In case you missed it when it was a Pay Per View event back in April of 2009, the WWE has wasted no time getting the Wrestlemania 25th Anniversary special onto home video - Blu-ray even - so that HD wrestlemaniacs can relive the glory in the comfort of their own homes time and time again. So yeah, it's wrestling, it isn't really ripe with stuff to analyze or read into, there isn't much in the way of metaphorical imagery or symbolism and it isn't exactly deep. But is it entertaining? Yup. Even if you don't want to admit it, wrestling, in all its semi-retarded glory, can be a whole lot of fun when you're in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. So let's take a look:
After Nicole Scherzinger treats us to her rendition of the National Anthem, the action starts proper with the Money In The Bank Ladder Match. Here you'll get chance to watch CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Kane, Mark Henry, Finlay and Christian all duke it out for the guaranteed Championship belt. It's a pretty tense bought and the ladder gimmick, as goofy as it may be, at least differentiates it from the others.
Moving right along, we next lay witness to the 25-Diva Battle Royal To Determine The First Ever Miss Wrestlemania. So yeah, twenty five freaky muscle chicks get into the ring and smack each other around in competition for what I can only assume is an incredibly prestigious title. The WWE has basically thrown in one 'Diva' for each year of Wrestlemania's existence by pulling from the ECW, Raw and Smackdown players and the results are a pretty intense match.
Once the ladies are done doing their thing, we get to check out the 3-On-1 Handicap Elimination Match that brings in some pretty awesome old school superstars. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Superfly Snuka and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat with Nature Boy Rick Flair take on Chris Jericho. I won't spoil this or any of the other matches on this disc, but I will say that there's a fun guest appearance from a certain 'Wrestler' that makes this one interesting.
Up next is the Extreme Rules Match that pits Jeff Hardy against Matt Hardy, brother against brother, no holds barred. Allowing some unusual and potentially dangerous 'foreign objects' into the ring for this scrap makes the sibling rivalry even more intense and this is one of the more exciting matches contained on the disc.
The Intercontinental Championship Match finds JBL going off against Rey Mysterio and the ever popular Undertaker battle against Shawn Michaels. The results of the first match were actually pretty surprising but both matches are, again, well worth a watch. Things really pick up in the Undertaker/Michaels match when the action pulls them out of the relative safety of the ring.
The penultimate event is the Triple Threat Match For The World Heavyweight Championship in which Edge gets in the ring with John Cena and Big Show. You kinda know where this one is going early on but it's still a pretty rock solid fight with some exciting action and fun moves, highlighted by Cena actually picking up Big Show and slamming him to the mat. This match segues into the 2009 Wrestling Hall Of Fame Inductees bit where Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat, Cowboy Will Watts, Koko B. Ware, The Funks, The Von Erichs and Howard Finkel are all honored for their achievements in the industry.
Last but not least, is the main event, the WWE Championship Match in which the inimitable Triple H squares off against Randy Orton. This is another solid match that ends the 25th Wrestlemania with a bang, not a whimper, and it's a match that fans have been anticipating for quite some time now.
So how does it all shape up? It's Wrestlemania. It delivers exactly what you want it to - crazy theatrics, over the top wrestling matches, a healthy dose of corny melodrama and some fun guest stars. The reason that the event has been around for a quarter of a century now is because it doesn't deviate too far from the formula, nor does it need to. Have there been better matches than the ones here? Sure, but time will probably be kind to these bouts and you've got to admire the showmanship. Now on to the technical stuff...
The Wrestlemania 25th Anniversary Blu-ray looks quite good here in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen AVC encoded transfer, at least when you compare it to a standard cable broadcast. Presumably on par with what HD cable fans saw when they ordered it via Pay-Per-View, if not a bit stronger (the bit rate hovers around 22 - 30 Mbps)there isn't as much crystal clear detail as there would be in a feature film but the picture quality is pretty strong when you consider the lighting conditions under which it was all shot. There are spots where skin tones look a little waxy and overly pink but this just could be because everyone is sweaty. Color reproduction is strong across the board and black levels look good. There are some mild compression artifacts if you want to look for them but aside from that, the image is good. Not perfect, but very good.
The primary audio track on this disc is a 48kHz 640 kbps Dolby Digital Multi-Channel track that puts most of its emphasis on the front of the mix using the rears to play around with the score and some of the background and crowd noise. From the opening volley of fireworks toe the dialogue bits and commentary scattered throughout, this is a pretty well mixed track. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion though some minor echo is present, which makes sense considering that this was recorded live inside and auditorium. An alternate Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is included, though there are no subtitle or closed captioning options provided.
Aside from the feature itself, the first disc contains a featurette entitled 25th Anniversary Of Wrestlemania - April 5th, 2009 - Lumberjack Match For The Unified Tag Team Championship which features Carlito and Primo battling against The Miz and John Morrison. This thirteen minute match is a home video exclusive isn't as exciting as the feature matches but it's worth a look and is presented in 1.78.1 AVC encoded high definition. Animated menus are included and a few WWE ads play before you can get to them.
The first extra on the second disc is the 2009 WWE Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony that features some great footage with Terry and Dory Funk, Koko B. Ware, The Von Erichs, Howard Finkel, Cowboy Bill Watts, Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, and last but not least, Texas' favorite son, Stone Cold Steve Austin. This featurette, which clocks in at over two hours and fifteen minutes and is presented in an ACV encoded 1.78.1 widescreen, starts off by looking at the greats from wrestling's past before giving all of 2009's inductees and chance to get in front of the podium to talk about their careers and express their gratitude for the award. It all ends, appropriately enough, with Steve Austin chugging a beer.
Also included on the second disc is a mammoth highlight reel that features clips from each one of the twenty-four Wrestlemanias that have come before this one. With a combined total of 55:40, this is a nice collection of clips from some of the now completely famous and instantly recognizable matches that made so many of us the fans that we are. Going all the way back to the first Wrestlemania at Madison Square Gardens, this is a fun look back even if it doesn't give more than a couple of minutes to each year's worth of insanity.
With roughly nine hours of content, there's enough material here to appeal to pretty much any WWE fan out there. The audio and video are decent, even if they're not quite perfect, and the extras, particularly the older highlight clips, are a whole lot of fun. If wrestling isn't your thing , this won't change your mind but those who appreciate it can consider this release recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.