Counterfeit Pennies Special Edition: WrestleMania XXIII – All Wrapped Up

Here’s my post-WrestleMania wrap-up edition of Counterfeit Pennies featuring my original WrestleMania XXIII predictions (they never made it into the Roundtable, unfortunately) and some insights/analysis of the events that transpired.

WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels

What I Predicted: This is the most exciting WrestleMania match for me since Rock-Hogan because I truly don’t know what to expect. While much of the IWC has deemed this the perfect opportunity to finally turn John Cena heel, I can easily see Shawn Michaels going that route as well when considering the fact that HBK’s persona has had just as many if not more character changes and identity crises than Macho Man Randy Savage. I am going to agree with my IWC brethren and say that John Cena turns heel after losing the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels in a very solid but not stellar ***½ match. This will set up not only Cena’s heel turn – which I expect to see unfold before WrestleMania goes off the air – but also a pretty interesting storyline between Michaels and Orton, who I think will win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.

What Actually Happened: John Cena and Shawn Michaels put on a show that was easily the Match of the Night. The suspense level was very high, and there were many solid moments that kept the momentum swinging in both directions. I marked out when Cena took the sick piledriver on the steel steps, and by the end of the match I had no problem with the outcome either way. To see Michaels tap out to the STFU was mildly surprising, as was the fact that there were no heel turns just yet. Cena has now beaten Triple H and HBK in back-to-back WrestleMania title matches, so at the rate he is going he’ll make Hogan tap out at WM 24.

World Heavyweight Title: Batista vs. The Undertaker

What I Predicted: Ah, yes, the Streak versus the Big Gold Belt. I truly feel that The Undertaker is going to be given one last title run because of several reasons. First, I don’t feel like there is any way that The Undertaker is going to pass the torch to someone who has been as maligned as Batista has been throughout the past few months. Second, The Undertaker is probably going to retire before too long, and I always envisioned his exit from wrestling to be much grander and more permanent than other wrestlers who have popped in and out of retirement. For example, I can see the Undertaker’s last match as a sick and twisted but unsuccessful title defense where he then literally disappears before our eyes and never returns to the ring again. Digressions aside, I just have that feeling that the Phenom will leave WrestleMania with his streak in tact and the title in hand.

What Actually Happened: Nothing shocking here, as The Undertaker cashes in on what is likely to be his last run as Champion. And barring an unforeseen move to Raw, the course of SmackDown!’s future now has Mr. Kennedy vs. The Undertaker written all over it.

“Battle of the Billionaires” Hair Match – Steve Austin as Referee:
Bobby Lashley (w/ Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/ Vince McMahon)

What I Predicted: As much as I hate to admit it, I have to give Vince McMahon credit for turning the Fake Rosie O’Donnell vs. Fake Donald Trump fiasco into what has become the pretty intriguing spectacle that has been coined The Battle of the Billionaires. Not only had Vince generated the mainstream buzz that he so craves, this storyline has actually elevated a couple of wrestlers’ profiles as well. By giving him Donald Trump as his quasi-mouthpiece and Vince McMahon as his main adversary, Lashley has been able to become more recognizable to fans and build more credibility as a deserving ECW Champion. With Umaga, you have a wrestler who is as high as he could possibly be on the WrestleMania card, since there was no chance he was going to be thrown into another title match with Cena at WrestleMania. The three negatives I see with this match are as follows: 1) It would have been nice to see Lashley defend his ECW title; 2) I feel like Trump has taken a little too much of the spotlight / microphone time away from Armando Alejandro Estrada, who really hasn’t done much lately except break perfectly fine cigars in half; and 3) Is there anyone who really thinks Donald Trump is going to get his head shaved? You can even count me in as one of those people who sees Vince McMahon as the billionaire who goes bald by night’s end.

What Actually Happened: I completely forgot about the probability of Shane McMahon interference, though it should have been obvious that Vince was going to try anything and everything to get Umaga to pin Lashley so that Donald Trump could be embarrassed in the barber’s chair. Even more obvious was the fact that once Shane did come into play, you just knew all it was going to do in the end was give Austin another person to give the Stunner to. The Vince head-shaving segment was actually more amusing than I thought it would be, especially when Lashley and Trump broke out the shaving cream. On a sidenote, Donald Trump now gets the credit for the worst sell of the Stone Cold Stunner in the history of wrestling. That blown spot even made me appreciate how great The Rock was at selling Stone Cold’s signature move during their plethora of main event matches over the years.

Money in the Bank III: Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy vs. C.M. Punk vs. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay vs. King Booker vs. Mr. Kennedy

What I Predicted: This match is filled with very tantalizing possibilities, and I would love to see a huge upset such as Jeff Hardy or C.M. Punk emerging victorious. However, I think WWE is going to play off of the Edge-Orton saga and that Randy Orton will be the chosen one to secure the guaranteed title shot in the coming year. My two biggest reasons for this are 1) To set up an Orton-Michaels storyline to coincide with what I feel will be John Cena’s imminent heel turn and Edge’s added animosity after losing; and 2) Everyone knows that Raw is the flagship show of the WWE, and I just feel like the SmackDown / ECW competitors in this match could get a title shot on their respective brands whenever they wanted. Of course, WWE could pull a fast one on me and have the MITB winner switch brands, but I still think Orton is the likely candidate here.

What Actually Happened: We all knew Jeff Hardy was going to do something crazy during this match, but even with those great expectations his spot against Edge was absolutely incredible. Kennedy winning Money in the Bank was a mild but pleasant surprise for me and at the very least it gives him credibility that he actually deserves, unlike when he was being pumped up for winning matches against former champions via Disqualifications, Countouts, etc. As I said previously, this logically sets up Kennedy vs. Taker, unless of course he jumps to Raw to try and unseat Cena in what is an already crowded title picture.

United States Title: Chris Benoit vs. Montel Vontavious Porter

What I Predicted: If Chris Benoit loses to MVP at WrestleMania, it will be a sad indication of how far he has truly fallen since he made Triple H tap out to get his first World Championship at WrestleMania three years ago. I am hoping that Benoit prevails, especially since MVP has done NOTHING do impress me since he’s been on SmackDown.

What Actually Happened: Thankfully, Chris Benoit successfully retained his U.S. Title tonight. I assume that this will be MVP’s first and last WrestleMania moment.

Women’s Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley

What I Predicted: In my last article, I discussed how disappointed I was that better wrestlers like Mickie James and Victoria were taking a back seat to Melina – the Stephanie McMahon wannabe – and Ashley – just another Playboy Cover Girl with a modicum of wrestling ability. I expect that Mickie and Victoria will be two of the Lumberjills, so just maybe we’ll see a well-executed women’s wrestling move or two before the end of the night. In terms of a prediction, I think all of the commotion at ringside will help Melina find a way to cheat to retain her title.

What Actually Happened: I didn’t think it was possible, but this match was even worse than I expected. This even trumps Khali vs. Kane as Worst Match of the Night, and it just may wind up on the ballot of the 2007 Inside Pulse Awards for Worst Match of the Year.

Originals vs. New Breed: Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Sandman & Tommy Dreamer vs. Elijah Burke, Marcus Corvon, Matt Striker & Kevin Thorn

What I Predicted: I think The New Breed wins, probably with the help of an ambiguous C.M. Punk run-in that will help this angle progress to a more interesting level on ECW.

What Actually Happened: There was no Punk interference here, just a plain old squash of The New Breed. Did RVD really need this victory that badly? Either way, this match did nothing to make me want to tune into ECW on Tuesday night, which I will keep watching out of mere habit than for any other reason.

Kane vs. The Great Khali

What I Predicted: Me during this match: “Hello, is this Dominos?” Although, how cool would it be if Kane uses his hook on Khali, and then Khali just deflates right in front of us!

What Actually Happened: This match came on just before the pizza came, so I looked at it as a good chance to catch a few pitches of the Mets-Cardinals game. I flipped back just in time to see Khali hung up on the ropes, a move I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Of course, Kane’s advantage was short-lived and The Great Khali rebounded to get an easy victory in an awfully mediocre match.

Final Thoughts: So this closes the book on this year’s post-WrestleMania edition of Counterfeit Pennies. As good as it was to see classic personalities like the Reverand Slick, this was not a classic WrestleMania to say the least. Ultimately, Money in the Bank and Cena vs. Michaels were great first and last matches, but much of everything else in between was just not very appetizing. My overall rating is a lowly **1/2 when you consider this is supposed to be the Super Bowl of wrestling…..

EXCLUSIVE WRESTLEMANIA COVERAGE INSIDE PULSE WRESTLING:

Check out Scott Keith’s must-read Smark Rant for WrestleMania 23 — this is such a staple that it’s making paperclips go out of business…

PK shares the personal journey of a true mark who made it all the way to Detroit for WrestleMania 23, so check out his Updated Traveler’s Blog in Detroit

James Hatton and his wacky cohorts took the time to ramble through the events that transpired at WrestleMania 23, and you should feel obligated to read what went down during Rabblemania 07

That’s all for now … CB

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