The original plan for Wrestlemania 23 was a Triple H vs. John Cena main event. Why? I don’t know. I mean, if you look at the grand scheme of things, these two were the biggest stars in the company at the time, so I suppose a rematch is in order. But at the time, I just wasn’t feeling it. I had seen it the previous year, it was acceptable, but nothing more. It definately didn’t feel like that it was a memorable Wrestlemania feud.
Then fate set in. Not that I wished Triple H would be seriously injured or anything, but I truly think that everything ended up working out for the better when Triple H tore his quad, putting him out for eight months in January. I know that’s a cruel thing to say, and I’m glad he recovered quickly enough, but the fact of the matter is that Shawn Micheals stepped in and challenged John Cena for the WWE championship. It was a fresh match, something new, and it seemed to be a way better match than Triple H and John Cena going at it again. With WrestleMania, I wanted to see fresh, new matchups and this fit the bill.
Another fresh and new match was Donald Trump vs Vince McMahon. Realizing that perhaps the best way to generate buys was to bring in a big celebrity, Vince did just that by challenging Donald Trump to a hair vs hair match. Trump, who was a big star on TV at the time with The Apprentice, accepted the challenge and the match was set. Of course, the two wouldn’t actually be wrestling. They elected two people to take their place. Bobby Lashley, who Vince McMahon called up the minute he saw him, would represent Donald Trump. Umaga, who was on a highly successful run at the time, would represent Vince McMahon. Of course, they were complete non entities in the promotion of the match, but I guess the real draw was that Vince McMahon and Donald Trump, who had the same hairstyles dating back to the eighties, maybe even more. A compelling stipulation, obviously!
The tagline for this show is “All Grown Up”.
They show the opening from Wrestlemania 3, then pan over Ford Field in Detroit as Vince McMahon introduces Miss Aretha Franklin, who performs America the Beautiful.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Participants this year are a returning Jeff Hardy, KING Booker, Finlay, CM Punk, Mr. Kennedy, Matt Hardy, Randy Orton and Edge. Everyone jumped one another at the bell. People kept climbing, and people kept shoving each other off. Booker gets out a step ladder (?) and Punk takes it and starts using it, only for Edge to get it and throw it directly at his face. Say it with me now…FUN! Edge takes Matt Hardy and suplexes him into two ladders, smashing one in the process. Kennedy grabs Matt and puts him on the ladder but misses the Kenton and lands right on his head, that’s gotta smart. Edge comes back in and spears everyone but CM Punk dodges and grabs a ladder, putting it on his head as he continues to use it as a weapon. He climbs a ladder, but Orton comes in and shoves off Edge, causing him to fall all the way to the floor. Jeff comes in and starts to climb as Matt Hardy puts Edge on another ladder on the outside of the ring. Jeff climbs, sees Edge, and can’t help but do a huge legdrop from the top rope to the floor. The only thing I could think of after seeing this was “yowzas”, and I don’t even know why. I guess that best describes what just happened! Orton comes in and RKOs everyone. He and CM Punk climb, but then Orton RKOs him, sending them both down. Finlay, busted open, takes down Matt and lays him out with the celtic cross on top of a ladder. Hornswoggle comes out and tries to climb the ladder, but Kennedy climbs up. Hornswoggle tries to attack him but Kennedy grabs him and hits the senton. Punk dropkicks the ladder sending him out as Punk climbs, but Kennedy follows suit. Punk knocks him off, but Kennedy rebounds with a ladder that hits Punk flush in the face, sending him out as Kennedy climbs again and grabs the briefcase. Great spotfest of a match. It’s fascinating that Kennedy had so many opportunities to win a world title, but the timing never panned out for him. ****1/4
They showed footage from the world premiere of the Condemned. That movie always looked like a fun popcorn flick. All the superstars loved it, obviously, and made sure to tell you, the viewer, to go watch it.
Mr. Kennedy is interviewed. He says nice guys finish last, so thank God he’s not a nice guy. Amazing he got so many opportunities to become champion, but something always came up or just never materialized.
Kane vs. The Great Khali: This is an actual Wrestlemania match. Seriously. Wow did Khali look like he can barely move. And to think he got worse as time moved on. And also another thing to think about, he lasted EIGHT YEARS with this promotion wrestling like that. Their fascination with big people will never not amaze me. Speaking of thanking God, I’d like to thank him (or her!) for developmental being completely revamped over the last couple of years. Kane cuts him off and clotheslines him into the ropes where his arms are tied up in a classic Andre the Giant type spot. Kane brings in a chained hook (?) but Khali jumps him. Khali undoes a turnbuckle while Kane takes his chain and low blows Khali. He bodyslams him which the commentators sell big time (since this is the first time he’s ever been bodyslammed) but Khali quickly kicks out. Kane goes for a chokeslam, but Khali promptly cuts him off and hits the tree slam for the win. They were giving Khali the hard push so it makes sense, though in hindsight it was all pretty much for nothing. 1/2*
Khali then chokes out Kane with the chained hook for good measure.
Eugene is in the back with Cryme Time looking sad, having his hair cut the previous week by the evil Vince McMahon. Shad says don’t worry, we got something for you. Extreme Expose (Brooke, Kelly Kelly and Layla) were randomly in a hallway and started dancing. Mae Young, the Fabulous Moolah, THE DOCTOR OF STYLE SLICK, Dusty Rhodes, Pat Patterson, Jimmy Hart, Sgt. Slaughter, Gerald Briscoe, IRS, Howard Finkel, Gene Okerlund, and even Ricky Steamboat joined in on the activities. This was all set up for Ron Simmons to come in and say DAMN. Then they just dance anyway.
United States Championship: Chris Benoit (c) vs. MVP: They start off with some chain wrestling, with MVP avoiding the German and sends him out to the floor after a crossface attempt. Benoit comes back and takes him over to the top rope but MVP cuts him off my taking the arm and smashing it against the ring rope. Benoit comes back and hits the triple German suplexes then goes to the top but MVP comes back and hits a huge superplex, but Benoit hooks MVP’s leg on impact for a nearfall. That was a really cool spot. MVP posts him. I should note JBL is on commentary here and sounds perfectly fine, so that tells me something about today’s overly produced commentary as to the commentary from eight years ago. MVP misses a boot in the corner that leads to more Germans by Benoit then launches off with a headbutt, connecting to win the match and retain the title. Technically there was nothing wrong with this match, but it just felt like it never went the next level that it needed to be in order to be a great match. Good, but not really good. ***1/4
There was a dumb skit where Donald Trump and a random Miss USA contestant were sitting around when Boogeyman showed up, scaring the Miss USA contestant away. Donald then told him to go make him a sandwich. He obliged. Then mini boogeyman showed up, acted goofy, then left. About as dumb as it sounds.
Hall of Fame vignette. Inducted this year are the Wild Samoans, Mr. Perfect, Jerry Lawler (who used his hall of fame speech to talk about, of all things, Viagra), Jim Ross, Nick Bockwinkel, The Sheik, Curt Hennig, Mr. Fuji, and Dusty Rhodes were all inducted. Howard Finkel introduced them and various family members.
80,103 people attended Wrestlemania 23. Allegedly.
World Heavyweight Championship: Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker: Teddy Long came out and introduced Batista, who came out first because you know, Undertakers elaborate entrance. And indeed, he got a big one with a bunch of druids. Batista jumps him immediately at the bell as he beats him up around the ring. Undertaker comes back with his own offense, including a legdrop off the apron and the usual big tope suicida that looks super scary every time he hits it. Batista comes back and beats him up on the outside. He goes to the announce tables and hits a running powerslam, sending Undertaker straight through the announce table. Crowd is booing him as they’re completely behind Undertaker. Batista mounts him in the corner but Undertaker hits the last ride for a nearfall. You would think people would know better by know. Another one of those “if this were real” moments. Batista comes back with the Batista bomb but Undertaker kicks out. In disbelief, he goes for something else, but Undertaker shoves him into the corner, hits the tombstone and pins Batista to win the championship. Great, heated match that far exceeded anyones (including mine) expectations at the time. ****
Insane Vince McMahon skit time. Stephanie came in and brought in a baby carriage. Vince McMahon talked to the baby, which was actually a camera, saying that he was going to crush Donald Trump’s skull. I thought Lashley and Umaga were fighting here. Vince McMahon then smelled something, and the punchline for this skit ended up being “she just took a trump”. Yep, this is a Vince McMahon skit alright.
ECW Originals (Sandman, Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer) vs. The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, Matt Striker and Marcus Cor Von): Geez, get a load of that latter stable. None of them went anywhere following this match, honestly, aside from maybe Striker if you want to count his managing and announcing gigs. Monty Brown seemed prime for a big run in TNA, but that never materialized, and here he really showed nothing, just kind of vanished. Burke had a ton of potential, but WWE never utilized him that much, then TNA had something in him but then, well, it’s TNA, so you know where he ended up (nowhere). Kevin Thorn sucked, and not because he was a vampire. Oh right, the match. Everyone was in there long enough to get some spots in. RVD takes out Striker, but Cor Von takes him out to the floor. Everyone does some more spots, including Dreamer hitting a DDT on Striker, then Rob Van Dam comes back and hits a frog splash on Striker to end it. Short, but not bad. **3/4
BATTLE OF THE BILLIONAIRES, HAIR VERSUS HAIR. DONALD TRUMP VERSUS VINCE MCMAHON. Featuring Bobby Lashley and Umaga as the wrestlers who are in fact wrestling for them: Ok, I know the real big story is Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. I’m not going to deny that, and of course it should be a big deal. But almost two hours in, I’m pretty sure Umaga’s name wasn’t mentioned until the vignette. The barber’s chair came out first and GOT MUSIC. That was awesome. Armando Estrada came out as Umaga’s manager. He was great, but once this angle came around he became rather useless and never really went anywhere after it, unless you want to count that ECW run. Legit 100 dollar bills fell from the ceiling. Ok, this was more amazing than I remembered it being. As for the actual match, well, Lashley starts off hot early. Armando tries to interfere, but Lashley powerslams him and sends him reeling. Lashley sidesteps Umaga as he falls out of the ring and takes a flat back bump to the floor, banging his head along the way. FUN!!! Umaga soon does the same thing, sidestepping Lashley as he suicide dives to the floor. Umaga kept beating up Lashley but Steve Austin, the guest referee for the match, pulled him out from Lashley with the hair. Umaga kept on the offense as Vince McMahon leaped to the apron for some reason. Lashley is whipped into the ropes and takes him off. They tease a double countout spot, but Austin refused, wanting to see someone’s head shaved. Meanwhile, Shane arrives. Austin grabs Umaga after refusing to let go in the corner and as Shane distracts Austin, he ends up walking into the samoan strike that sends him reeling out to the floor. Shane comes up and starts laying it into Lashley as he takes a trash can given to him by his father and gives him the coast to coast dropkick, reminiscent of his Wrestlemania 17 match. Umaga with a big splash but as Shane is counting Austin comes back and takes him out, introducing him to the steel steps. Austin is taken out again as Vince berates him, but suddenly Donald Trump comes in out of nowhere and takes out Vince to a big pop. Umaga looks to finish off Austin but he comes back with a stunner, Lashley hits the spear and pins Umaga, winning the match for Donald Trump. Like with any McMahon match at Wrestlemania, it’s overbooked but fun. ***1/4
Vince tries to escape after the match, but Austin grabs him and throws him back into the ring. As Vince is cornered, Shane emerges and jumps Austin, but Austin lays out Shane with the stunner. He tries to squirm away again, smiling and waving, but Lashley SPRINTS and grabs Vince as he’s carried to the ring. He runs into Austin, who stuns him, he’s strapped on, and sure enough, was shaved bald. Vince sold this like he was being tortured, crying and squirming as his hair was removed. Lashley unstraps him, shows him his new ‘do, then Austin tilts his chair over as Vince McMahon leaves a broken mess. Austin, Lashley and Trump celebrate with beers, then Austin gives Trump one of the worst stunners of all time (possibly even more worse than the one Linda took) as Austin celebrates.
They showed clips from the pre-show match, which was a tag team lumberjack match with Ric Flair and Carlito defeating Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero. I have zero recollection of this. And why would anyone remember it, to be frank? Carlito defeated Chavo with the backstabber.
Playboy Lumberjill Match for Women’s Title: Melina (c) vs. Ashley: Short and not very good. Ashley looked green, as if that were a surprise. Melina was on offense to start, but Ashley cut her off. Missed an elbow, went for a rollup, but Melina countered it and bridged her for the win. DUD
Ashley, a sore loser, attacked Melina after the match, and eventually all the face divas ran in and drove all the heels away.
WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels: Michaels had an entrance with fancy pyro. Cena opted to come out by driving around Detroit in a Mustang, eventually arriving to Ford Field and inside the arena. Shawn wants a handshake, but Cena opts not to, mentioning how Shawn had superkicked him in the past. Cena, of course, was booed over Shawn Michaels. Some mat wrestling follows that, with Cena eventually getting the better. Shawn comes back and takes it to the outside with a HUGE moonsault that takes out John Cena. Shawn clubs Cena’s knee and works it over, wrapping it around a steel post. Cena comes back with a big punch and starts a comeback. Somewhere Shawn gets busted open. Cena tries the FU but Shawn escapes and tries a superkick, but hits the referee instead. Another FU attempt but Shawn turns it into a DDT. He takes Cena to the outside and PILEDRIVES Cena on top of some steel steps, the back of his head busted open, but still kicks out after two. He goes for the superkick but Cena blasts him with a clothesline instead. After some more back and forth, Cena hits the FU to boos but Shawn kicks out. Cena tries an FU off the top rope, but Shawn fights out of it. He misses another FU attempt, gets to his feet and tries a superkick but Cena takes him down and tries for the STF. After several awesome transitions Shawn gets caught, but manages to get to the ropes. Cena argues with the ref long enough to become distracted when Shawn blasts him with the superkick, but still only gets the nearfall. They both get up, but Cena traps him in the STF again. With no other choice, Shawn taps out What a friggin tremendous match. Just zero doubt that in terms of in ring ability and telling a story in a match, Shawn Michaels is one of the best of all time. ****1/2
Cena tries to grab Shawn after the match to shake hands, but Michaels shrugs him off. Cena gets the huge pyro and ticker tape as he celebrates, the show going off the air.
Final Thoughts: A pretty good show overall. It was nice to see Wrestlemania go back to stadiums, and they had plenty of great matches to make it feel like a big event. The hair match was a spectacle, the Money in the Bank and World title matches were great and the main event was awesome. Definitely a favorite Wrestlemania in my book.