WrestleMania 25: The ‘25th Anniversary’ of WrestleMania is actually the 24th anniversary because someone in WWE doesn’t understand how anniversaries work. They’ll say it a lot during the show, and the branding of logo features it as well, just making it all the more unintentionally hilarious that they’re so wrong. We’re in the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas (now the NRG Stadium).

    We open with a series of talking heads talking about their favourite WrestleMania moments. Then Nicole Scherzinger sings ‘America the Beautiful’. There is just one commentary this time, Michael Cole, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler.

    WrestleMania 25: Money in the Bank Ladder Match – CM Punk, Mark Henry, MVP, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Kane

    Quite a varied line-up for this show opening ladder match. MVP walks into a second consecutive MITB as the United States Championship. Kofi Kingston makes his WrestleMania debut, still under his Jamaican persona. This is also the first MITB to feature some genuinely massive men, Mark Henry stands out as not someone who looks suited to the environment.

    Early showcases for the sheer bulk of Henry and Kane, and the athleticism of Kingston. The other six men involved briefly team up to take the two big men out, it doesn’t last long and Henry & Kane knock the ladders down. It’s classic MITB car crash stuff, a series of dives to the floor from most men punctuating the action. Shelton Benjamin adds another moment to his personal highlight reel by diving off a super-sized ladder, from the camera angle it looks like he lands on really badly, but he doesn’t. Mark Henry teases a dive to the floor before Hornswoggle joins the match and delivers his own dive.

    Some more athleticism from Kingston before Finlay has a dominating run for a few moments. It’s then Henry’s turn, but he is cut off by MVP, who ends up embroiled with Shelton Benjamin. Some good work between those two. It’s then Christian and CM Punk’s turn to take each other out. Another bit of freakish athleticism from Benjamin before he and MVP muck up a sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder, they make up for it with Benjamin just throwing MVP to the outside instead. There’s a great moment between Christian and Benjamin on the ladders as well, Benjamin falling and Christian keeping his balance. Kane and CM Punk then chase Christian up the ladder, Kane knocks Christian down. A succession of kicks from Punk to Kane and Punk retrieves the briefcase to win. A second straight MITB for Punk. He would hold onto the contract until June where he would win the World Heavyweight Championship.

    We get a glimpse of WrestleMania Axxess before Kid Rock appears to provide an early toilet break. He plays a medley of songs, leading into the entrances for the next match. He got into the Celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame for this. It’s an egregiously long performance, akin to a Super Bowl half time show but not at half time.

    WrestleMania 25: Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal

    After a pair of lumberjack matches on the previous two years shows, in order to pack as many women as possible onto the show without putting much creative effort in, it’s a battle royal this time instead. There is a wide-ranging mix of talent involved, some with almost no in ring experience, or making their match debut.

    Some eliminations have already happened before the rules have been finished. Eliminations don’t have to go over the top rope, you just have to leave the ring and hit the floor. Some of the eliminations are very ugly looking, someone hits her head on the apron whilst taking someone else out. Molly Holly only comes to the notice of the commentators when she gets eliminated. The presence of an unknown entrant also gets noticed. It’s Santino Marella in drag, ‘Santina’. There’s some good talent in the final five (and Santino), Mickie James & Michelle McCool taking each other out before Santino does the first thing all match and eliminates Beth Phoenix & Victoria.

    ‘Santina’ wins. Pointless nonsense, it could have at least elevated one of the actual women of the company.

    WrestleMania 25: Chris Jericho vs Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka & Ricky Steamboat – 3-on-1 Handicap Elimination

    A match that came out of Chris Jericho’s hatred of the Mickey Rourke movie ‘The Wrestler’ and by extension all veteran wrestlers who still cling on to relevance. The three legends, with Ric Flair in their corner, are proxies for Rourke himself, who had been planned to be part of the match. Rourke is in attendance and looks unhappy to be mixed in with the normal crowd.

    Ricky Steamboat has been the longest away from the ring on his team but he looks in the best shape by far. There’s some arguing amongst the legends about who starts out but it’s Piper who starts out. Piper starts out hot, briefly getting tangled up in the ropes when throwing Jericho out. Snuka is in next, he looks particularly crocked. The second Ricky Steamboat comes in the level goes up. Snuka comes back and Jericho eliminates him with the ‘Walls of Jericho’. Piper comes back in and get some of his classic offense in, the eye poke and the sleeper hold before Jericho eliminates him.

    We then get a mini match between Jericho and Steamboat. Steamboat looks exceptional for a man who had been out of the ring for just under 15 years. This extended sequence makes the whole thing worthwhile. Eventually a ‘Codebreaker’ from Jericho puts Steamboat away. What a great performance from Steamboat, it would leader to a singles match between he and Jericho the following month.

    Ric Flair tries to attack Jericho post-match but gets beaten up for his efforts. Jericho then grabs a microphone and starts mocking Mickey Rourke and calling him into the ring. It takes a while before Rourke reacts, which is funny given he apparently needed to be assured that Jericho didn’t have a real-life issue with him before the show. It also takes him a while to make it into the ring but when he does he knocks Jericho down with a single left hook.

    This is at the better end of the celebrity involvement spectrum, it’s at least tying into a film related to Wrestling and Rourke is a former boxer, making it not all that ridiculous that he could knock Jericho down.

    WrestleMania 25: Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy – Extreme Rules

    The brother vs brother feud that WWE kept trying to do. They’d tried before but this time there are some more stakes involved. Matt has claimed credit for a catalog of ills that have happened to Jeff over the previous few months and even cost him the WWE Championship back at the Royal Rumble. A lot of old footage of the pair from their childhoods and all through their wrestling careers.

    Right away they’re both straight into the weapons end of the extreme rules stipulation, a Mania poster and the ring steps getting used early on. Matt takes over with a pair of chair shots from interesting angles, one to Jeff whilst he is mid-air. It gets a touch comical when Matt uses a vacuum cleaner as a weapon, then brings it back to earth with the steel chair again. They trade both the momentum and weapon shots. A particularly vicious looking moment sees Jeff put a bin on Matt’s head and hits it with a crutch. Commentary try and compare the two to other brothers who fought in the past, from the real like Bret & Owen Hart, to the kayfabe Kane & Undertaker. They argue this might the most personal, which is probably pushing things a touch.

    Matt tries to taunt Jeff with a ‘Swanton Bomb’ but Jeff blocks it and hits him with a chair shot to the face. Jeff then sets Matt up in a convoluted table structure, then splashes through it from the top rope to the floor, Matt sandwiched between two tables. It takes Jeff a long time to get Matt back into the ring and pin him, but Matt gets to the ropes. Jeff does some more furniture rearranging to get in place for an attempt at Matt’s signature leg drop off a ladder. He misses, it looks like a disgusting landing. Matt catches him with a chair-assisted ‘Twist of Fate’

    A strangely unsatisfying match, it doesn’t feel like a blood feud, there isn’t enough urgency for that. There are some big stunts and big moments, but it lacks the depth of emotional that the story seemed to be aiming for.

    WrestleMania 25: John Bradshaw Layfield vs Rey Mysterio – WWE Intercontinental Championship

    Mysterio challenged Layfield for the title, that was it. It’s the first time we’ve seen the IC title get defended since Mania X8. Layfield runs down his home state of Texas on the way down to the ring and predicts the ‘most dominant victory in WrestleMania history’. Mysterio enters dressed as The Joker to keep his tradition of usually wearing comic book inspired attire at Mania.

    JBL kicks Mysterio in the face before the referee rings the bell. Mysterio fights back once it does ring. The ‘619’, a splash. Mysterio pins to win the Intercontinental Championship. JBL wasn’t lying when he said it would a dominant victory. Under 21 seconds. JBL then declares himself retired. He takes a long time to get to that point. Other than a 49-second cameo in the 2014 Royal Rumble he’s stayed retired.

    WrestleMania 25: The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels

    A lot of history between these two Icons. Michaels had managed to get out from underneath a storyline association with JBL and decided to call out The Undertaker, basically wanting to put the Streak up against his record as ‘Mr WrestleMania’. There’s been a lot of mind games in the build up and plenty of religious imagery from the born-again Michaels, contrasting himself with the demonic Undertaker.

    Two instantly iconic entrances, Michaels all in white descending from the Heavens is first out. Undertaker responds by rising from the ‘depths of hell’. Michaels is stoic in his response to the Undertaker’s intimidating entrance.

    Right away the contrast in their entrances is continued in a contrast in their strategies. Undertaker is on top with his size and power advantage, Michaels fighting back with quickness and occasionally underhanded tactics. Undertaker manages to hit ‘Old School’ but misses a big boot in the corner to allow Michaels an opening. Michaels goes to the ‘figure four leglock’ to try and wear down the legs of the Undertaker and ground him. It doesn’t hold Taker down for long and they continue to go back and forth. Michaels continues to go for submission holds to try and wear Undertaker down, Undertaker generally powering out and striking to stay in control.

    Michaels goes for a top rope elbow drop but Undertaker catches him and after some struggling locks him into the ‘Hells Gate’, Michaels just making it to bottom rope to save himself. The great back and forth continues, there’s enough struggle to convey that it’s a hard fought contest, but it keeps up a pace and flow that stops it from sagging. Undertaker knocks Michaels out of the air on a moonsault attempt before Undertaker goes for his now famous suicide dive. Michaels pulls a cameraman (wrestler Sim Snuka in disguise) who doesn’t quite catch Undertaker, who lands right on his head and is lucky to be continuing the match.

    After this, both men are down for a while before Michaels climbs back into the ring and almost wins by count out, Undertaker making it back into the ring just before the ten count. Michaels goes for ‘Sweet Chin Music’ twice with Undertaker blocking or countering before the third attempt hits, Taker kicks out.

    From this point onwards it’s just escalation, The Undertaker event tries to hit one of Michaels’ signature diving elbows. Undertaker catches Michaels trying to make it back into the ring and hits a ‘Tombstone Piledriver’. Michaels shockingly kicks out. Jim Ross is having an ‘out of body experience’. Michaels is spent but he keeps fighting. He even hits another diving elbow, followed by a ‘Sweet Chin Music’ that all signs suggest Undertaker is about to counter. Undertaker kicks out. There’s even more back and forth. Michaels tries for a moonsault but Undertaker catches him and hits a second ‘Tombstone Piledriver’. Pins and wins. Undertaker is 17-0.

    A classic match. Brilliant professional wrestling for 30 minutes. Lovely stuff.

    WrestleMania 25: Edge vs Big Show vs John Cena – World Heavyweight Championship

    At No Way Out, Edge had completed the unique feat of entering both Elimination Chamber matches in the same night to win the World Heavyweight Title from John Cena. SmackDown General Manager, and Edge’s on-screen wife, had planned to make Big Show Edge’s opponent at WrestleMania. John Cena blackmailed his way into the match by revealing an affair between Guerrero and Show. A very wholesome babyface move from Cena. Vickie Guerrero is at ringside, in a wheelchair. Edge is out first, followed by Big Show, then a big entrance from Cena that teases the ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ and features two long lines of Cena cosplayers lining the ramp.

    Cena gets a big run at the start but gets knocked down by Show. Edge tries to form an alliance with Show, who simply dumps him onto the top rope crotch first. It’s all Big Show early on, until Cena manages to get him out of the ring, Cena and Edge inadvertently working together to do so. This leaves Cena and Edge in the ring, Edge kicks out of an ‘Attitude Adjustment’ (the former ‘FU’) before ending up on the floor himself and leaving the ring to Cena and Show.

    Chavo Guerrero, who is accompanying Vickie, tries to interfere but gets an ‘AA’ on the floor. Big Show ends up tied in the ropes in the classic Andre spot and has to watch whilst Cena nearly pins Edge. Vickie climbs onto the apron from her wheelchair, but gets speared off by Edge accidentally, Chavo just about catching her. Big Show manages to get out of the ropes and takes over again.

    On the floor, Edge knocks Big Show through the ringside barricade and leaves him out on the floor for a bit. Cena manages to reverse a spear attempt in the ring into his sloppy looking ‘STF’ submission, Big Show returning to break it up. Cena and Edge work together to suplex Big Show and look surprised at the momentary collaboration. More big moves broken up or blocked by the third man. Cena briefly has both his opponents in position for a double ‘AA’ but hits just Big Show with it.

    He then hits Edge with the ‘AA’ onto the Big Show and pins Show to win the match and become World Champion yet again.

    There’s plenty of action that features all three men actively. It cracks on as well, doesn’t push things into unnecessarily long territory. It’s not the most memorable title match but it’s a good bit of fun. The post-match moment where Cena poses with the title in front of a very angry anti-Cena fan is pretty funny.

    The WWE Hall of Fame class of 2009 are introduced. Terry & Dory Funk Jr., Bill Watts, Howard Finkel, Koko B. Ware, The Von Erich Family, Ricky Steamboat, and headliner Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin gets a chance to drive down to ringside and celebrate in the ring, a touching moment with Jim Ross as well.

    WrestleMania 25: Triple H vs Randy Orton – WWE Championship

    Orton won the Royal Rumble to set up this match with his former Evolution stablemate. Ever since then Orton had been terrorising Triple H and the McMahon family by extension. Triple H retaliated with the now infamous ‘home invasion’ skit. And on top of this very personal feud and bitter feud, the stipulation of the match, Triple H will lose the title if he gets counted out or disqualified, doesn’t fit with that vibe. The pre-match video package does at least make a sincere effort to present the match as a big-time fight, AC/DC soundtrack and all. Triple H doesn’t make his entrance with any elaborate garb this year but he does smash his way through a pane of glass with a sledgehammer.

    A long stare down before and after the bell, Triple H holding the centre of the ring and Orton circling him. Once they do lock up HHH has the advantage, but early on his physicality looks like it might get him in trouble, needing to be reminded by the referee of the stakes. Orton hits an ‘RKO’ about a minute into the match but misses with a ‘punt’. Triple H then immediately hits his own finisher, the ‘Pedigree’, but can’t capitalise either. More punishment from HHH to Orton and he pushes the limit of what he can away with under this stipulation. Orton tries to beg off but it doesn’t work. After taking a beating, Orton takes over and the floor and throws HHH to the floor for a close call on a count out. Orton dominates for a while, it’s intense but he slows the pace to almost glacial at points.

    They thankfully do pick things up a little but it’s clear that this is one of many Triple H matches that are pitching for epic and instead scan as overstuffed. There are good moments mixed in but they’re spread out. It also feels like it’s building to a big run in or outside interference, some misdirection from the stipulation, but that never comes.

    They fight to the floor and eventually onto the announce tables as they find another gear. Triple H goes a ‘Pedigree’ on the table but Orton counters with a back body drop. This puts Orton in charge, and he almost wins via count out yet again. After a bit more fighting the referee gets knocked down. The two men then fight over the sledgehammer, HHH using it finally. For a second it looks like there’s going to be a run in with the referee still down. There isn’t. A ‘Pedigree’, the referee is back up, the pin and Triple H wins.

    Badly needed editing and was hampered from the start by a dumb stipulation that stymied the intensity and violence of a match that should have been full of both given the build-up.

    Overall – WrestleMania 25

    Another fun but ultimately uneven show, with a downer ending and strange pacing. The opener is brilliant chaos and Undertaker vs Michaels is one of the best matches in the entire history of the event, and for both men’s world-class careers.

    The Kid Rock concert segment early in the show is pointlessly long, and leads into a useless and downright disrespectful Battle Royal segment. The 25th anniversary branding is hilariously bad, it’s not only so obviously wrong, it’s all over the show to an obnoxious degree. WWE often do this but on this occasion, it’s particularly jarring.