Wrestlemania Challenge Day 25

The silver anniversary took Wrestlemania to Houston, Texas, a fitting location for the weekend that saw the Von Erich family and the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin among those induced into the WWE Hall of Fame. The visual of the packed stadium was really impressive. As was usually the case the past few years, the Money in The Bank match opened the show, and while these bouts tended to have a copy and paste format over time, it was still a very entertaining match that featured some risky spots. Shelton Benjamin did an incredible dive from the top of the ladder to the floor and Kofi Kingston had an amazing display of athleticism where he run up the ladder as it was being held completely vertical by Mark Henry. Christian hit the unprettier on CM Punk from the ladder and they landed very awkwardly on the canvas. Eventually, CM Punk captured the briefcase for the second year in a row and would eventually cash-in on Jeff Hardy later in the year. However, in some ways, the entire scenario was a retread of the angle from the previous year. Punk did the cash-in to become champion and he had a notable feud with Jeff Hardy because it was actually given the spotlight on Smackdown, but very similar to his first reign, Punk wasn’t truly given the chance to run with the opportunity to be a main event star in 2009.

I’m not sure who decided Kid Rock should’ve had a nearly 15-minute musical performance, but it was rather cringe worthy, especially when the audience was less than enthusiastic after the first five minutes. This led to the introduction for the divas battle royal, but it was basically a nothing segment because there were quick random eliminations and none of the divas had a chance to be featured. For example, if Beth Phoenix was made to look dominate in the contest then at least it could’ve been used to put over her character. Santino won it, which made the entire concept pointless and the whole segment just dragged on way too long, as Kid Rock droned on for several minutes and then there was the cluster of a battle royal.

The three-on-one handicapped match was essentially an angle that was booked because of the success of Mickey Rourke’s film, The Wrestler, a depressing, but mostly accurate portray of the struggles of some wrestlers after their stardom fades. Jericho actually mentioned in an interview that originally Greg Valentine was penciled in to be apart of the trio of challenges, but the switch was made to put Ricky Steamboat in that spot. Although, nobody personifies a bitter former star better than Greg Valentine. Obviously, the selling point of this match was nostalgia so Jericho had to more or less work around his opponents for the majority of the contest. Snuka, who was 61 at the time, looked frail and couldn’t move much in the ring. Roddy Piper still had all the fire that he brought to the table in his heyday, but even at 55, he was physically limited. However, Steamboat was great and it was amazing to see him still have the best arm drag in the business. Steamboat could still go and it was very nice to see him have a WM moment like that at this point of his career. In fact, Steamboat did well enough that a match was booked against Jericho at Backlash the following month. As nice as it would’ve been to see “The Dragon” or the legends trio win the match, it made sense for Jericho to go over because he had the stellar feud with Shawn Michaels during the latter half of 2008 and was still one of the top heels in the company. Post-match, Jericho addressed Micky Rourke on the mic and the star of The Pope of Greenwich Village hopped the rail to confront Y2J. Rourke’s right hand to KO the heel was more of a miss than the Gobbledy Gooker reveal, but a specific camera angle was used to cover it. All things consider, it was the right call for the WWE to involve the Wrestler into the product because instead of trying to ignore the negative aspects of the film, the used the success of the movie to get publicity for Wrestlemania.

The Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy match was really great and probably doesn’t get talked about enough. The feud itself doesn’t get the credit it deserves and the WM bout lived up to the hype of the storyline. If I had to guess, I’d say that the reason this isn’t more discussed or remembered is that it was a rather odd chapter in the Hardys career, especially the events that unfolded later that saw them both away from the company. That August, Jeff left the company to take time off to heal from injuries after arguably the best run of his career, as he worked the main event scene for the majority of the year. Less than a month later, he was arrested when drugs and pain killers were found at his house. A few months after that, he resurfaced in TNA and that eventually led to the infamous Victory Road incident where he was too intoxicated to perform in a match against Sting. Matt also went through some similar struggles with erratic behavior that got him released from WWE and a DUI arrest that got him fired from TNA later on. Sadly, there was a point in time that it looked as though the Hardys’ career on a national level were over. Thankfully, Matt seems to have done remarkably well and reestablished himself with their WWE return in 2017 and then the jump to AEW recently so it looks like he will have a nice conclusion to his career. Jeff still seems to struggle, as he had another DUI arrest late last year, but thankfully, he talked about his stint in rehab on the After The Bell podcast last week so hopefully he can stay health. Despite all the slips, Jeff has had a very accomplished career and it would be great if he could overcome his problems. The actual match at WM 25 had some memorable spots including Jeff’s dive from the top of the ladder through a table and a leg drop over a ladder that saw him crash to the canvas. Matt’s twist of fate using a chair for the finish was brutal and he got the victory.

The Rey Mysterio vs. JBL match was roughly 15 seconds and the shock win was a way to set up JBL’s in-ring retirement. Other than that, Rey won the IC title and had cool Joker gear.

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels is well-known as an absolute classic, as the nearly 30-minute bout took the viewing audience on an emotional roller coaster ride that saw pivotal moments in the contest tilt the action back and fourth. The key to any match that involved the undefeated streak was to create a spot where the crowd legitimately believes the streak could be in jeopardy, which these two stellar performers accomplished. When HBK hit the super kick, there was at least a possibility that it was actually the end of the streak because it’s within reason to think the performer dubbed “Mr. Wrestlemania” might be the competitor that finally defeats The Undertaker at the trademark event. It must be noted that one of the highlight moments on the entire contest is when Shawn kicks out of the tombstone and the reason for that is the credibility of the move was protected. When The Undertaker hit the tombstone, for years that was the finish and the time invested into protecting the move is what ultimately allowed for a believable false finish and the dramatic moment when HBK kicked out. A prime example of this is two years earlier when The Undertaker beat Batista with the tombstone at Wrestlemania, there was a track record specifically at the event and obviously all the prior years of his career that established that the tombstone was the end of the match. The reason I want to explain this point is because too often in the modern era, finishers are completely overused just for a near fall and it completely takes the effectiveness away from the move. The fact that Brock used five or six F5 spots in a match against Roman Reigns at WM 34 is ridiculous because it was too outlandish, even for sports entertainment. As we know, The Undertaker pinned Shawn Michaels at WM 25, but there was a rematch the following year.

The triple threat match for the World Heavyweight championship was fine for what it was, but nothing spectacular. Granted, nothing on the rest of the card was going to follow what The Undertaker and HBK did the previous match, but as I mentioned about the triple threat title match at WM 24, this Smackdown version also seemed like just a way for management to try to shoehorn more names into a title match. The angle with the Big Show, Vickie, and Edge was just lame and lacked the importance that is usually associated with a World title feud. John Cena won the championship in a rather uneventful contest.

Triple H vs. Randy Orton for the WWE championship is arguably the most underwhelming and disappointing main event in WM history. While The Undertaker/Shawn Michaels classic stole the show. nothing about the Triple H/Orton match was up to par for a WM main event. They started the match trading finishers so where exactly were they supposed to go from there? Most of the match had a pace that would grind to a halt when both competitors were on the canvas selling for an extended period of time after a spot that didn’t get much reaction from the crowd. The pace of this match never picked up and the finish where Triple H retained the title was rather flat. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the era where WWE began to really cement themselves as truly dominate among the sports entertainment landscape and as I’ve written about several times before, that led to a certain level of mediocrity among the product, which became even more apparent in recent years. Around this era of 2009, the PG product really allowed WWE to focus of their stock price and their shareholders. As we know, until the recent economic dip because of the pandemic, WWE stock allowed the value of the company to surge toward a billion dollars. If you rewind a decade, the pieces that made this possible where being put into place with the purchase of different video libraries to set the foundation for what eventually became the WWE Network. The point being, as much as Triple H being a member of the McMahon got him that lengthy reign in the early-2000s, I don’t know any other reason why he would be booked to main event the show, while Cena, who was the most over star on the roster, was scheduled for the random triple threat match at the event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta