Welcome to the latest edition of our WrestleMania Rewind series, written by yours truly, exclusively for everyone here at SLTD Wrestling. The aim of WrestleMania Rewind is to review every WrestleMania in roughly 2,000 words. Click here to read the series so far.
We’re looking at the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania today, which took place on April 5th, 2009 from the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas in front of just under 73,000 wrestling fans. No split commentary team this time around, and a distinct lack of backstage promos. Just all action, all the way. JR, The King and Michael Cole described the action for us. Let’s get into the wrasslin’!
Match 1: Money in the Bank Match – CM Punk vs Mark Henry vs MVP vs Finlay vs Shelton Benjamin vs Kofi Kingston vs Christian vs Kane
A chaotic opening leads to virtually all of the competitors being outside and they take turns to hit some high risk moves on their rivals outside, culminating in Hornswoggle – yes HIM – climbing on top of Henry with a stepladder to splash everyone outside. There’s an innovative spot involving Kofi and a ladder that I can’t describe.
Finlay’s wearing folk out with the stepladder. Henry dumps Kofi off the ladder and World’s Strongest Slams him on it! MVP bridges a ladder across the top rope into another. He counters a headscissors from Benjamin into a powerbomb. Christian Unprettiers Punk on the bridged ladder. Benjamin and MVP fuck up a Sunset Flip powerbomb spot off the ladder.
Benjamin powerbombs MVP out of the ring onto some others. Christian pushes Benjamin off the ladder over the top rope. Punk springboards onto the ladder, but gets trapped. Kane and Christian scrap on the ladder, resulting in Kane chokeslamming him off it. Punk frees himself, counters a chokeslam with kicks and retrieves the briefcase.
Opinion: A really enjoyable opener that the crowd loved every second of. I used to love these matches until WWE decided that they could base a PPV around them. It sounded as though the Texas crowd felt the same as me. Every one of the participants was over with the crowd, especially Christian and MVP.
Match 2: 25-Diva Battle Royal
***The winner of this match will be crowned the first-ever Miss WrestleMania***
It comes down to Santina, Melina and Beth Phoenix. Santina dumps them out of the ring to win.
Opinion: A waste of every Diva on the roster. What a complete and utter joke. I should point out that we got Kid Rock doing a Jive Bunny-esque medley of his “hits” before this. The crowd did NOT give a fuck about it.
Match 3: 3-on-1 Handicap Elimination Match – Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka & Roddy Piper vs Chris Jericho
Piper kicks off with Jericho and gets a 2 off a Sunset Flip before tagging Snuka, who chops Jericho and tags Steamboat. Steamboat lands a right hand from the top rope and a couple of deep armdrags. He works Jericho’s arm. Snuka’s back in, but gets eliminated in fairly quick order thanks to the Walls of Jericho. Piper’s in and wails on Jericho before putting him in a sleeper. Jericho eliminates him with an enziguri.
It’s down to Steamboat. He gets a 2-count from a top rope crossbody and sends Jericho outside, following up with a corkscrew plancha. Steamboat lands a series of chops and a roll-up for 2. Jericho misses the Lionsault. Steamboat gets a 2 from a powerslam, then counters the Walls of Jericho with an inside cradle for another, but he eventually goes down to the Codebreaker.
Opinion: This match is the perfect example of where a “You’ve Still Got It” chant is acceptable. We hadn’t seen Steamboat wrestle in the WWF/E for years, and he was very impressive. The crowd were into it and it was a good way to keep the momentum of the show going.
Match 4: Extreme Rules Match – Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy
The action’s outside early and weapons get brought into play. Jeff lands Poetry in Motion using the steps. He misses a second in the ring with a chair though. He goes for Whisper in the Wind, but Matt blasts him with a chair to get a 2-count. He gets another from a Side Effect on a chair, and bends Jeff round the ringpost. Matt sets a table up outside. Jeff’s back into it with a flying clothesline from the apron, and sends Matt into the steps with a spinning heel kick.
Jeff’s wailing on Matt with weapons and gets a 2 from a dropkick into a trashcan. Superplex by Jeff, who then rattles Matt with a chairshot that sends him outside. Jeff places Matt on a table, then sets another up on top of it. Jeff splashes him through it off the top rope for a 2-count! Jeff brings 2 ladders out. He climbs one and leapfrogs the other, but misses his legdrop. Matt Twist of Fate’s Jeff with a chair to get the win.
Opinion: It was better than I remember it. At the time, I shat all over the match, but it wasn’t actually that bad. The chairshot when Jeff went for the Whisper in the Wind sounded like a fucking gun going off, and the Twist of Fate with the chair looked sick. Typical Hardys match fare really. A spot-fest.
Match 5: WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – JBL (c) vs Rey Mysterio
JBL rattles Rey with a big boot and right hands before the bell. The match starts. Mysterio hits an enziguri, dropkick, 619 and a top rope splash to win in double-quick time.
Opinion: JBL was a terrific character. Note the word character. He could draw immense heat in his day. I can’t say much about it because the match was only 20 seconds long.
Match 6: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker
Michaels feigns a knee injury early to try to get the advantage, but it doesn’t work and he’s rocked by a series of rights. Taker works Michaels’ back and lands Old School, but misses a big boot in the corner. Michaels works Taker’s left leg and puts him in the figure-4. Taker gets out of it with right hands, but Michaels goes back to working the leg. Taker lands clotheslines in the corner, Snake Eyes, a big boot and a legdrop for 2.
Michaels counters a chokeslam with a Crossface. Taker rolls through for 2, but Michaels goes back to it. Taker powers to his feet and breaks it again, this time with a side suplex for 2. Michaels lands a series of chops, then his signature moves. He goes to the top rope and Taker crotches him. A series of counters leads to Taker putting Michaels in Hell’s Gate, but Michaels gets to the ropes to force the break.
They’re both outside where Taker slows the pace, however he misses the legdrop on the apron. Michaels comes at him with a baseball slide. He goes for a moonsault, Taker sidesteps it and Michaels crashes and burns. This leads to the now infamous “cameraman” spot, where he mistimes catching Taker and Taker JUST manages to beat the 10-count.
Taker counters Sweet Chin Music with a chokeslam for 2. A series of counters leads to Michaels hitting Sweet Chin Music for a nearfall. Taker lands a THUNDEROUS Last Ride for another nearfall. Taker misses a top rope elbow. Michaels tries to skin the cat, only for Taker to counter a headscissors into a Tombstone for 2.
Michaels counters a second Tombstone attempt with a DDT, hits a top rope elbow and a SICKENING Sweet Chin Music for 2. A brawl ensues. Michaels counters a clothesline in the corner with a kick and goes for a moonsault. Taker catches him and delivers a second Tombstone to get the win.
Opinion: Wrestling perfection. A masterclass in how to craft – and present – a 5-star wrestling match. This is easily the best wrestling match I’ve ever seen live, and lived through. I’ve seen other great ones, but not when I was old enough to understand it. For me, this is the pinnacle of wrestling as we know it.
Match 7: Triple-Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship – Edge (c) vs Big Show vs John Cena
After an early flurry from Show, he gets sent outside, where Cena hits a legdrop from the top rope. Edge is back in it and counters the AA into an impaler DDT for 2. Cena knocks Edge off the top rope, and walks into a sideslam from Show for 2. Chavo pulls Cena out of the ring and gets AA’d for his trouble.
Show gets tied up in the ropes, which allows Cena to hit his signature moves on Edge. Vickie gets involved. Cena sidesteps the Spear and Edge hits Vickie with it, knocking her off the apron and into Chavo. A double clothesline takes both men down. Show’s free and cleans house. All three end up outside, where Edge counters a chokeslam with a DDT, then Spears Show through the security wall!
Show tries to get back in it, but he’s double-teamed by Edge and Cena. A double clothesline takes him outside. Show pushes Cena off the top rope into a Spear from Edge. Show breaks the resultant pin. Edge puts Show in a sleeper. Cena delivers the AA to both men and wins.
Opinion: This was another triple-threat I’d completely forgotten about, but really enjoyed. In reality, all 3 men had their opportunity to shine and it’s safe to say that any one of them could’ve won this. Of course, we know who did. Mr “I Kick Out of Everything at 2 and Never Lose Clean”.
Match 8: WWE Championship Match – Randy Orton vs Triple H (c)
***If Triple H is disqualified, counted-out or uses a sledgehammer, he loses the championship***
It’s little more than a brawl at the start, with H on top. They exchange finishers, with neither man attempting a pin. They end up outside, where Orton sends H into the steps and the timekeeper’s area. Orton’s slowed the pace and has the advantage. H gets out of Orton’s trusty reverse chinlock with a back suplex, but can’t avoid a powerslam and Orton gets a 2. H gets back into it with a high knee and gets a 2 off a clothesline. Orton counters the Pedigree with a Jacknife cover for 2.
H lands a huge AA spinebuster for a nearfall. Orton counters the Pedigree AGAIN – this time with an inverted backbreaker for 2. H blocks the punt, and dumps Orton outside. Orton counters the Pedigree for a THIRD time by back body dropping H onto the Spanish Announce Table, and follows by landing his draping DDT from the table to the floor. He continues the assault in the ring until there’s a ref bump.
Orton goes outside and gets the sledgehammer. H catches him with a punt kick on the way back in and blasts Orton with the sledgehammer behind the ref’s back. The ref gets back up and H hits the Pedigree at the fourth time of asking to retain the title.
Opinion: It all felt a bit anti-climactic to me. This was a blood feud remember, so a Street Fight (or a similar stipulation) might have added something else to the match. The ending seemingly came out of nowhere. H was very aggressive here and had the best of the encounter. Just a very weird ending for what was a very strange feud.
Summary: The disappointing ending to the show aside, WM25 was really good. Over half of the matches were excellent, with enough high spots, great wrestling and an epic display of storytelling to please the crowd.
I felt really disappointed by the main-event. I know I’ve just said that, but I can’t get over how lacklustre it was. It seemed to sap all the energy from the crowd, which wasn’t their fault, and it’s not the first time that it’s happened with a HHH match that’s closed the show – see WM2000, WM18 and WM21 for proof of that.
The Michaels/Undertaker match is one of the reasons why I’m a wrestling fan, albeit a lapsed one (for the most part). It encapsulated everything that’s great about the business that we all know and love – athleticism, drama, emotion and most importantly, it told a fascinating story. It was the very definition of a 5-star match and, ironically, the two men involved were men born and bred in the Lone Star state. Mesmerising stuff.
If you’ve never seen this PPV, I’d recommend you do so. There’s something on the card for everyone, and you’ll enjoy it for the most part.
Hopefully you enjoyed that quick look back at WrestleMania 25. Leave your comments/feedback via the usual channels, and join me again tomorrow to revisit WrestleMania 26!