A2Z Analysiz: WWE WrestleMania 23 (Shawn Michaels, John Cena)

wrestlemania 23

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BONUS MATCH: No Way Out Rematch – Undertaker & Batista vs. John Cena & Shawn Michaels, RAW, 3.26.07

Cena and Michaels are actually the World Tag Team Champions at this point. Batista is the World Heavyweight Champion and Cena is the WWE Champion. Undertaker attacks Cena right away and we’re off. He’s fired up but so is Cena and he fights back with gusto. They tease their finishers and Michaels comes in to help his partner/opponent but Undertaker fights them both off. Batista comes in and he and Undertaker clean house and send the Tag Team Champions to the floor. Undertaker and Batista look like they’re about to square off so Cena takes the opportunity to attack Undertaker and clothesline him to the floor. Michaels throws Undertaker into the steps. Back in the ring Cena covers for two. Michaels and Cena work surprisingly well together to wear Undertaker down. Undertaker fights back with the flying clothesline on Cena and Batista tags himself in. Batista tears into Cena but the WWE Champion avoids a charge in the corner and bulldogs Batista down. Michaels tags in and hits the flying forearm. He nips up of course and then the match breaks down with all four men in the ring. Undertaker hits Michaels with a big boot and Batista hits Cena with a spinebuster. The SmackDown duo just can’t work together though, as Undertaker press slams Michaels and throws him into Batista, who was about to Batista Bomb Cena. Batista is more angry than hurt. Cena unleashes a flying shoulderblock on Batista and the Protoplex. Michaels goes up top and hits Hail to the King. The champs hit a double Five Knuckle Shuffle and then Michaels blasts Cena with Sweet Chin Music! Batista drapes his arm over Cena to get the pin at 6:39. That was an awesome dynamic between the two teams, and they packed about as much action into six and a half minutes as they possibly could. This was really good buildup to both WrestleMania matches.
Rating: ***

Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan – April 1, 2007

PRESHOW MATCH: Tag Team Lumberjack Match – Carlito & Ric Flair vs. Gregory Helms & Chavo Guerrero

The lumberjacks come out with no formal introduction but there are a ton of them. Among them are Paul London & Brian Kendrick, the WWE Tag Team Champions at this time. Chavo is the Cruiserweight Champion or as Lilian Garcia announces him “The Cruiserweight of the World.” She must have taken notes from Gorilla Monsoon before tonight’s show. (3:38)Flair and Helms start the match. Helms backs Flair into the corner and slaps his face. Flair comes back with a hiptoss and chops. Carlito tags in and Helms immediately tags Chavo. The Cruiserweight Champion stomps Carlito down in the corner and tries to throw him to the floor. Carlito reverses it and throws Chavo to the apron and then dropkicks him right into Snitsky’s waiting arms. Snitsky presses Chavo back into the ring and Carlito covers for two. Helms takes a cheap shot to knock Carlito off the apron. The lumberjacks do their job and just put Carlito back in the ring. Chavo and Helms isolate Carlito and work him over in their half of the ring. Helms misses a Shining Wizard and Carlito (sort of) hits a hurricanrana. Tags are made. Flair cleans house with a series of chops and back body drops. He goes for the Figure-Four Leglock on Chavo but Helms breaks it up. Chavo goes up top but misses the Frog Splash. Carlito tags in and goes to work on Helms. He hits a nice springboard elbow and then dumps Helms into the lumberjacks. Chavo grabs Carlito and goes for the Three Amigos but Carlito slips out and hits the Backstabber to get the pin at 6:38. That was a nice little preshow match, but the team of Carlito and Flair just never seemed to jell.
Rating: **½

MATCH #1: 8-Man Money in the Bank Ladder Match – Jeff Hardy vs. King Booker vs. Finlay vs. CM Punk vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge

Finlay and Matt Hardy were in this match last year, and Edge won it in 2005. The other five are appearing in the match for the first time. It takes about ten seconds for Kennedy to go out after a ladder. This one is going to be even harder to keep up with than the past versions because there are two more men this year. Finlay of all people scores the first high-spot, wiping everyone out on the floor with a high cross body block off the top rope. Edge tries to steal the ladder down but Matt stops him. Booker finds a mini ladder and looks confused, but Punk knows how to use it as a weapon. Action is happening all over the place, and Booker goes on a run of spinebusters. Booker then executes the Spinaroonie and eats a ladder sandwich from the Hardys for it. Kennedy tries a Kenton on Matt on the ladder but Matt moves. Jeff then shows Kennedy how it’s done with a Swanton. The brothers Hardy work together a bit and then climb the ladder at the same time to slug it out. Finlay knocks them both down. Edge starts dishing out Spears like it’s his job. Punk avoids one and then uses the ladder just as Terry Funk did. Edge stops him with a Spear. He brings out a giant ladder and climbs, but Orton knocks him all the way to the floor. Matt sets Edge on a ladder between the apron and the barricade. Jeff climbs up the really tall ladder and takes Edge out with a legdrop! That literally broke the ladder in half. EMTs come out and put Edge on a stretcher and take him to the back. The match will continue. Orton starts hitting RKOs on everyone. He and Punk fight on top of a ladder and Orton takes him down with an RKO! Orton and Booker go up top and this time Booker is the one who scores, hitting a Bookend. Booker and Matt climb up the ladders now and Sharmell comes in to stop Matt. In an awesome spot, Matt threatens to hit Sharmell with the Twist of Fate so Booker jumps down to save his wife. Matt hits Booker with the Twist of Fate. He tries to climb and a bloody Finlay knocks him down. Finlay then hits the Celtic Cross on Matt on the ladder. Hornswoggle gets in the ring and climbs up the ladder. Kennedy climbs up and takes Hornswoggle down with the Green Bay Plunge! Finlay takes Kennedy out and climbs up, but Punk knocks the ladder over with a dropkick. Punk and Kennedy battle on top of the ladder, and it looks like Punk’s got it! Kennedy knocks him down with another ladder at the last second. That’s enough for Kennedy to climb up and retrieve the briefcase at 19:09. That went by very fast and there was a series of great and memorable spots throughout the contest. Kennedy wouldn’t have been my choice to win, but it made my friend Casey Nelson’s night and he got me the ticket so I guess that’s worth it.
Rating: ****

MATCH #2: Inter-Promotional Match – Kane vs. Great Khali

Khali shows his strength advantage early on. It’s not often that Kane is out-muscled by an opponent. Khali throws Kane to the floor, and Kane responds by snapping Khali’s neck off the top rope. It has almost no effect though, and Khali clotheslines Kane down. Khali follows with a body slam and then locks in a nerve hold. Kane fights out of it and unleashes a series of right hands. He goes up top and hits the big clothesline but even that doesn’t knock Khali down. Kane delivers a big boot and Khali gets tied up in the ropes. That gives Kane the chance to deliver unprotected right hands. Kane goes outside the ring to grab the See No Evil hook and chain but Khali stops him from using it. Khali delivers the head chop. He tears a turnbuckle apart but then stands in the exact wrong spot and Kane uses the chain to deliver a low blow. Kane bodyslams Khali and covers for a near-fall. He goes for the Chokeslam but can’t hit it yet. Khali grabs Kane by the throat and delivers the Tree Slam and pins Kane with one foot on the chest at 5:32. They kept it short enough so that it wasn’t too bad really.
Rating: **

MATCH #3: United States Championship Match – Chris Benoit vs. MVP

Benoit has been the Champion since 10.13.06, and this is his sixth defense. They take it down to the mat to start, and you’d think Benoit would dominate there but MVP holds his own. Benoit goes for an early Crossface but MVP avoids it and dumps Benoit to the floor. Back in the ring Benoit goes for the Sharpshooter and then the Crossface again but MVP Is able to avoid both of them. They continue to wrestle on the mat for a bit and appear evenly matched. Benoit goes for a superplex but MVP counters by snapping Benoit’s arm off the top rope. MVP targets the arm now, attacking it viciously. Benoit fights back with a trio of German Suplexes. He goes up top and MVP knocks him down. MVP hits a superplex but Benoit cradles the legs and almost gets a pin. The challenger wisely goes right back to the arm. Benoit tries the Crossface from out of nowhere and MVP fights his way out of it. MVP hits the Ballin’ Elbow for two. He goes for the Drive By but Benoit moves out of the way and hits more German Suplexes. Benoit goes up top and hits the Diving Headbutt to get the pin at 9:19. I Remember liking that more this time around than I did before. MVP worked a smart match but Benoit was tenacious enough to hang on and get the victory.
Rating: ***

Hall of Fame Class of 2007

This year’s inductees are The Wild Samoans, The Sheik (posthumous), Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, Mr. Perfect (posthumous), Jerry “The King” Lawler, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

MATCH #4: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Batista vs. Undertaker

Batista has been the Champion since 11.26.06, and this is his fourth defense. The Champion hits an immediate Spear and unloads in the corner. Undertaker fights back but Batista won’t back down. They take it to the floor and Batista whips Undertaker knees-first into the steps. Back in the ring Batista goes up top and hits a shoulderblock for a two-count. Undertaker hits a big boot and Batista comes right back with a clothesline for two. Batista continues to dominate, as he definitely has something to prove here. Undertaker gets back in it and hits a legdrop for two. He goes up top and hits Old School. Undertaker tries a Chokeslam but Batista fights it off so Undertaker hits the flying clothesline instead. They go back to the floor and Undertaker hits the legdrop on the apron. Undertaker follows with the no hands dive to the floor, wiping out the Animal. Batista reverses a whip and sends Undertaker crashing over the timekeeper’s table. He rearranges the announce table and powerslams Undertaker from one table through the other! Back in the ring Batista covers but only gets two! Batista goes for the Batista Bomb but Undertaker fights it off. Undertaker goes for a whip but Batista reverses and catches him with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Batista foolishly hits mounted punches in the corner which of course gets countered to the Last Ride. That gets two. Batista comes back with a spinebuster and Undertaker sits up. Undertaker hits the Chokeslam for two! He goes for the Tombstone but Batista slips out and hits a Spear! Batista hits the Batista Bomb but Undertaker kicks out! He goes for a second one but Undertaker backdrops his way out of it. Batista goes for Snake Eyes but Undertaker pushes him into the corner. Undertaker then hits the Tombstone Piledriver to get the pin, win the title, and keep The Streak alive at 15:47. That was a great slug-fest between two powerhouses that really got the crowd riled up. Both guys were throwing bombs throughout the match to try and keep the other guy down. No one expected this match to be this good.
Rating: ****

MATCH #5: ECW Originals vs. The New Breed

The ECW Originals are Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, and Sabu. The New Breed is Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, Matt Striker, and Marcus Cor Von. They’re accompanied by the dirty hot Ariel. Sabu and Striker start the match. The pace is quick from the get-go as Sabu is flying all over the ring. Sabu drapes Striker over the top rope and Sandman tags in and hits a legdrop off the rope. That’s not exactly what you’d expect out of him. More tags are made as both teams try to establish first dominance. The New Breed uses Ariel’s interference to do just that. They focus on Dreamer and keep him isolated from his partners. After several minutes Dreamer is able to hit a combination DDT/neckbreaker on Burke and Cor Von. #Racist. Dreamer makes the tag and RVD is a house afire. RVD kicks Striker in the face and then gives Thorn the same treatment. He hits the rolling monkey flip and I realize that Striker sells awesome. RVD hits Striker with Rolling Thunder and Cor Von pulls him to the floor and takes his head off with a clothesline. Sabu wipes out Cor Von with a dive. Dreamer hits Striker with a DDT. Burke takes Dreamer out, and then Sandman clotheslines Burke and they both tumble to the floor. RVD goes up top and hits the Five-Star Frog Splash for the pin at 6:27. Guess what? Tommy Dreamer cries. I swear no one in the wrestling business cries more than Tommy Dreamer. The match was fine for the time they got.
Rating: **¼

MATCH #6: Battle of the Billionaires Hair vs. Hair Match, Special Guest Referee Stone Cold Steve Austin – Bobby Lashley (w/ Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/ Mr. McMahon)

Lashley is the ECW Champion and Umaga is the Intercontinental Champion, but neither title is on the line. Umaga is accompanied by Armando Estrada. How in the world was Donald Trump ever a babyface? I love that the referee gets the final entrance. Lashley goes right on offense and the crowd goes mild until Stone Cold gets involved and tries to enforce the rules. Umaga misses a charge in the corner and Lashley hits a shoulderblock off the second rope for two. Estrada yells at Lashley so the brute pulls Estrada into the ring from the floor and hits a running powerslam. Jeez, Estrada wasn’t even up on the apron. Lashley pitches Estrada to the floor, and then ducks a charging Umaga to send him out as well. Back in the ring Lashley goes for a Spear but Umaga moves out of the way and this time it’s Lashley crashing to the floor. Umaga brings Lashley back in the ring and hits a big splash for two. The Samoan Bulldozer continues the abuse, choking Lashley until Austin tells him to stop. Austin and Umaga have unfriendly words between each other. Umaga continues the abuse on Lashley, keeping his powerful opponent on the mat. He hits a nice Samoan Drop. Lashley tries a slam but Umaga falls back on him for a two-count. McMahon gets up on the apron and Lashley inadvertently knocks him down. Umaga hits a Flatliner. He goes up top and Lashley slams him down. Lashley then takes Umaga’s head off with a clothesline. Both men are down but Austin refuses to count either of them out. Shane McMahon comes out to check on his dad as Umaga reclaims control. Austin puts hands on Umaga so Shane distracts him, allowing Umaga to hit the Samoan Spike! Shane starts helping Umaga double-team poor Lashley. Umaga hits the butt splash. Vince brings a garbage can out and Shane hits the Coast to Coast dropkick. Shane then takes off his dress shirt and reveals a referee’s shirt underneath. Umaga goes up top and hits the splash but before Shane can make the count Austin pulls him to the floor and whips him into the steps! Austin gets in the ring and Umaga strikes him down. Finally Trump has enough so he tackles Vince and hits the weakest looking punches ever. Meanwhile Austin hits Umaga with the Stunner. Lashley hits a Spear to get the pin at 13:03. They did the best they could to dress this pig up in layers of lipstick but they couldn’t hide that the biggest pops went to the referee and one of the corner man’s sons. Lashley was just a black hole of charisma and had no right being in such a big spot.
Rating: *½

MATCH #7: WWE Women’s Championship Lumberjill Match – Ashley vs. Melina

Melina has been the Champion since 2.19.07, and this is her second defense. Ashley takes Melina down right away and Melina tries to bail but gets tossed right back into a schoolgirl rollup for two. The two women continue to trade control of the match up but Melina is the more experienced competitor and she has the edge. Melina uses a Giant Swing for fun. Ashley fights back with a (sort of) headscissors and some (sort of) forearm shots. She hits a monkey flip and goes to the second rope but misses Starstruck. Melina covers and gets two. Ashley tries an O’Connor Roll but Melina reverses and gets the pin at 3:13. At least they kept it short. Melina was okay but Ashley sucked something fierce.
Rating: ¾*

MATCH #8: WWE Championship Match – Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena

Cena has been the Champion since 9.17.06, and this is his sixth defense. Michaels offers a left-handed handshake and Cena says no so Michaels slaps him. That gets Cena fired up and Michaels takes the advantage. Cena knows he got played. Michaels outsmarts Cena throughout the opening minutes of the match. He takes Cena down with a headlock and grinds him down. Cena fires back with a clothesline and the crowd makes it apparent who they’re rooting for. It’s Michaels, by the way. Michaels responds with a Thesz Press and punches. They fight to the apron and Michaels snaps Cena’s neck off the top rope. Michaels hiptosses Cena to the floor. He hits an enziguiri and then hits a beautiful springboard moonsault. Back in the ring Michaels stays in control and targets Cena’s knee. After several minutes Cena avoids a charge in the corner and Michaels’ head cracks the ring post. Michaels is busted open now. Cena unloads with right hands and shoulderblocks. He hits the Protoplex and the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena goes for the F-U and Michaels slips out and tries a Sweet Chin Music but Cena ducks and the referee gets hit! Once again Cena goes for the F-U but Michaels counters with a DDT! They go to the floor and Michaels hits a Piledriver on the steel steps! And right in front of Jerry Lawler! JR calls it a Spiked Piledriver, but that’s pretty impossible to be true. Now Cena’s head is busted open too. Another referee makes his way down for the count but Cena kicks out at two. Michaels hits the flying forearm and he nips up. He goes up top and hits Hail to the King. Michaels tunes up the band but Cena blasts him with a clothesline! Both men rise and slug it out. Cena goes for the F-U again but Michaels counters with a sunset flip for two. Michaels tries to leapfrog Cena but the Champ grabs him and hits the F-U! Michaels kicks out! Cena puts Michaels on the top rope and tries a Super F-U but Michaels elbows his way out of it and knocks Cena back. Michaels follows with a cross body block but Cena rolls through and powers Michaels up to his shoulders for another F-U but Michaels slips out and tries Sweet Chin Music and Cena ducks and goes for the STFU but Michaels kicks off! Whew. Michaels catches a quick inside cradle for a near-fall. He tries an enziguiri but Cena ducks and locks on the STFU! Michaels reaches the ropes. The referee has to pull Cena off, and that gives Michaels the chance to hit Sweet Chin Music! Michaels covers but only gets two. Both men struggle to their feet and a series of reversals ends with Cena locking on the STFU again! This time Michaels taps out at 27:47! What an incredible effort by both guys. Michaels and Cena both played to their strengths and the match progressed beautifully, with Michaels trying first to get into Cena’s head and then realizing that Cena was tougher than he realized and struggling to put him away. The false finishes were perfectly done and even though the crowd booed him it’s hard not to respect him after that match.
Rating: ****½

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