WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania XXIII: Cram It, Cena Haters

John Cena was victorious at WrestleMania 23-You’d think that by now, I’d be out of witty ideas for introductory paragraphs. Turns out that yes, I am. In any event, the 23rd installment of WWE WrestleMania took place on April 1, 2007 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. Funny to note that after this show, there would be many instances where WWE would boast that they drew more fans for this show than have ever seen a football game in this stadium. I dunno, I would think that in a football game, having all those seats on the floor level may interfere with the plays.

-This year, the commentary teams consist of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (Raw), Michael Cole and JBL (Smackdown), and Joey Styles and Tazz (ECW). This was back when ECW kinda sorta felt like the original ECW, except for the part where the employees got paid and Tazz not being 350 lbs.

-Speaking of 350 lbs, Aretha Franklin performs “America the Beautiful” twenty years after doing so at WrestleMania III. One nice touch is they dub over Vince’s 1987 introduction for her. One not so nice touch is her standing up at the end, which lends credence to the “weebles wobble” theory. I don’t wanna sound mean, but they do make 2% milk now.

-On the pre-show, Ric Flair and Carlito teamed up to beat Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms in a lumberjack match. Carlito was a last minute fill-in for Lance Storm, as this was supposed to be a “WCW 2000 Reunion” match. Lance turned it down flat, sadly. C’mon, Lance, you know all about dark matches!

-By the way, the “All Grown Up” videos? I’m SO ignoring them.

-The show begins with the first ever eight man Money in the Bank ladder match, with a rather impressive array of talent on display: Edge, Randy Orton, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, CM Punk, Finlay, and King Booker. My tarot card reader thinks this will be the TNA roster of 2014.

-I’m a bit torn on this. On the one hand, if you’re going to do MITB, you want to have the right people in there, and I’m fine with all eight of them. On the other hand, cramming so many true talents in one match kinda spreads the rest of the show thin. I mean, you could pull Edge and Orton out of here and have them go one on one to break up the team, while keeping MITB at six guys, and you can bump Kane vs. Khali or the Women’s match. Not that I’m discriminating against hosses or women…..

-LUCHA FINLAY! There’s a guy who never gets his due.

-Edge builds a bridge by placing a ladder on the ring apron and guardrail. His attempt to suplex Punk on it fails. I’ll bet it comes into play later!

-Booker takes control and then gives us a regal Spinarooni (not a REGAL Spinarooni, because that would just be too awesome) and gets a ladder concierto from The Hardyz. Go ahead, Lawler, make your joke about ex-cons celebrating too much, you know you wanna.

-Kennedy tries for the Kenton Bomb, but hits his head on a ladder. Hey, look, the first cringeworthy spot tonight. And we haven’t even gotten to Khali’s match!

-After everyone fulfills their contractual obligation to each get hit by a ladder at least once or twice, Edge brings the giant painter’s ladder out from under the ring. I’ll bet something extreme and/or hardcore is forthcoming.

-Well hey, I was right. Matt lays Edge across the ladder bridge, and Jeff jumps off the top of the ladder, putting Edge THROUGH THE LADDER. Of course, he did so at the encouragement of Matt and at the expense of his chances of winning the ladder match and earning a title shot. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-So Edge and Jeff are finished, and Orton gets the RKO on most of the survivors. Someone as character defined as Orton should be more prominent I think, but hey, that’s the problem with such matches having eight high level guys in it.

-Booker takes Orton off the ladder with the Book End and tries to climb, but Matt holds Sharmell hostage, threatening a Twist of Fate if he pulls down the briefcase. Booker, in a truly babyface move, opts to save his woman. JBL is flabbergasted that Booker didn’t ditch his lady for the win. JBL also can’t believe his buyrates when he champion. Man’s in disbelief a lot.

-Hornswoggle tries to climb the ladder on injured Finlay’s behalf, but Kennedy takes him off the ladder with a Green Bay Plunge. I hereby nominate Mr. Kennedy for God.

-In the end, Kennedy knocks Punk off of the ladder with his own ladder, and climbs up uninterrupted for the retrieval and win. Really awesome and really fun way to open the show. Right there you see the advantage of the best of the best in a match all in the same match: you get a great performance just about every time. Great opener.

-Highlights from the premiere of The Condemned, which earned such glowing praise as “When did they remake “Surviving the Game”?” and “A bad choice for leading man Woody Harrelson”.

-Mr. Kennedy opines on his Money in the Bank victory. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Hardcore Holly have more career World Title matches than Kennedy? Wow, that’s quite the weird side note to their personal hatred.

-And now for the polar opposite of that opening match: Great Khali vs. Kane. I can’t even remember what the issue was here. Maybe Kane got beat out for the part of the death row inmate in the Longest Yard remake or something.

-Kane avoids the Skull Chop. Good thing, because that mighta broken the SD Jones record.

-Pretty non-descript hoss fight, until Kane finds his See No Evil hook and uses it as a weapon. With the referee too oblivious to call for the bell. Maybe he’s just a big fan of the movie and is starstruck? I mean, seriously, does WWE need to tie in their movies with the matches? You don’t see Cena having to overcome the odds against a large number of opponents like he did in The Marine, do you? Oh.

-Finally, Khali’s all “I’m winded” and plants Kane with the Punjabi Plunge for the win. Truth told, it wasn’t the worst match that either man would ever have. That’s not a compliment.

-Man, I hate these pointless backstage segments that are alleged comedy. I mean, it’s Cryme Tyme hosting a dance party for Eugene and Extreme Expose is there, Mae and Moolah show up, ha ha, we get it guys, very funn—

-SLICK! SLICK! MOFOING SLICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Slick busts out the funky dance moves and we get a whole host of classic characters: Dusty Rhodes, Howard Finkel (#23!), Mean Gene, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Hart, IRS, Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, and Ron Simmons. The ending, of course, isn’t in doubt. But still, SLICK! Nuff said.

-Members of the Detroit Tigers are seen in the crowd, including Gary Sheffield. I wonder if him and Triple H are “workout partners”.

-Next up is the United States Title match, as MVP challenges the champion, Chris Benoit. Yes, this is sadly the end of the road for Benoit, as he would create infamy less than three months later. In brief, lemme just say that while I think he senselessly damaged his body for an unforgiving business and it cost him everything in the end, I will always admire Benoit’s work ethic and dedication to his life’s work. It may not mean much now, but before I go back to making snide jokes about this and other tragedies in wrestling, Chris…..thank you. I was a fan.

-MVP is accompanied by enough cheerleaders to satisfy a JV squad. The quantity requirements, not the actual….oh, never mind.

-Match is a pretty decent technical contest, wherein continued a subtle yet well-carried storyline if MVP always having a counter in mind for the Crippler Crossface. Everytime Benoit and MVP fought, Porter would always have a counter to the move. Benoit had to beat him in other ways, but in that sense, MVP had the move scouted to a fault. I like that.

-MVP superplexes Benoit, but Benoit reverses into a cradle for two. Crowd’s dying off a bit, because the opener was so exciting, and the hoss match was nothing to get excited over. So they have to win the audience back, and a mat wrestling clinic isn’t going to do that, especially when MVP was still getting established.

-I think MVP’s been hit by about 15 German suplexes in this match. I’ll bet there’s days where MVP wishes he was serving the other half of his sentence.

-Benoit finishes with a diving headbutt to retain. Good, if unspectacular, title match. Really sad to look back on now, but hey, that’s life. And it goes on.

-The Boogeyman tries to creep out Donald Trump and Tara Conner. Without resorting to Wikipedia, go ahead and guess why she was famous. I had to STRUGGLE to remember her controversy, and this was three years ago. Why hasn’t she been on Dancing with the Stars yet?

-The crowd is announced at being 80,103. That’s a lot of fans for Bobby Lashley to kill off! Can he do it? They don’t call him The Monotonous Battletoad for nothing!

-The 2007 Hall of Fame class is introduced: Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Mr. Fuji, The Sheik, The Wild Samoans, and Nick Bockwinkle. My favorite WCW PPV of all time was the one from 1998 in which they all competed. It was a great show, except the Ben Gay kept wafting through my TV screen.

-Undertaker-Batista highlight package. I’ll never forget when Taker was choosing between the three champions as to which one he wanted to face at WrestleMania and Bobby Lashley, classically trained actor that he is, was confronted by the Dead Man himself. Instead of getting in his face like any other musclehead monster would, Lashley sold it like he was stand-offish and afraid. Man, no wonder even Vince couldn’t get him over.

-Teddy Long does ring intros for this match. It’s funny how Long’s entire run as GM revolves around Undertaker. How many times has he ordered some ornery heel to face Mr. Callaway anyway? Then again, this may also explain Michelle McCool’s unearned push. Anyway, this is for the World Heavyweight Title

-This would end up having far reaching consequences, as most of assumed the match would be one of two things: 1) A chance to get Batista over by having him be the one to end the streak or 2) A way to extend Taker’s streak with an important title win. It ended up being 2, but with a footnote: this is the match that demonstrated the inexplicable chemistry that these two men had.

-The two exchange power stuff early, and the fight spills to ringside as it would tend to do with these two involved. Once back in, Batista hits a diving shoulderblock. This became a big part of Botchamania lore, as at Survivor Series, Batista did the same move to King Booker, and Cole made a big deal about it. When Batista did it here, Cole exclaimed that he had never seen Batista do that before. Do I even need to comment?

-Tremendous stand up brawl so far. When Batista’s motivated, he’s one of the best big men in the business. Other than being injury prone, there’s very little of the man to complain about.

-Batista swings things his way by powerslamming Taker through the ECW table. See, Tazz? Good World Title matches feature SELLING.

-Back inside, Batista drops Taker with a belly to belly. I’VE NEVER SEEN BATISTA USE THAT BEFORE! Vince, my resume’s on your doorstep.

-Spear and Batista Bomb, but Taker’s up on 2. Yeah, I don’t think the streak’s ending tonight.

-Taker avoids Batista’s version of a Tombstone, but Taker pushes him off and immediately counters with his own Tombstone for the win to go 15-0. This was a tremendous power brawl from two men who would spend the next year improving upon their newfound formula. Think about that: of their many matches, this may have been the WORST. And it was GREAT. I earned a new respect for Batista after this, and Taker was his usual great self. Loved it.

-The same person who installed cameras in the bathroom stalls at King of the Ring 1997 to catch Brian Pillman receiving a swirlie has installed a camera in Aurora Levesque’s stroller, because we’re able to see its POV as Vince McMahon talks his granddaughter about Donald Trump. Odd.

-Next up is ECW’s contribution to the show, as The Originals (Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman) face The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker, and Kevin Thorn). The Originals make their entrance through the crowd, because they’re apparently not allowed in the building. That’s still better than Elijah Burke’s ring attire, which I think did more to kill his push than simply falling through the cracks.

-I’m kinda sad watching this, because the ECW guys can’t even do the things that make them unique, or that made ECW unique for that matter, and it could be those spots that took The New Breed and made them stand out. Mick Foley theorized that WWE didn’t want the second One Night Stand to succeed, and I think he has a point.

-RVD finally gets in there and goes crazy with his usual arensal of kicks, which lifts the match from “good but dull” to “good but less dull”.

-After Sabu dives onto Cor Von and Sandman helps clean house, RVD lands the Five Star Frog Splash on Striker for the win. Match was alright, but it just didn’t stand out. No one really cared about the heels, least of all Burke who’d go on to TNA to prove that WWE sometimes can be blind to a good thing. The opposite of a sure thing that gets no push is a bad thing that gets a big push. There’s one forthcoming, so get ready.

-Recap is shown of Vince McMahon and Donald Trump’s challenge. Anyone else disturbed by two rich white guys making a bet and having two hulking minorities do their fighting? Is this really the 21st century? It’s like Trading Places, except Lashley has about 4% of Eddie Murphy’s wit.

-Fun side note: Remember when Donald Trump was so excited about this match that he went on the Howard Stern show, gushing about his representative in this match, a young up and comer by the name of Bobby Lindsey? Geez, forget about the fans not caring about Lashley, what about the man who chose you as his representative? Man, this was doomed from day one.

-So it’s Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga where the losing man’s billionaire endorser (Donald or Vince) has to have his head shaved. You’d think the crowd would be behind Lashley 100% just to see Vince get shaved. You’d also be an idiot.

Stone Cold Steve Austin is the guest referee, because even for seven seconds, a beam of light pissed all over Vinnie’s noggin and said “Hey, there’s no way the crowd will get behind someone as dull as Bobby Lashley!”.

-Did I mention that the barber’s chair gets its own entrance? Seems like a good thing to mention.

-What follows is unbelievably boring and incredibly dull. Any time Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin are involved in something, let alone something with media implications (the involvement of Donald Trump), they would go to any length to overbook the Hell out of it to make it as exciting as possible. We as fans tend to appreciate this, because what usually ensues with Vince involved is a grandiose and over-the-top production that we’d never forget.

-However, there’s a problem.

-Bobby Lashley, with all of his physical skills, is somehow more dull than a flattened pencil point. He has zero charisma, as well as a voice that makes him sound like a lost child inside a department store. The fans scapegoated him after he became ECW Champion because it came at the expense of Rob Van Dam and CM Punk’s fan following, as well as the death of the ideals of the brand. So with Lashley the fall guy, a pair of PPV matches with Test and Mr. Kennedy are abysmal. However, since Lashley’s apparently a nice guy and he has this impressive body, as well as a good grasp of stand-up technical wrestling, Vince decides to make something of him. After all, if ANYONE can get Lashley over, it would have to be Vince, right?

-Wrong.

-Bobby Lashley, as of this show, officially joined Zach Gowen on the short list of “People who feuded with Vince and couldn’t draw heat against him”. Here’s the story.

-Umaga dominates the early going, which is fine. He’s a monster and John Cena proved you can tell a good story by overcoming his dominance gradually.

-During his attempt at a comeback, Lashley knocks Vince off the apron to the floor. Cheers? Anyone? No? Well, maybe next time.

-Austin gets taken out by Umaga, and Shane McMahon runs in. Now would be a good time for Lashley to overcome the odds and destroy the hated McMahons en route to putting Umaga away, leading to Vince getting his head shaved. Right? RIGHT?!

-Shane hits the Shane Terminator, and Umaga lands a top rope splash, but it can’t finish Lashley off. Mostly because Lashley isn’t allowed to make his own heroic comeback, since Austin does it himself. You know, if the goal was to get the unover mook over, they’re kinda doing it wrong.

-Austin stuns Umaga, and Lashley spears the Stunned Samoan for the win, at the cost of Vince’s hair. Now comes the part that tells the story.

-Austin holds Vince in a chair while Lashley and Trump (remember him?) shave Vince’s head. With Vince bald, some corny screwball comedy music from the 1950’s plays, and Lashley shows Vince his face in the mirror. At this point, the crowd should be cheering and laughing at Vince, but no. Nothing. So Vince does a comedic fall out of the barber’s chair and he sulks away. What a waste. Vince spent the Spring trying to turn Lashley into a monster, to no avail. He’d be persona non grata by summer’s end and would wind up in MMA and TNA. Again, what a waste.

-Austin stuns Trump. Hey, crowd liked that.

-Next up, to bring the crowd down off of their adrenaline high, we have a LumberJill match for the Women’s Title. So Mickie James and Jillian Hall and Victoria and others can stand around while WWE Women’s Champion Melina can defend against…..Ashley Massaro. Yeah. Well, if it’s any consolation, Ashley can dedicate the match to her sick daughter or niece or orphan or cockatoo or whatever excuse that was that covered up the real reason WWE threw her to the curb.

-On the bright side, Mickie’s wearing some really tight jeans at ringside, so maybe it’s better that she’s not wrestling.

-Why’s Melina wrestling herself? Where’s Ashley? Oh wait, Ashley’s in there. So wait, why’s Melina wrestling herself?

-Melina wins it by reversing a rolling cradle. Well, that was certainly worthwhile. I mean, if it helped them sell any more Playboys, then, you know, good for them. I can just do without Ashley, though. If Kelly Bundy woke up one day and said “I’m going to be a wannabe Lita and fake smile my way through life”, then you get the cut of her character’s jib. Whoever she knows that was apparently sick, I’ll guess that viewing this match only made her sicker.

-Recap for Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena for the WWE Title. Originally, this was to have been a triple threat match with Triple H inserted, but Hunter’s quad injury from New Year’s Revolution halted that. As it was, Shawn and Cena won the World Tag Team Titles from Rated RKO in February, and Shawn and Cena now had each other on a short leash, with Shawn openly teasing a turn every chance he got before finally pulling the trigger six days before WrestleMania. I dug the build, even if it was kinda hard to rally behind Cena for being so unguarded.

-So Cena’s grand entrance du annum: riding a Ford Mustang into the arena. Did you know one of my exes left me because I hated The Fast and Furious 2? Usually, when I see someone in a Mustang, I assume they have never read Atlas Shrugged. Or showered three days in a row.

-For a bonus, a fan tries to run in during ring intros and take his shirt off, but security’s all over him in a hurry. Shawn’s sarcastic goodbye wave still slays me.

-The story of the match is a contrast between Shawn’s ring generalship and Cena’s overpowering style, with each man jockeying for control with their definitive craft. Sometimes that’s all you need to carry the World Title match. Russo, feel free to write that one down.

-Shawn gets his quebrada to the floor, knocking Cena into the announce table. Business is picking up.

-Back inside, Shawn begins to work the leg of Cena. Weird, usually when Cena fights from underneath, it’s after he’s been unfairly jumped or is against a larger opponent. In this case, it’s just him getting plainly outwrestled. It was one thing last year against a heel (Triple H), but against a babyface who’s getting way more cheers than him? Some of the booking on this show raised a lot of eyebrows.

-Cena keeps fighting off the leg pain as he and Shawn hammer away on each other, until the tide turns when Shawn dives at Cena and ends up smashing into the post, busting himself open. If Shawn retires after Mania 26, I think it’s out of protest for Vince not letting him blade anymore. That’s like David Stern telling Michael Jordan that he can’t hit clutch shots.

-Cena hits his usual shoulderblocks and spin out powerbomb, before dropping the Five Knuckle Shuffle. After Shawn avoids the FU, in the struggle, Shawn takes the official out with Sweet Chin Music. Well, this isn’t very good, now is it?

-This leads to one of my all time favorite spots, as Shawn takes the top half of the ring steps off and then piledrives Cena on the bottom half, busting the back of Cena’s head open. Sick. Ness. A new ref hits the ring, but Cena still kicks out.

-Shawn avoids the FU again and tries for the SCM, but Cena avoids, then struggles with the STFU. Shawn cradles him for 2, but Cena eventually gets the hold. Shawn makes the ropes though. Tense.

-Shawn finally lands the SCM, but can’t cover. He finally does for 2. Cena tries again for the FU, but Shawn comes down and Cena locks on the STFU out of nowhere. Shawn fights it, but ultimately taps out to make Cena retain and continue what would be a one year plus reign as champion. For those who say Cena can’t wrestle, sure, Shawn carried his half, but Cena carried his. People need to really get over themselves and make a better argument, because John Cena is a true main eventer and he proved it here.

-Shawn won’t shake Cena’s hand in the aisle. And he said Bret needed to get over Montreal.

-Bring us home, Saliva! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

-CYNIC SAYS: It took a little bit of perspective and time to really appreciate this show. After the Lashley debacle, as well as the rabid hatred of Cena by many, this show actually got a bad rap early on. But hey, you have three great matches, as both World Title matches and the Money in the Bank match delivered.

2007 was looking great for WWE before the Chris Benoit tragedy in June. But this show signals what could have been if not for the controversy and fall out. Enjoy it for what it is, though.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

[amazon_link id=”B0009E32TI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B00HRUQA8C” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Wrestlemania 30 DVD[/amazon_link]

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Comments
To Top