It’s that time of the year again as World Wrestling Entertainment present their biggest show of the year in front of 80,000-plus fans at Ford Field in Detroit. Yep, it’s the twenty-third instalment of Wrestlemania.
After Aretha Franklin belts out America the Beautiful, it’s on to the action, beginning with the Money in the Bank ladder match featuring Jeff Hardy, King Booker, Finlay, C.M. Punk, Mr. Kennedy, Matt Hardy, Randy Orton & Edge. While I was surprised that this was the first match on the show, I must say it was a pleasant surprise. After the previous two MITB matches, this one had a hell of a lot to live up to - and it delivered. Plenty of great action and high spots, with Jeff Hardy providing the highlight of the night by jumping off a ladder and coming right down in Edge as he lay on another ladder that was perched between the ring and the guard rail. It was quite sickening as the ladder broke underneath the former champion. That wasn’t the only high spot, but there were really too many to note here. The end came when Kennedy took Punk to climb the ladder and claim the briefcase.
After taking a look at Austin’s new movie, Todd Grisham interviews Mr. “Money in the Bank” Kennedy, who sends out a warning to each and every champion in WWE.
Then came what looked like it could be a stinker on paper, as Kane takes on the Great Khali. You know what? This one wasn’t actually that bad. Okay, Khali did look somewhat limited at times, but if you take this match for what it was meant to be, it wasn’t the stinker it was billed to be. Looking like King Kong v Godzilla, the two monsters basically beat the hell out of each other, with Khali getting the win after his two-handed choke bomb.
Backstage, Crime Tyme try to cheer up the now bald Eugene, and..well, basically, tons of others turn up, and there’s tons of dancing. Let’s not forget an appearance from the immortal doctor of style himself, Slick.
Back in the arena, it’s the first title match of the evening as MVP challenges Chris Benoit for the U.S. title. Up until now I’ve never really been a fan of MVP, but he really impressed me in this match as he was able to go toe-to-toe with Benoit, keeping up with the technical master that is Benoit. But despite dominating the majority of the match, it wasn’t enough to win the title as the champion retained after a flying head butt from the top rope.
Backstage, Donald Trump is on his phone complaining about the lack of service and wotnot, until the Boogeyman makes an appearance. The Donald cuts a deal with the weirdo, offering worms in exchange for a sandwich. We then take a look at the highlights of the Hall of Fame ceremony, before the Class of 2007 make an appearance in the arena.
The first half of the main event follows, as Batista defends his World Heavyweight title against the Undertaker. Nice touch having Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long as guest ring announcer, and, of course, we get the usual grand entrance from the dead man. For more this looked like the weakest of the two main events, but my thinking here proved to be wrong as both wrestlers put on a hell of a match. This was the best performance I’ve seen from the Undertaker in ages, and Batista rose to the occasion of facing a man of the calibre of the dead man, and while this won’t go down as a technical classic, this will go down as a great match, with great action from start to finish, with the crowd clearly behind the Undertaker throughout. After what seemed like an age of great action, the Undertaker kicked out of the pin after the Batista Bomb, then soon took the Animal out with his patented Tombstone to get the pin and the title, bringing a great match to a close, and if this one isn’t on any match of the year lists at the end of 2007, I’ll be very surprised.
Backstage, Vince McMahon is visited by his daughter Stephanie and his grand-daughter. Vince proceeds to tell the young child just what he’s going to do to Donald Trump, much to the annoyance of Stephanie. The skit ends when it appears the young girl has filled her nappy, or in Vince’s words “she just took a trump!”
Back in the arena, the ECW Originals, Sabu, the Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam face off against the New Breed, Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Stryker and Kevin Thorn. Sadly, this is the only tag-team match on the show, which for me is a great shame. An okay match, nothing really spectacular in this one, as each man did their bit to make this entertaining, with RVD getting the pin on Stryker following a five-star frog splash.
Time to take a trip to the barber shop next with the Battle of the Billionaires, as Donald Trump’s Bobby Lashley takes on Vince McMahon’s Umaga, with Steve Austin as the special referee. An absolute ton of great drama in this one. Lashley and Umaga literally beat the crap out of each other, Austin takes two Samoan Spikes, Shane McMahon tried to screw Lashley by first taking him out with a Van Daminator into a rubbish bin, and then by becoming the replacement referee. When Austin finally returns to action, he takes out Umaga with the Stunner while the Donald attacks McMahon. Seconds later, Lashley takes Umaga down with a spear, and gets the winning pin. Then came the after-match antics. Shane tries to attack Austin, only to get his ass whipped again, while McMahon tried to leave the arena, and it isn’t long before he’s sitting in the barber’s chair getting shaved bald. And then Austin rounds things off by giving the Donald a Stone Cold Stunner.
On to the Lumberjill match, as Melina defends her Women’s title against Playboy cover girl Ashley Massaro. Not really much to write home about here. Ashley showed once again that perhaps she’s still not ready to be put in a match like this, Melina got the pin with a roll-up and a bridge, and afterwards the Divas ended up fighting in the ring. Definitely the weakest part of the show.
Main event time (for the second time), as Shawn Michaels challenges John Cena for the WWE title. It seems that everyone was expecting a fast-paced match from the start, but what we got was a slow-paced encounter worthy of the main event spot. Cena and Michaels put in great performances here, with Michaels controlling the early part, Cena fighting back well, the original referee getting knocked out with a super-kick, followed by back-and-forth action between the two wrestlers in a match where it looked like nobody wanted to lose. It certainly was gripping to watch, but sadly, there had to be a winner, and after an eternity of great action, Cena finally got the win, with Michaels tapping out to Cena’s second STFU attempt. Without a doubt this is the best match I’ve ever seen from Cena, and even though most of the crowd were firmly against him, perhaps now people will realise that he is the real deal.
In conclusion - once again the WWE delivered with their biggest show of the year. Wrestlemania 23 promised much and, for the most part, delivered on each and every one of those promises. Good-to-great matches from top to bottom topped off with the classic confrontation between Cena and Michaels. If WWE can deliver a show this good again this year then I’ll be a happy man.
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