WrestleMania XXV: The Phenom and The Show Stopper

shawn michaels vs undertaker, wrestlemania xxv, wrestlemania 25

WrestleMania XXV took place on April 5th, 2009, at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. It boasted an attendance of 72,744, as well as 960,000 PPV buys (totaling somewhere around $21.0 million in revenue). It was also the third consecutive year that the Showcase of the Immortals broke the record for the highest-grossing Pay-per-view in the history of the WWE, grossing $6.9 million in ticket sales, which included fans from all 50 U.S. states, 24 countries, and seven Canadian provinces.

On top of that, the event pumped an estimated $49.8 million into the local economy and generated $5.7 million in local tax revenue, equating to 600 full-time jobs for the area. It always blows my mind how big WrestleMania is. After ‘Mania blew through, the city of Houston had enough money in their budget to employ 600 people. That is insane.

The Money in the Band competitors battle it out atop the ladders (Courtesy of WWE.com)
The Money in the Bank competitors battle it out atop the ladders (Courtesy of WWE.com)

This show kicked off with the Money in the Bank ladder match, as you can see from the picture directly above. The competitors were Kofi Kingston, Kane, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, Mark Henry, Montel Vontavious Porter, and CM Punk. The MitB matches were so much better when they were on WrestleMania. They usually opened the show, and set a very high bar.

That’s absolutely what happened here. The crowd was into it, every step of the way. They were constantly sounding out with “ooohs,” and “aaahs,” Then they exploded into cheers when CM Punk pulled the briefcase down and won his second MitB in two years.

A few months later, at Extreme Rules, Punk would go on to cash in, and take the World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Hardy, who was exhausted from a ladder match that he worked with Edge.


CM Punk cashes money in the bank on Jeff Hardy by nono-0793

The next two segments of the show were pretty rough. First, we got a Kid Rock concert that I can only describe as “too long.” He played a multi-song set, and two of them were over a decade old in 2009 (Cowboy and Bawitdaba). After that, we got the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal, which was won by none other than Santino Marella, who was pretending to be his own twin sister, Santina Marella.

I want to criticize this, but I can’t help but respect Santino. That dude made everything work. They could give him anything, and he’d somehow get it over with the fans. Pretty sure he’s still employed because of that.

NOTE: I just learned that he announced his retirement last year, due to neck injuries. He’s listed as part-time, but he’s still employed by the WWE. I’m sure they have him doing meet and greets, or those Be a Star talks that they have at schools. They can definitely get some mileage out of that dude. 
Santina Marella is crowned Miss WrestleMania by Candice Michelle (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Santina Marella is crowned Miss WrestleMania by Candice Michelle (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Once the ladies (and Santino) cleared out of the ring, it came time for heel Chris Jericho to take on “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. This was supposed to be Jericho vs. Mickey Rourke, but Mickey’s people didn’t want him to have anything to do with WWE, for fear that it would hurt his chances at an Academy Award for “The Wrestler.”

So, they had to find a new angle. Instead, they put him at ringside, so he could watch while Y2J took on the legends.

This is an interesting one to write about. I remember watching it, and expecting absolutely nothing. Piper did what he could, but he was fairly fresh off of beating cancer. There wasn’t too much he could contribute, besides being Roddy Piper, and cursing Jericho off.

The Rowdy One takes it to Y2J (Courtesy of WWE.com)
The Rowdy One takes it to Y2J (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Snuka, being 900 years-old, looked like the fucking crypt keeper.

The only real upside from this match was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. He went out and put on a performance that absolutely no one expected. I remember watching this live, and being blown away. He actually kept wrestling for a while after ‘Mania, because of it. He looked like he barely missed a step.

Wrestlemania 25, Chris Jericho, Ricky Steamboat
The deepest arm drag (Courtesy of WWE.com)

He was jumping off the top rope, skinnin’ the cat, hitting those famous deep arm drags – it was awesome. He even ended up as Jericho’s final opponent, after Piper and Snuka were eliminated. Y2J eventually won it, of course, because duh. Then he egged Mickey Rourke on, until the former amateur boxer laid out The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rollah with one punch.

Mickey Rourke lays out Y2J (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Mickey Rourke lays out Y2J (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Next up: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy in an Extreme Rules match. The storyline for this is sort of unintentionally hilarious. Matt got tired of playing second fiddle to his younger brother, and started to act on it. My favorite part is that he burnt Jeff’s house down, and killed his dog. What a ridiculous angle for a wrestling match. Way to go for the jugular, Matt.

Storyline aside, it must have been amazing for Matt and Jeff to wrestle each other at WrestleMania. That has to be everything they dreamed about, wrapped up in one thirteen minute match. They definitely used to wrestle each other around the house. Hell, they were teenagers when they started in the WWE.

Matt and Jeff Hardy face off, moments away from living out the fantasy of wrestling your sibling at the Granddaddy of Them All (Courtesy of WWe.com)
Matt and Jeff Hardy face off, moments away from living out the (assumed) fantasy of wrestling each other at the Granddaddy of Them All (Courtesy of WWE.com)

They went from that, to facing off with each other on the Grandest Stage of Them All. I’m hoping that before Goldust retires, we get a part IV to the Brother vs. Brother matches at ‘Mania (part I was Bret vs. Owen at WM 10, and part II was Taker vs. Kane at WM XIV).

Goldust vs. Stardust would definitely kill.

Matt eventually put his brother away, and then the show moved on to John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Rey Mysterio for JBL’s Intercontinental Championship. Less than thirty seconds after the opening bell rang, that match was over, and there was a new IC Champion.

Seconds later, Rey Mysterio was a Champion (courtesy of WWe.com)
Seconds later, Rey Mysterio was a Champion (courtesy of WWe.com)

We’ve finally reached the match that we’re here to talk about. Before I really get into it, let me cross the last two matches off the list. After HBK v. Taker 1, there was Big Show vs. John Cena vs. Edge in a Triple Threat for the Rated-R Superstar’s World Heavyweight Championship. This wasn’t as bad as I remember. It just had the misfortune of directly following one of the best matches in WrestleMania history.

Cena busts Edge's face, while Big Show looks on (Courtesy of WWe.com)
Cena busts Edge’s face, while Big Show looks on (Courtesy of WWe.com)

When the dust settled, John Cena was World Heavyweight Champion again.

Your time is up, Edge. Cena's time is now (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Your time is up, Edge. Cena’s time is now (Courtesy of WWE.com)

The final match of the night was Triple H vs. Randy Orton for The Game’s WWE Championship. This was a complete snoozer. The whole buildup involved Randy tormenting HHH and the McMahon family. He handed out punts like they were candy. Then, for some reason, somebody put a stipulation on their ‘Mania match: If Triple H got disqualified, or counted out, then Randy would win the title.

(Courtesy of WWE.com)
(Courtesy of WWE.com)

Randy Orton himself blames that stipulation for ruining the match, and he’s right. The Viper was a great villain, all throughout the lead-up, and what do you usually want to see happen to a great villain? That’s right – you want to see them get their ass kicked. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen. Triple H won and retained his title, but they had to wrestle a straight up match, and there’s no way that was going to fly, after HBK and Taker tore down the house.

Nice. Perfect segue.

Shawn Michaels makes his entrance, descending from the ceiling (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Shawn Michaels makes his entrance, descending from the ceiling (Courtesy of WWE.com)

The Heartbreak Kid made his entrance first, gloriously so (as you can see in the image above). They went the obvious route for a storyline with this match. Shawn was famously born again, and Taker was – well – Taker. He was the WWE’s equivalent of Lucifer, at a point (The Ministry of Darkness). Even when he was The American Badass, he was a psycho.

During the buildup to Flair vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania X-8, The Dead Man sought out Ric Flair’s son, David Flair, and beat the living hell out of him. Most people (myself included) tend to ignore the impact of that moment, due to Taker’s target being the only Flair I could possibly call a jabroni. If you think about it within the context of that world, however – it’s super dark. He found his opponent’s son, and brutally beat him.

Undertaker is evil AF. Somehow, somewhere along the way, he got SUPER over as a babyface.

HELP ME OUT: Let’s try and figure out when Undertaker got truly over as a face. If I had to guess, I’d say it happened in 1994. He lost to Yokozuna in the Casket Match at Royal Rumble, and then disappeared for a few months, completely missing WrestleMania X and King of the Ring. He finally reemerged at SummerSlam, in order to fuck up Ted DiBiase’s fake Undertaker. To cap it all off, a few months later, he got his return Casket Match with Yoko, at Survivor Series. Does anybody know any better? Please hit the comment section, and let me know. 
The Dead Man cometh (courtesy of WWE.com)
The Dead Man cometh (Courtesy of WWE.com)

See what I’m saying? The story was right in front of them, and to their credit, both Shawn Michaels and Undertaker performed their parts, beautifully. By the time the bell rang, all they needed to do was turn in a match on caliber with the ones they’ve had before, and the fans would’ve been happy. Other than this match, the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania wasn’t exactly spectacular. The rest of the card is full of bouts that could’ve taken place on Backlash, or Unforgiven, or any other run of the mill PPV.

Of course, HBK and Undertaker went above and beyond. Shit, The Dead Man actually almost became dead, man.

NURRRRRRR, UNDURTAKURRRRRR!!!!!!
OUCH!

I watched this live with a bunch of my buddies. Robert Esposito, a fellow wrestling writer here on Nerdopotamus, was one of them. About a week before the show, we were playing SmackDown vs. Raw for Ps2, and he decided he didn’t want to play anymore, but I did. So I set up a match: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker in Hell in a Cell at the WrestleMania 24 stadium. Superstitious Robert was none too thrilled.

Throughout the match, I had to deal with him pestering me about jinxing Undertaker (obviously I was HBK). Eventually, because I wasn’t a small child, I was able to defeat the computer simulation, much to Robert’s chagrin. He even threatened physical harm.

Now, if you’ve seen the match, you know why this is a big deal. For those who haven’t, it’s because the tempo was very quick, and they went back and forth constantly. There were numerous near falls. It was nerve-wracking.

I just like this picture, honestly. That is a massive leg drop (Courtesy of WWE.com)
I just like this picture, honestly. That is a massive leg drop (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Keep in mind, I’m not afraid of Robert. On that night, however, he wasn’t alone. He had the real-life equivalent of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dumb at his side. There was enough energy in that room, that I genuinely couldn’t decide whether they would attack me, had HBK managed to pull out the victory.

Thankfully, after one of the most physically and emotionally moving wrestling matches that I had ever seen, The Phenom managed to catch The Show Stopper, and put him away with one, final Tombstone Piledriver.

17-0 (Courtesy of WWE.com)
17-0 (Courtesy of WWE.com)

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of WWE.com.

Joseph Finnegan
finnegan.joseph@yahoo.com