Right before WrestleMania 25, I started writing reports of the build-up to the show based on the television shows, Raw and Smackdown starting with the Raw after Royal Rumble. Thus, I remember many things about the planning of this show, such as one of the original goals of the Chris Jericho vs. The Legends match was supposed to feature Mickey Rourke in an in-ring role. I remember the Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy storytelling that left a bitter taste in my mouth when they started to bring real life into the angle, but push it in a tasteless way. I also remember that the main event between Triple H and Randy Orton had a chance to be great, but the build was so up and down, it wasn’t on fire like it should’ve been.
In ten years, people will remember this show for two things. The first thing is the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels match that had the entire building rocking. I’ve been to very few live events where the building was rumbling as loudly as it was, which is a credit to both guys because in large stadiums, the sound goes upward and can be muted a bit. And if they remember a second thing (and they may not), it will be that Stone Cold Steve Austin was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that same weekend.
Actually, when Austin was announced with the other Hall of Famers and then drove his four wheeler towards the ring and drank beer, it was the second loudest pop in the building. Both of those moments dwarfed the main event. By the time Triple H walked out for his match with Randy Orton, the fans were sitting on their hands. That’s not exactly the way you want your main event to be presented.
The Money In The Bank match was really good live, but it doesn’t come across as well on DVD. It was awe-inspiring to see guys gracefully fly in the air in person, but the actual up-close camera work hurts the visual. There was uncertainty as to who was going to win the actual match and receive a future title shot, but the crowd was clearly behind Christian. Instead, CM Punk won the match and all of a sudden, the wonder was if he’d cash in his title shot if Edge won his title match.
But Edge didn’t win. John Cena vs. The Big Show vs. Edge was either the third or fourth most interesting match and it was for one of the two big championships. Part of the reason why it wasn’t hyped as much is because the build was more comedy related, centered around Vickie Guerrero, rather than any real feud. It hurt the match, but having it as a three-way with the Big Show involved hurt it as well. If only John Cena and Edge were involved, it’s a better match.
They worked hard and John Cena performed a few superhuman feats of strength, including putting both Edge and Show on his back at the same time, but as big as they tried to make Cena winning, it was just ok for what it was.
Chris Jericho’s match against the WWE Legends (Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, and Jimmy Snuka) originally started with Mickey Rourke, fresh off his buzz from The Wrestler, challenging Chris Jericho, but then backing off from his claims. Someone in Hollywood probably told him to not get in the ring. Maybe it was the Rock. That’s when it turned into the handicap match. It was awkward and clumsy and was only really there to get Ric Flair and Rourke involved. Rourke, who was sitting next to MMA fighter Frank Shamrock in the crowd, knocked Jericho out after Jericho beat all the legends. Something did come out of the match though. Ricky Steamboat came out of retirement to have a really good match with Jericho after this show.
Hardy vs. Hardy was pretty tasteless in its build. Jeff Hardy’s trailer was really burnt to a crisp and he lost his dog in the fire. They used that real life happening to help push the storyline which was basically Matt being jealous of Jeff’s success and trying to sabotage Jeff. Jeff, wouldn’t succumb to Matt’s petty actions, until he talked about Jeff’s dog dying in the fire. Finally, Jeff bit and they were going to settle their feud in an extreme rules match.
The match itself was just ok. Part of the problem is that fans didn’t really want to see them wrestle. Back in the early 2000s, they feuded and no one wanted to see it then. Here they were again, and it was the same. Not only that, but Matt, the heel, won the match and it was pretty deflating live.
Here are other highlights (and lowlights) of some things that happened before I get to the two big matches:
– It was fairly well known that JBL was nearing the end of his career, and he lost to Rey Mysterio in his Intercontinental title defense in just 21 seconds. He quit right after the match and hasn’t wrestled since.
– Kid Rock performed live, but it was edited off the DVD. I’m not a Kid Rock fan, but I have nothing against his music. I was actually quite thankful because his performance allowed me to use the restroom during the show. His performance predated the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal, which was a farce and won by Santino Marella dressed as a woman.
– Miz and Morrison faced The Colon Brothers in a tag team match to unify both sets of tag team titles. The Bellas were involved as a part of the story, but they were no where to be seen during the match. The Colon Brothers would win, but the match would be a dark match, and not on the PPV. You can blame Kid Rock for that one.
Now, onto the two most important matches of the show. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels should’ve been the match to close the show. For whatever reason, it wasn’t and it would’ve probably changed most people’s perception about the show. The reality is that the show wasn’t more than a slightly better than average WrestleMania. But if Michaels/Taker closed the show, it would’ve been accepted better.
Taker and Michaels was a masterpiece. While I have a couple of issues with the match, it really was a brilliant performance by both guys. The Undertaker may not have more than one or two matches that are good all year, but when he works with the right person, he looks like the greatest big man to ever grace the squared circle. And Michaels has always been the right person for him. The story was that Michaels was desperate to break the Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak, but for every step he took, Taker was right with him, or a step ahead. Michaels fought and fought and just couldn’t beat him.
(My main problem with the match had to do with the fact that I never believed Michaels was going to win the match. I just couldn’t get into it like I wanted to.)
The fans loved the match so much that more likely than not, Triple H and Randy Orton weren’t going to be able to follow it. Their story was so up and down. They would add great realism, and then they would add bad soap opera-ish acting. It didn’t work both ways. At one point, the angle was super cold after Triple H broke into Randy Orton’s house to attack him and the acting was so bad, it made John Cena’s acting in The Marine look Bale-esque.
But it gained some steam when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the ropes and DDTd his real life wife, Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter. He then kissed her in the creepiest way possible while she was out cold. But the angle slightly lost steam again when Vince, Triple H, and Vince’s son Shane came out to attack Randy and his legacy group of Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes.
I hated this match live. It felt so anti-climactic and I hated the finish. When Triple H pinned Orton, I felt like I was robbed by the ending of the match. But watching it back on DVD, it made more sense and was a lot better. I think live, I was expecting Legacy and the McMahons to get involved, so by not seeing them in the match, I figured the match wasn’t going to end. So when it ended, it ended flat. But watching it back on DVD, I understood it much better. The idea behind the match was that it wasn’t a match, it was a fight. There was a personal feud behind it that wasn’t going to be resolved around wrestling moves. It was going to be resolved around a fight. To handicap Triple H, if he was disqualified or counted out, Orton would win his championship. Triple H dominated and won a long match that was much better in hindsight.
The show was up and down and had both good and bad. It was also better and worse on DVD compared to watching it live. As a whole, it wasn’t as good as the best WrestleManias and slightly better than some of the average WrestleManias.
A few other details:
– WWE shows are shot in HD, so the Blu-ray transfer does look beautiful.
– The DVD also features the Hall of Fame ceremony, which isn’t as good as it had been in the past because WWE shortened the length of the speeches, which really hurt the ceremony.
– The Unified Tag Team Championship is the only match featured on the DVD that PPV viewers never saw. But the Kid Rock concert was shown on the PPV and not on the DVD.