The year was 2009, and Wrestlemania was celebrating its Silver Anniversary. 25 Manias had fallen by this point, and being 3 years out of college and 6 months away from getting engaged, I had fallen out of love with WWE.
So, for what might just be the very first time last week, I sat down to watch Wrestlemania 25.
Money in the Bank Match: CM Punk, Kane, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Finlay, Mark Henry, MVP and Shelton Benjamin.
Highlight: With a MITB match, there’s going to be multiple prime moments. For me, I enjoyed seeing two of my all-time favorites once again – Shelton and Finlay. Hornswoggle’s tadpole splash also stands out, oddly enough.
Lowlight: I understand that there usually needs to be a “big man” in these kind of matches, but having Kane AND Henry was a stretch. Also, I think 8 men is a little much for a ladder match. . .
So What: This IC title match at this year’s Wrestlemania is essentially going to be MITB all over again, and as I said on this week’s NAIpod, we have somewhere between 7 and 452 participants. While I enjoy seeing so many people vying for this title, I worry that the match will be even more of a “spot-fest” than usual with so many combatants.
So What #2: As a middle-class Caucasian male, this is dangerous territory, but I have to ask: If Shelton Benjamin and Kofi Kingston were of a different ethnicity, would their WWE careers have happened the way they have?
Miss Wrestlemania Battle Royal
I don’t know which was the bigger Lowlight, the Battle Royal itself or the Kid Rock concert that happened beforehand. I don’t mind having musical guests at Mania, but only if they are doing the entrance music, like for Bray Wyatt last year.
So What: Let’s not all pretend that the 29 second Divas match from RAW was the low point in female wrestling history.
Highlight: It’s ridiculous that “Miss Wrestlemania” was a guy, but Santina Marella’s dance moves after the match made me chuckle, as did his ‘emotional’ reactions following his victory. I miss Santino.
Chris Jericho vs. Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat
The things I’m saddest for regarding my “lost years”, thus the most exciting things to stumble upon in my WWE Network watching, are the gimmicks and talents I missed. For example, I don’t remember much of any of Chris Jericho’s big heel run – the suits, the expansive vocabulary, the fights with the legends. All new to me.
Highlight: Ricky Steamboat, who was 56 years old in 2009, showed everyone why he remains one of the best pure wrestling talents in history. If WWE had asked, Steamboat could have had a 5-6 month program with Jericho and it would have been fantastic.
Lowlight: Jimmy Snuka, on the other hand . . .
So What: We won’t see this exact gimmick or story arc in NXT but this does show that there’s something to be said for bringing back veterans in limited roles. My hope of seeing Shelton or Finlay again still lives!
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy in an Extreme Rules match.
Once again, no recollection of this. Matt Hardy basically admits he kills Jeff’s dog? What?
Highlight: Good match overall but the finish, when Matt wedges Jeff’s head in a chair and then does a Twist of Fate, that was pretty painful to watch.
Lowlight: Maybe it’s because I wasn’t as well-versed in the feud, but I didn’t find myself as drawn into the story as I felt I should have been.
So What: People didn’t really like the Goldust vs. Stardust match at Fast Lane, but even that match had a compelling story. Or I’m just a huge Goldust mark.
Rey Mysterio vs. JBL for the Intercontinental Title
Highlight: Everything about this was amazing. JBL owned the crowd from beginning to end – If I’m ever asked to defend my belief that John Layfield is a future WWE Hall of Famer, this might be the evidence I use. The best moments are when the camera focuses on his face after the 21 second match is over. He looks like one of my students when they realize they don’t have a snack. You just wanted to give him a hug!
Lowlight: Rey Mysterio didn’t quite pull off the Joker look. The wig that fell off immediately didn’t help, but it just wasn’t working. Rey’s costumes are best when he is a “masked” character – I loved him as the Flash, for example. This one was a miss.
So What: It’s a shame Mysterio didn’t have a non-wrestling role in WWE – I think there could have been a place for him. JBL’s place, to me, shouldn’t be as an announcer. He could really have succeeded as a manager, running a “Million Dollar Corporation” style stable.
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Oddly enough, despite being almost positive I’ve not seen this card before, I remember a lot about the build-up to this match. My best guess is that as I perused WWE.com, keeping up on the storylines, I saw HBK dressed in the white Taker get-up and was intrigued enough to start watching some videos.
So What: I miss when storylines were this good.
Highlight: Come on, you’ve seen this match. It’s THE highlight of the night.
Lowlight: Is it a perfect bout? Possibly. That would explain why I struggle to find anything I didn’t enjoy about it. Even the “botches”, like when both HBK and Taker nearly died, were awesome.
Edge vs. Big Show vs. John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship
Wow, what did these three do to irritate Vince McMahon? How were these guys supposed to continue the momentum from Shawn and Taker?
Highlight: Watching the promo package before the match. I laughed out loud seeing what happened with Big Show and Vickie Guerrero.
Lowlight: Spending 14 minutes on a Cena win.
So What: The fact that Edge, arguably the best wrestler of the three, is unable to compete anymore, yet there’s a good chance we’ll see Big Show vs. Cena on RAW sometime soon.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton for the WWE title
Highlight: The promo package. I wish WWE Network hired some folks to make these awesome packages for older PPV’s. I’d love to see a modern take on the feud between Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard that let to their cage match our own Magnum loves so much. Once again, I was transported, and though it was only 5-6 years ago, it felt like a totally different universe. Don’t remember any McMahons getting punted, don’t remember Randy kissing Stephanie. . . None of it rings a bell. That alone was fun to watch.
Lowlight: The match itself was “meh”. Again, I think its having to follow such an epic Taker / HBK match, but this just seemed to be a “match”. They gave it their all, there is no question, but I wasn’t feeling it.
So What: WWE will have to be very careful with the match order for Mania. Despite what they’d like, Brock vs. Reigns is NOT the match most of us are really looking forward to. They should avoid at all costs an anti-climactic final match.
Match of the Night:
What else would it be? Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels was phenomenal. Bonus points go to JBL and Rey for telling quite a story in less than 5 minutes, though.
What would YOUR ideal Wrestlemania 31 match order be?
How sad is it that only Kofi and Kane are left from the MITB participants?
Could Ricky Steamboat still wrestle a 20 minute match? How could he not?