WM PPV Countdown: #12 – WrestleMania 23

WrestleMania 23 is one of my favorite WrestleManias of all time. Not only the atmosphere of hosting my own WrestleMania viewing party with my closest friends in grad school, the card was pretty solid from top to bottom. The show also started the new tradition of hosting the big card inside a massive football stadium somewhere across the country, rather than a traditional arena. Live from Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, the show used the theme of “All Grown Up.” It was a throwback to the historic WrestleMania III from twenty years earlier that was also held in suburban Detroit inside the Pontiac SilverDome.

With a card of eight big matches, the event was sold on the backs of the massive “Battle of the Billionaires” between Donald Trump and Vince McMahon. Trump is no stranger to WrestleMania as his Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City hosted WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V with The Donald himself in attendance. He also made appearances over the years at the live event including WrestleMania VII in LA and WrestleMania XX in New York City. So it wasn’t a surprise when Trump and Vince McMahon struck a deal for WrestleMania 23 in 2007 where Trump would appear in the corner of a “hand-picked wrestler” to battle a hand-picked wrestler of McMahon’s choosing. It was billed as the “Battle of the Billionaires” where the losing “billionaire” would get his head shaved.

Then reigning ECW Champion Bobby Lashley was given the push of his wrestling lifetime by being the guy handpicked by the company to represent Trump. Meanwhile Intercontinental Champion Umaga was chosen as evil henchman of Mr. McMahon for the battle. Then to add to the spectacle, Stone Cold Steve Austin was included as the special guest referee for the event. Naturally Umaga lost and McMahon’s head was shaved which saved Trump from losing that trademark coif.

In addition, the dual World Championship matches provided for some great entertainment to supplement the celebrity spectacle. While the “Battle of the Billionaires” was the true main event, tradition also beckons that a World Title bout closes the show. The nod was given to the John Cena-Shawn Michaels WWE Title match. Originally the plan was to feature Cena defending the Title against Triple H in a rematch from WrestleMania 22, but an ill-timed quad injury to Triple H left Cena’s dance card open and thus allowing HHH’s DeGeneration X tag partner to take the spot. The match is often overlooked when talk of great WrestleMania matches are talked about and continued the streak of Michaels’ unbelievable WrestleMania matches.

Undertaker and Batista battled over the World Heavyweight Championship and apparently were furious about getting snubbed for the show-closing main event and made a pact to steal the show. Deep in the mid-card, Batista and Undertaker put on a far better power match than anyone could have expected while Undertaker walked out as the new Champion and kept his undefeated WrestleMania streak alive. The two men had amazing chemistry with each other and proved it wasn’t a fluke as they went on to have a series of great matches over the next year.

On the undercard, The Great Khali battled Kane in a battle of big men monsters that included a spot where Kane bodyslammed the giant Khali. It was intended to hark back to WrestleMania III when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant. Rumors at the time said that the company was in negotiations with Hogan to return to the company for this event so that he could wrestle Khali in a tribute to the bout twenty years earlier, but various factors kept it from happening.

In addition the stars of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling, including Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, got a chance to wrestle on WrestleMania. Save for Van Dam, it was the biggest stage the other three had ever wrestled on and served essentially as a farewell to the spirit of the original ECW. It was also a chance for Joey Styles, the voice of the original ECW, to provide commentary on his biggest stage as well. They defeated a quartet of young stars dubbed The New Breed of ECW, but in a testament of how fast things move in today’s pro wrestling landscape, only one of the eight men in that match are still employed by WWE (Matt Striker) and he works primarily as a color commentator.

Match Results:
– Ric Flair & Carlito beat Gregory Helms & Carlito in a Lumberjack Match. The Lumberjacks included Viscera, Cryme Tyme (Shad Gaspard & JTG), Chris Masters, The World’s Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas), The Highlanders (Robbie & Rory McAllister), Super Crazy, Val Venis, Johnny Nitro, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Eugene, Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch, Kenny Dykstra, Daivari, Shannon Moore, Sylvain Grenier, Deuce & Domino, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, The Miz, Vito, Scotty 2 Hotty, William Regal, Dave Taylor, Jimmy Wang Yang, Jamie Noble, Funaki, Balls Mahoney, Little Guido Maritato, Hardcore Holly and Snitsky.
Mr. Kennedy won a Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Other participants included Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, Finlay and CM Punk.
– The Great Khali beat Kane.
– Chris Benoit (c) beat Montel Vontavious Porter to retain the WWE United States Championship.
– The Undertaker beat Batista (c) to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
– The ECW Originals (Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Rob Van Dam & Sabu) beat The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Kevin Thorne & Marcus Cor Von).
– Bobby Lashley (with Donald Trump) beat Umaga (with Vince McMahon) in a Hair versus Hair match. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the special guest referee. As a result McMahon’s head was shaved.
– Melina (c) beat Ashley Massarro in a Lumberjill Match to retain the WWE Women’s Championship. The Lumberjills included Mickie James, Layla, Jillian Hall, Candice Michelle, Kelly Kelly, Trinity, Torrie Wilson, Brooke Adams, Kristal Marshall, Michelle McCool, Maria and Victoria.
– John Cena (c) beat Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE Championship.

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