January 12, 2009
Wrestlemania 23, April 1, 2007, Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Announcers: The teams of: Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler, Michael Cole & John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Joey Styles & Tazz
The March to Wrestlemania XXV continues with a short trip back in time to 2007 for Wrestlemania 23. The idea was to return to Detroit once again on the twentieth anniversary of the most famous Wrestlemania of them all, but that angle kind of lost some impact when they couldn’t negotiate a Hulk Hogan appearance and weren’t able to book the Silverdome for the show. One throwback they did manage to pull off was to get Aretha Franklin to sing America The Beautiful, complete with introduction by Vince McMahon which was certainly a cool moment. The show was built mainly around the ‘Battle of the Billionaires” in which both Vince McMahon and Donald Trump put their hair on the line. It was that stipulation that got the mainstream attention necessary to put this show over the top as one of the most successful of all time. The rest of the card was actually pretty pedestrian with the next biggest issue being Undertaker putting The Streak on the line against Batista’s World Heavyweight Championship. There wasn’t really anything special about the WWE Title match with Cena vs. Michaels, but they were pretty much left with no other plan once HHH went down with his injury and he was obviously going to be involved otherwise.
Opening Match, Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Jeff Hardy vs. King Booker (w/Sharmell) vs. Fit Finlay vs. CM Punk vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge
First off, I think that eight guys is too many for this type of match. It should definitely be capped at six because otherwise you end up with too many guys lost in the shuffle, forced to lie around seemingly forever while they wait for their next spot, and it makes it extremely difficult for any one person to really shine. I mean, Edge and Randy Orton are the top two heels on the roster at this point, but how does it help them to be buried in this match when they should be getting showcased? Everyone brawls to kick things off with Kennedy going right for a ladder but getting cut off by Orton. Everyone ends up on the floor, except for Finlay, so he comes off the top on to them. Definitely not the kind of move you’d be expecting from him. Everyone is down, except Edge, who runs in and tries to quickly climb, but Matt stops him. Finlay and Orton climb now, but they slug away and knock each other down. Jeff climbs, but Kennedy tips him over. On the floor, Booker goes under the ring and pulls out a two step ladder, which then gets taken by Punk and used as a weapon. Edge sets a ladder up between the apron and the barrier and goes to suplex Punk on to it, but Punk reverses. Booker takes command in the ring with spinebusters for all, and follows up with a Spinarooni, only to be taken out by the Hardyz. They try to setup the Joey Mercury teeter totter spot on Edge, but Finlay breaks it up which allows Edge to suplex Matt onto the ladder. Kennedy takes control on Edge and goes up, but misses a Kenton Bomb and ends up taking a Swanton from Jeff. Matt and Jeff now take everyone out, but when Matt climbs for the case Jeff has to stop him. They go at it until Finlay knocks them over. Edge recovers now and hits a spear on six of the guys, but the last one, Punk, avoids it and Edge hits the buckle. Punk now grabs the ladder and does the helicopter spot with it, taking several guys out before Edge comes back and this time gets him with a spear. Edge now grabs the biggest ladder and gets it in the ring. He climbs, but Orton tips him out to the floor. Matt sets Edge on the ladder that Edge himself previously setup while Jeff climbs in the ring. On commentary, JBL is livid that Jeff isn’t going for the win, and indeed he jumps off on to Edge, breaking the ladder in half in the process. They call for the stretchers and that’s the last we see of Edge and Jeff for the match. In the ring, Orton nails a few RKO’s and climbs, but Punk stops him. Punk climbs up himself now, but Orton is right back and gets him with an RKO off the ladder. Booker climbs, but Orton is there. He tries the RKO again, but Booker counters to a Bookend off the ladder. Matt comes back to stop Booker’s climb, so Sharmell gets involved and gets Matt down. Matt holds her and threatens a Twist of Fate unless Booker gets down, which he does only to take the move himself. Aw, come on Booker, I’m disappointed with you there. Someone get him some early Randy Savage tapes so he can learn how a real heel treats his wife. Matt climbs now only to get tipped over by Finlay, who then nails him with a Celtic Cross onto the ladder. Finlay is too hurt to climb, so Hornswoggle runs in and offers to climb for him. Of course he’s too short to actually reach it, and Kennedy gets up there to block him anyways. Hornswoggle smacks him a couple of times and that’s all the provocation Kennedy needs to take him down with a Green Bay Plunge. Finlay has recovered enough to throw a ladder at Kennedy and climb up himself, but Punk knocks him over. Punk and Kennedy climb together with Kennedy getting shoved down. Just when it looks like Punk’s gonna win it, Kennedy grabs another ladder and nails him with it to take him down again. No one else is left, so Kennedy has an easy climb to get the case and become Mr. Money In The Bank at 19:10. Sadly, Kennedy would never get the chance to cash in. They established that he was planning to wait until Wrestlemania XXIV to use the shot, but only a month later he suffered an injury and they decided to hotshot it over to Edge so he could cash it in right away instead. These spotfests are always fun and entertaining and for this one in particular I’d call it better than the previous year’s match and about on par with the next year’s, so ***1/2.
The Great Khali vs. Kane
They lockup, but Khali just shoves him off. Kane comes at him again only to get knocked down, and on a third try he gets tossed. From the apron he pulls Khali down on the ropes, but his follow up clothesline has no effect. Khali nails his own clothesline, then uses a slam and goes to a nerve hold. He shoves Kane to the corner where he hits some boots and elbows. Kane fire back and gets shoved off, but charges back in with a clothesline. Kane goes up top and comes off with a clothesline, but Khali is still on his feet. One more shot gets Khali tied in the ropes and gives Kane the chance to grab his See No Evil hook and chain. Khali is out though as Kane gets back in and attacks him leaving the chain hooked on the ropes. Now Khali pulls a turnbuckle pad off, but while the ref is distracted by that, Kane crotches him with the chain. Kane slams him, which gets a big pop from the crowd, and according to JR is “shades of Wrestlemania III”, because I suppose that was the only previous wrestling event where a bodyslam took place. In any case, one of the possible plans for Hogan, if they had been able to get him here was to come in and do the big slam spot with Khali, but come on. If Hogan’s not involved it doesn’t mean much and it’s kind ridiculous that they even make the comparison. It only gets a 2 count, probably because Kane failed to follow up with a legdrop. He does go for the choke slam now, but Khali simply blocks it and hits the tree slam for 3 at 5:32. He chokes Kane out with the chain afterwards for good measure. ½*
Time for a fun backstage segment featuring Eugene and Cryme Tyme dancing with Extreme Expose. Then Mae and Moolah show up, which actually gets Eugene more excited than anything. Even Slick shows up to get funky once more for old times sake. We also get cameos from Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Hart, IRS, Sgt. Slaughter, Pat Patterson, Jerry Brisco, Gene Okerlund, and Ricky Steamboat. Ron Simmons finishes it off with a “Damn”.
United States Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
They start with a lockup and MVP goes to a side headlock takedown. They trade holds from there until Benoit makes it up and gets fired off the ropes. MVP hits him with a shoulderblock and comes off himself, but gets caught. German suplex is blocked and Benoit gets tossed to the floor. Back in, Benoit goes for the Sharpshooter, which is countered, so he tries the Crossface, but MVP makes the ropes. MVP works him over and whips him to the corner, but runs into an elbow on the charge. Benoit puts him on top and goes for a superplex, but MVP jumps down to the floor, dropping Beniot on the ropes in the process to counter. Big kick to the back gets 2 and now he starts working over Benoit’s shoulder. Finally he misses a kick and gets caught with the Triple Germans. Benoit goes up, but MVP gets there and crotches him. He nails Benoit with a superplex, but Benoit gets him with a small package for 2 (like the finish of the Dynamite Kid/Randy Savage match from the Wrestling Classic). MVP controls and goes back to the shoulder. He rolls Benoit up and gets 2, then nails a back suplex, which gets a couple of 2 counts. He goes to an armbar, with Benoit firing back and charging off the ropes, but MVP gets the big boot up for 2. Benoit slips out of a slam and goes to hook the crossface, but can’t hold it due to the injured shoulder. MVP hits a bodyslam and drops an elbow for 2. He whips Benoit to the corner, but a big boot misses and leads to the Germans again. Third one is countered as MVP sends him off the ropes, but Benoit gets behind them and hits three more German suplexes. He then goes up and drops the headbutt, which gets the 3 count to retain at 9:20. Really good match with the story of MVP establishing himself at Benoit’s level, but the wily veteran always has another trick up his sleeve to pull the win off. ***
Backstage, Donald Trump meets the Boogeyman. Dumb.
Hall Of Fame Rundown: Jim Ross, Curt Hennig (represented by his father, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, and his wife), Jerry “The King” Lawler, Nick Bockwinkle, Mr. Fuji, Afa & Sika, The Sheik (represented by his wife), & Dusty Rhodes
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Dave Batista vs. The Undertaker
Undertaker won the Royal Rumble to earn the shot here and selected Batista as his opponent of choice. I’m kinda confused here since they always talk about the Rumble winner “going to the main event of Wrestlemania” but here this match is just kinda in the middle of the show. There are no storyline reasons why Cena/Michaels needed to be last or why this match needed to be in this spot, so what’s the deal? Actually now that I think about it, with 22, 23 and XXIV, it’s been three years in a row that the Rumble winner hasn’t really been in the main event. Well, I suppose they know their business better than I do, right? Batista gets Taker right off the bat with a spear to send him to the corner. They keep trading shots there with the ref powerless to get them out. Technically these guys are both babyfaces, but the crowd is solidly behind Taker to the point that they’re booing Batista right out of the building. Corner whip by Batista sets up a clothesline, followed by another to send Taker to the floor. Taker drags him out as well and they brawl out there for a bit. Batista rams him to the barrier and the whips him to the stairs. Back in, Batista goes up and comes off with a flying shoulderblock for 2. He then comes off the ropes and runs into a big boot, but stays on his feet and comes right back with a clothesline for 2. Slugfest breaks out leading to a slam by Batista, but his boot is blocked. Taker fires back and they trade some shots until Taker controls and whips him to the corner. Bodyblock follows and then he uses a clothesline. Snake eyes is next, then a big boot and legdrop for 2 (no reference to WMIII there, although during the match they do reference the fact that it’s been ten years since Taker won a championship at Wrestlemania). Old School ropewalk hits, but Taker can’t get the chokeslam as Batista powers out. Irish whip by Batista sees Taker duck and come back off with a flying clothesline for 2. Some punches knock Batista to the floor where Taker rams him to the barrier. Batista gets to the apron, but Taker drops some elbows and then a big leg to drop him right back to the floor. Taker gets back in the ring and sets up the dive, which hits and is always impressive for a guy of his size and age. He keeps working Batista over on the floor, but a whip to the barrier is reversed and Taker hits. Batista pounds away and preps the announce table, which he then powerslams Taker through. Back in, that only gets 2, so Batista wails away with punches before covering again, but still only getting 2. He sets up for the Batista Bomb, but Taker drives him to the corner. Taker’s corner whip is countered and Batista hits a belly to belly suplex for 2. He mounts Taker for punches in the corner, but gets caught and nailed with the Last Ride. Taker covers, but Batista kicks out at 2.5. Irish whip is reversed and now Batista nails a spinebuster. Taker is back up though, so Batista whips him off the ropes. Taker ducks and nails a chokeslam, but again Batista kicks out at 2.5. Batista avoids a Tombstone and nails a spear to setup the Batista Bomb, but now Taker kicks out of that at 2.5. Batista is frustrated, so he goes for the move again, but Taker backdrops out. Taker shoves him off to the corner and from that he nails him with the Tombstone which gets the 3 count at 15:48 and makes Taker the new World Heavyweight Champion. Really good match with a lot of hot nearfalls at the end and great effort from two guys clearly motivated by the idea of being spotlighted on the big stage. If quality concerns were the reason they kept this one out of the final spot, they didn’t really need to worry. ***1/2
Sabu, Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, & Rob Van Dam vs. Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker, & Kevin Thorn (w/Ariel)
This is the first ECW contribution to Wrestlemania since that show was started, and it consists of an eight man tag featuring the ECW Originals against the New Breed. Striker and Sabu start out with Sabu getting sent off the ropes, but he duck and comes back with a springboard press. He quickly then uses a springboard leg lariat and springboard clothesline for a 1 count. He hangs Striker on the ropes and tags Sandman, who comes in with a legdrop off the top for 2. Striker tags Burke, who gets hiptossed. Tag to Dreamer and he and Sandman hit a double whip and elbows. Irish whip by Dreamer is reversed and Cor Von nails him from the apron. Tag to Cor Von now, and he puts the boots to Dreamer. Corner whip leads to a double underhook suplex and a tag to Burke. They hit a double backdrop and then Burke hits the Elijah Express for 2 with Sabu making the save. Tag to Thorn, who nails a short clothesline and goes to a rear chinlock. Dreamer is out of that pretty quick and gets the boot up on Thorn, but then runs into a sitdown powerbomb for 2 with Sabu again making the save. Tag to Cor Von, who nails a suplex for 2 and also goes to a rear chinlock. Dreamer elbows out, but Cor Von nails him and makes the tag to Burke. Dreamer somehow hooks both of them in simultaneous neckbreakers and makes the hot tag to RVD, while Striker also gets tagged in. RVD cleans house, then gets a monkey flip on Striker. He hits Rolling Thunder, but Cor Von pulls him to the floor. Sabu dives on Cor Von to take him out. In the ring, Dreamer DDT’s Striker, but Burke takes him out before he can follow up. Sandman clears Burke out, and that leaves RVD to come back, go up, and hit the Frog Splash for the 3 count at 5:27. It was short, but they went at a quick pace to fit everything in and it turned into a fun little match. **
Battle Of The Billionaires: Intercontinental Champion Umaga (w/Mr. McMahon & Armando Alejandro Estrada) vs. ECW Champion Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump)
Ok, this is for all intents and purposes, the main event, but I like that they let the Title match go on last as it should be. Let’s rundown the stips quickly here. Both guys are champs, but neither Title is on the line. What is on the line is the hair of the respective cornermen. If Umaga loses, McMahon will have his head shaved, and if Lashley loses the Trump will be shaved. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the special guest referee, and I think that just about covers it. The barber’s chair gets its own entrance complete with music, and from there all the entrances together run well over ten minutes. We finally get going with Lashley and Umaga charging at each other and breaking into a slugfest. Lashley hits a clothesline in the corner and works him over, but Austin pulls him off when he won’t break. This lets Umaga nail a crescent kick and a corner whip, but he misses a charge. Lashley hits a shoulderblock off the 2nd rope for 2 as Estrada puts Umaga’s foot on the ropes. That’s all that Lashley’s gonna take of that, so he drags Estrada in and beats him up to take him out of the match. Umaga charges now, but Lashley ducks and Umaga takes a sick, unprotected bump right out to the floor. He’s alright though and gets back in, where Lashley works him over, but then charges and misses so he can take his own sick bump to the floor. This match may have drawn the mainstream attention, but the people here in the stadium aren’t really into it as they’ve stayed pretty silent and there’s even a contingent that is booing Lashley. Back in the ring an Umaga splash gets 2 and then he chokes him. He won’t break on five, so Austin pulls him off and they have a bit of a staredown. Umaga chokes Lashley again, and this time Austin drags him off by the hair. Lashley fights back, but Umaga takes him down with a clothesline. He then hits two buttdrops before Lashley fights back, but he still gets Lashley with a Samoan drop. Lashley comes back again and tries a slam, but can’t get it and Umaga falls on top for 2. Vince gets on the apron, but Lashley runs right into him and knocks him down. This lets Umaga keep the advantage with a DDT. Umaga goes up, but Lashley gets there and slams him off, then nails a clothesline. Both guys are down and Austin counts to 9, but makes it clear he won’t count them out. I don’t think anyone was worried about that finish since they use it once out of every billion or so matches. Shane McMahon makes his way out to check on his father as Umaga has recovered enough to start working Lashley over again. He’s back on the choking, so Austin pulls him off again. After some distraction from Shane, Umaga nails Austin with the Samoan Spike to put him out on the floor. Now Shane gets in the ring and the double team is on. Vince gets a garbage can in the ring so that Shane can setup and nail the Van Terminator. Shane then takes his shirt off, revealing a referee’s shirt. Umaga goes up top and nails a splash. Shane counts 2 for Umaga before Austin pulls him out and tosses him to the stairs. Austin gets back in, but takes another shot from Umaga. Back on the floor, Trump attacks Vince, while in the ring, Austin ducks another attempted Spike from Umaga and nails him with a Stunner. Lashley follows up with a spear and that gets the 3 count at 12:56. The match, viewed strictly as a match, wasn’t very good. There wasn’t much going on, and it didn’t generate much heat, although the smoke and mirrors tactics helped out a bit. Call it * for the match, but in terms of the business that it generated I can’t call it a losing deal.
Post match stuff now, which is what the people really paid to see anyways. First off, Shane comes back to try and protect Vince, but gets beat up and takes a Stunner for his troubles. Vince almost uses that distraction to make good on his escape, but Lashley manages to chase him down and get him in the ring where they have now positioned the chair. Vince takes a Stunner for old time’s sake and they strap him in the chair where Trump and Lashley go to work with the razors. To Vince’s credit it’s no half assed haircut either as they then proceed to lather him up with shaving cram and shave off everything they can get. Vince sells it big, sulking off with a sad look on his face while Austin, Lashley, and Trump celebrate with a few beers. Then, out of nowhere, Austin nails the worst looking Stunner ever on Trump! All in all, I’d say the whole segment worked well. Celebrity segments are usually at the mercy of whether said celebrity is willing to play ball and participate, or just there to put themselves over. In this case, Trump may not be much of a performer, but he played along just fine and really helped make it something. An example of the other kind of celebrity would be the guy they brought in next year, Floyd Mayweather, where everything just died because he couldn’t have cared less about anything other than the pay cheque.
WWE Women’s Championship, Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massero
All the other Divas are out surrounding the ring as lumberjills. Ashley jumps her and nails some punches. Melina rolls out to the floor, but of course she gets rolled right back in. Rollup by Ashley gets 2 and the Melina drops her on the ropes. She gives Ashley a boot to the throat, but Ashley soon reverses and gives Melina a boot to the throat. Big spin by Melina puts Ashley down for 2 and then she hooks her in a surfboard. Irish whip, but Ashley comes off and gets something resembling a flying headscissors. She then nails some forearms and sends Melina to the corner. Monkey flip sets up a 2nd rope elbow, but it misses and Melina gets 2 off of it. Irish whip sees Ashley get behind her and get a rollup for 2, but Melina rolls through and holds her down for 3 at 3:34. Ashley, proud babyface and role model to young girls everywhere attacks the champ after the match even though she got beat clean in the middle. This triggers a brawl with all the girls, but Melina escapes with her belt. DUD
Main Event, WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
So, like I said before, this probably wasn’t the match they planned to go with here, but HHH’s injury, when he no doubt would have been involved one way or another, forced them to go another route. Not a bad choice at all, but it didn’t come across as anything special. Not that Cena vs. HHH would have either, but we figured it was coming so we started anticipating it pretty early on. Shawn won the spot be beating Edge and Randy Orton in a triple threat number one contenders match. Along the way, he and Cena won the World Tag Team Titles from Edge and Orton, which they still hold at this point, but they were constantly teasing dissention. Finally on Raw last week, it boiled over and Shawn hit Cena with a Superkick and left him to be pinned in a match against Batista and Undertaker, but in spite of that Shawn is the clear crowd favourite here tonight. They stare each other down and Shawn offers a handshake, but Cena won’t take it. Shawn then slaps him, so Cena attacks, but Shawn out maneuvers him and knocks him down. Shawn controls with a hammerlock, but Cena reverses. Shawn flips out, ducks some shots from Cena and knocks him down again. He takes Cena down with a side headlock and holds it, even getting a couple of 1 counts. Cena gets up and fires Shawn off. Shawn ducks a couple of times, but Cena gets him with a clothesline on the third try. Cena comes off now and nails a shoulderblock. He comes off again, but Shawn gets him with a Thesz press and some punches. Shawn charges, but gets tossed to the apron where he pulls Cena down on the ropes and tosses him out to the floor. Out there, Shawn catches him with an ensiguiri and then nails an Asai moonsault to put both guys on the table. He gets Cena back in and keeps working him over, then whips him to the corner. Cena tries to get the boot up, but Shawn grabs it and nails him in the leg. Now Shawn has his body part to work over, so he keeps on it, very methodically. It goes on for awhile, as in several minutes. I’m thinking it’s a long time for Cena to go without a hope spot, but I guess he’d just be booed for it anyways so it doesn’t really matter. And sure enough, Cena fights back and gets booed for it. They trade shots, but Shawn retains control with a tackle in the corner. A second tackle misses and sends Shawn to the post where he gets busted open. Cena nails a clothesline, a couple of shoulderblocks and the Protobomb. Five Knuckle Shuffle hits, but Shawn slips out of the FU. Cena whips him to the corner where he misses a clothesline. Shawn goes for Sweet Chin Music, but Cena ducks and the ref gets hit instead. FU is countered to a DDT to put both guys out, but Shawn recovers first and goes outside to take the stairs apart. He gets Cena out there with him and drops him with a piledriver on the stairs. Cena is now bleeding from the back of the head as Shawn gets him back in and calls for another ref, but by the time the ref gets there he only counts 2. Irish whip is reversed, but Shawn comes off with the flying forearm and kips up. Top rope elbow hits and he sets up SCM, but Cena nails him with a clothesline. Cena tries the FU again, but again Shawn avoids it and he also gets a rollup for 2. He fires Cena off and tries a leapfrog, but gets caught and this time can’t escape the FU. He does kick out at 2 however, so Cena puts him on the top rope. Cena looks to setup an FU from there, but Shawn shoves him off. Shawn comes off with a bodypress, but Cena rolls through and picks him up for yet another FU attempt, but Shawn avoids that one as well. SCM is tried again, but Cena ducks it and tries to hook him for the STFU but can’t get it. Shawn rolls him up for 2, then tries the ensiguiri again, but misses and now Cena hooks the STFU. Shawn fights for a bit, but does make the ropes. Cena won’t break, so the ref drags him off, but that lets Shawn finally hit Sweet Chin Music. He’s slow on getting to the cover though, so Cena kicks out at 2. Both guys get up, selling that they’re exhausted, and trade counters again. Cena hooks the STUF again, but this time has it right in the middle. Shawn fights for awhile, but has nowhere to go and taps out at 28:23. Cena joins Hogan as the only other person to successfully defend the WWE Title at Wrestlemania twice. Another really good championship match, and comparing to Cena’s WM22 main event against HHH, there’s some noticeable improvement. It’s probably a combination of both having more experience at working main events and Shawn Michaels being a better opponent, but in any case, good for him. ****
Well, I have to say that this goes down as a pretty good show. Both championship matches deliver pretty well as does Money in the Bank. The Battle of the Billionaires isn’t a great match, but the angle is fun and it delivers on everything it promised to be. Only two low points with the Women’s match and Khali/Kane, but those are both kept short so all in all this is a pretty easy thumbs up and it gets a solid recommendation for a rewatch.