WM25 Recap & Analysis

The Katz Files – Arnie Katz

WrestleMania 25</I Recap & Analysis
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The Kingfish Arnie Katz reports all the matches and angles of WrestleMania 25 and digs deep into the meaning of it all!

Let’s look at how events unfolded at W< 25

The “Free-for-All,” hosted as usual by Jack Korpella, put the spotlight primarily on the two championship main events and the showdown between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker.

The Kingfish comments: What a humdrum opening for such an important show! Since WWE made the videos do double duty, fans might as well as skipped this and tuned in at the start of the actual show.

WrestleMania 25 opened with an extended video in which various WWE superstars picked their favorite WM moment form the past. Several picked the confrontation between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at WM 3. Big Show, cleverly, claimed that he was the only one rooting for Andre in that one.

One of the Pussycat Dolls sang “America the Beautiful.”

The three–man announce team of Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole welcomed fans and gave the Spanish-language announce team a chance to say, “Hello!” too.

The Kingfish comments: Without the streetwalker finery and distractive show, the singer could have been one of the early-round losers on “American Idol.” They would’ve been far ahead if they’d just had Lillian Garcia sing it.

CM Punk d. Kane, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, Finlay, MVP & Shelton Benjamin
The Money in the Bank Match>

The Story: The Money in the Bank Match has become a prime feature of WrestleMania in recent years. The match is always exciting – and it leads to an exciting title challenge.

How I’d Book It: I’d have Christian win.

My Prediction: Kofi Kingston, Finlay and Mark Henry are all extremely unlikely to win, because they wouldn’t draw on top of the card in a world title match. Shelton Benjamin, Kane and MVP are a little more possible, but still not very likely. I don’t see CM Punk repeating, so that leaves my predicted winner – Christian.

Predicted Grade: A-

The Actual Match: Kane and Mark Henry led the charge to the top of the ladder, only to have their six smaller opponents haul them down. The six0pack fared no better, though, when they all clambered up the ladder only to have Henry and Kane sweep them away like so many gnats.

When Kofi Kingston scampered up the ladder, it looked like he might snatch the prize until Henry knocked him off, caught him on the fly and punished him with the World’s Strongest Slam onto a ladder.

CM Punk, trying to win his second “Money in the Bank” in a row, barely got the briefcase before Christian overtook him. An Unprettier from the top ended the attempt.

CM Punk fought off a last-ditch assault by Kane to take down the briefcase and ear a title shot.

Actual Grade: A-

The Kingfish comments: What a strong start for WrestleMania! The crowd blazed hot for this one and with good reason. It wasn’t as lengthy as some “Money in the Bank” matches, but it featured fast, coherent action with several solid highspots.

A video hyped the excitement and fun of WWE’s “Fan Axxess,” which has become a standard feature of WrestleMania week.

Kid Rock came out to perform a min-concert. He did four songs, including one that sounded suspiciously like “Werewolves of London,” and then a fifth as the Divas came to the ring for their “match.”

The Kingfish comments: I’m not a big fan. He isn’t a kid and he doesn’t really rock much. Still, I thought he did a good job, especially compared to some of the acts that WWE has allowed to perform at its shows. He was slick, professional, tight and lively. Next year, maybe The The?

The 25-Diva Battle Royal

The Story: It’s the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania so WWE has brought together 25 women to complete in this event.

How I’d Book It: They should orchestrate a pre-arranged blackout immediately after the introductions. By the time the broadcast resumed, there would be about four women in the ring, Gail Kim and three heels. The Awesome Asian would then eliminate them one by one.

My Prediction: It all comes down to this: Will WWE use this as a legitimate story point or just blow off the match as a meaningless piece of fluff? If WWE is just screwing around and serving up a ton of T&A, Mae Young will win. Yet if WWE plans to capitalize on this match to propel a woman into the title picture, the only possible winner is Gail Kim.

Predicted Grade: DD

The Actual Match: Mae Young got the job of time keeper, so she didn’t have to risk her brittle bones against this assortment of Divas from the past and present.

It looked like Layla and Rosa Mendez got eliminated right at the opening bell. Other exits followed speedily, made easier by the fact that the women did not have to go over the top rope, just hand with both feet on the arena floor.

It came down to Melina, Beth Phoenix and Santino Morella in drag. As the two women tussled, Santino pushed them both out of the ring to become Miss WrestleMania, complete with sash.

Actual Grade: C

The Kingfish comments: When I saw that they’d put Mae Young on the sidelines, I had some hope that a match would break out, but that vanished when I spied the suspiciously masculine figure. The win is a nice “thank you” to Santino for a year of excellent, if sometimes unrewarded, comedy.

The presentation of this match left everything to be desired. What’s the sense of bringing out all those women, including past stars, if they aren’t going to even introduce them by name? The Battle Royal itself was brutally bad; most of the women just stood around or rushed aimlessly back and forth across the ring. Fans wanted to see their favorites from the past and compare them to today’s eye candy and WWE didn’t give them that opportunity.

A long video showed how Chris Jericho became the self-appointed persecutor of the WWE Legends.

The Kingfish comments: I don’t know whether to applaud this clip for its honesty or slam it for pointing up the gigantic flaws in the storyline.

Chris Jericho d. The Legends
Elimination Match

The Story: A war of words has become a war of deeds. Chris Jericho disrespected the Legends. Now, with Ric Flair as manager and Mickey Rourke at ringside, the Legends will try to make Jericho eat his words.

How I’d Book It: I wouldn’t book this. Talk about total disrespect for the great wrestles of yesteryear!

My Prediction: Chris Jericho will eliminate all three legends, but he will have to take a beating, too. It might come from Flair – or it is distantly possible that Rourke will get in the ring to reprise his finisher from “The Wrestler.”

Predicted Grade: C

The Actual Match: After a nice entrance, the three Legends came to the ring with Ric Flair to do battle with Chris Jericho.

During the match, Jericho battled the legends one at a time, though the rules permitted the oldsters to tag their comrades so that no one looked horribly winded.

Jericho defeated each of the three men, though he gave them a chance to look good and generally led them through their spots.

After Chris downed the Hall of Fame trio, Flair attacked and went down as a result of a Codebreaker.

Mickey Rourke, sitting and ringside, got into the ring. He knocked out Jericho with one punch.

Actual Grade: C

The Kingfish comments: The Legends, especially Ricky Steamboat, looked surprisingly well, though Jericho probably deserves big credit for that.

The ending was lame and not too appropriate. Bringing Rourke into it wasn’t the greatest idea, but having him get in the ring and try to box Jericho made no sense at all.

The Kingfish comments: The pace of the show at this point was purely dreadful. After starting with a hot match, WWE gave fans a mini-concert, a bad Diva match and a ho-hum novelty spot with the legends. That’s a fine way to kill the crowd.

Matt Hardy d. Jeff Hardy

The Story: In wrestling, there’s nothing stronger than a tag team composed of two brothers – and there’s nothing more vicious than having the partnership break up in fraternal feuding. For reasons that are still not entirely clear, Matt Hardy has turned against his brother and menaced him in a variety of horrific ways. The sniping and mysterious accidents are done; now they’re taking it to the ring for a showdown.

How I’d Book It: After a great match, an exhausted Jeff Hardy finishes his brother with the Swanton Bomb and collapses. Jack Swagger runs into the ring and begins to whale on Matt. Jeff comes to his aid and the brothers shake hands, friends again.

My Prediction: The feud hasn’t worked too well, but a terrific match would go far to redeem it. WWE needs something for the May pay per view and this would make a nice featured rematch. That suggests that Matt Hardy should win, perhaps with outside help from Jack Swagger.

Predicted Grade: A-

The Actual Match: The match started after a lengthy video. Jeff Sprang at Matt at the bell and slapped his face! Then he pounced on his sibling and beat him on the canvas.

Jeff went right for the weapons in this Extreme Rules match. He clouted Matt with a framed WrestleMania poster and then did some damage with a trashcan. At one point, he put the can over Matt’s head and upper body and banged it with a stick.

When Jeff tried a Whisper in the Wind, using a chair as a launch pad, he crashed when Matt dodged. The elder Hardy got a little revenge with a short offensive run. Matt’s Side Effect onto a chair brought him to just one count short of victory.

A little later, Jeff thought he had Matt lined up for a Swanton Bomb. That proved overly optimistic and nearly led to a Matt Hardy triumph!

In the match’s showiest move, Jeff laid out Matt on a table and then stacked another table on top of it, double-decker style. His top-rope Dive went through both tables, obliterating Matt in the process.

Jeff set up two ladders in the ring. He leapt off one with an attempted Swanton, but his hard landing on a horizontal ladder set him up for Matt’s counter-attack.

Matt Hardy wrapped a chair around his brother’s neck and gave him the Twist of Fate to take the match.

Actual Grade: A

The Kingfish comments: The card got back on track with this fast and furious match. I’ll stand by my prediction that this could be the featured non-title match on the next PPV.

The cameras showed Randy Orton, with Legacy in attendance, preparing for his big match.

John Bradshaw Leyfield vs. Rey Mysterio
Intercontinental Championship

The Story: The Cowboy Financier and the Masked Marvel have fought, off and on, for years. JBL has weathered a losing streak and emerged with the IC belt, which Rey Mysterio wants to take away from him. JBL has promised that he will do something historic at WM.

How I’d Book It: After a seesaw match, Rey looks like he finally has Leyfield ready for the 619-West Coast Pop, HBL evades the finish and goes for Mysterio’s mask! Mysterio fights back bravely, but Leyfield hits him with the belt! It looks like Leyfield will have his way until Evan Bourne runs into the ring to make the save.

My Prediction: I don’t know how Leyfield will make history, unless it’s by winning and retiring the undefeated IC champion, perhaps even retiring the belt right along with him. The actual match will have Mysterio come close to winning the belt, but it will stay with JBL, probably because of a DQ.

Predicted Grade: B

The Actual Match: Rey Mysterio won the Intercontinental title in a 21-second squash. He used an Enzuiguiri to pave the way for the 619 to a West Coast Pop.

When the stunned Cowboy Financier regained his senses, he bellowed “I Quit!” into the microphone and left.

Actual Grade:D

The Kingfish comments: What a disappointment! There must be a reason for this match, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to those who simply watched it. I know Leyfield is now involved with the OVW promotion, but you’d have thought they would do a better job on his exit.

A video showed how Shawn Michaels initiated hostilities with the Undertaker.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

The Story: Undertaker has a streak and Michaels, his ego hurting from recent events, wants to re-establish his status by ending it.

How I’d Book It: I don’t think there’s much wiggle room here. See my prediction.

My Prediction: Undertaker will keep his streak after a terrific match. The fans will cheer Michaels as he trudges up the ramp to the locker room after giving his all.

Predicted Grade: B+

The Actual Match: Undertaker’s opening gambit consisted of attempts to land powerful strikes. Michaels’ speed kept him from landing and he took quite a few chops from HBK. Finally, Undertaker caught Michaels’ fist in mid-punch and threw him across the room with minimal effort.

The Dead Man threw Michaels into a turnbuckle and gave him a Back Body Drop on the rebound! He added a Bodyslam and an Elbow Drop, but his cover proved premature.

Undertaker scored with a Pair of Clotheslines and then went Old School. After Undertaker blew a corner charge, Michaels targeted his knees to bring him down to the mat. The showstopper applied a Figure-Four Leglock, but Taker punched his way to freedom.

Another Taker assault featured a coupe of Clotheslines and culminated in a Guillotine Legdrop. It was too early for a pin.

Michaels blocked a Chokeslam and turned it into a Crossface. Though he later grapevined the leg, it didn’t really seem to do much to the intended victim. Taker stood up, even though Michaels maintained the hold, and gave HBK a Sideslam!

Michaels nailed Taker with a Flying Forearm. He kipped up and then connected with two Reverse Atomic Drops in rapid succession. Michaels rocked Taker with another Flying Forearm. HBK climbed to a top turnbuckle. Taker wanted to bring him down with a Chokeslam, . Michaels evaded only to get trapped in a Triangle Choke submission hold. Taker applied it much too close to the ropes, so a quick break saved Mr. WrestleMania.

Michaels tried an out-of-ring Moonsault, but Taker swatted him out of the air! With HBK standing in the ringside area, Undertaker threw caution to the winds and launched an out-of-ring Suicide Dive! Michaels tried to pull the referee out of harm’s way and a cameraman took the brunt.

Shawn dragged the official back into the ring, helped him stand up in the corner and entreated him to start the count-out procedure. The long delay enabled Taker to slide back inside the ropes before a Count Out.

Michaels missed Sweet Chin Music, but Undertaker connected with a Chokeslam. The cover didn’t produce a pin.

Michaels tried Sweet Chin Music twice and finally scored with the second of the two attempts. He threw an arm of Taker’s chest, but it takes more than that to finish Undertaker! Undertaker went for the Last Ride, but Michaels evaded. Taker tried it again and made it work this time. It still wasn’t enough for a one-two-three.

Undertaker caught Michaels coming off the ropes and jolted him with a Tombstone Piledriver. HBK kicked out in time! The Dead Man positioned Michaels for another Tombstone, but HBK electrified the crowd by converting it into a DDT!

Shawn Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music with a crack like a rifle shot. Somehow, Taker beat the three-count.

Michaels and Undertaker went into a brutal Hammer-and-Tongs punch fest. The Dead Man finally broke it up with a stupendous kick to the face!

HBK Moonsaulted right into Taker’s arms. The Deadman drove HBK into the mat with a Tombstone Piledriver and covered for the streak-preserving victory!

Actual Grade: A

The Kingfish comments: This match went true-to-form, but that also includes the fact that it fulfilled expectations as a terrific, exciting match.

A video hyped the upcoming three-hour RAW which will feature the annual talent shuffle.

Evander Holyfield waved from his seat in the stands.

<B John Cena d Big Show & Edge
World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match

The Story: John Cena has confronted Edge at every turn in the quest to regain the title. Big Show became part of what is now a three-cornered feud, because each of the combatants is in some way involved with Vickie Guerrero.

How I’d Book It: I’d have Cena take out Show and fall victim to Edge, who would retain his belt.

My Prediction: My colleague here at Online World of Wrestling, Jay Shannon, has come up with a prediction so smart that I am forced to simply second his motion (and give him all credit for coming up with it). Ordinarily, John Cena would be expected to win the final match of the night at WrestleMania, if only because WWE likes to send fans home from WM on a “feel good” babyface victory. This time, as Jay explains in his currently posted column, fans will groan when Edge wins this three-way dance. That’s when Christian will cash in the title shot he won in “Money in the Bank” and take the belt from Edge,

Predicted Grade: A-

The Actual Match: John Cena’s entrance made quite a splash. He came out to his original theme music, followed by about 100 men dressed just like him! When the music switched to his current theme, Cena raced to the ring to join his two adversaries.

The heels quickly got Cena at a disadvantage. Fortunately for him, Big Show and Edge simply couldn’t work together with the question of Vickie hanging over them. Big Show tossed Edge to Cena – and then kicked Cena in the midsection!

Cena sent both men out of the ring, but Edge Dropkicked the ring steps into Show’s vulnerable knees. Cena then came off the top turnbuckle with a Cross-Body Splash that knocked the seven-footer flat!

Edge dragged Cena into the ring. Cena came to life and almost pulled off an Attitude Adjustment, but the Rated R Superstar turned it into an Impaler DDT!

Edge tried to climb to the top turnbuckle, but Cena brought him down. That left John in an exposed position and he paid for it with a Big Show Sideslam. He got his shoulder up at “two.” Cena staggered Big Show with a barrage of punches. When he hit the ropes to give his blows some added force, Chavo Guerrero yanked him down by the legs from behind!

When Big Show got tangled in the ropes, it gave Cena a chance to dish out tons of pain to Edge. Clotheslines and Reverse Atomic Drops led to the You-Can’t-See-Me and the Five-Knuckle Shuffle.

Vickie Guerrero hopped onto the ring apron, Chavo Guerrero at her side. Cena went over to talk to her. Edge thought he could end things by Spearing Cena from behind, but the intended victim moved o0ut of the way. Vickie and Chavo took the full force of Edge’s Spear! Cena executed a Roll-up, but Edge raised his shoulder to break the count.

Big Show finally worked free of the ropes. He’d obviously benefited from the rest, because he tore into both of his opponents, battering them with back and front Corner Splashes on opposite sides of the ring.

Big Show went for a simultaneous Chokeslam. Cena squirmed free, but Edge took the full force of the Chokeslam. Cena got Big Show on his shoulder, obviously intended to do an Attitude Adjustment, but the giant punched his way out of the predicament. Cena applied the STF, but Big Show revived enough to pull Cena off the champion.

Edge and Cena both took punishment from Big Show. It got so bad that they actually cooperated on a couple of moves, including a Stereo Suplex and a Stereo Clothesline that tumbled Show to the ringside area.

Cena hit Edge with a Blockbuster and went to the top. Big Show knocked him off the perch – and Edge Speared him in md-air!

Edge jumped on Big Show’s back and tried to cinch in a Sleeperhold. Incredibly, John Cena took both men on his broad shoulders and delivered a ring-rocking Attitude Adjustment. Then he gave Edge a second one! With Edge out of the action, Cena pinned Big Show to win the coveted belt!

Actual Grade: A

The Kingfish comments: The way modern wrestling rings are constructed, I’m not sure anyone but Big Show could’ve twisted the strands into a prison. A nice touch is that Cena pinned Big Show, not Edge. That preserves the Rated R Superstar as a viable challenger and removes the belt from his waist with a direct loss to Cena.

The Hall of Fame class of 2009 came to the upper stage. The fans did their part with loud cheers for everyone, though the biggest response went to Stone Cold Steve Austin.

As fans gave the Legends one more lusty round of applause, Stone Cold went into his old entrance routine. The crowd loved it.

The Kingfish comments: A nice spot that accomplished its task, which was to create a breather between the excitement of the world championship match and the WWE Championship match to come.

After a very long series of videos, Randy Orton headed to the ring under the baleful stares of Vince and Shane McMahon.

Triple H d. Randy Orton
WWE Championship

The Story: Randy Orton placed himself in Triple H’s crosshairs when he attacked Stephanie and DDT’d her. Of course, that was just the latest in a battle that has gone on for months in which Orton had attacked Stephanie, Shane and Vince.

How I’d Book It: I would book a tainted victory for Randy Orton to continue the program for a final blow-off at the next pay per view.

My Prediction: Randy Orton will beat Triple H, but the win will be by DQ, saving Hunter’s title.

Predicted Grade: A-

The Actual Match: The announcers reminded fans of that special stipulation that Triple H would lose the title if he got disqualified or counted out of the ring.

Triple H attacked at the opening bell. He used his superior strength to bull the challenger into the corner for some intense punishment. The referee reminded The Game about the stip and, while his at5tention was on the official, Orton struck with an RKO! Orton rushed HHH, trying for the Punt, but Hunter dodged and dealt his foe a fearsome Pedigree!

They fought in and out of the ring, wi9th Orton getting the worst of it. Back inside the ropes, Orton begged from his knees, but it didn’t soften Triple H’s heart. Triple H bombarded the fallen Orton with expertly placed knees, including a Double Kneedrop that drew a moan from the third-generation wrestler.

Orton got back into the match with some brawling action in the ringside area. A whip into the steps and another into the ring post left Triple H dazed. He got back in the ring as the referee counted, “Seven,” but that just gave Randy a chance to do some more stomping.

After they swapped near falls, Triple H and Randy Orton started to exchange tremendous haymakers. They battled back and forth across the ring until The Game broke the stalemate with a Running High Knee. Orton blocked a Pedigree, but took a Clothesline.

The Game hit a Spinebuster and tried to follow up with a Pedigree, Orton again prevented it and, this time, responded with his version of the Backbreaker. He nearly got the three-count, but close is not enough when the WWE Championship is on the line. Orton went for a Punt, but HHH stopped him cold by seizing his lead leg! The Cerebral Assassin used it to flip his foe right over the top rope to the floor!

Triple H followed Orton into the ringside area and smashed his head against the Spanish announce table. He was ready to clobber Randy with a monitor when the ref reminded him of the stip.

Triple H hauled Orton onto the table and set up for a Pedigree. Orton Back Dropped him! The table didn’t shatter, so Orton turned HHH sideways and DDT’d the champ onto the stadium floor!

Orton returned to the ring so that the official would start5 the count. Triple H made it back just as the ref was ready to shout, “Ten!” Randy Orton went crazy, stomping The Game like a madman.

When The Game charged Orton, Randy pulled the referee into the line of fire. The referee went down hard. Orton got a sledgehammer from under the ring, but The Game was ready for him and dealt a vicious Punt! Seeing that the referee was still out of it, Triple H bashed Orton with the sledgehammer and then got rid of the evidence.

Triple H had Orton down on the mat and at his mercy. Only the referee could stop the rain of blows. The Game then went back to business and finished off Edge with the Pedigree to retain his belt.

Actual Grade: A

The Kingfish comments: The faces won both main events and a face also won “Money in the Bank.” That’s par for the WrestleMania course.

<BOverall Grade for WrestleMania: A-

The Kingfish’s final comments: What a schizophrenic show! There were some outstanding matches, including the two main events, the “Money in the Bank,” the Hardy vs. Hardy and the show-stealing Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels, but there was plenty of trash, too.

In the end, I more or less ignored the duds that marred the first half of the show and gave more weight to the card-topping successes.

That’s it for today. I’ll BE BACK TOMORROW WITH ANOTHER INSTALLMENT OF THE Internet’s fastest-rising wrestling column. I hope you’ll come back and join me. And, please, bring your friends.

— Arnie Katz
Executive Editor
[email protected]
(4/7/08)