The 23rd WrestleMania returned to the city where the famous third WrestleMania took place. The venue wasn't the Silverdome, but it was a new stadium known as Ford Field. The main event featured John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWE Title. However, to a lot of people the key selling point of the show was the Battle of the Billionaires.
In previous years, the celebrity involvement at WrestleMania had decreased. It was about the wrestlers more than the celebrities. Then 2007 came around, Donald Trump had a hit TV show called The Apprentice and he had a good relationship with Vince McMahon dating back to WrestleManias 4 and 5 when Trump hosted those events in Atlantic City. The "Battle of the Billionaires" was arguably the biggest match at WrestleMania 23, which we'll get to later in this review.
On the wrestling side of things, John Cena and Batista continued their runs as the top guys with Cena dominating the Raw brand while Batista was the focus of Smackdown. Their challengers at this event were Michaels & The Undertaker, both of whom were considered legends by this point in their glorious careers. While the Raw & Smackdown brands remained, the brand extension had also extended to ECW. Technically speaking there were three brands at this WrestleMania, which made it historic. Either that or it made you realize why the ECW brand didn't last too long.
I'll always remember being surprised that Ric Flair wrestled in the pre-show. What the hell? If Ric Flair is active, as he was here, he should be on the main show. Why? Because he's Ric "WOO BY GOD" Flair. I remember that really pissed me off about this show. With that said, I like that the card had eight matches. That's the right number. Some of the midcard matches could have been booked better, though.
This WrestleMania had a huge buyrate at 1.188 million buys that would be the all-time high until five years later in 2012 when The Rock vs. John Cena was the main event. Most people that cover the wrestling business will credit the McMahon/Trump match for the big number. It garnered a lot of mainstream press for the show even though it did not go on last.
The majority of this review was written in 2012. I have updated a lot of it and also added in some thoughts in (blue font) as well.
WWE WrestleMania 23
April 1, 2007
From Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan
A video package started it off as it always does. Voiceover guy: "There is one event that defines sports entertainment." Cue Vince: "Welcome to WrestleMania!" Then we get the awesome video package highlighting some of the key moments from WrestleManias in the past. "Now twenty years later, WrestleMania returns to Detroit. All Grown Up." I liked the "All Grown Up" tag line. It was their way of saying that they have evolved from the beginnings of WrestleMania.
A voiceover clip of Vince McMahon from WM3 threw it to Aretha Franklin to sing "America The Beautiful" just as she did at WM3 in Detroit.
There was another video package with the current wrestlers talking about how they dreamed about performing at WrestleMania. I liked the videos of the little kids imitating the wrestlers doing their signature poses as the superstars talked over the video.
Back to the building, the pryo went off and we were introduced to the announce teams. It was Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler from Raw, Michael Cole & JBL from Smackdown and Joey Style & Tazz from ECW.
The Money in the Bank Ladder Match was up first. The competitors were Jeff Hardy (Raw), who was making his first WrestleMania appearance in five years, King Booker with Sharmell (Smackdown), Finlay (Smackdown), CM Punk (ECW), Ken Kennedy (Smackdown) did his “Mr. Kennedy” introduction for himself, Matt Hardy (Smackdown), Randy Orton (Raw) and Edge (Raw). Edge won it two years before and they pointed out that he was 5-0 at WrestleMania. All six announcers called the match.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Jeff Hardy vs. King Booker vs. Finlay vs. CM Punk vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge
Pre-match notes: The faces were Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Matt Hardy and the heels were King Booker, Finlay, Ken Kennedy, Randy Orton and Edge.
Fast pace to start the match. Everybody was brawling on the floor, so Finlay of all people dove off the top rope onto everybody on the floor. Edge and Matt paired off, then Orton and Finlay paired off. Then Jeff & Kennedy paired off. Booker pulled out a step ladder under the ring. Punk used it as a weapon on three guys. Edge hit Punk with a step ladder shot to the head and Punk’s head was cut probably legit. In the ring, Booker hit a spinebuster on three guys and then he did a Spinarooni to a big pop even though he was a heel. The Hardy brothers took Booker out with a ladder and then went to double team Edge. He fought out of it thanks to Finlay shoving Jeff off the top rope and Edge gave Matt a suplex onto a ladder. Kennedy tossed Edge out of the ring. Kennedy went for the Kenton (his version of the Swanton) on a ladder, but that missed when Matt moved out of the way, so Ken hit the ladder although he barely grazed it. Jeff up top and he hit the Swanton Bomb on Kennedy. Matt & Jeff used the ladder to knock down Finlay, Orton and then Booker. The Hardys climbed up the same ladder and fought it out near the top of the ladder. Finlay shoved them off. JBL did such a good job of putting over the importance of the match. Finlay with four clotheslines to knock some guys down. Edge hit a Spear on six of the guys. When he went for a Spear on Punk, CM jumped over him and Edge went crashing into the turnbuckle. Punk put the ladder on his shoulders and he used it as a weapon, so Edge came back and hit Punk with a Spear meaning he hit all seven guys with it. Edge brought in a huge ladder. I would guess that it was about 12 feet high. Orton shoved the ladder and Edge went flying to the floor where he took a bump feet first. The Edge/Orton Rated RKO alliance was no more. Jeff gave a front suplex to Orton. Meanwhile, on the floor Matt put Edge onto a ladder that was stretched from the security wall to the side of the ring (Edge originally placed it there). Jeff used that opportunity to climb the 12 foot tall ladder. Jeff climbed to the top of the ladder. He jumped off the ladder with a leg drop and drove Edge right through it, breaking it in half! Wow! Insane bump! Huge reaction. Jim Ross was wondering if they were broken in half. Crowd went wild. Huge spot. Referees checked on both guys doing the "X" signal for an injury. The EMTs came out to put Jeff and Edge on stretchers so they were out of the match. JBL yelled about Jeff hurting Edge and himself.
Back in the ring, Orton hit a huge RKO on Matt and then a RKO on Finlay. How about one for Kennedy? He gets a RKO too. Punk used a ladder to the back of Orton to knock him down. Orton and Punk each climbed up a ladder. Orton hit a RKO off the top of the ladder. Huge pop for that. It looked great. Booker went up. Orton met him at the top. Booker hit a Book End on Orton off the top of the ladder. That was a great spot too. Queen Sharmell went in the ring, grabbed Matt’s leg and then he was about to give her a Twist of Fate, so Booker jumped back down to fight Matt. JBL yelled at Booker for making the wrong move. It would have been more heelish if he kept climbing instead of helping his wife. Hardy hit the Twist of Fate on Booker. JBL: “That’s what women will get ya!” JBL was funny sometimes. Finlay knocked Hardy off the ladder. Finlay’s head was bleeding above his eye. Finlay hit the Celtic Cross on Matt onto a ladder. Finlay was selling injuries, so he couldn’t climb right away. Hornswoggle showed up from under the ring and he climbed up. Hornswoggle nearly made it to the top. Kennedy climbed up beside Hornswoggle., so Hornswoggle slapped Kennedy in the face two times. When Cole mentioned that Hornswoggle was too short to reach the briefcase, Tazz had a funny line saying "that's why I never did a ladder match" so he was making of his own height issues. Kennedy gave Hornswoggle the Green Bay Plunge off the ladder. That was fun and drew a big pop. Beating up little people is always entertaining. Finlay hit Kennedy in the face with the ladder. Punk hit a springboard dropkick to knock Finlay off the ladder. Punk climbed a ladder and he got close. Kennedy caught up to him at the top of the ladder, they exchanged punches and Punk shoved him off. Kennedy grabbed another ladder and hit Punk in the face with it. Great spot. Kennedy climbed up and grabbed the briefcase to win the match at 19:11.
Winner: Ken Kennedy
Analysis: **** This was one of the better opening matches in the history of WrestleMania. I can't remember them all, but it was definitely in the top two or three openers. The most memorable part was when Jeff Hardy destroyed Edge by leaping off that 12 foot ladder and driving him through a ladder that was set up outside the ring. The finish was good too. Kennedy destroying Punk with the ladder to the face was a smart way to end it. It didn't come off as lucky. It put Kennedy over by having him outsmart Punk in the end. I remember going into this one thinking that Edge or Orton would win because they were already champions before and I thought it would happen again. I didn't think Kennedy was ready. I think the match time was just about right at under 20 minutes. The year prior, the match only went about 12 minutes and left me wanting more. That match had six participants, so giving more time for this match with eight wrestlers was the right call.
(I don’t have much to add to what I already wrote. The most memorable moment was Jeff Hardy’s spot with Edge that took both guys out. I didn’t think Kennedy was going to win, but it was a good choice at the time because he was a star on the rise. Things just didn’t work out well for him after this moment.)
They showed highlights of a movie premiere of Steve Austin's movie The Condemned. It was Austin’s first movie. I don’t think I ever watched it.
Backstage, Todd Grisham interviewed Ken Kennedy, who thanked himself for winning the briefcase. He said he was going to cash in the briefcase any time and any place. He said nice guys finish dead last, so thank God he's not a nice guy. "Thank God I'm Mr. Money in the Bank…Bank." That was fun.
(Kennedy ended up getting hurt, Edge beat him in a match for the briefcase and Edge was the one to cash in the briefcase for a World Title win. Kennedy’s arm injury didn’t lead to a major surgery. It turns out he didn’t need surgery and WWE took the title off him prematurely. If they continued to push Kennedy, it’s a big “what if” because we don’t know what his WWE career would have been like.)
There was an "All Grown Up" video about Batista.
The Great Khali made his entrance for a match on his own. There was no manager with him at this point and there wasn’t much of a reaction. Kane was the opponent and this was during his no mask days with Kane in a face role.
The Great Khali vs. Kane
Pre-match notes: Khali was a heel and Kane was a face. It was an interpromotional match with Khali from Raw and Kane from Smackdown.
Khali knocked Kane down early. Khali threw Kane out to the floor. Kane threw a punch that Khali didn't know how to sell, so Khali gave him a clothesline and then the weakest body slam ever even though JR said it was delivered with "great authority." God bless JR for always trying to put the crappy workers over. Khali applied a vice grip and then a choke in the corner. Kane came back with punches in the corner followed by a clothesline. Khali was still up, so Kane climbed the top rope and hit the clothesline. Khali didn't go down. Kane booted him. Khali tied up the ropes. It's the Andre the Giant move where he gets tied up so the opponent can attack him. Kane went under the ring and grabbed a chain while the ref freed Khali. Khali won a punch fest with his big chop to the head. Crowd did a good job of reacting to him. Khali ripped the turnbuckle pad off. The ref was cleaning the turnbuckle padding, so Kane used the chain to hit Khali in the nuts. Kane gave Khali a body slam to a good pop. Ross said shades of WrestleMania 3. I guess so, but not really. Kane covered for two, but Khali powered out of the pin. Kane grabbed the throat, then he hit a punch and bounced off the ropes right into the arms of Khali. Khali gave Kane the double choke Tree Slam and covered with his foot on Kane's chest for the victory at 5:32.
Winner by pinfall: The Great Khali
Analysis: DUD This match sucked from the moment the bell rang and I don’t think anybody was going to be able to get a good match against Khali at this point. At least it was short. Khali was put over huge whether we liked it or not.
Post match, Khali choked Kane with the chain again. Then he left. Thank you for leaving.
(The main reason for Khali looking so dominant is because WWE was building him up as a top heel that would feud with John Cena at the May Judgment Day PPV.)
There was an “All Grown Up” Video about the divas.
It was backstage comedy time as Cryme Tyme was hanging out with Eugene backstage. They walked to where the Extreme Expose dancers were. It was Layla, Brooke & Kelly without the other Kelly on her name. Then Moolah & Mae were there to dance with Eugene as well. Hey, there's the Reverend Slick! Dusty Rhodes showed up to dance too. Others that showed up were Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Hart and Irwin R. Schyster. At least the camera was on Brooke Adams a lot. Gorgeous woman. Ricky Steamboat showed up too. To wrap it up, Ron Simmons arrived with his "DAMN" shirt. He delivered the “DAMN” line to a big pop. Ron left, so they kept dancing.
Analysis: This became a typical thing at WrestleMania events where WWE would do silly backstage segments to get some cameo appearances. I was mildly entertained by it.
They showed some members of the Detroit Tigers MLB team at ringside.
The US Title match from Smackdown was up next. Montel Vontavious Porter was up first as the challengers with some cheerleaders joining him for the entrance since MVP had the gimmick of a professional athlete that was cocky.
United States Championship: Chris Benoit vs. Montel Vontavious Porter
Pre-match notes: Montel Vontavious Porter was the cocky heel challenging the babyface Chris Benoit. MVP debuted in September. He got a good push from the beginning. I was a huge fan of his theme song. It's one of my favorite songs in wrestling history.
They had some nice technical wrestling exchanges earlier. MVP countered a German Suplex by throwing Benoit out to the floor. The action picked up in the ring with Benoit going for a superplex, but MVP fought out of it and draped Benoit's left arm on the top rope. He focused his assault on Benoit's arm and shoulder. JBL said Benoit deserved to be in the Hall of Fame one day. That will never happen. Benoit came back with three German Suplexes. He went for the headbutt, but MVP countered it and MVP gave him a superplex off the top rope. MVP threw Benoit's left shoulder into the turnbuckle followed by an armbar. The crowd was rallying behind Benoit. Benoit broke free, but MVP decked him with a big boot to the face for the count of two. Benoit went for the Crossface, but MVP punched his left arm to break it up. MVP gave him a body slam and MVP followed it up with the Ballin' Elbow for two. MVP missed a running boot in the corner. Benoit gave him two German Suplexes. MVP fought out of it, but Benoit broke free and Benoit hit three more German Suplexes. That’s a total of seven in the match. Benoit went to the top rope and hit the Flying Headbutt. Benoit covered and that was enough for the win at 9:18.
Winner by pinfall: Chris Benoit
Analysis: **1/2 Good match that was too short. With another five minutes they could have done a lot more. I liked the psychology with MVP working over the left arm and dominating the majority of the match. JBL did an awesome job of putting over the idea that MVP could hang with Benoit, which was a good reason to have the match in the first place. I was surprised that Benoit won with the headbutt. He didn't get the win with that move very often. They would have rematches in the future that were better than this.
(I remember being disappointed that this was a shorter match because I thought they should have had a 15-minute match. Benoit was a favorite wrestler of mine during this period, but it’s hard to be excited about his matches considering the double murder-suicide he did a few months after this.)
There was an “All Grown Up” video for The Undertaker.
Backstage, Donald Trump was on the phone sitting beside the former Miss USA that was with him. Trump was complaining on the phone that Vince didn't make things nice for him. Suddenly, the Boogeyman showed up behind the couch and Miss USA ran away. Trump wasn't scared. Trump told Boogeyman to get him some food. The Mini Boogeyman was also there. Trump sat there looking hungry.
Analysis: That was an awful segment with some bad acting, but I guess some people (aka Vince) might have thought it was funny.
They showed clips of the 2007 Hall of Fame ceremony. The inductees were The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Dusty Rhodes. I like how Dusty busted out his line about how he had wined and dined with kings and queens.
Lilian Garcia announced the attendance at 80,103 people.
Howard Finkel introduced the 2007 Hall of Fame class. I already listed the names above. They made their way to the stage. The biggest pops went to Ross, Lawler and Rhodes.
A pre-match poll showed that 82% of the fans voted for The Undertaker to beat Batista, who only got 18% of the vote.
(By this point The Undertaker's Streak was a very big deal and fans knew he likely wasn't going to lose to Batista.)
The video package played to hype up the Batista vs. Undertaker match for the World Heavyweight Title. It was the first time Undertaker won the Royal Rumble. He picked Batista to be his opponent. They were both babyfaces. Batista was the face of Smackdown for about two years prior to this and the main focus of the show when he wasn't injured. Undertaker went into the match with his impressive WrestleMania streak, which was at 14-0 going into the match.
Smackdown GM Teddy Long handled the introductions. Batista entered first. Huge reaction for him. JBL did a good job of putting over the idea that Batista could be the guy to end the streak. He was booked as such a strong champion that it wasn't a farfetched idea to think that Batista could do it. Undertaker got his traditional entrance with the druids bringing him out. His entrance took over four minutes.
World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. The Undertaker
Pre-match notes: Batista was the babyface World Heavyweight Champion and The Undertaker was the babyface challenger that earned the title match after winning the Royal Rumble match in January.
Batista started out dominating, knocking Undertaker to the floor with a clothesline and then they brawled up the aisle. Batista whipped Undertaker into the steel steps at ringside, which Undertaker sold by taking the bump right on his knees and flying over the steps. That's a bump not many big guys could do. Batista went to the top with a shoulderblock. Cole put over that he had never seen Batista do that before. Clothesline by Batista gets two. Undertaker blocked a boot to the face, hit Batista with a barrage of punches and then they exchanged blows with the crowd chanting along for each one. Undertaker hit two corner splashes, the Snake Eyes in the corner and then the boot to the face. He followed it up with a leg drop for two. Undertaker hit the Old School clothesline off the top to a standing ovation. Those were his moves of doom. Undertaker went for a chokeslam, but Batista used his power to counter it. Undertaker went for a clothesline that didn't connect very well. Loud "Let's Go Taker" chants. They didn't hate Batista. They just liked Undertaker more. Undertaker worked him over some more and hit a leg drop on the apron, which sent Batista to the mat out on the floor. Undertaker was in the ring, he ran the ropes and jumped over the top rope for the dive onto Batista! Wow. I love that move. Taker nailed it perfectly with Batista was there to catch him. I'll never get sick of that Undertaker move. They fought outside the ring. Batista won the fight, which resulted in Undertaker getting thrown into the security wall. Batista rolled into the ring to break the count. Batista cleared off two of the announce tables. They were outside the ring for about a minute, but I guess the ref didn't feel like counting. Batista put Undertaker on his shoulder, jumped off one table and gave him a running powerslam through another announce table. Batista rolled back in. Then the ref counted. Batista rolled Taker back in before the ten count because he wanted to beat him in the ring and Batista covered for two.
Batista went for the Batista Bomb, but Undertaker countered by driving him to the corner and hit a series of back elbows to the head. Batista hit a belly to belly slam for two. Awesome counter as Batista did a move he didn’t usually do. Batista gave Undertaker the punches in the corner, Undertaker powered out and gave him the Last Ride Powerbomb. Batista kicked out at two. I was happy about that because they did that spot in Undertaker matches far too often and I'm glad it was only good for a nearfall. Batista whipped Undertaker in and he gave him a spinebuster. He powered up. Crowd was chanting "Taker." Undertaker came back with a Chokeslam for two. Another great nearfall. Batista came back with a Spear. Batista Bomb connects. One…two…no! That was the best nearfall so far. Loud "Taker" chants. The crowd was really loud as Undertaker gave Batista a back body drop to get out of the Batista Bomb. Batista put him on his shoulders, Undertaker shoved him off, Batista went into turnbuckle and Batista bounced back into Undertaker's arms. Tombstone by Taker led to the pinfall for the one…two…three. The Undertaker is 15-0 at WrestleMania. The match went 15:51.
Winner by pinfall And New World Heavyweight Champion: The Undertaker
Analysis: **** It was a very good match that went above my personal expectations for it. Undertaker dominated early. Batista came back with some power offense including that awesome powerslam through the table. The finishing sequence was terrific with a lot of believable nearfalls, which was a formula we've come to know in Undertaker matches over the years. The announce team of Cole and JBL did a terrific job of putting over all of the power moves too. Yes, I praised Cole. He worked well with JBL. I don't want to say I forgot the match because I do remember how good it was, but re-watching it here made me appreciate it that much more. They really worked their asses off and put on an impressive power match. There's nothing more you can ask of wrestlers than to give it their all and see them deliver.
Post match, Undertaker celebrated his win. The crowd was popping for everything. The last time Undertaker won a World Title at WrestleMania was ten years earlier at WrestleMania 13. Taker was very popular with the Detroit crowd as the pyro went off to end the celebration.
(I enjoyed this match a lot and I think it might be underrated by some fans. They had several great matches after this with stipulations involved. The more they worked, the better their chemistry became. The Last Man Standing match at Backlash 2007 was slightly better than this one. From this moment forward, Undertaker went on a great run of having awesome WrestleMania matches for nearly a decade.)
They aired an "All Grown Up" video featuring Bobby Lashley.
It was time to head backstage to the locker room where Vince McMahon was admiring himself in a mirror. Thankfully, he was fully clothed and not putting baby oil on himself. Stephanie McMahon showed up with her daughter in a stroller with Vince angry at first, but then he was okay with it. Vince was talking to the baby. Vince was telling the baby that he would bash Trump's head in. We got a camera shot from inside the stroller. Vince said he’ll give Trump a skull fracture with Steph trying to calm him down. Vince asked Steph if she smelled that. Vince told Steph that it smelled as if his granddaughter took a Trump…which meant a shit.
Analysis: Another failed attempt at comedy. I’m sure Vince thought it was funny, so that’s all that matters to him.
The ECW match was up next with Joey Styles and Tazz calling the match by the broken table. It was the ECW Originals team consisting of Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam & Sabu, who all entered through the crowd. They were the babyface team. The New Breed team consisted of Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von and Kevin Thorn with Ariel.
ECW Originals - Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman & Sabu vs. New Breed - Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von & Kevin Thorn (w/Ariel)
Pre-match notes: The ECW Originals were the faces while New Breed were the heels.
Sabu started off with Striker. Sandman hit a leg drop on the back of the head on Striker. Burke tagged in and so did Dreamer as the heel team cheated to work over Tommy. Cor Von hit a double underhook suplex on Dreamer and then he hit a double team back body drop with Burke. Burke hit the double knees to the back of Dreamer. Thorn hit a nice sitout slam on Dreamer. Cor Von applied a choke on Dreamer. Dreamer hit a double neckbreaker on Cor Von and Burke at the same time. Van Dam got the hot tag and he destroyed Striker with a series of kicks. Jumping side kick off the top by RVD on Thorn. There was a monkey flip by RVD on Striker. The crowd cheered for RVD as he hit the Rolling Thunder on Striker. Cor Von pulled RVD out of the ring. Sabu hit a somersault dive over the top onto Cor Von. Dreamer with a DDT on Striker. Pope knocked Dreamer out and Sandman hit a clothesline to take Burke out. RVD went to the top and hit a perfect Five Star Frog Splash on Striker for the pinfall win at 6:26.
Winners by pinfall: Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman and Sabu
Analysis: ** The match didn't do much for me. Why not have an Extreme Rules Match that showcased what ECW was supposed to be about? A 10-minute brawl would have been a lot more fun. Instead, it was a regular 4 on 4 tag that was very forgettable in a lot of ways. I've always been a fan of Elijah Burke and was very surprised that WWE released him when they did. I always thought he had great potential.
(This match was very uneventful. I didn’t mention it much in the review, but the crowd was dead for most of the match. They didn’t care at all. I don’t blame the fans since the ECW brand was boring for the most part. This could have been a lot better if it was more an extreme match, but as I think about it now, WWE may have been reluctant to do that due to some of the other matches on the card that had weapons involved.)
There was an “All Grown Up” video about Steve Austin.
It was announced that WrestleMania 24 would be in Orlando on March 30, 2008.
They showed legendary boxer Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns sitting at ringside.
The video package for the "Battle of the Billionaires" was up next. The match was Vince McMahon's guy Umaga wrestling against Donald Trump's guy Bobby Lashley. I always wondered if Trump ever watched WWE because he was so awkward in every one of his appearances, but the hype for the match was surprisingly pretty good. The stipulation for the match was that one of the billionaires would have their head shaved bald. Since Trump was famous for having awful hair, it was an intriguing possibility to a lot of people. They also announced “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the referee to give it the star power it needed to be an even bigger match.
A barber's chair made it down to the ring. It went on its own down a slide with theme music as well. Vince McMahon was introduced first. Umaga was next with Armando Alejandro Estrada. Umaga was the Intercontinental Champion. Donald Trump made his entrance along with a former Miss USA. Money fell from the ceiling for Trump's entrance. The ECW Champion Bobby Lashley was next. Good pop for him, but not a huge ovation. He was physically imposing, but not the most charismatic guy. The glass broke and Steve Austin emerged in a referee shirt. "Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave." That's what it said on the video screens. Huge ovation for Austin. Vince did the classic “big gulp” reaction to Austin’s entrance.
(If you would have told me in 2007 that Donald Trump would be the US President in 2016 I would have thought no way. I'm not American, but obviously I know Trump and he's been a celebrity for well over 30 years now. I even used to watch The Apprentice when it was good for a few seasons. There were always rumors that he would run for President, then he finally did it and he won. Trump has been close friends with Vince McMahon for well over 30 years as well. Getting Trump to work this WrestleMania was a big deal for WWE and the head shaving gimmick was a smart idea.)
This was an actual graphic WWE used to promote the match. It's very tongue in cheek.
Battle of the Billionaires Hair vs. Hair Match: Umaga (w/Vince McMahon & Armando Alejandro Estrada) vs. Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump)
Pre-match notes: McMahon with Umaga were the heels and Trump with Lashley were the faces. The special referee was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. I liked Umaga more than Lashley. I thought Umaga did a great job of being a monster heel. Lashley was improving, though. Going into this match you would think both guys would be WWE main eventers going into the next decade, but it didn’t happen that way.
Lashley attacked Umaga in the corner and Austin pulled him off because Umaga was in the ropes. Lashley hit a shoulderblock off the middle ropes. Estrada tried to interfere, so Lashley pulled him in the ring and Lashley gave him a powerslam. Umaga charged in, Lashley ducked, pulled the rope down and Umaga went crashing to the floor. That was a painful looking bump. Lashley charged in, Umaga moved and Lashley went crashing to the floor outside the ring by going between the middle and top rope. Estrada was gone, so they did that spot early to take him out of the match. Umaga hit a big splash in the ring for two. Umaga choked Lashley. Austin got physical with him so he would break it up. Umaga attacked him with a clothesline and then used his giant ass as a weapon, crushing Lashley's chest cavity. Samoan Drop by Umaga. Vince jumped on the apron to cheer on Umaga. Lashley ran the ropes and knocked Vince to the ground. Umaga dropped Lashley with a neckbreaker. Trump encouraged Bobby. Umaga went to the top and Lashley threw him off with a slam. Lashley hit a clothesline with a flip bump. Both guys were down. After initially counting them down, Austin refused to count them down because he said no disqualifications or countouts.
Shane McMahon ran down to the ring to support his father. Umaga with an uppercut and then Umaga worked over Lashley in the corner with chokes, so Austin grabbed Umaga by the face to break it up. Shane McMahon jumped on the apron. Austin scared him down, then Steve turned back to Umaga, who decked Austin with a punch to the throat with JR saying that it was the Samoan Spike to Austin. Austin bumped out to the floor. Vince was happy about it. Shane went after Lashley. Lashley grabbed him, but Umaga made the save and hit his running butt splash in the corner on Lashley. I always loved that move. Shane put the trash can on Lashley's face to set him up for the Coast to Coast. He had a jacket on while he did it too. Shane hit the Coast to Coast dropkick, smashing the trash can in Lashley's face. Shane took off his jacket and shirt to reveal a referee shirt. They told Umaga to go to the top rope. Umaga hit a top rope splash on Lashley. Shane counted the pin, but Austin got back to his feet. Austin pulled Shane out and threw Shane into the steps. The crowd was going wild for Austin's comeback. When Austin went back into the ring, Umaga decked Austin with a punch to the throat. Vince was happy, so Trump attacked Vince on the floor with a tackle and then Trump did the worst punches in the history of the business. It did draw a big reaction, though. Trump’s not used to throwing punches obviously, so I won't make fun of them that much. Umaga went after Austin with the Samoan Spike, but Steve avoided it and hit the Stone Cold Stunner on Umaga to a huge pop. Lashley gave Umaga a Spear, Lashley covered and Austin counted the pinfall at 13:05.
Winner by pinfall: Bobby Lashley
Analysis: **3/4 This had some good moments, but also a very predictable outcome. It’s fair to say that the post match angle was more important than the match. If it was just Lashley vs. Umaga then perhaps they could have had a better match. The spotlight was on Trump and McMahon so much that it took attention away from the wrestlers. The additions of Austin and Shane helped the match a lot because the crowd reacted to their moments better than the actual wrestlers in the match.
(The outcome of this match was never in doubt because we all knew the babyface Lashley was going to win. It’s hard to envision this match without Austin there because he was so great in his role as referee. Bringing Shane back for this match was a smart move too because Shane was a great performer especially as a heel.)
Post match, Austin threw McMahon into the ring. Shane attacked Austin from behind, so Austin gave Shane a Thesz Press, the punches, the FU elbow and the Stone Cold Stunner that sent Shane out to the floor. Meanwhile, Vince was trying to crawl away and he waved back to them in the ring. Lashley sprinted up the aisle and carried Vince back to the ringside area. Austin gave Vince the Stone Cold Stunner to knock him out. Lashley put Vince in the chair. They strapped Vince in. Lashley and Trump took clippers to Vince's hair while Austin held Vince in place. The crowd was cheering. Vince was freaking out, telling them to stop it. Trump did most of the head shaving. They played the song "Bald Headed Blues" just for fun. They put shaving cream on Vince's hair and used razors to finish the job for him. That's very kind of them, really. It was one of the most entertaining head shaving incidents you'll ever see because of how well Vince sold it. To cap it off, Lashley put a mirror in front of Vince's face and Vince fell out of the chair because he was so humiliated by what he saw. To cap it off, Austin, Lashley and Trump celebrated with a beer bash. Then Austin gave Trump a Stone Cold Stunner. Poor Donald didn't know how to sell it right. They should have done a better job of teaching him because it left brutal. Austin left to a good reaction. JR: "I bet Trump's ex-wives are doing cartwheels." Good line.
Analysis: The payoff was great with Vince getting his head shaved and selling it with the goofy facial expressions. Vince was the star of the match with the way he was celebrating the good parts of the match and then did an even better job when it came time to the head shaving. Trump is awkward in everything he did. Austin was definitely needed because he had a lot of fun doing the head shaving. From the time the video package started playing to the end of the segment, the whole thing nearly lasted 40 minutes. The McMahon feud would continue against Lashley, leading to a run with Vince as the ECW Champ. Let's just say it wasn't the greatest angle in the history of the business.
(This really was Vince McMahon at his comedic best with the facial expressions and overreacting to everything as only he can. A nice reminder of Vince's greatness as a performer in case you forgot.)
There was an “All Grown Up” video about John Cena.
There were highlights shown from the pre-show match with Ric Flair and Carlito beating Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero.
The Lumberjills made their way out for the Women's Title match. They were: Mickie James (my favorite in the group), Layla, Jillian Hall, Candice Michelle, Kelly Kelly, Trinity, Torrie Wilson, Brooke Adams, Kristal Marshall, Michelle McCool, Maria and Victoria. Ashley made her entrance. She was getting the Playboy push, so she got the title shot against Melina, who was the heel champion that got the paparazzi entrance that was part of her gimmick.
(I think it was a talented and beautiful group of women right there that were part of an era where they didn’t book the women in long matches that often. Some of them weren’t that skilled in the ring, but others were talented and just didn’t get a chance to show it enough. My favorites in order would be Mickie, Torrie and Candice.)
Lumberjills Match for the Women's Title: Melina vs. Ashley
Pre-match note: Melina was the heel Women’s Champion and Ashley was the babyface challenger that was on the cover of Playboy magazine.
Ashley attacked early, Melina was sent out of the ring so the girls tossed Melina back in. Melina dropped Ashley throat first across the ropes. Ashley came back with forearms and then a boot to the face for the vintage divas panty shot. Melina did a swing for a two count. Melina buried her feet into Ashley's back for a submission hold. Ashley came back with a headscissors. Ashley gave her the slowest monkey flip ever. Ashley missed an elbow off the middle rope when Melina move and Melina covered for two. They did a pinning sequence. Melina won with a bridging pin at 3:13.
Winner by pinfall: Melina
Analysis: 1/4* Awful match. At least it was short. Ashley had no business being in the ring when there were better women on the outside, especially Mickie and Victoria. That’s a company decision rather than a complaint about Ashley as a person. I just don’t think Ashley was ready for a match like this based on her skill level. Melina did do a good job as a heel champion, though.
Post match, Melina bragged about the win and Ashley sent her out of the ring. The crowd popped big as all the girls started brawling in the ring. Cole made fun of JBL for saying: "Lumberjill pandemonium." Anyway, the faces stood tall in the ring while Melina left with her heel buddies.
Analysis: That was better than the match. They probably should have done a tag team match instead of singles in this spot because the singles match wasn’t very good.
(It was sad to watch this again knowing Ashley committed suicide in May 2019. She was a beautiful woman with a good heart that had a strong personality. May she rest in peace.)
There was an “All Grown Up” video about Shawn Michaels.
The fans voted on who will win Cena vs. Michaels with 59% picking Cena and 41% picking Michaels.
The video package started up for the main event. Ross pointed out that Cena had been the WWE Champion for 20 of the previous 24 months while Michaels was looking to win the title one more time. There was a triple threat match between Michaels, Randy Orton and Edge that Michaels won. Michaels had finished second in the Rumble, yet here he was in the main event of WrestleMania. They were also the tag team champions going into this match because the tag titles didn't matter a whole lot in 2007. It was a babyface vs. babyface match in case you didn't know.
Shawn Michaels entered to a big pop. He used the Degeneration X music because in 2006 he and Triple H reunited the DX group. Hunter tore his quad in January, so he was out for this WrestleMania.
For John Cena's entrance, they filmed a Ford Mustang driving along an empty road and it parked right in front of Ford Field. It drove into the arena. It drove through some glass that had the WrestleMania 23 logo. It parked. Then John Cena emerged from the car with the WWE Title. He entered to a good ovation. It was a bit cheesy, but in the Motor City it made sense especially because Cena is a car aficionado.
(Prior to the match, a fan jumped into the ring to do some posing, but he was quickly tackled and they didn’t show him again. This was not shown on the WWE Network broadcast version of the match, but you can see it in the video above.)
WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Pre-match notes: Cena was the babyface WWE Champion and Michaels was also a babyface. They were also World Tag Team Champions on Raw together. JR said that Cena was in his “third straight WrestleMania main event” but it’s really the second time that Cena was in the last match at WM. In 2005, Cena won the WWE Title although it was not the actual main event. Cena was WWE Champion for 20 of the previous 24 months (thanks JR for that). This was the fourth time that Michaels would be in the main event with the others in 1996, 1998 and 2004 with another main event coming in 2010. Cena was also in the main event in 2006 along with future main events in 2011, 2012 and 2013. That means five total main events for both guys.
Michaels wanted a handshake early, Cena said no because Michaels had superkicked him on Raw and he didn't trust Michaels, so Shawn slapped John in the face followed by a HBK crotch chop. The early story was Michaels using his speed to avoid Cena's power. Eventually, Cena was able to slow him down with a clothesline. Michaels came back with an Austin like Thesz Press and then he gave Cena a hip toss over the top rope onto the floor below. Michaels hit an enziguiri out on the floor. Michaels hit the springboard moonsault off the middle rope onto Cena, which sent them both into the table. The table did not break. Great spot. In the ring, Cena went for a kick, Michaels blocked it and punched the left knee of Cena. Michaels attacked the leg and rammed the kneecap right into the post. Michaels continued to attack the left knee of Cena for the next several minutes. When Cena tried to strike, Michaels avoided it and went after the knee some more. The crowd wasn't too into the match at this point although it was okay because you could tell they were building up to something. Cena finally connected on a right hand to the face, but HBK came back with a corner charge into the stomach. They exchanged blows, which Cena won thanks to a punch to the head. Michaels charged into the corner and Cena moved, so HBK crashed head first into the ring post. Michaels came up bleeding after doing a blade job. Cena hit a clothesline. Then he ran on top of him with punches to the head. This was the point of the match where Cena stopped selling the knee. Not sure why. Cena hit his moves of doom with the shoulderblocks and the side spinning suplex. He shook his knee a few times, so I guess that was enough for him to be healed. He should have kept selling it some more. Cena hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Michaels avoided the FU (later known as Attitude Adjustment). They had an exchange of counter movies, then Michaels went for the superkick, Cena ducked and ref Mike Chioda took the kick right on the chin. That sent Chioda to the floor. That was really well done.
Cena went for the FU. Michaels countered it into a DDT. JR called it a brilliant counter. That was right. Both guys were down. Michaels felt the blood on his head, so he went outside the ring and took off the top half of the steel steps. He dragged Cena out to the floor. Michaels gave Cena a piledriver on the steel steps. People weren't doing piledrivers anymore, so the move meant that much more. Michaels rolled Cena back in. Referee Jack Doan came sprinting down the aisle to take over. Michaels covered for the one…two…no. Very good nearfall. Michaels hit a flying forearm to the face as JR busted out a "vintage Shawn Michaels" for the move. Michaels kipped up. Michaels went to the top rope and hit the Flying Elbow to the chest of Cena. Michaels went for the superkick. Cena was able to hit a clothesline out of nowhere. Great selling job by Michaels on that one. They did another slugfest. Cena went for a FU, but Michaels was able to counter with a rollup for two. Great nearfall there too. I forgot to mention that Cena was bleeding on the top of the head. They ran the ropes, Michaels went for a leap frog, Cena caught him and gave him the FU right in the middle of the ring. Cena was too hurt to cover right away. He crawled over and covered for a count of two. Crowd cheered. Cena put Michaels on the top rope and he wanted to give Michaels the FU off the top rope. Michaels knocked him off. Michaels hit a cross body, Cena caught him and went for the FU again. Michaels landed on his feet, went for superkick, Cena ducked, grabbed his foot for the STFU and Michaels kicked away multiple times. Shawn turned it into a rollup for two. That was a really good sequence there. Back to their feet, Michaels missed with an enziguiri, which led to Cena putting him in the STFU. Michaels made it to the ropes. The crowd cheered. They weren't really anti-Cena like the previous year at WrestleMania, but they liked Michaels too. The ref told Cena to break the hold when he reached the ropes with Doan physically pulling Cena off. That allowed Michaels to get to his feet and he connected with the Sweet Chin Music superkick to put down Cena. Michaels was slow in covering as Shawn covered with an arm over the chest for the one…two…no! Cena got his right shoulder up. That meant that each man kicked out of the finishing move of the other guy. Both guys struggled to get to their feet. Cena went for the FU. Michaels countered. Cena tripped Shawn up and put him in the STFU wrenching on the face while hooking the left leg. Michaels was in the hold for about 30 seconds and he was right in the middle of the ring. Michaels tapped out to give Cena the win at 28:22.
Winner by submission: John Cena
Analysis: ****1/4 I think everybody expected Cena to retain the title because he was the current star and the future star while Michaels was there to give him a great match. The HBK fan in me would have loved to see him win the WWE Title one more time in the WrestleMania event. It was a different kind of long match for Cena because it was more about technical wrestling. Cena wasn’t a great technical wrestler, but he was capable of having awesome matches. When the pace picked up they delivered a main event worthy performance with a lot of back and forth drama. I liked the way they built to the finishers with Michaels hitting the superkick only for Cena to kick out because Shawn was too slow on the cover. This came after Shawn kicked out of the FU, so it made it even. The last seven minutes of the match were especially great. It's interesting to note that Cena beat both DX guys in back to back years with the STFU, which really established that move as a deadly finisher.
I wrote more about this match in my series on WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches. Here’s part of what I wrote there:
(Michaels working over the leg of Cena in the first part of the match was a veteran move that was done to slow down the bigger guy in Cena. I can understand why Michaels had a problem with Cena not selling the left knee injury enough because there were a lot of times in the match where Cena was on offense where he wouldn’t sell anything. Cena sold it at other times, but not all the time. Selling a move shouldn’t be a sometimes thing. It’s part of the story and if you don’t sell it when you should you are hurting the quality of the match. The spot with the piledriver on the steel steps leading to the second ref counting a nearfall was well done. It showed how close Michaels was to winning the match and helped put the match into another gear in terms of the excitement level.
The last ten minutes were outstanding with the majority of the crowd standing up for a lot of it. I liked that they went with a submission win for Cena instead of the FU. By having Cena win by submission, it really put him over as having earned it because he beat Michaels up so much he was forced to tap out. Plus, Cena made Triple H tap out in the main event of WrestleMania one year earlier, so it was a fitting way to end his second straight WrestleMania main event.)
Post match, Michaels was selling the pain. Cena had a look of satisfaction on his face and he also had a lot of emotion on his face, dedicating the win to his father John Cena Sr. After celebrating in the ring, Cena went up to Michaels in the aisle. Cena wanted a handshake. Michaels refused it and walked away alone.
(Following the match, there were rumors of Michaels being angry at Cena because he didn't sell the knee for long enough after Michaels worked it over so much. Apparently he was mad about it backstage. The handshake at the end was supposed to happen, but Michaels refused it because of Cena's poor job of selling the knee injury.)
Cena continued to celebrate the win. The show ended with video highlights.
This event had a run time of 3:41:11 on WWE Network.
Show Rating (out of 10): 7.5
I gave three matches a rating of four stars (out of 5) or higher, so that equates to a very good show in my estimation. Plus, the Battle of the Billionaires match had some fun moments too. I enjoyed WrestleMania 23 quite a bit.
- The main event was a great match, but it could have been better. Nobody's better than HBK in terms of building up key moments in the match. It's just a shame that the first ten minutes of the match where HBK worked over the knee were rendered pointless because Cena didn't sell it the rest of the way.
- If Triple H didn't tear his patella tendon in January 2007, would the main event have been Cena vs. Michaels? I doubt it. I remember reading that they were going to do a Triple H/Cena rematch from the year before. Where would that have left Michaels? Not totally sure. I'm glad we got this match, though. It was a good thing for Cena as well as Michaels.
- The Undertaker's match with Batista was one of the better big man matches you will ever see. They worked so hard, they hit their big spots and they had very good chemistry. Batista's not as tall of course, but he is a 300 pounder and better than most guys at that size. I think Undertaker's best run in his career came from 2006 to 2009, which is when he was in his early 40s. It's amazing how he got better with age. I guess with experience comes wisdom and how to build a match too. Of the first 15 Undertaker matches at WrestleMania, this is the first one that made the four star level. I don't think it's a spoiler when I tell you that the next four matches will make that level too.
- You could tell how much fun Vince McMahon was having. Trump is very robotic in everything he does. He didn't do bad, though. No complaints from me on Trump's performance consider how inexperienced he was. Without Austin they might have had trouble. As usual, Stone Cold made it fun.
Best Match: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels - One of the better matches in Cena's career to this point. (****1/4 out of 5)
Worst Match: The Great Khali vs. Kane (DUD)
Five Stars of the Night
- Shawn Michaels - Amazing job in the main event.
- Undertaker - Incredible performance working with a bigger opponent. Undertaker is the best big man worker ever.
- Batista - One of the better matches of his career. I didn’t know how he'd do with a bigger opponent. He pulled it off.
- John Cena - It's not easy to keep up with Michaels. He did a good job. It could have been better, but it's not easy to pull off a four star main event at WrestleMania. Give him credit.
- Jeff Hardy - His ladder spot on Edge stole the show in the opener. Crazy dude.
Vince McMahon was terrific too, but I’d rather shine the spotlight on the wrestlers here.
Next up: Backlash 2007. I’m going to include the Michaels vs. Cena match from April 23, 2007 on Raw in that review also. It’s a classic Raw match.
Thanks for reading.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org