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WWE WrestleMania 23 
April 1, 2007

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Well, I don't quite know how to put this, so I'll just put it bluntly....
Twenty years from now, if WWE is looking to get all nostalgic around WrestleMania time, they'll be able to look back to 2007 in Detroit and brag about a really big crowd (over 80,000 fans).

But if they want to brag about a show that was even remotely memorable or historic, they're still gonna have to go all the way back to WM3 in 1987.

WrestleMania 23 seemed to lack a certain sizzle on paper (massive tabloid press coverage of Donald Trump's little cameo notwithstanding), and delivered almost exactly what you'd have expected in execution. Exceptions to that would definitely have to be the two big title matches, as Taker/Batista was incredibly entertaining and surpassed expectations, while Cena/Michaels was solid but fell far short of the kind of match you'd expect from them.

The net result? Hey, nobody's gonna call it a bad show. But it felt thin and forgettable at times, and unless you were just really, really jonsing to see Trump get the better of Vince McMahon, it was pretty much devoid of any kind of signature, memorable moments that we'll be talking about in 20 years. Or even 20 days.
Here's a quick rundown of how it all went down at the just completed WrestleMania 23 PPV (with my purely editorial commentary tacked on in the customary red italics):

  • Opening Videos/Etc... first, a then-versus-now montage of WM3 vs. WM23. Then Aretha Franklin busting out "America the Beautiful." Then some Crappy AlternaRock montage. Then the pyro, then we're live in Detroit, MI, complete with 3 announce teams and 3 announce desks. All of which will be in play for our opening match, seeing as how it is the cross brand Money in the Bank match:
  • Ken Kennedy won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Chaotic brawling to start, which led to Finlay getting airborne. Yes, airborne. He took out six guys by leaping from the top turnbuckle to the floor. Edge tried to capitalize on this, but was cut off at the last second, and went back to staying mostly out of the way while everybody else recovered and traded a few ladder teases (the name of the game early was that if a guy was tossed from the ladder, he'd land on his feet, and smoothly transition into the next spot, which was a nice case of "evolution" versus past years). After Kennedy missed a sentonbomb, Jeff showed him how it was done, and this eventually led to Hardy vs. Hardy for a brief bit, but Edge decided to reintroduce himself to the proceedings at that point, and start spearing the hell out of anything that moved. He rattled off six in a row, but needed a little bit of triple-reversey before he finally nailed CM Punk. Edge went up the ladder, but was up-ended by Orton, and ended up sprawling to the outside, where he became a prop for a Wacky Jeff Hardy Spot: Edge was laid out on a Ladder Platform (it was propped up by the ring and by the barricade), and Jeff came off the top of a ladder that was in the ring and crunched Edge (and the ladder platform) with a leg drop. Ouch. Edge got carted out on a stretcher, and even though my "smart" brain figured he was written out because he's still legitimately injured, my "mark" brain was worried that that spot might have injured him further still. Jeff also became a non-factor after this, though he didn't get stretchered out.
    Minus Edge, the next fun thing to happen was Finlay's midget getting involved in the match a few minutes later, when Finlay was trying to stage a rally, but was too injured to climb the ladder for himself. So L'il Bastard (now known as "Hornswaggle" for reasons that have never been adequately explained) climbed the ladder and tried to help out. Problem was: Kennedy also climbed the ladder, and after a humorous exchange on top of the ladder, hoisted the midget up and hit him with that Rolling Front Slam Thingie (is it still the "Lambeau Leap"?) off the top of the ladder. Pure gold. Then Booker and Matt did a big exchange, where Booker was about to win, but Matt (who apparently has serious Women Issues ever since he got dicked over by Lita) decided to randomly attack Queen Sharmell (who was certainly bringing the Extra Hot tonight), forcing Booker to choose between the Money in the Bank briefcase or his woman. He chose his woman. Both Booker and Matt wound up powdering out shortly thereafter. Punk was next up to try to ascend the ladder, but Kennedy was back in the game by this point, and quickly dispatched Punk and climbed the ladder himself, grabbing the briefcase and winning the match. [I realize that my narrative somehow lost track of what became of Orton. Gee, what a shocker. Even with 8 guys, instead of the customary 6, they still kept this around 16-18 minutes, and if anything, seemed to limit the highspots, other than the insane one that wrote Edge out. Still a few crowd pleasing surprises, like Flyin' Finlay, and the Midget Tossing... and though I was quite keen on Edge getting the win for various reasons, if he was unable to bring it at 100% due to injury, then Kennedy's a damn fine choice to go over, here. Somewhere down the line, he and Taker oughta be money.]
  • Khali defeated Kane. I'm officially never calling him "The Great," anymore. That's such a fucking ridiculous outright lie. This sucked, it didn't belong on a show of this magnitude (hell, I'd fast-forward it on a random Monday night, for that matter), and that's all I gots to say about that.
  • Backstage: Cryme Tyme tried to cheer up Eugene by getting the spastically uncoordinated dancing chicks from ECW to gyrate unsexily for him. Somehow, this turned into Moolah, Mae Young, the Doctor of Style Slick, Sgt. Slaughter, Gerald Brisco, and (oh for the love of christ) Ricky Steamboat all joining in for a retarded dance party. Ron Simmons arrived to add a modicum of tolerable humor by opining, "Damn." I probably would only have been annoyed, except they included Steamboat, which means I am obligated to be deeply offended at what has become of my first-ever favorite wrestler. And I guess when I wrote in the PPV Preview that I was looking forward to "surprising and cool" guest spots by legends, I should have specified that this meant NO MOOLAH AND MAE YOUNG? Christ...
  • Chris Benoit beat MVP to retain the US Title. The story of the match (well, other than "Once upon a time, your bladder felt very very full and tingly, so you left your seat and decided to empty it, and when you came back, this match was over, and everybody lived happily ever after") is that MVP Shocked The World by out-wrestling Benoit in the early stages, even picking about Benoit's arm and shoulder, so that Benoit was unable to apply the Crossface. Nee haw. MVP started to get cocky, however, and Benoit made his comeback. A hat trick of Germans and a flying headbutt later, and MVP was pinned. [To be fair: not awful. MVP did enough to not look entirely outclassed. The problem, however, is that nobody gives a shit, and the way things work, you gain credibility and THEN you get title shots at WM. You don't go trying to convince the fans you belong by sending them scurrying to the restrooms on the biggest show of the year. Competently worked, but utterly pointless and forgettable.]
  • Backstage: Donald Trump was backstage, flanked by the Disgraced Miss USA Who Makes Out With Other Miss USAs And Drinks Alot (in other words, a fun-sounding girl!), and lamenting the lack of catering. So the Boogeyman shows up, and Trump sends Jim Cornette into an apoplectic fit of rage by totally not acting scared, and instead just shaking his head pityingly at Boogey, and telling him it'd be great if he could go fetch the Donald a sammich. Donald offers to pay for said sammich in worms. Ha?
  • Lilian Garcia, who it should be noted is now in possession of an extra 7 Rick Gold Stars (6 for the dress, and a bonus 1 for making it look that damned good with a torn ACL), announces the Official Attendance for WM23 as being just a shade over 80,000. That would, I believe, be the second biggest WWF/E audience ever. Or maybe the biggest, if you're some kind of dickfaced know-it-all who gets his jollies by obsessing over the difference between "paid" and "bodies in the building" at WM3.
  • Howard Finkel announces the members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2007. It pains me to see Mr. Fuji in such tough shape. But how freaking sweet was it when Wade Boggs did the Perfect Gum Swat?
  • Undertaker pinned Batista to win the World Title. Taker topped himself, with something like 2 dozen fire-wielding druids augmenting his ring entrance; always cool. Fans wasted no time getting into the spirit of things, booing everything Batista did, and yaying everything Taker tried. The early back and forth was Batista playing the Power card, and Taker countering with quick strikes and punches. Taker got the better of things, and within the first 5 minutes of the match, was rattling off cool moves like his Ring Apron Leg Drop, as well as the amazing No Hands Plancha.
    Once things spilled outside, they stayed out there for a bit. The two ended up crashing into the time keeper's table (showing an absolutely lack of concern for poor Lilian's safety; fie on both of them!). A little more brawling, and Batista was firmly in control, and started preparing the announce tables... after some re-arranging, he hoisted Taker up and hit a killer running powerslam from the RAW table onto the ECW table. Sweet.
    Batista hauled Taker's carcass back in the ring, but only got a 2 count, signalling the start of an Extended End Game. From this point on, it was nonstop drama, and kicking out of finishers and stuff like that. Taker got both a Last Ride and a Chokeslam in during the next few minutes, but Batista would kick out. Batista (after the initial 2 count), also got near falls with a spinebuster and a Batista Bomb. It was when Batista went for the second Batista Bomb that things finally fell apart, as Taker wormed out, and turned it into a Tombstone.  One, two, three; new champ. Batista leaves without incident, and Taker gets an extended victory celebration with tons of bonus pyro and whatnot. [I did not like the chances of these guys trying to over-extend themselves by doing a 20-plus minute match without some kind of gimmick.... so they didn't. They kept it around 16-18, it never dragged, and they easily surpassed my expectations. It may well have been the best overall match of the night in terms of meshing action with intensity and drama. Good stuff.]
  • Backstage: Stephanie McMahon brings her baby daughter to visit Vince. So Vince proceeds to get all creepy, promising his granddaughter that he'll crush Donald' Trump's skull and make him bleed and yadda yadda yadda. Of course, for all this, they have a convenient (and ultra-tarded) camera angle from inside the baby's carriage. Then the "baby" poops its diaper, and Vince acts all offended. This was funny to precisely one (or maybe two, if Stephanie's as dimwitted as her father) people in the entire universe, and yet somehow, it was permitted to be showcased on the biggest show of the year. Absolutely baffling.
  • The ECW Originals beat the New Breed. RVD, Sabu, Sandman, and Tommy Dreamer enter through the audience to the "Theme from ECW." The New Breed, who are all unremarkable enough to not deserve specific mention (except for Ariel's rump, anyway), entered down the ramp to some generic music. RVD and Sabu tried to do as much crowd-pleasing wackiness of the springboard and double-jump variety as they could do under the unconscionably "non-extreme" rules. Then Dreamer became your Face in Peril. Then a hot tag to RVD. Then a Pier 8 brawl. Then RVD pinned Matt Striker in the chaos, following a Five Star Frog Splash. [At 5 minutes, and pretty much non-stop, certainly nothing offensive. And the finish was a bit of a pleasant surprise. But you're off your nut if you think this is anything that, cosmically speaking, matters, or that you'll be talking about the next day. Also: I have officially decided to be annoyed with Tazz trying to rationalize why he sides with the New Breed. It's not helping them, it's just hurting him.]
  • Bobby Lashley beat Umaga, resulting in Vince McMahon getting his head shaved. In an attempt to remind people that Trump is, for our purposes, a "babyface," they once again dropped money from the ceiling during his ring entrance. Whee. Also: Trump was accompanied by the Disgraced Miss USA, and there were a couple other Pageant Bimbos in the front row. Why? Unless Miss USA and Miss Teen USA were going to lick tequila off each other's boobies and make out like drunken whores, I have no idea. Sadly, this did not happen, and WWE missed out on a golden opportunity to actually do something that people would remember on this show.
    Match starts, and Special Ref Steve Austin tries to show he's Completely Impartial by practically tackling Lashley in order to get a clean break. Lashley takes it in stride, and does not have to be sanctioned again. Umaga, on the other hand, needs to pried off of Lashley several times, with Austin getting increasingly pissy each time. Even with Austin's hands-on officiating, though, Umaga is able to hold the advantage, forcing The Donald to reach deep into his reservoir of Bad Acting Ability to shout "Shake it off, Bobby" incessantly anytime he sees the red light blink on on the camera nearest him.
    Lashley started his comeback, and in so doing, accidentally knocked Vince off the ring apron and to the floor. This caused Shane McMahon to run out to check on his dad, and eventually, Shane got into the ring. Lashley dealt with him, but while that was going on, Umaga just up and blasted Austin with the Samoan Spike. So Austin was out. And the numbers game now favored Umaga. Vince, Estrada, Shane, and Umaga went to town on Lashely, leading up to Shane-O hitting the zany-ass Coast-to_Coast on Lashley. As the heels are admiring their handiwork, however, Trump has decided to change his Bad Acting Catchphrase to "What's going on?", and he decided to charge at Vince, and throw some shitty punches at him. 
    Meantime, Austin recovered, and dispatched Shane. And when he turned around and saw Umaga ready to deliver a second Samoan Spike, he gave Umaga a Stone Cold Stunner. Lashley followed up with a spear, Austin counted three, and just like that, it's all over.
    Vince tried to sacrifice Shane, but was eventually caught and strapped into the barber chair. Trump and Lashley both took joy in shaving Vince down. The mostly-shorn Vince eventually left the ring in shame, leaving Austin to celebrate with Trump and Lashley. Until he noticed Trump wasn't drinking the Delicious and Refreshing Miller Lites Austin was giving him. [Trump was just throwing them aside as soon as Austin turned his back.] So Austin gave Trump the crappiest Stunner in history, and we play his music, and everybody's happy. 
    [If seeing Vince get a haircut was your life's ambition, then this probably scratched you where you itch. Personally, this match and this stip, with this particular choice of equally-unlikable guest star, didn't do a whole lot for me, so I can't go much better than filing this one  under "Mildly Amusing." When you've got the IC Champ, the ECW Champ, the boss of the company, an alleged celebrity you're paying 7 figures, and the one-time top star in the entire industry in one match, and Shane McMahon, in a brief cameo, is still the only one who does anything remotely compelling, there's probably something a little bit off kilter.]
  • Earlier tonight: Carlito and Ric Flair beat Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms in a dark match. But we get a few clips of it here, just so that Carlito can't bitch about being entirely left off the PPV broadcast, I guess.
  • Melina beat Ashley to retain the Women's Title. First, we meet the "Lumberjills," at least two of whom I swear to you I have no idea who they were, and most of whom apparently took WrestleMania as an excuse to go shopping at Frederick's of Hollywood (except for Mickie James, who decided to try valiantly to raise the Threat Level in my pants by simply sporting perilously tight jeans and a black halter top). It's vitally important to note this, as the "Lumberjills" came into play exactly zero times in the whole match, which lasted less than 3 minutes, and was won cleanly by Melina after a sloppy roll-up of some kind. Then AFTER the match, the 'jills leapt into the ring to keep Melina from beating on poor Playboy Girl, and for some reasons, when all was said and done, we played Torrie Wilson's music. Whaaaaa? [To short to offend, but oh sweet christ does its mere presence on the card ever drive one to drink. It's the exact same thing as the Kane/Khali match, just with cleavage. Though the assclowns out there would probably jest that ol' Glen is getting a bit soft and ample around the bosom. If the goal is to have a women's title that means something, please adjust your hiring/firing procedures accordingly to allow for worthwhile matches. And if the goal is to shoehorn as many of your useless dimbulbs onto the show as you can, at least come up with some excuse for them to be half-naked and semi-titillating. This ain't rocket science, monkeys.]
  • John Cena beat Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE Title. So Cena fell WELL short of gaying it up as badly as he did last year with his Stupid Ring Entrance this year. But it was still pretty dumb: really, really bad Hollywood-ized footage of Not Cena driving recklessly around Detroit, until he crashes into Ford Field. Then a pregnant pause so that the Stunt Driver and Cena can switch places, and Cena can pretend that HE's the Bad Driver! YAY! Except: BOO~! Cuz man alive did Detroit ever piss on Homey tonight. 
    Unfortunately, Michaels seemed intent on changing that, as early on (after maybe 2-3 minutes of back-and-forthy with punchs and chops), he sllllloooooooooowwwwwed things down and just worked methodically on Cena's knee, giving the eager crowd little or nothing to cheer for. It felt like this stretched out for about 10 minutes, and given that the crowd was anxious and willing enough to respond to the proper stimuli, it just made it all the more frustrating and anticlimactic that they were sticking to a plan to keep things methodical and bland. Or maybe that was all on purpose: take the crowd OUT of the match, so that millions of PPV viewers aren't subjected to the subversive message that Everybody Hates Cena? I dunno....
    Around the 15 minute mark, Cena started his standard comeback, and things picked up a bit. Wacky tackle, wacky suplex, Five Knuckle Shuffle, somewhere in there, Michaels got a little blood flowing on the forehead (not much, but it wouldn't be an HBK main event without the crimson)... but in the rally, the ref wound up getting kicked in the face. Michaels immediately regained command, and hit pretty much his coolest spot of the night: a sick piledriver onto the ringsteps. Cena came up from that bleeding on the top and back of his head. That'll be a pain in the ass to get sown up, I'm sure.... 
    Michaels took things back into the ring, and a second ref came down, but too late for HBK to get a 3 count after that piledriver. Michaels decided to keep pouring it on with his own Five Moves of Doom. Flying Burrito. Kip up. Macho Man Elbow. Tuned up the Band.... but when he tried to hit the Chin Music, Cena countered with a clothesline (and was treated to a chorus of boos). Michaels then countered out of 2 F-U's, but Cena nailed the third. But after 20 minutes, he was slow making the cover, and Michaels kicked out. Cena tried to follow up with the SSTF, but Michaels escaped, and in so doing, lined up Cena for the Superkick. But again, he was slow to cover, and only got a 2 count for his finisher. 
    Both men up. F-U countered, superkicked ducked, and then some quintuple-reversey, and FINALLY Cena cinches in the SSTF in the middle of the ring. Michaels fights the good fight for about 20 seconds, and then taps out. Oy. After the match, Cena tried to shake Michaels' hand, but Michaels was having none of it. So Cena tried to "show respect" by still giving him a Deeply Meaningful Salute from 20 yards away. Because nothing means more than being saluted by some identity-free tool who wears a lot of olive green because he once played a Marine in some movie that nobody saw!
    [It'd be really hard to be critical of this match, except that a lot of fans -- myself included -- had high expectations. Expectations that only went higher when this match was confirmed as receiving the Main Event Slot. Instead of meeting those expectations, however, this match was 25 minutes long and didn't bother to kick into gear until the 15 minute mark. Whether on purpose or by design, the crowd was taking out of the match's opening 3/5ths, and that's just not a recipe for building a satisfying WrestleMania Climax.]

As the show closed, they had all kinds of lights and confetti for Cena, and Jim Ross tried to sell us on what a great finish to a great night we just saw (but even he didn't sound entirely convinced)... but mostly what I noticed was that 90% of the crowd seemed to be falling all over itself to get out of the building, and wasn't interested in sticking around for Cena's celebration. Another real good sign that either WWE isn't reading its audience well, or that they don't consider the petulant WrestleMania audience to be representative of their overall audience. Ah well...

On the whole? Well, the only time this show came even close to brushing up against bad were two matches that totalled less than 10 minutes between them. Compare that to last year when WM22 had one span of nearly an hour (Taker/Henry, Booker/Boogey, and Mickie James' fingering her way to victory over Trish) that either disappointed or outright sucked.... but also compare WM23's complete dearth of memorable moments to last year's killer MitB match, Edge/Foley's Match of the Year, and a generally satisfying main event.

To me, you might make the case that WM23 was a middling to above-average type of show... but you'll have a hard time convincing me that this is a WrestleMania as defined by the WrestleManias that have come before it. Well, unless you're going by the WrestleMania 13 definition. And hell, maybe they were: an audience the size of 20 years ago, a show as memorable as 10 years ago. Viva la nostalgia?

More thoughts/fall-out/etc. in an upcoming OO column. Till then: RAW live in Dayton tomorrow night (complete with a promise from Mick Foley to deliver a Shocking Announcement). See you soon, kids...


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