WrestleMania 23 comes to us from Detroit, twenty years after WrestleMania III, an event still considered one of the greatest WrestleManias of all time. The tagline to WrestleMania 23 was ‘All Grown Up’ and WWE had grown up a lot since WrestleMania III. WrestleManias were no longer a make or break for WWE, though they still remain a huge part of WWE’s financial planning for the year. WWE had survived a fight for ratings, bought out its biggest competitor and had become the premier Sports Entertainment promotion in America, if not quite the world. So, how much have WWE and WrestleMania grown up since 1987? Let’s find out!
We start with a walk down memory lane with WrestleMania’s history and all the great moments and memories.
We get a throwback to Vince’s welcome from WrestleMania III and go to Ford Field and Aretha Franklin is back! She’s back at the piano and singing ‘America, the Beautiful’ and still sounds as amazing as she did in 1987.
We get the ‘All Grown Up’ promos.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Mr. Kennedy vs CM Punk vs Edge vs Jeff Hardy vs Finlay vs King Booker (with Queen Sharmell) vs Randy Orton vs Matt Hardy
Jeff Hardy comes out to a great pop. King Booker and Queen Sharmell come out to a nice pop, though Booker looks a little ridiculous in the royal gear. Finlay gets an okay pop. Punk gets a great pop and becomes the first ECW superstar to compete at WrestleMania. Mr. Kennedy gets a good pop. Matt Hardy gets a big pop. Orton gets a good pop. Edge also gets a good pop.
This was one of the best MitB matches. It had a lot of great spots and really seemed to be anyone’s game.
Winner: Mr. Kennedy after knocking CM Punk off the ladder
Highlights: The stepladder spots. Hornswoggle taking a Green Bay Plunge from the ladder. The Hardys taking out Edge.
Comments: Mr. Kennedy remains the only Money in the Bank winner to not get to cash in his briefcase, he would lose it in a match against Edge.
We get a recap of Austin’s first movie premiere, ‘The Condemned’.
The Great Khali vs Kane
Khali is out to a round of boos. Kane gets a better pop, but the crowd doesn’t seem enthused about this match. This was not a great match by any stretch of the imagination. It almost seems that WWE was trying pay tribute to Hogan/Andre, but while there was a good story behind the Hogan/Andre match, Khali/Kane didn’t have that.
Winner: The Great Khali by pinfall.
Highlight: Kane bodyslamming Khali.
United States Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs Montel Vontavious Porter
MVP comes out first to little reaction, or the background is turned down, he even has cheerleaders with him and the crowd does nothing. Benoit gets a great pop from the crowd. This was a really good match. Benoit and MVP worked really well together.
Winner: Chris Benoit by pinfall.
Comments: Tragically, this would be Benoit’s last WrestleMania. He would die, along with his wife and son, in a murder/suicide in June of 2007.
We get a promo for the Undertaker/Batista feud.
We get a recap of the Hall of Fame induction. Our Inductees are: The Wild Samoans, the Original Sheik, Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, Mr. Perfect, and Dusty Rhodes.
Lilian announces that WrestleMania set a new Ford Field attendance record: 80,103
The Streak: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Batista vs The Undertaker
For some reason, Teddy Long is doing the announcing. Batista comes out first to a great pop as the lights dim.
The Deadman Cometh. The druids come out first, lighting the way for their leader. Undertaker gets a HUGE pop.
This was a great match. Batista and Taker took it to each other, the crowd was into it and it honestly looked to go either way. However, I do NOT like that this match didn’t main event, as it should have since Taker won the Royal Rumble.
Winner: The Undertaker by pinfall. The Streak is 15-0.
Comments: This is easily one of the best matches of the Streak.
Eight-Man Tag: The ECW Originals vs The New Breed (with Ariel)
The ECW Orginals come out through the crowd to a good pop. The New Breed comes out to no reaction.
This match was an ‘eh’ for me. Sandman and Sabu weren’t great wrestlers in their prime, in my opinion, never mind seven years after ECW closed. Still, it was nice to see them get their chance to be on the WrestleMania card.
Winner: RVD gets the pinfall for the ECW Originals.
Comments: Except for RVD, this would be the only WrestleMania for most of the ECW Originals. Also, why wasn’t this an Extreme Rules match?
We get a promo for WrestleMania 24.
Hair vs Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (with Donald Trump) vs Umaga (with Armando Alejandro Estrada and Vince McMahon). Special Guest Ref: Stone Cold Steve Austin
The barber chair has its own entrance music. Vince comes out first to an okay pop. Umaga comes out next to no reaction. Mr. Trump comes out to an okay pop. Lashley gets a great pop. Austin gets a huge pop. This match was ugly, with or without all the interference. It just had too much going on. Both guys are great athletes, but this was just a mess.
Winner: Bobby Lashley by pinfall. Per the stipulation, Vince has to get his head shaved. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to and Shane tries to save him, but Austin, Lashley, and a few stunners makes sure that the stipulation is fulfilled.
Highlights: Austin stunning everything in sight. The barbershop getting its own entrance. Austin pulling Umaga back by the braids.
Comments: Vince’s hair never recovered from this, lending credence to the rumor that he wore a toupee.
We get a recap of the dark tag match: Ric Flair and Carlito vs Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms
WWE Women’s Championship Match: Melina vs Ashley – Lumberjill Match
The lumberjills come out first and none of them are dressed for a match, except for Mickie James, who is at least wearing jeans Ashley is out first to a nice pop. Melina gets little reaction. This match was tough to watch. Melina was a fairly decent wrestler at that time, Ashley was not. Thankfully the match was short.
Winner: Melina by pinfall despite it looking like Ashley got her shoulder up but Melina shifted so the ref didn’t see it.. Ashley’s not happy and literally kicks her out of the ring when Melina rubs her victory in Ashley’s face. The face divas throw Melina back in and we have a Diva brawl with the face divas standing tall.
WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs Shawn Michaels
HBK gets a great pop. Cena’s entrance consists of a Ford Mustang rocketing through the streets of Detroit and through the parking garage of Ford Field before crashing through a glass partition. Even with all that, Cena still gets a mixed reaction. This was a great match, which isn’t surprising, but I don’t think it quite had the big match feel that the Undertaker/Batista match had.
Winner: John Cena by submission
Comments: I liked this match.
So, how did the grownup WrestleMania do? Overall, it did pretty well. There were a few growing pains, but it was a god show over all. The fact that Taker/Batista didn’t main event, as Taker should have since he was the Royal Rumble winner, really irks me. Cena/HBK was good, but Taker/Batista had a big fight feel. The Battle of the Billionaires would’ve been okay…without the billionaires.
Stinkers: Khali vs Kane.
Match of the Night: Undertaker vs Batista. This match SHOULD have been the main event.
Funny Moment: Cryme Time trying to cheer up Eugene by having Extreme Expose (ECW’s version of the Nitro Girls) dance. Eugene is a little intimidated until he sees Moolah and Mae, also dressed like Extreme Expose and they dance. Soon they’re joined by Hall of Famers like Dusty Rhodes, Slick, Slaugher, and Jimmy Hart. IRS and Steamboat join in. Ron Simmons shows up, says ‘Damn!’ and leaves, but they keep partying.
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed this show, even though there were a few things I didn’t like about it.