The John Report: WrestleMania 23 Preview

I love WrestleMania. Everything about it. The pageantry, the hype, the announcers proclaiming that this is the biggest show in the history of the company. Of course it is, until the one next year. With that said, just because I like the concept of WrestleMania does not mean that I'm about to say that everything on this year's card is great and refrain from criticizing it.

As good as WWE is right now (and they have been very good to start 2007, in my opinion) there are two things I don't like. For example, every time I watch Smackdown they make a big deal about how Paul London and Brian Kendrick have had a ten month title reign that is one of the longest in company history. So how do they reward them? By leaving them off the WrestleMania card! How does that happen? I don't like that at all. The other small gripe I have is about titles. The following titles will not be defended at WrestleMania: ECW Title, Raw Tag Titles, Raw IC Title, Smackdown Tag Titles and the Cruiserweight Title (no surprise there). I think it's a shame. Titles are supposed to be chased after and should be defended on the biggest show of the year. I realize you can't fit everything into one show, but some sort of effort would be nice. You've got four hours and right now there's eight matches. They definitely could have fit in one more or taken one out like Kane vs. Khali. There are also deserving people like Johnny Nitro and the aforementioned tag champions that should be on the card. Maybe they should get boob jobs and pose for Playboy. Or not. At least it'll guarantee them a Mania appearance.

I am generally excited for the show despite my above gripes. If I was this excited back in September I would have tried to get tickets seeing as how Detroit is only two hours away from me. I didn't know it would be Michaels vs. Cena back then. That's what I want to see. It will be epic because Shawn Michaels is in it, but also because John Cena deserves it. I like the Money in the Bank match a lot too and I think Benoit/MVP has a chance to be really good if they give it enough time. Steve Austin being there is great too. The theme song "Ladies and Gentlemen" is tremendous even though I don't really like Saliva. I seem to have the song caught in my head. I think the rest of the card is okay for the most part. They've done a good job with it. Without further Apu, here she blows…

United States Title: Chris Benoit (c) vs. Montel Vontavious Porter
The likely opener for the show, this could be the surprise of the card. They've been wrestling eachother on house shows over the past month and from what I've read their matches have often gone 20 minutes or so. I'm guessing they're doing that in order to bust out a long match here. I hope so. Chris Benoit's very good in every match, but he's great when he gets time to show it. Last year he only got about ten minutes with JBL and it was okay. With ten more minutes they could have done a lot better. I've been impressed by MVP although I really want to see him in a longer match, so hopefully he gets that chance here. Plus, I have the same middle name as him. I just don't use John Vontavious C. as my posting name because it's just too long. I think MVP comes away with the win because this belt is better suited for a young up and coming talent like him. He'll probably win through cheating because WWE seems to be infatuated with the heel holding the tights or the ropes for the pin. Also, Benoit's rumored to be switched to Raw probably because they realize that Raw has shitty matches more regularly than Smackdown and Benoit always seems to be the guy they move.
Winner: MVP

Women's Title "Lumberjill" Match: Melina (c) vs. Ashley
This is kinda like Trish vs. Christy from a couple years ago with the Playboy tramp of the month going against the more veteran heel that refuses to share her body with the public even though she dresses like a tramp herself. You gotta love wrestling. Problem is that Melina isn't Trish as far as credibility or in-ring talent goes although she is good enough in the ring. She just hasn't had as many matches. Regarding Ashley, she seems like a nice person with a pair of headlights that she paid good money for (yes, I noticed), but I'm still kinda pissed that the team she "manages" is off the show. Maybe London/Kendrick can be Lumberjlls! Speaking of those Lumberjills, I hope they have a competition backstage to see who can dress the sluttiest in the arena. And I hope Kristal wins. Oh, the match? Lost my train of thought. Melina wins.
Winner: Melina

The Great Khali vs. Kane
This is the shit/piss break match of the show. I'm going to suggest to the people I'm watching with that we have WM21 ready in the DVD player so once we hear the music of these guys we'll hit play, flip to Michaels vs. Angle and enjoy that all over again. I don't need to torture myself with this match. Kane's probably taking time off soon to deal with his sore knee, so Khali gets the win. Like I care.
Winner: The Great Khali

ECW Originals (Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Sandman and Tommy Dreamer) vs. New Breed (Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von and Kevin Thorn)
I doubt this gets even ten minutes. That means a lot of people coming in, hitting their big moves, tagging out and going to the finish much sooner than an eight man tag should. Not that I'm complaining. I see a lot of heels winning other matches, so the good guys should win here. Oh, and I think it's a great thing for teacher-vampire relations that Matt Striker and Kevin Thorn get along.
Winners: ECW Originals

Money in The Bank Ladder Match: Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Finlay vs. King Booker vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Ken Kennedy vs. CM Punk
This match should be fun. I don't think adding two guys is going to hurt the concept of it. It was an excellent match two years ago and last year's was pretty good although it was hurt by weaker talent in it. This year the talent is better than last year, so it should reach the four star level again. As far as predictions go I think Edge is the pick because they're going to want to keep his perfect WrestleMania record going until he faces the also perfect record of Undertaker probably next year. If he wasn't in this match it would be a tough call. I'm hopeful that they make CM Punk look good in the match because he's got so much potential and is winning over fans. The more chances he has to prove himself the better he'll be. Jeff Hardy will look good in here too. Matt should hit some nice spots too although I get a chuckle when they say he's got a good chance to win because of hi ladder experience. He's quite experienced at losing ladder matches. Kennedy or Orton would have a decent chance to win if Edge wasn't there. Because of the streak, though, I'd be surprised if Edge doesn't win.
Winner: Edge

Battle of the Billionaires: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon) with Steve Austin as ref
If you think Lashley is losing this match you're an idiot. I hate to be rude, but I have to be honest. I think Trump's done a good job in his part of the promotion of the match. Aside from calling his guy "Lindsey" on a radio show a few weeks ago he's been solid. It's become obvious that McMahon is big on Lashley and he's going to get a big push going forward. That's why Vince is putting himself against Lashley on a regular basis. He knows the fans are going to love whoever is opposite himself. It should be a cool moment to see Vince get his head shaved for the facial expressions alone. You can't beat the Vinny Mac face. The fans will love it, especially with Austin there. This isn't about the match, it's about the moment.
Winner: Bobby Lashley

World Title: Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker
I think the build for this has been good. Not great, but solid. You can't deny that these two have mastered the art of the long stare. That's all they seem to do. I'm not sure how the match is going to go. On the one hand I think Batista's not experienced or good enough to work a great match with a big guy even though Undertaker is very good sometimes. On the other hand this is WrestleMania, so you never know how Batista's going to react. Maybe he steps up his game to the point where it's a good match. Undertaker's better against smaller guys because he's arguably the best big man ever when it comes to physically dominating an opponent. When it's against somebody the size of Batista you have to tell a different story, so it's hard to know what kind of match they'll have. He had some very good matches with Lesnar, but Batista's not nearly the type of athlete or overall talent that Lesnar is. That's not a knock on Batista. It's more a testament to how good Lesnar is (or was). I think they'd have a better match if it was No DQ or something that allowed them to brawl a bit more. I can see that happening in rematches.

I'm going to pick Undertaker here. I just hope it doesn't end with Batista doing the ten punches in the turnbuckle and Undertaker giving him the Last Ride because he can't pick him up to do it the other way. I hate that finish so much because it's overdone. I think post match Batista turns heel. I think he snaps about losing the title. I also think that would be to his benefit because his babyface run has run its course. He's probably better off as a ruthless heel. The only downside to that is Smackdown is kinda weak on the babyface side until Mysterio gets back. They could always move somebody there, I guess. I'm thinking they get around 20 minutes and I think it will be average in terms of quality. This feud isn't ending here. It's only just beginning. They need it to last longer.
Winner: The Undertaker

WWE Title: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
This better be the last match. It deserves to be. I don't care who won the Rumble. Cena's the unquestioned top guy and he should be in this spot. I think this is going to be the best match John Cena's ever hand and I'm a big supporter of the guy. He works his ass off and gets a bad rep from people who are naïve about his merchandise or some of the moves he does. Look, if you could be a millionaire in your 20s by doing ridiculous moves like the five knuckle shuffled you'd probably do it too. For the match, I think they'll get around 30 minutes and it will be exceptional. I believe the crowd will be behind Michaels more than Cena because the "older guy getting another shot" story is more fun than the dominant champion. Plus, Cena has his haters and they are the type of people that travel a long distance to see WrestleMania. Just like last year's Cena match the crowd should be terrific.

When I wrote a prediction about this match back in a February column I said: "I see Michaels coming out on top after each guy kicks out of a bunch of big moves throughout the match. I think Shawn deserves one more title run just to see what he can do with it. Cena's young enough and good enough where a loss to a guy like Michaels is not going to hurt him. Meanwhile, this is the best chance to put the belt on Michaels again, so I see it happening. To end the show, I can see Triple H limping out there to hug his best friend in what would be a memorable visual."

I change my mind now. I'm allowed to do that, you know. Based on booking and how Raw ended this week I think Cena's going to retain. It will put him over huge of course, but like I said last month a Michaels win would be a lot more fun. I'll probably end up rooting hard for Shawn like I did 11 years ago because he's just that good. Ultimately I don't care who wins as long as it's a great match, which I think it will be. I think this has match of the night, match of the year and one of the best matches in Mania history type of potential. I hope it lives up to it. Cena wins via pinfall. No heel turn for Michaels. I don't think he's got it in his heart to do that, sadly. It might end with a handshake, though.
Winner: John Cena

In Closing…
I really have no idea how this show is going to rank compared to other WrestleManias. It depends on the quality of the matches aside from the two that we know are going to be very good (Michaels/Cena and MITB). If they give Benoit/MVP more than 15 minutes it has the potential to be great. If Batista/Undertaker have good chemistry together it could be better than a lot of us think. The Billionaire match is a spectacle more than a match, albeit a funny spectacle. I don't expect much from Kane/Khali, the Women's match or the ECW match, so the quality of the show is going to depend on the time they give to the matches that deserve it. I think come Monday the discussion will mostly be about how good Michaels vs. Cena was more than anything.

Lastly, check out my Best and Worst of WrestleManias Past column from earlier in the week. I should be back on Monday or Tuesday with some sort of WrestleMania reaction type of column. Not sure when exactly, but it'll be here.

Enjoy WrestleMania 23.

Smell ya later,
John C. -
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