for real, Jeff did hit some cool spots, including a huge ladder leap that saw him damn near break his booty bone on a missed leg drop. After a Twist of Fate with a chair wrapped round his neck, Matt extended his brother’s WrestleMania losing streak. I would maybe say this was the second best overall match, edging out Jericho vs. The Legends; again, Jericho vs. Steamboat was the only good part of that.

Rey Mysterio vs. JBL
In 2008, actor Heath Ledger passed away at the tragically young age of 28. Before his untimely passing, he turned in a chilling, critically-acclaimed performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight; along with receiving posthumous Oscar and MTV Movie Award recognition for it, his version of the character was also the inspiration of Rey Mysterio’s ring gear as he went into battle with JBL at WrestleMania 25. Ignoring the fact that The Joker is a villain and Rey was a hero, it was another cool dedication to pop culture characters from the masked luchador.

You know, I think that paragraph I just typed was actually longer than this match. This was the the first WrestleMania in seven years that featured the Intercontinental Champion actually defending his title rather than being shoved in a multi-man match. And it only lasted 21 seconds. Mysterio put JBL away in 21 seconds. Shelby Marx vs. Carly Shay got more time than that. After the match, JBL re-retired, effectively leaving the company. These days, Michael Cole would constantly remind JBL that Rey retired hem while they’re on commentary, and while it is funny, I just wish that the IC Title got a little more love here.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels37_WM25_04052009cm_2794
This is the only match from this show I ever hear anyone talk about anymore in a positive light. Sure, Jericho and Steamboat were praised at the time, but they’re barely mentioned much anymore. And sure, the Hardy’s match wasn’t bad, but Jeff would go on to have a better program with CM Punk the following year while the supposedly iconic Matt dropped off the radar again. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels has endured and it’s praise has not stopped. Dave Meltzer gave it 4 3/4th stars; Bleacher Report has not one, not two, but numerous articles singing its praises. It’s got a WrestleMania Rewind episode. This is definitely seen as one of the greatest matches not only in the history of WrestleMania and the Streak, but in the history of WWE.

And yet, I have my own little nitpicks; that Shawn Michaels’ DDT reversal that doesn’t completely land, the ‘inverted’ Figure-Four Leg Lock that has never ever looked right to me, and surprise, the one job Sim Snuka had to do aside from hold a camera and completely failed at. But in the case of that last moment, they actually turned that into a positive; I don’t know if it was done on the fly, but the countout segment was suspenseful and well-done. But aside from those small little things, I do agree this is the best match of the night. I don’t know if I’d rank it high of my list of all-time favorite matches, but it sure kept this WrestleMania from being the absolute suckiest of the series. Again, we’ll see the VERY bottom of the post-2000 WM barrel later. The chemistry was off the charts, the execution of most of the moves we’re beautiful, and the story told was one of the best in Streak history.

John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show41_WM25_04052009cm_3997
This match had some of the dumbest build-up for a World Title match. Edge winning the World Title the same night he lost the WWE Title was a stroke of genius and pushed his reputation as the Ultimate Opportunist even further. That part I commend. But, like a terrible TV show with a great theme song, it’s all downhill from there. Despite the wedding bands he and boss Vickie Guerrero shared, Edge still found himself without a championship advantage at WrestleMania due to some blackmail. Even though Vickie named Big Show the #1 contender (for some reason), John Cena slotted right in after showing video footage of Vickie Guerrero getting steamy with Big Show, hoping it’ll land him his rematch. You’d think she would have learned from Edge’s mistake less than a year prior.

Like he always does, John Cena managed to gain maximum cool points for his entrance, where an army of John Cena clones lined the ramp, coming down to his old, greatly-missed entrance music. After that, he wrestled a Triple Threat Match I wish I was more invested in. Every man gave it their all, but this Triple Threat was not the most exciting in the world. John Cena getting both men up simultaneously for the AA would be a more badass visual if Edge stayed up longer than three seconds. And wouldn’t you know it, John Cena won, to which Edge had the funniest response days later.

Hall of Fame Segment
I debated whether or not I liked or hated a large chunk of this segment. Not so much the part where the legends come on stage and do the first thing you learn at Madagascar Penguin College, but afterward when Steve Austin rides his ATV to the ring and has a really long beer bash for the fans. On the one hand, it’s always great to see the Rattlesnake back and having fun with the fans. At the same time, I can’t help but think this is another reason the Tag Team Title match was switched to the pre-show. Then again, we can maybe just consider that the bad luck of the Tag Team Title draw and just enjoy Austin’s company since we so rarely get to anymore. Therefore, I can confirm that I loved this part right here.

Triple H vs. Randy Orton49_WM25_04052009cm_5067
After one of the three men from the WWE Championship match at the previous WrestleMania won the World Heavyweight Championship, it’s was time for the other two to duke it out in the most personal match on the card. For months, Randy Orton had antagonized the McMahon family, leaving both Vince and Shane incapacitated and even laying hands (and lips) on Stephanie. Triple H, now acknowledging his branch on the McMahon Family Tree, was the one who would have to make Randy Orton, using a condition called I.E.D. to justify his actions, pay. In the first time in years where the Royal Rumble winner ACTUALLY main evented WrestleMania, Orton would challenged Triple H for the WWE Championship…..in the most anticlimactic match you may ever witness.

With how personal this match was, you would expect an all-out war. You would expect a battle on the level of Rock vs. Mankind or Guerrero vs. JBL. Hell, even Batista vs. Undertaker. The match we got was simply not that. The girls at FightGirlz2000 go harder than this match did. Jimmy and Timmy went harder than this match did. Katt Williams and that kid went harder than this match did. Really, I don’t even know what to say; this was just a disappointing payoff for a buildup that promised so much. At the last minute, they announced that a DQ or countout would result in Triple H losing the title, which sucked all the expected fun out. What we got was a plain, boring affair that didn’t feel like a WrestleMania main event. And sure, Triple H did get to use a sledgehammer, but it was well past the point where my interest was lost. This might not be the worst WrestleMania main event, but it’s definitely the most disappointing.

Rewatching this, maybe there was more to like that I remember: Michaels/Undertaker, the Hardy bout (and even Foley vs. Edge was more hardcore and enjoyable), the Austin beer bash, Jericho and Steamboat. But the rest of the show is just as either forgettable or as insulting as I remember. Again, this I have two other PPVs coming up that I would place in the same garbage bin as 85% of this; so I recommend preparing yourselves for those. But before we can get to them, I still have another WrestleMania in the way that I am having trouble putting into words.

Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania 25.

(All photos owned by WWE)

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