TEN YEARS AFTER: WWE WrestleMania 23

WWE: WrestleMania 23
April 1, 2007
Detroit, MI
Ford Field

The current WWE champions are as follows:
WWE Champion: John Cena (9/17/2006)
WWE Intercontinental Champion: Umaga (2/19/2007)
World Tag Team Champions: John Cena & Shawn Michaels (1/29/2007)
WWE Women’s Champion: Melina (2/19/2007)
ECW World Champion: Bobby Lashley (12/3/2006)
World Heavyweight Champion: Batista (11/26/2006)
WWE United States Champion: Chris Benoit (10/13/2006)
WWE Tag Team Champions: Paul London & Brian Kendrick (5/21/2006)
WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Chavo Guerrero (2/18/2007)

From the Figure Four Weekly dated April 9, 2007:

Between pay-per-view revenue, live attendance and merchandise, this show should gross in the neighborhood of $46 million. WWE claimed 80,103 fans from 24 countries paid $5.38 million to attend. The gate is legit and it is a new company record. I cannot confirm the attendance, but they had sold all 70,000 available tickets in the weeks before the show and more were released in the final seven days. I believe the building was set up for 75,000, but they were also selling SRO (standing-room only) tickets, so that number may be legit. It likely broke the attendance set at WrestleMania III of 78,000 fans, which the company inflated to 93,173 and has since become part of legend. The most-attended WWE show in history remains the 1992 SummerSlam at Wembley Stadium, which drew 80,355. The biggest gate in wrestling history remains the Antonio Inoki retirement show in 1998 which made over $7 million at the Tokyo Dome. WrestleMania XXIII will likely do around $1 million in merchandise, and the expected 740,000 domestic buys would net the company $22 million. It should be noted that it still falls below the December 30, 2006 Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz fight both in the gate ($5.4 million, which is actually fantastically impressive because that show only drew 1/6 the attendance) and the domestic buyrate (1.05 million buys). Worldwide, WWE should pull in 1.2 million buys.

They replay Vince McMahon’s introduction of Aretha Franklin from WrestleMania 3 as she returns to sing the National Anthem.

Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & JBL, and Joey Styles & Tazz.

  • Money in the Bank Match: Mr. Kennedy vs. Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. King Booker (w/Queen Sharmell) vs. CM Punk vs. Finlay vs. Randy Orton

Finlay starts the match off with a bang as everybody fights to the floor except him. He dives off the top onto all seven men. Booker pulls out a Hornswoggle ladder from underneath the ring. TELL ME HE DIDN’T JUST SEE THAT. Edge sets up the ladder scaffold, which will eventually lead him closer to his demise. Meanwhile, the Hardyz break up a SPINAROONIE by jumping King Booker with ladders. Eventually, Edge starts spearing everybody – except CM Punk. He goes all Terry Funk with the ladder, but takes a SPEAR anyway that knocks down Orton and Finlay. Orton dumps Edge off a 20-foot ladder to the floor. Jeff wipes out Randy with a front suplex while Matt sets Edge up on the ladder scaffold. Oh man, here comes Jeff as he flies off the 20 foot ladder and LEGDROPS EDGE THROUGH THE LADDER! I bet he immediately regrets that decision. Well, now we’re down to six people. Both men end up doing stretcher jobs. Two ladders are set up to do moves off of for a little bit. Booker about reaches the briefcase when Matt threatens to drop Sharmell with the Twist of Fate. WHOA. So Booker comes down and takes the Twist of Fate. HA! Finlay comes over and gives Matt the CELTIC CROSS ON A LADDER! That’s pretty nasty. Hornswoggle comes out to climb the ladder for his daddy when Kennedy stops him and delivers a GREEN BAY PLUNGE TO THE MAT BELOWWWWW! Pretty awesome. It comes down to Punk vs. Kennedy on the ladder. Punk kicks him off, but Kennedy jabs him in the face with a ladder and makes the easy climb up to the briefcase for the win. (19:10) I was really hoping Kennedy would clear the ring and treat the briefcase like they do for his entrance by lowering it down to him as though it were the mic, but that didn’t actually happen. As history tells the story, the injury prone Mr. Kennedy (…KENNEDY) would prevent himself from actually cashing in the briefcase when he tore his right tricep muscle in May. ****

In the back, Kennedy congratulates himself on his win. He warns the champs that he’s coming for them.

  • Kane vs. The Great Khali

This was as bad as you’d expect. I was actually kind of looking forward to this because I thought they’d both be no-selling all over the place and have to escalate their offense to beat the other guy. Instead, it’s all based around Kane fighting from underneath, which is ridiculous enough as it is, but when you add Khali’s plodding offense, it gets horribly tedious. When Khali gets tied up in the ropes like Andre the Giant, Kane grabs his hook. Khali yanks the turnbuckle pad off but gets crotched with the chain. That allows Kane to slam him for the first time, prompting Ross to scream, “Shades of WrestleMania III.” Sure. Kane tries a CHOKESLAM, but Khali is able to TREE SLAM Kane instead for the win. (5:30) Afterwards, Khali uses Kane’s own chain to choke him out. At least as bad as Kane vs. Fake Kane from 2006. CRAP

In the back, Cryme Tyme tries to cheer up Eugene with a dance by Extreme Expose, but it turns into a big cameofest with Dusty Rhodes, Sgt. Slaughter, Gerald Brisco, Jimmy Hart, the One Man Gang, Slick, the Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, and several others all joining in the house party. I almost spit my lemonade out when I saw Irwin R. Schyster getting down with his bad self, but then they one-upped it with Ricky Steamboat busting a move. Of course, Ron Simmons stopped by for a DAMN. This was SURREAL.

  • WWE U.S. Championship: Chris Benoit (c) vs. MVP

MVP gets a cool entrance with cheerleaders lining the aisle. Benoit goes for the Crippler Crossface early and gets tossed to the floor. MVP goes hold-for-hold with Benoit early which shocks the announcers. MVP reminds me of the Rock in 1998 in terms of in-ring talent if not charisma. MVP blocks a superplex and snaps Benoit’s arm off the top rope to take over. He works Benoit’s shoulder, but misses a roundhouse kick and takes the Hat Trick of Germans. MVP superplexes Benoit, but Chris works in the Dynamite Kid counter to a small package for two. MVP goes back to the shoulder ramming Benoit into the post. Benoit goes for the Crippler Crossface but can’t get it on because of the bad shoulder. The BALLIN’ Elbow gets two, but Benoit avoids a Helluva Kick and hits another Hat Trick of Germans. That sets up the SWANDIVE HEADBUTT for the win. (9:15) Just a test drive to see if he could hang with someone like Benoit before they pull the trigger on a push. **¾

In the back, Donald Trump and Miss USA Tara Connor find themselves stalked by the Boogeyman. Trump isn’t interested and asks him to get him some food. Now *that’s* a president. He’ll stand up to ISIS, Putin, and the BOOGEYMAN.

Highlights of the Hall of Fame ceremony. The Class of 2007 consists of the Wild Samoans Afa and Sika, the Sheik, Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, Mr. Perfect, Jerry Lawler, and Dusty Rhodes.

WrestleMania XXIII shatters the Ford Field attendance record at 80,103.

  • World Heavyweight Championship: Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker

Champ enters first, but I’m just assuming that’s because one of the druids had to pee or something. Batista goes right after Taker with a spear to start to prove how not intimidated he is by UT. The crowd is most definitely PRO-Undertaker here. They go to the floor where Batista is still in control. Taker gets sent knees first into the steps. Back in, Batista delivers a flying shoulderblock for two. UT wins a slugfest and splashes Batista in the corner. Snake Eyes leads to the Big Boot. Legdrop gets two. He hits Old School and calls for the CHOKESLAM, but Batista powers out of the grip! Crowd turns on that. Taker hits the legdrop on the apron and delivers the yearly WRESTLEMANIA NO HANDS PLANCHA onto Batista! They brawl over to the announce table where Batista gives UT a powerslam from one table through the other! Back in, Batista covers for 1-2-NO! UT stops the DEMON BOMB, but gets pulled into a belly to belly suplex for two. Batista mounts Taker in the corner, which leads to the LAST RIDE as usual. Cover, 1-2-NO! Batista hits the Spinebuster and goes for the kill, but doesn’t see Taker sit up. CHOKESLAM to Batista! Cover, 1-2-NO! Taker calls for the end, but Batista slips out of the TOMBSTONE and catches Taker with the Spear. DEMON BOMB! Cover, 1-2-NO! Batista wants another, but UT backdrops out. Looks like Batista wants a TOMBSTONE, but Taker shoves him away and hits a TOMBSTONE of his own for 1-2-3! (15:48) Well, Undertaker made Batista look good. The man didn’t seem all that confident, but they still pumped out a heck of a match. Much like Undertaker’s matches with HBK at WrestleMania, it’s impossible to make a person feel the suspense being created in repeated viewings. Watching this live was pretty awesome, but watching this a second time doesn’t benefit the rating as it does for some matches. ***¼

In the back, Stephanie McMahon brings her daughter by to wish Vince good luck. Thankfully, someone strapped a camera to the baby’s head so we get a baby’s-eye view as Vince goes nuts. And, of course, no WWE skit would be complete without a poop joke.

  • The Sandman, Rob Van Dam, Sabu & Tommy Dreamer vs. Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von & Kevin Thorn (w/Ariel)

Striker jumps Sabu during his pose, so Sabu hits a couple springboard leg lariats. Cor Von knees Dreamer from the outside to give the New Breed the advantage. Dreamer plays face-in-peril for a while. Nothing very interesting happens until Dreamer hits that neckbreaker/DDT spot on two guys and makes the hot tag to Van Dam. Van Dam hits a flying kick on Thorn and squashes Striker with Rolling Thunder. Everyone gets knocked to the floor allowing Van Dam to hit Striker with the FIVE-STAR FROG SPLASH for the three-count. (6:27) They just kind of went through the motions. Not sure why they didn’t put the New Breed over here. **

  • Hair Match with Stone Cold Steve Austin as Special Referee: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Mr. McMahon & Armando Alejandro Estrada)

Despite both guys being champions, no titles are on the line here. Slugfest to start, and Austin has to assert his authority. Estrada saves Umaga by putting his foot on the rope, so Lashley hauls Estrada in and tosses him over the top. Umaga misses a charge and falls all the way to the floor — without breaking his fall on the ropes! Lashley tries his own and misses nearly splatting on the floor as badly as Umaga did. Lashley runs right into a Samoan Drop and then collapses under a bodyslam attempt. Vince gets knocked to the floor, allowing Umaga to hit Lashley with the Flatliner. He goes up, but Lashley catches him and slams him off. Both guys are out, but Austin refuses to count them down. Shane McMahon runs down as Umaga takes Austin out with the SAMOAN SPIKE. Umaga hits Lashley with the buttalanche setting up the COAST TO COAST from Shane. Now Shane replaces Austin as the referee as Umaga splashes Lashley for 1-2-NO! Austin recovers and pulls Shane out to the floor! Umaga hits another SAMOAN SPIKE on Austin and Vince talks trash. The 45th POTUS has had enough! The Donald keeps his pimp hand strong as he tackles Vince and hits him with the weakest punches on this show. Austin ducks another SAMOAN SPIKE and hits the STONE COLD STUNNER on Umaga. As he staggers around, Lashley hits him with the SPEAR for the win. (13:03) Vince tries to escape, but Lashley runs him down and carries him back to the ring. Yep, Vince gets his head shaved and hams it up for the camera. Austin gives Trump a STONE COLD STUNNER for fun. Linda McMahon can now feel good about the way she takes the Stone Cold Stunner now. Not much of a match, but this was a good place to do heavy booking, and that’s where the entertainment comes from. **¾

  • Lumberjill Match for the WWE Women’s Championship: Melina vs. Ashley

The lumberjills include: Mickie James, Layla, Jillian Hall, Candice Michelle, Kelly Kelly, Trinity, Torrie Wilson, Brooke, Kristal Marshall, Michelle McCool, Maria, and Victoria. Melina walks to the ring with her title belt held high. I wish she had walked around the ring showing it off to all the other Divas who aren’t the champion for a real bitch move. Ashley pummels Melina early forcing Melina to bail. Back in, Ashley boot chokes her in the corner to show off how bendy she is, so Melina just kicks her leg out from under her leg and takes over. Melina with the big swing for two. She stretches Ashley with a surfboard. I’m convinced they just come up with spots to show off their crotches and boobs. Not that I’m complaining. Ashley monkey flips her but misses the diving elbow. Ashley gets an O’Connor Roll, but Melina reverses and gets three. (3:13) Man, Ashley is bad at this. For some reason, she attacks Melina afterwards and that triggers a giant brawl with all the other Divas to end this charade. ¼*

  • WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels

Cena crashes through glass with a 2007 Ford Mustang for his entrance. A shirtless fan hops in the ring before we can get this thing started. Shawn gets the better of the opening staredown by slapping Cena across the face and chopping him down before giving him the crotch chop. Michaels again upstages Cena in a slugfest as Cena retreats to the corner. Cena gets caught in a headlock for a bit, but fights out and gives Shawn his receipt with a hard clothesline. To the floor we go, Michaels enziguri kicks Cena to the announce table and punishes him with an Asai Moonsault, bending Cena’s back with the impact. Back in, HBK dishes out some chops and then goes for the knee. He even posts the knee cap instead of the inside of the knee like you normally would see. Michaels stomps and torques the knee for a good five minutes, but then misses a corner charge and runs his face into the post to get busted open. That mounts Cena’s comeback as he hits clotheslines, shoulderblocks, and the Protobomb to set up the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Shawn slips out of the FU and tries Sweet Chin Music, but KO’s ref Chioda. FU gets countered to a DDT! Both men are down. Shawn now sees his own blood from his head in his hands and gets fired up. NOBODY MAKES SHAWN BLEED HIS OWN BLOOD! NOBODY! Back to the floor, Michaels tears off the top steps and gives Cena a nasty piledriver on the base! Cena even blades his scalp! Awesome. Back inside, ref Jack Doan runs down and counts 1-2-NO! Flying Forearm, Flying Elbow, and now Shawn “tunes up the band”. Cena shuts that down with a clothesline. We get a YAY-BOO slugfest. FU is countered to a sunset flip for two. Shawn chops him back and they run the ropes, but Shawn leapfrogs into the FU! Slow cover gets 1-2-NO! They go to the top rope where Cena wants a SUPER FU, but Michaels elbows him down. He leaps from the top for a flying bodypress, but Cena rolls through and hoists Michaels up on his shoulders for the FU! Oh, but Michaels lands on his feet! Cena ducks Sweet Chin Music and looks for the STFU, but Michaels does his best to fight him off and inside cradles Cena for 1-2-NO! Boy, that was beautiful. Cena gets the STFU anyway and Shawn makes the ropes. Ref Doan has to pull Cena off HBK, which is all the distraction Shawn needs to deliver SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Michaels crawls to cover for 1-2-NO! They stand up using each other to get to their feet. Michaels again avoids the FU, but Cena puts him right into the STFU for the tapout! (28:20) I remembered watching it live and hating it as most people seemed to at the time. The thing with Cena not really selling the knee after five minutes of work and continuing on as nothing ever happened bothered me more back then than it does now. I guess I’ve mellowed because what came after the knee work is when it really picked up. Maybe they thought it wasn’t working and changed plans. I don’t really know the whole story. I’m not Dave Meltzer. I do know that Shawn wasn’t happy with the way it turned out, which led to their even better match on Raw. Since the general consensus was that most of their incredible amount of PPV buys came from having the Donald on their show, they didn’t feel too bad about giving a rematch of the main event for free three weeks after this one. ****

Final Thoughts: It delivered exactly what it promised here. There’s some really good matches here, but also some real stinkers, too. Everything you see on the WM 23 poster is worth a look – the Money in the Bank match is worth a look as well, but everything else is pretty much forgettable. Overall, I would still say it was an enjoyable show and worth checking out. Even with a couple crappers on here, I’m giving WrestleMania 23 a slight thumbs up.

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