The Reality of Wrestling: Wrestlemania 23

The Reality of Wrestling: Wrestlemania 23
By Phil Clark

The big show delivers big thrills with few spills

This past weekend, the eyes of the world (cliché I know) were all centered on Detroit, Michigan as Wrestlemania 23 came and went. A crowd of over 80,000 fans paying just under $6 million watched what has been said to be a great show well worth the $50 that PPV companies were able to get from hundreds of thousands of buyers. Vince was shaved, Cena retained, Taker stayed unbeaten, and it was almost painfully obvious that The E wanted to get everyone—I mean everyone—onto the show in some capacity no matter how meaningful or pointless or weird (Steamboat dancing seems a bit surreal to me, but that could just be me). Overall, they did deliver, as it is a rarity these days that Wrestlemania doesn’t deliver proving once again that no matter how bad The E does the other 364 days of the year, for one day, they are beloved by everyone.

P.C. Says: Mania did deliver, but this year’s won’t be in the top 5 ever

This past Sunday’s Wrestlemania was a great show. Yeah, I said it. As much as I bash The E, this is one PPV that they really can’t screw up. Last year may not have been great, but it was still enjoyable with a very hot crowd, and it was better than pretty much every E PPV for the rest of ’06 anyway. This year did provide the standard needed to be included on the list of great Mania shows (two **** quality matches) and thus was a success from a critical standpoint.

Money in the Bank was a great idea for an opener. It was a match guaranteed to fulfill the necessary tasks for an opening match: a fan favorite (not always a face) wins and the match gets the crowd into the show. This one did that with relative ease as the spots were very creative and justifying bumping up the number of participants from six to eight. The Edge/Jeff Hardy spot was probably my favorite just because they finally broke a ladder. However, there were a ton of great spots in this one and Kennedy’s pop after winning was something else.

Kane/Khali was exactly what I thought it would be: slow, plodding, with nothing really to sink your teeth into. However, they did keep it relatively short (thank god). However, can somebody in The E’s production meetings convince someone—anyone—to stop incorporating their superstars’ movie roles into their wrestling characters. The fact that they’re in movies should be a change from their wrestling character. Did Rock come back dressed as The Scorpion King in 2001? No, and there’s a reason why.

Benoit/MVP was a pleasant surprise as I’d never seen MVP wrestle and honestly didn’t have that much anticipation to see him wrestle either. However, he did show me as this looked like the first ten minutes of a really great twenty-minute match with the arm psychology being done pretty well by the still green Porter. The headbutt wasn’t really the best finisher, but psychology considered, it passes.

Batista/Taker is a match that I will have to take another look at. While most of the reviews that I’ve read so far have praised this match, I honestly didn’t see it. I don’t think that Batista came to work at all, Taker however did. I’ll give Mean Mark credit for that as this will probably be his last hurrah (you never know, however) and this might be the last of Batista so maybe he was suddenly taken over by the Brock Lesnar mindset and just said, “Fuck it.” Still, this is a match that I’ll rewatch out of curiosity alone. Maybe it’ll turn out we were watching different matches.

All I’ll say about the ECW match is this: how can you NOT have The Pounce at Wrestlemania?

Lashley/Umaga didn’t surprise me one bit in that it was a crappy brawl, but not as crappy as Trump however. First the press conference and now this. Couldn’t they have gotten somebody to at least show him how to do the two moves (a slap and a clothesline) that he had to do this whole past week? This match did however prove two things: Umaga’s match with Cena last month showed that Cena may actually have found his niche as a good brawler and that Lashley will not make it big as his supposed to be career making performance fell flat. However, Vince shaved was pretty cool. Anyone who says that Vince doesn’t sacrifice at least a little bit should watch this one.

Women’s Title match=bathroom break.

Cena/Michaels may very well be the match of the year by year’s end. For a Wrestlemania main-event, this one could end up on the list of greatest after a more analytical viewing from yours truly. Suspense, crowd heat, an epic feel, enough time for it to be good, this one had all of that on crack. So far, reviews have pegged it between **** and ****3/4 and knowing me, it’ll probably end up right in the middle when I attach a star rating to it. However, this should be Cena’s defining match, but seriously if you’re going to do a submission move, PLEASE do it right. If not, then scrap it and think of an apparently easier one to execute. Minus that, great ending to the show.

The Reality is Cena truly is the future now. After his first title run was mired by the fans turning on him and generally relying on his opponent to carry the load, Cena may be back to fulfilling the prophecy that was attached to him back in OVW. After getting great reviews for a match that I thought had no chance of succeeding (I haven’t seen it yet, but those reviews were universal) and now finishing the biggest event of the year in style, it seems that this reign should go better for Cena. Since the three brands are playing nice, opponents shouldn’t be hard to come by, his merchandise is selling ensuring that The E will try anything and everything with him, and it seems that he has now morphed into the great brawler that he showed signs of becoming back in ’03. However, the MVP (not to be confused with MVP) Mania would have to be Shawn Michaels. While I’m not a fan of Michaels’ backstage behavior over the course of his whole career (and that born again thing didn’t win him any points with me), he has always been able to out perform most of the locker. And now, at age 40, he outperformed everyone in what will likely be his last Wrestlemania main-event in what IS the defining performance of his comeback. Enjoy it Shawn, you earned it.

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