Wrestlemania XXIII

Wrestlemania XXIII
Date: April 1, 2007
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
Attendance: 80,103
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Tazz, John Bradshaw Layfield, Joey Styles

It’s the biggest night of the year and this time the show does indeed feel big. You can feel how things have been going strong on the way here and I want to see how it goes. That takes some work when I have already seen the show multiple times. It is a stacked card and the biggest is Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga in the Battle of the Billionaires, which is really Donald Trump vs. Vince McMahon. Let’s get to it.

Before we get to the show, let’s do the pre-show match for a bonus.

Pre-Show: Ric Flair/Carlito vs. Gregory Helms/Chavo Guerrero

This is a lumberjack match to get more people in front of the crowd. The entrance is a little weird here as there is a huge curtain in front of the set, which does make this feel like a bonus. Flair and Helms start things off with Helms taking him into the corner for a slap to the face. A hiptoss into some chops slow Helms down and it’s Carlito coming in to knee lift Chavo.

Carlito dropkicks Chavo off the apron to little avail but Helms kicks Carlito off the apron to take over. Back in and Chavo belly to back suplexes him into a chinlock but Carlito fights up in a hurry. The hot tag brings in Flair to clean house as everything breaks down. Helms breaks up the Figure Four but Chavo misses the frog splash. Guerrero is back up and tries the Three Amigos but Carlito escapes and hits the Backstabber for the pin.

Rating: C-. Nothing but a standard Raw match here (if you ignore the Smackdown wrestlers involved) and that is perfectly fine for the spot they were in. This was about warming the crowd up and having Flair out there is going to do that just fine. Sometimes you need someone to set the stage for later and these four did it just fine in a very simple tag match.

The opening video looks at a history of the show, including some major moments. We also get a special look at Wrestlemania III, with the famous Vince McMahon introduction swinging into this year’s America the Beautiful, once again sung by Aretha Franklin.

We go to the regular opening video, featuring a bunch of wrestlers talking about how they have always dreamed of being here as children. Now they are all grown up and it is time to take the stage themselves. This campaign has grown on me a lot over the years and I like it a good bit more than I used to.

Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. King Booker vs. Finlay vs. Randy Orton vs. Mr. Kennedy

Money in the Bank as they’re starting big this year. Everyone looks up at the briefcase to start and then it’s already time to head outside for the fight. It’s a brawl to start and Finlay dives off the top onto almost everyone else. Matt has to cut off Edge’s climb, leaving Orton and Finlay to climb the ladder to no avail. Booker goes to pull out another ladder but finds Hornswoggle’s stepladder instead, allowing Punk to knock him down.

Edge bridges a ladder between the apron and the barricade but Booker starts cleaning house. There’s the Spanarooni, only to have the Hardys run Booker over with ladders. For some reason Finlay saves Edge from the see saw ladder treatment and Edge suplexes Matt onto the ladder. Kennedy’s Kenton Bomb onto hits ladder (with Kennedy landing HARD on the back of his head) and it’s a Hardy slugout on top of the ladder.

Finlay breaks that up but gets speared down by Edge. More spears drop just about everyone else but Punk wraps the ladder around his head to knock out various people. Edge slides in the big ladder and climbs, at least until Orton shoves him over the top and out to the floor. Matt lays Edge over the bridged ladder and Jeff dives onto him, breaking the ladder to get rid of both of them. Both guys are taken out on stretchers and we’re down to a six way.

Now it’s time for the parade of RKOs and Orton climbs, despite not being underneath the briefcase. Punk breaks that up and climbs as well, only to get taken down with a super RKO for the huge spot. Booker grabs the Book End and goes up but Matt is there to catch him. Cue Queen Sharmell to grab Matt’s leg but Booker gets distracted by Matt and walks into the Twist of Fate.

Finlay gives Matt a Celtic Cross onto the ladder, busting himself open in the process. Now it’s Hornswoggle going up the ladder until Kennedy catches him for a super Regal Roll off the ladder. Punk dropkicks the ladder down to cut Finlay off and it’s Punk vs. Kennedy on top of the ladder. Kennedy gets knocked down but comes back up and kicks Punk down, allowing him to grab the briefcase for the win.

Rating: B. I never know how to rate these things but it was another blast with everyone flying around and having one crash after another. This was a lot of fun and one of the right people won, which is what matters the most in a match like Money in the Bank. Everyone got a chance to shine here, even in a complete car crash match like this one. Rather fun opener.

We look at the premiere of the Condemned. It wasn’t that good.

Mr. Kennedy congratulates himself and says any champion needs to have eyes in the back of his head because he’s coming with the briefcase.

Batista is All Grown Up.

Great Khali vs. Kane

Interpromotional battle of the monsters, though Kane doesn’t even have his big hook here. Khali shoves him down to start and adds a shoulder to drop Kane again. There’s a clothesline to set up a slam as it’s all Khali so far. The nerve hold doesn’t last long so Khali starts stomping away in the corner as JR gets in the bowling shoe line. Kane is back with some right hands and the top rope clothesline, which doesn’t knock Khali down.

Instead, Kane knocks him into the ropes for the tie up and NOW it’s time for the big hook. That takes too long though and the slugout is on with Khali getting the better of things. Khali rips the turnbuckle pad off but Kane gets in a low blow into the slam (for the Hogan/Andre callback). It’s just a slam though so Khali is back up with the double chokeslam for the pin.

Rating: D. What else were you expecting here? They had five minutes and the whole thing was about making Khali look like a monster. The hook never meant anything (as it would have killed Khali) but the slam was a cool moment. Sometimes you need a bit of a cool down match and that’s what you got here after the crazy opener.

The Divas are All Grown Up.

Cryme Tyme try to cheer Eugene up so here is Extreme Expose for the dancing. Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young come up in the same outfits to dance but Slick (get him in the Hall of Fame already) comes in to show them up. Dusty Rhodes, IRS, Jimmy Hart, Gerald Brisco (in a suit of course) and finally Ricky Steamboat come in. Say it with me: Ron Simmons comes in for the catchphrase.

US Title: MVP vs. Chris Benoit

MVP is challenging and has his own cheerleaders for some Wrestlemania flavor. Benoit drives him into the corner to start and grabs a headscissors on the mat. That’s reversed into a headlock as they’re going technical early on. MVP has to block the German suplex and the Crossface but Benoit sends him outside. Back in and MVP has to go to the rope to break up another Crossface attempt, which has Cole impressed. With the holds not working, Benoit chops him into the corner and loads MVP up on top, only to get knocked back down.

MVP starts in on the arm, including with some kicks and driving shoulders. The confidence gets a bit too high though as Benoit snaps off the rolling German suplex. It’s too early for the Swan Dive though and MVP catches him on top with a superplex. MVP stays on the shoulder by sending it into the post and a belly to back suplex onto the arm gets two. We hit the armbar for a bit but Benoit pops up and snaps on the Crossface. The bar arm gives out though and MVP plants him with a slam. Ballin gets two but the running boot misses in the corner. Benoit rolls more German suplexes and the Swan Dive retains the title clean.

Rating: C+. This was always a weird one for me as they set up MVP to win the title but then Benoit just retains clean. I’m still not sure what the point of this one was other than to give us a surprise. The match itself was like a good Smackdown match so it isn’t out of place, but this felt like a curve ball for the sake of a curve ball, as it isn’t like Benoit is some kind of amazing champion.

Donald Trump is in on the phone in his dressing room and complaining about things. Boogeyman comes in and Trump no sells it, asking for some food.

Undertaker is All Grown Up.

We look at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony from last night. William Shatner still seems to have almost no idea who Jerry Lawler is.

Official attendance: 80,103.

Howard Finkel introduces the Hall of Fame Class of 2007 (I still love that song):

Jim Ross (quite the reaction)
Curt Hennig (represented by family)
Jerry Lawler (also quite the reaction)
Nick Bockwinkel (Fans don’t seem to know him, but is this guy ever not impeccably dressed?)
Mr. Fuji (I would never have recognized him, though it’s Don Muraco of all people wheeling him out)
The Wild Samoans (Not much of a reaction but how were they not in already?)
The Original Sheik (represented by his wife)
Dusty Rhodes (your headliner)

We get a fan poll on Undertaker vs. Batista, with Undertaker winning 82%-18%. That’s a heck of a squash.

We recap Undertaker vs. Batista for the Smackdown World Title. Undertaker won the Royal Rumble to earn the shot and Batista is all BRING IT ON as we have the monster fight for the title. This feels like a Wrestlemania World Title match and that’s kind of a hard trick to pull off.

Smackdown World Title: Batista vs. Undertaker

Undertaker is challenging and Teddy Long handles the introductions for a bit of a weird moment. We get the full druid entrance for Undertaker, which will never stop being awesome. Batista spears him down at the bell and it’s time to trade right hands in the corner. It’s actually Batista getting the better of things and the fans are not too thrilled with that. Undertaker pulls him outside for a ram into the apron but Batista is right back for a hard whip into the steps.

Back in and Batista nails a top rope shoulder (dang) for two and a heck of a clothesline cuts Undertaker off again. Undertaker slugs back from his knees and punches Batista into the corner for the running clotheslines. Snake Eyes into the big boot sets up the legdrop for two as we’re back to mostly even. Old School looks to set up the chokeslam but Batista powers out and knocks Undertaker down.

Undertaker doesn’t seem to mind as he sends Batista to the apron for the legdrop. There’s the Taker Dive and they’re both down on the floor. Back up and Batista drives him HARD through the barricade and hammers away as things have cranked up in a hurry. The announcers’ table is loaded up and a running powerslam drives Undertaker through it for the big crash. That’s only good for two back inside so Batista punches away even more.

The Batista Bomb is broken up with a drive into the corner but Batista is right back….with right hands from the middle rope. I guess HHH didn’t teach him that one and it’s the Last Ride for two. The frustrated Undertaker gets caught in a spinebuster but pops back up with a chokeslam for two. Batista slips out of the chokeslam and hits the spear into the Batista Bomb for two as the fans are WAY into these near falls. Undertaker backdrops his way out of another Batista Bomb and sends Batista into the corner. The Tombstone is enough to give Undertaker the pin and the title.

Rating: A-. This felt like a Wrestlemania level title match between two monsters. These two beat the fire out of each other and didn’t bother with anything other than the big power moves. They were trading bombs throughout the whole match and it was a question of who would survive, which made the whole thing world. It helps when Undertaker was motivated by being put in the middle of the card and cranked it up a notch, as both guys felt like they were on another level here.

Bobby Lashley is All Grown Up.

Stephanie McMahon brings her daughter in to meet Vince McMahon and we get the baby carriage cam, with Vince talking trash about Donald Trump. Jokes about a smell, at Trump’s expense, ensue.

ECW Originals vs. New Breed

That would be Sandman/Rob Van Dam/Sabu/Tommy Dreamer vs. Elijah Burke/Marcus Cor Von/Kevin Thorn/Matt Striker, with Ariel in the New Breed’s corner. The Originals come through the crowd for a nice bit of flavor. Sabu starts fast with the springboard elbow and body block to drop Striker. Sandman comes in so Cor Von makes a fast save and stays to beat on Dreamer. A hard elbow drops Dreamer and it’s Burke coming in for the Elijah Express.

The mocking of Dreamer’s pose delays the near fall and it’s Thorn coming in for a chinlock. A spinebuster gives Thorn two with Sabu making a save of his own. Cor Von’s chinlock stays on Dreamer’s back but he lets go to knock Sandman off the apron. A neckbreaker gets Dreamer out of trouble and, after kicking Burke away, it’s a hot tag to bring in Van Dam. House is cleaned, including the monkey flip and Rolling Thunder to Striker. Everything breaks down and Dreamer DDTs Striker as Sandman runs over people on the floor. The Five Star gives Van Dam the pin.

Rating: C-. It wasn’t a good match or really anything close, but what matters here was giving ECW ANYTHING to do on the show. They didn’t need to do anything more than the basics here and Van Dam winning is a perfect way to go. You can all but guarantee that this feud isn’t over, especially with an Extreme Rules rematch out there.

Steve Austin is All Grown Up.

Wrestlemania XXIV is in Orlando.

We recap the Battle of the Billionaires, which is more about asking celebrities who they want to see bald. To keep it simple, Donald Trump and Vince McMahon got in a stupid argument over who is richer/invented YOU’RE FIRED/walks funnier so it’s time for a match between their handpicked representatives with the billionaires’ hair on the line. Throw in Steve Austin as referee and it’s the real Wrestlemania main event.

Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga

Non-title, Donald Trump and Vince McMahon are both here, with Steve Austin as guest referee and Armando Alejandro Estrada in Umaga’s corner. Everything, including the barber’s chair, gets its own entrance (JR: “All we need now is a barbershop quartet.”). They stare at each other before colliding, with Lashley driving him into the corner. Austin pulls Lashley away because Umaga is in the ropes so Lashley goes up for a middle rope clothesline.

Estrada puts Umaga’s foot on the rope so Lashley powerslams Estrada and sends him outside. A low bridge puts Umaga on the floor as well but Lashley misses a charge to send himself flying outside as well. Back in and Umaga gets two off a splash and it’s time to choke on the ropes. Austin doesn’t like that either and breaks it up, just to keep things even. The near explosion lets Lashley elbow Umaga in the face but Umaga runs him over again.

Some sitting down onto Lashley’s chest sets up a Samoan drop and Trump….looks about the same as he has all match. Lashley knocks Vince off the apron but Umaga is right back with a Downward Spiral. A trip up top takes too long as Lashley slams Umaga off the top for a double nine count, though Austin just won’t count the ten. Cue Shane McMahon to help Vince up as Umaga uppercuts Lashley down to cut him off again. Austin goes after Umaga’s eye to break up the choking so Shane offers a distraction, allowing Umaga to Samoan Spike Austin to the floor.

The double beating is on and Shane, after pointing at Trump (who points back), hits the Coast To Coast. Shane has a referee shirt (because of course he does) and Umaga’s top rope splash connects. Austin is back up to pull Shane to the floor and take him out (Trump, sounding calm: “What’s going on over here?”). Umaga drops Austin again but Trump clotheslines Vince (there’s your entertainment show highlight), leaving Austin to Stun Umaga. The spear gives Lashley the pin.

Rating: C. I don’t think anyone was expecting some kind of amazing match here and that’s not what you got. Instead, this was the crazy brawl surrounding the not very great power match. They kept this relatively short too, as there was no need to stretch this out any longer than needed. There was no way Trump was getting his head shaved so just get to the good stuff, which they did.

Post match Austin drags Vince inside for the shaving, but has to beat up Shane first. Vince tries to escape but Lashley chases him down without much trouble and drags him back to the ring. Back in and Vince bumps into Austin (as identified with a rub of the bald head), meaning it’s a Stunner to get Vince in the chair. The shaving is on (with Austin holding Vince for old times sake), even as Vince screams to not do this to him. JR: “It was Mr. McMahon’s real hair all along!”

They even whip out the shaving cream and razors to REALLY shave it off. JR: “Wrestlemania XXIII may be all grown up, but Mr. McMahon’s hair is all shaved off.” Vince looks eerily calm but then loses it all over again when Lashley holds up the mirror. As usual, Vince will do anything asked of him to make a moment like this. Beer is consumed and Austin Stuns Trump (the worst of all time, but he tried) to wrap it up.

John Cena is All Grown Up.

We look at the pre-show match as the ring is cleared out.

Commentary recaps the night so far.

Women’s Title: Melina vs. Ashley

Melina is defending and it’s a lumberjill match, with all of the lumberjills being named during the group entrance. Melina starts fast with the boot choke in the corner as JBL says the women look good enough to even impress Cole. Ashley gets knocked into a short giant swing and it’s off to a double arm crank with Melina’s boots in Ashley’s back. The comeback is on with Ashley whipping her into the corner and grabbing a monkey flip. Starstruck (middle rope elbow) misses though and Melina grabs a bridging cradle to retain.

Rating: D. Did you expect anything else? Ashley isn’t a wrestler and Melina isn’t good enough to carry her to anything great. They were very smart to keep this short as there was no way they could do anything long term here. Ashley did as much as she could, but this was nothing more than a way to promote her Playboy, as is the tradition for this spot.

Post match the big brawl is on and the good ones clean house in a hurry.

Shawn Michaels is All Grown Up.

John Cena beats Shawn Michaels in another fan poll 59%-41%.

We recap John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels for the Raw World Title. Michaels won a triple threat match to earn the spot and has since decided that he wanted to protect Cena until Wrestlemania. They wound up winning the Tag Team Titles but Shawn finally superkicked Cena, as is his nature, on the final Raw before Wrestlemania. Cena winning seems likely, but it’s Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania, and that is always going to give him a shot.

Raw World Title: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels

Michaels is challenging and comes out to the DX theme, which still doesn’t feel quite right. You would think his already iconic theme song would work, though he’s pretty famous for this song too. Cena’s big Wrestlemania entrance this year involves driving a Ford Mustang into the arena, right through a glass wall. They happen to be Tag Team Champions as well but it doesn’t mean as much here.

Shawn sits on the top turnbuckle as we’re ready to go. After hopping down, Shawn tells Cena to bring it and finally slaps him in the face to pick up the pace in a hurry. Cena gets knocked down into the corner and that means a crotch chop from Shawn. A backflip gets Shawn out of a belly to back suplex and Cena is frustrated early on. Shawn headlock takeovers him down and then does it again for a bonus. Back up and Cena cuts him down with a clothesline as the fans are firmly behind Shawn here.

Shawn enziguris him to the floor, setting up the springboard moonsault onto Cena onto the announcers’ table for the really nasty crash. Back in and Shawn goes for the leg, including stomping it down and wrapping it around the post. More stomping has the referee asking if Cena can continue and Shawn bends the knee around the rope. Shawn chops away so Cena punches him in the face for a simple yet effective counter.

A missed charge sends Shawn hard into the post and he’s busted open (thanks to one of those lightning quick blade jobs). Cena starts the comeback, including the ProtoBomb and Shuffle, but Shawn slips out of the FU. A quick Sweet Chin Music hits the referee by mistake (it seems early for that) and the FU is countered into a DDT to put them both down. With no referee, Shawn takes Cena outside for a piledriver onto the steps. Cena is busted as well as Shawn pulls him back inside, where a second referee comes in for the near fall.

The forearm sets up the top rope elbow but Sweet Chin Music is cut off with a hard clothesline. They’re both down again (as you might have guessed) for a bit before it’s time for the big slugout. The FU is countered into a sunset flip to give Shawn two but the next attempt connects. Cena can’t cover at first so it’s a very delayed near fall. Shawn breaks up the super FU and tries the superkick but has to counter the STFU (over and over) before getting two off a small package.

Cena is back with the STFU but Shawn realizes he is about a foot away from the rope and they’re out again. Back up and Shawn hits a quick Sweet Chin Music for a delayed near fall of his own. They pull themselves up and Cena snaps him right back into the STFU to make Shawn tap and retain the title.

Rating: A-. This felt like a Wrestlemania main event and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. They went with the epic match here and by the end, it felt like either of them could pull this off. It made everything feel that much better and it felt like an incredible main event. Again, I’m not sure how much drama there was over who was going to win here, but they still had an outstanding match with Shawn making Cena look like a killer and Cena hanging with Shawn well enough to feel like the biggest star in the company when he retained the title.

Shawn walks away post match, but Cena offer the salute.

The Ladies And Gentlemen highlight package wraps us up.

Overall Rating: B. The big matches delivered and the bad stuff was mostly short. While it isn’t quite a classic, this is firmly in the higher tier of Wrestlemanias. What mattered here was the feeling, as you had a pair of great World Title matches, Money in the Bank delivering, and the big song and dance match with the Battle of the Billionaires. The rest of the show was watchable at worst and as a result, it felt like a Wrestlemania. That’s more than you could say about last year’s edition so they are trending in the right direction.

 

 

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