wrestling / Video Reviews

Kevin’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania 21

November 27, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels WrestleMania 21
WWE WrestleMania 21
April 3rd, 2005 | Staples Center in Los Angeles, California | Attendance: 20,193

2004 ended up being more of a footnote than something that had stability. This WrestleMania truly marked the dawning of a new era for WWE. Names like John Cena, Batista, and Randy Orton were becoming stars while the likes of the Rock and Stone Cold were long gone. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit fell back down the card a bit and even the guy who was supposed to take over, Brock Lesnar, had left. WrestleMania XX was a strong one. Can 2005’s edition top it?

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Did the event have logical booking decisions for the stories they told
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity interaction, concerts, etc.



Match Quality


Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio ~ These are the WWE Tag Team Champions. The idea was that Eddie was out to prove that he could still go as a singles guy. After all, he was WWE Champion at WrestleMania last year. It’s Eddie and Rey, so you know they have dynamite chemistry. This featured a bunch of good exchanges and almost everything they did was crisp. Though both guys were babyface, Eddie veered into subtle heel territory. He realized that he was in danger of losing so he opted to try some underhanded things. All of the lucha offense was fine but I think this got really good when Eddie’s frustration became clear. He just couldn’t seem to put his partner away. And that played into the finish as Rey countered a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker into a rana rollup to win in 12:22. A very good way to start the show. They told a hell of a story and gave us a lot of action. And they’d have a much better match at Judgment Day in a few months. [***½]

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Kane vs. Shelton Benjamin ~ The inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder match. It featured an incredibly talented group of people and all felt like they had a realistic shot at winning. I liked the way these guys found inventive ways to use the ladder. There was Benoit hitting a German suplex as Jericho held one and him countering a Kane Chokeslam off one into a Crippler Crossface. I loved Edge and Christian busting out a con-chair-to style ladder combo. Shelton Benjamin was given plenty of opportunities to steal the show. It’s like the other five guys knew he was the least known star and they wanted to make sure he came out looking like a million bucks. Tomko helping Christian was clever and had only been done in one previous ladder match that I can recall. I will admit that Benoit’s headbutt off the ladder is really hard to watch now. Especially when you consider the reaction he had to popping his stiches open. Just as he came close to winning, Edge hit him with a chair and retrieved the briefcase at the 16:00 mark. A revolutionary match for the time. It still ranks at the top (at worst top 3) MITB matches in history. Everyone played their role perfectly and got a chance to shine. The pace never slowed and everything made sense. Fantastic. [****½]

Randy Orton vs. The Undertaker ~ I know the Streak wasn’t much of a thing until a year or two before this but this was the first case where I truly felt Undertaker might lose. Before getting into the match, I want to praise commentary for it. Tazz put over how he wanted Undertaker to win because he’s a Smackdown guy. I like that. Anyway, this was a smartly worked match. Undertaker used his size and power to perfection. Orton had him well scouted and managed to find counters for a lot of his signature stuff. It kept Orton in the game despite Undertaker’s best efforts. With Orton in trouble, we got a ref bump and a run in from Bob Orton with his trusty cast. The fans totally bought that as the finish. It did set up the best moment of the whole ordeal. Orton countering the Chokeslam into the RKO will always be something I pop for. He’s gone on to have much cleaner RKOs but the atmosphere and moment of this one will always make it one of my favorites. Orton made the mistake of going for the Tombstone, which Taker turned into one of his own to win in 14:14. One hell of a match. It had some memorable spots and a very good pace. [***¾]

WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus [c] vs. Christy Hemme ~ Christy Hemme got this spot because she posed in Playboy. Also, she was making $250,000 so they had to try and get something out of it. The show finally hits a lull in terms of match quality. Christy just wasn’t ready for this position. However, she didn’t make a fool out of herself and tried hard. Plus, we had heel Trish and she could make anything entertaining. She was truly that good. She won with the Chick Kick in 4:11. It was quick, Trish was a lot of fun, and Christy didn’t embarrass herself. I can’t ask for more from this. [*¼]

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels ~ This is widely considered one of the greatest WrestleMania matches in history. It’s for good reason. I love every second of this match. Kurt Angle was absolutely vicious in his assault on Shawn Michaels’ bad back. The Angle Slam into the ring post was sick and each time Angle targeted it, you felt Shawn’s pain. Shawn’s desperation came out in things like a low blow and a springboard splash onto a table. There were some incredible counters in this. You’d think they had wrestled dozens of times before but it was their first meeting. The drama got ramped up late as Michaels survived an Ankle Lock, Angle Slam, and avalanche Angle Slam. It frustrated Angle to the point where he fell victim to a glorious Sweet Chin Music. The final 5-10 minutes are some of the best wrestling you’ll find anywhere. Angle locking in the Ankle Lock to the point where Michaels kicking him away wasn’t enough to break it was spectacular. It just felt different. Michaels fought for as long as he could but he was trapped and had to tap out after 27:25. Incredible pacing and tremendous action. Two of the best in history just putting on a classic on the biggest stage. [*****]

Sumo Match: Akebono vs. Big Show ~ A good old fashioned WrestleMania special attraction. Except I didn’t want to see Big Show in a thong. This was a bad segment. It took way too long and nobody cared about it. Akebono won but I can’t really rate it because it wasn’t a wrestling match. [NR]

WWE Championship: John Bradshaw Layfield [c] vs. John Cena ~ There wasn’t much of a chance for this to be very good. JBL wasn’t a great wrestler and John Cena was a few years away from being able to carry him. That made for a slow and plodding match that didn’t play to their strengths. Cena wrestled from behind and JBL’s heat segment wasn’t all that interesting. Cena ducked the Clothesline from Hell and won with the FU in 11:27. I didn’t write a lot because next to nothing happened during this match. It was boring and basic. It has its place in history though. [*½]

World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H [c] vs. Batista ~ The build for this was spectacular. They allowed the tension to grow as this took a while to officially get going. The match was booked to be exactly what it needed to be. Triple H tried to match Batista early but quickly found himself in trouble. So he used his wits and resorted to underhanded tactics. That included interference from Ric Flair behind the referee’s back. When it came to do so, HHH bumped like crazy for Batista. He did everything to make Batista look good which is interesting considering he made Randy Orton look so bad the previous summer. HHH bladed after a shot to the ring post and that added to the late drama. Batista rallied and used the Batista Bomb to win the title after 21:34. It does drag a bit at points and isn’t groundbreaking. But it was booked wisely and I was engaged throughout. [**¾]

This is one of the better WrestleManias I have seen so far in terms of in-ring quality. Four of the matches were easy recommendations. Eddie/Rey and Orton/Taker were both very good, while the Money in the Bank match is a classic, and Angle/HBK is one of the best matches in WrestleMania history. There are three matches that aren’t any good but I liked Batista/HHH enough and two of those bad matches combine to last about 5 minutes. I’m cool with that.

SCORE: 8.5





It’s crazy to think about how well this show scores here. For starters, this will always be remembered as the night when WWE entered a new era by putting the top titles on John Cena and Batista. That set the course for the next half decade. In terms of smaller moments, I think Randy Orton’s RKO counter is something people remember. It always gets brought up when discussing the best RKOs. Hulk Hogan’s return to help Eugene against Muhammad Hassan is also decently memorable. However, I was surprised to see the Roddy Piper/Steve Austin faceoff. That should’ve been a huge moment. Instead, it felt unimportant, forgettable, and rarely gets mentioned these days.

SCORE: 8.5



Historical Significance


As usual, the memorability section coincides with historical significance. Batista and John Cena walking out with the top titles was a big deal. That changed the company. Both men were set to run the company for years. Batista’s run wasn’t as long but he and Cena delivered. This also marked the first Money in the Bank match, which would go on to become a staple of the company for over a decade so far. We got to see Edge win the briefcase that set him up to win the first of many World Titles. It’s a small note but this was the only time that we witnessed two Tag Team Champions compete against each other at Mania. Lots to cover here.

SCORE: 9.5



Booking Decisions


When I first watched this show, I couldn’t believe Randy Orton didn’t win. I felt they missed the boat on the Legend Killer ending the Undertaker’s streak. And that’s why it’s better to judge booking decisions after time has passed. We all know how special the streak was, so having Taker win here was the right move. Honestly, the rest of this show seemed to get it right. Trish Stratus retaining, Edge as MITB holder, and Batista and Cena winning the titles were all great moves. I liked Rey Mysterio winning because it set up Eddie’s heel turn. I mean, there was no need for Akebono on the show but that’s a nitpick.

SCORE: 9.5





Here is where the show slips a bit. The Staples Center is a fine venue but it doesn’t feel like WrestleMania. Madison Square Garden is probably the only normal sized arena where Mania can be held and still feel cool. The stage and setup were just missing that something special. However, I loved the “WrestleMania Goes Hollywood” gimmick. The commercials and video packages for it were great. The show didn’t look bad, it just didn’t seem like the biggest of the year.

SCORE: 6.5





I feel like this was another problem point. The event starts hot. Eddie/Rey, MITB, and Orton/Taker are all really good matches. The Hogan/Hassan segment was fine to throw in the middle of them. But they packed too much greatness early. The show peaks with Angle/Michaels. That gets followed with the sumo match, a lame WWE Title match, and a Piper’s Pit segment that just didn’t click. It felt like there were better ways to space things out so something good always followed something bad.

SCORE: 5.5





There was a lot more to this section than I originally remembered. I’ve already discussed some of it. The Piper’s Pit segment was a huge disappointment but the Hogan/Hassan/Eugene stuff was mostly fine. There wasn’t much else outside of that. The only celebrity appearance, outside of those in attendance (like Adam Sandler), was Motorhead putting on a mediocre performance of Triple H’s theme. Hard to give a good score here.

SCORE: 4.5





WrestleMania 21 manages to crack the top 5. I remember enjoying this WrestleMania and then looking back on it like I didn’t love it. But watching it again for this series has made me a huge fan again. It scored way high in the first few categories. The wrestling, booking, and notable moments were all great. The non-wrestling stuff and presentation just didn’t work out anywhere near the level of the rest of it. Still, there was enough good to put this high on the list.

TOTAL: 52.5/70


WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania XIX – 62/70
2. WrestleMania X-Seven – 61/70
3. WrestleMania III – 55/70
4. WrestleMania 21 – 52.5/70
5. WrestleMania X – 52/70
6. WrestleMania VIII – 50.5/70
7. WrestleMania XX – 50/70
8. WrestleMania I – 50/70
9. WrestleMania XII – 48.5/70
10. WrestleMania VII – 46/70
11. WrestleMania XIV – 46/70
12. WrestleMania VI – 44/70
13. WrestleMania X8 – 43.5/70
14. WrestleMania 2000 – 39.5/70
15. WrestleMania V – 39/70
16. WrestleMania 13 – 37/70
17. WrestleMania XV – 35/70
18. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
19. WrestleMania XI – 31.5/70
20. WrestleMania IX – 31.5/70
21. WrestleMania II – 29/70

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WrestleMania 21, Kevin Pantoja