It’s safe to say that on this occasion, the build-up for the event was very well done. Due partly to the entertaining (if predictable) ‘Who will the Undertaker choose to challenge?’ and even more entertaining slow-burn storyline involving Shawn Michaels and John Cena (in which Michaels delivered the best promos of his career) and mainly to the publicity generated by the use of Donald Trump (who put his hair on the line against Vince McMahon’s in ‘The Battle Of The Billionaires) the highest-grossing pay-per-view in WWE history. A financial success then, but how did it hold up artistically?
Length: 8 hrs
- History Of WrestleMania
- Aretha Franklin Sings “America The Beautiful”
- Eight-Man Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Jeff Hardy (Raw) vs. King Booker (SmackDown!) vs. Finlay (SmackDown!) vs. CM Punk (ECW) vs. Mr.
- Kennedy (SmackDown!) vs. Edge (Raw) vs. Randy Orton (Raw) vs. Matt Hardy (SmackDown!)
- Highlights From The Condemned Premiere
- Todd Grisham Interviews The Winner Of The Money In The Bank Match
- All Grown Up: Batista
- Inter-Promotional Match: Kane (SmackDown!) vs. The Great Khali (Raw)
- All Grown Up: Divas
- Cryme Tyme Dance Party
- United States Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
- Undertaker: My Thirst For Vengeance
- Donald Trump Interrupted By The Boogeyman
- WWE Hall Of Fame: Class Of 2007
- World Heavyweight Championship Match: Batista vs. The Undertaker
- All Grown Up: Bobby Lashley
- Mr. McMahon Plays With His Granddaughter
- Eight-Man Tag: ECW Originals vs. The New Breed
- All Grown Up: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
- WrestleMania 24 Announcement
- The Battle Of The Billionaires – Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (ECW Champion) W/ Donald Trump vs. Umaga (Intercontinental Champion) W/ Mr.
- McMahon – Special Guest Referee: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
- All Grown Up: John Cena
- Recap From The Tag Team Lumberjack Match: Ric Flair and Carlito (Raw) vs. Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms (SmackDown!)
- WWE Women’s Championship Match: Melina vs. Ashley
- All Grown Up: Shawn Michaels.
- WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
- WrestleMania 23 Highlights
- Ford Field Announced As Site Of WrestleMania 23
- WrestleMania 23 Countdown: Battle Of The Billionaires
- WrestleMania 23 Countdown: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
- WrestleMania 23 Countdown: Batista vs. The Undertaker
- All Grown Up: Superstars
- All Grown Up: Edge
- All Grown Up: King Booker
- All Grown Up: The Undertaker
- WrestleMania 23 Tickets Go On Sale
- WrestleMania 23 Press Conference: Trump/McMahon Confrontation
- WrestleMania 23 Press Conference Highlights
- ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Announced As Special Guest Referee – Raw, 05/03/07
- No Way Out Rematch: Batista & The Undertaker (SmackDown!) vs. John Cena & Shawn Michaels (Raw) – Raw, 26/03/07
- WWE.COM Exclusive: Maria Interviews CM Punk Before WrestleMania 23
- Home Video Exclusive – Tag Team Lumberjack Match From WrestleMania 23: Ric Flair and Carlito (Raw) vs. Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms (SmackDown!)
- The Aftermath: Bobby Lashley Exposes Mr. McMahon’s New Bald Head – Raw, 04/04/07
- The Aftermath: Batista Asks The Undertaker For A Rematch – SmackDown!, 06/04/07
- WrestleMania 23 Photo Gallery
WWE Hall Of Fame 2007 Induction Ceremony
- WWE Hall Of Fame Open
- Nick Bockwinkel
- The Wild Samoans
- The Original Sheik
- Mr. Fuji
- Jim Ross
- Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler
- ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig
- Dusty Rhodes
“There’s nothing like WrestleMania, we wait all year for it because it always delivers” (JBL, WrestleMania XXIII, 01/04/07)
The above quote from Mr. Layfield, might be a slight exaggeration but the fact remains that regardless of what state the WWE is in, and regardless of the build-up, WrestleMania is normally one of the better pay-per-views of the year. Following the excellent Royal Rumble and decent No Way Out, WWE presented WrestleMania XXIII, their biggest show of 2007 in front of a billed attendance of 80,103 (although apparently the real figure was 74,687… impressive enough in it’s own right) at Detroit’s Ford Field. The event was historic, marking the twentieth anniversary of the single most famous event in U.S. wrestling history, WrestleMania III held at the nearby Pontiac SilverDome. Now, twenty years later they returned to Detroit – “All Grown Up!”
Imagery combining past and present is used in the montage which plays on the main menu of Discs 1 and 2, contrasting images of WrestleManias III and XXIII. This continues throughout the event itself where the typically excellent opening package of clips from past WrestleManias segues into a recording of Vince McMahon from twenty years ago announcing Aretha Franklin as she repeats her role from WrestleMania III by opening the show with “America The Beautiful”. Visually the show is stunning featuring the largest and most expensive lighting and set (which took over a week to assemble) used for a WrestleMania yet, and little touches like having the ring-posts blue and all three ropes white, the grand entrances (most notable with the use of cheerleaders for MVP and The Undertaker’s long walk to the ring), the presence of legends like Slick and The Fabulous Moolah (in her final WrestleMania appearance) in a backstage skit with Cryme Tyme and the big stadium atmosphere make the event stand out from the other shows of the year. That said some of the “All Grown Up” promo spots (featuring kids who look nothing like the Superstars they are portraying) between seemingly every match are comically bad, the Divas one in particular.
However, this isn’t a nostalgia show, the action lives up to the hype: Following in the tradition of Royal Rumble 2007 and No Way Out 2007 we started on a high-note this time with one of the best openers since The Attitude Era in the third annual Money In The Bank Ladder Match. Starting with this kind of match not only because it meant the rest of the show had to follow a bout packed with stunts, bumps, blood and high-spots but also because this year it featured eight big names (who would otherwise have been in high profile matches elsewhere on the card) in one match. The eight man format meant the ring itself looked crowded, resulting in a cluttered slightly rushed-feeling match which was a step below the great ladder matches of the past, albeit still one of the better undercard matches of the year. They did a good job playing off the experience of Edge and The Hardyz, compared to Randy Orton and King Booker (both involved in their first ladder match) and Jeff’s insane suicide legdrop from the “twenty foot” ladder onto Edge (who was laying on another ladder balanced across the guard rail) made for an image which will no doubt feature in WrestleMania highlight reels well into the future; If you’re wondering how Kane and The Great Khali could top that, the answer is: they couldn’t. The match seemed to exist purely so they could recreate the legendary bodyslam spot from WrestleMania III and was (thankfully!) kept short although Khali still managed to look awkward. That said those expecting them to produce the worst match in WrestleMania history, a (post-)modern day version of Giant Gonzales versus The Undertaker from WrestleMania XI, will have been left disappointed because it wasn’t even the worst match on the card, let alone of the year; The match between United States Champion Chris Benoit and challenger Montel Vontavious Porter surpassed expectations on two levels: firstly it was such a good match, and secondly MVP showed us so much in terms of technical wrestling. Although a little on the short side, considering the time they were given (under ten minutes) it’s difficult to ask for more as they combined top class wrestling with old-school psychology to keep you guessing as MVP worked on the shoulder to take away the Crossface, whilst Benoit fought back proving he was a crafty veteran and had a few more tricks up his sleeve; Despite being stuck in the middle of the card the match in which Batista puts his World Championship on the line against The Undertaker’s 14-0 WrestleMania winning streak steals the show as they produce the best Power versus Power match in WWF/E history. It’s almost as if the two Big Men were moving in fast-forward with the speed at which they hit their trademark moves in this back-and-forth roller-coaster, packed with intense brawling and complimented by a white hot crowd (listen to those “Let’s Go ‘Taker!” chants) as both men took some big bumps both inside and outside the ring. No question, in my mind: this should have closed the show; Following this Match of the Year contender, the segment involving Vince, Steph and Aurora Rose (Stephanie and Triple H’s daughter/Vince granddaughter) seems even worse than it would have done normally; The eight-man tag involving The ECW ‘Originals’ and The New Breed is a short but entertaining enough match that served to remind me of what a cool faction The New Breed were, how much potential this feud had and how WWE managed to waste it. Still seeing ‘The Originals’ make their entrance through the crowd was a ‘WrestleMania Moment’ I never thought I’d see; The preview package here hypes it as “Ego versus ego, hair versus hair” and it’s no surprise that in ‘The Battle of the Billionaires’ the actual wrestling here was overshadowed by offbeat shenanigans, involving Vince McMahon, Donald Trump, Shane McMahon and Special Guest Referee Steve Austin. Even the barber’s chair has its own entrance and theme tune! In terms of actual in-ring stuff Lashley versus Umaga wasn’t the suplex filled power versus power match I was hoping for but it wasn’t a bad match either. Combined with the extra-curricular activities around the ring (particular credit goes to Vince McMahon for his facial expressions) and the long post-match angle (which was one of the best received parts of the show) it was an entertaining slice of Sports Entertainment that provided the event with the classic ‘WrestleMania Moment’ it needed; The same can’t be said about the Women’s Title match which was one of the worst WrestleMania matches in years and the ‘LumberJill’ gimmick was simply an excuse to get all the Divas onto WrestleMania. As with Khali/Kane things were (thankfully again!) kept short so as to not take away from the rest of the show… And that’s it for Disc 1.
Mick Foley on The Hardcore Diaries: “I sure wouldn’t mind unlimited access for me to come and gratuitously plug that book every now and then…”
Vince McMahon: “Sure…”
Mic Foley: “You know I say some pretty miserable things about you in that book: The Hardcore Diaries? Don’t you, Vince? You know I call into question many times your reputation as a ‘Creative Genius’?”
Vince McMahon: “I don’t understand how you could possibly do that but you’re entitled to your opinion, Mick.”
Disc 2 contains the final match from WrestleMania followed by a selection of extras. The match itself, pitting John Cena against Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship, is a good one, helped by the fact it feels like a WrestleMania match. Although it starts slow (a lot of the earlier work doesn’t seem to get over with the crowd as well as you would expect and Cena’s non-selling of the leg-work was a much debated issue over the following weeks with reports that HBK was none-to-happy over it) this develops into an entertaining story with all the blood, finishers, finisher-reversals, near-falls and ref bumps we have come to expect from a WWE Main Event on the largest stage of all. It ends the show on a high note, but it still doesn’t come close to the World Title match earlier in the evening; The closing music video (featuring Saliva’s “Ladies and Gentlemen”) was up to the usual high standards and, ironically, showed the card in the order the show should have taken place.
As is now customary with WWE’s WrestleMania releases, rather than just the event itself you get everything which surrounded it from interviews to the promotional segments, covering the build-up to the event and its immediate aftermath.
The Build-Up: We start with the Announcement “WrestleMania Comes To Motor City” hyping Ford Field as the venue for WrestleMania XXIII as first seen at the previous year’s WresteleMania; This is followed by the ‘Countdown’ ads building up The Battle Of The Billionaires; Cena/Michaels and Batista/Undertaker, the first of which is by far the best PPV ad of the year for the line:“He’s a Real Estate Tycoon (exterior shot of Trump Tower), a Reality Show Superstar (clip from The Apprentice of Trump saying “You’re Fired”), but on Sunday April 1st he might just become… Bald ( computer graphic of Trump minus hair); Next are the All Grown Up vignettes not shown during WrestleMania on the WWE Superstars (Cena, Michaels, Undertaker, Batista, Torrie and Booker), Edge, King Booker and The Undertaker, respectively. The skits on Edge and Booker are actually better than most of the ones on the actual show, not least because they are clearly intended as tongue in cheek; We see footage of dedicated souls who risked the elements to queue up overnight to be first in line as tickets went on sale in Detroit…; Before heading to two segments from the WrestleMania XXIII Press Conference which was held at Trump Tower in the build up to the event: 1.) We see Coach mediate the debate between Vince McMahon (who cuts a loooooong promo), Donald Trump (who appears to be clueless about how to portray a babyface), their representatives the scary-looking Umaga (who doesn’t talk) and the soft-spoken Bobby Lashley, and special guest referee ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (who is hilarious as he mocks Lashley, before laying down the law – “There will be a winner, there will be a loser, and there will be a bald billionaire”). The confrontation itself is fine but it’s almost ruined by the constant “What?” chants causing McMahon to yell his trademark “SHUUUUT UP!” at the assembled press. Predictably the closing photo opportunity turns physical; 2.) Highlights from the rest of the Press Conference; Moving on to the first of two segments from Raw we get the entire angle from the 5th March Raw in which the special guest referee for WrestleMania was announced. Featuring surprise appearances from Eric Bischoff (who cuts a surprisingly strong babyface promo), Mick Foley (who was there to promote his third autobiography The Hardcore Diaries which came out the next day), The Phoenix Suns’ mascot (The Gorilla), and Shane McMahon… before the inevitable breaking of glass and huge crowd reaction. A throw-back to the Attitude Era, this was one of the best Sports Entertainment angles of the year and the highlight of the build-up to The Battle of The Billionaires; In a rematch from the Main Event of No Way Out WrestleMania XXIII opponents The Undertaker and (World Champion) Batista take on WrestleMania XXIII opponents and Raw’s World Tag Team Champions Shawn Michaels and (WWE Champion) John Cena on the March 26th edition of Raw. We get the entire match including entrances and post-match angle which led into WrestleMania. At around 6:36 this isn’t given the time to develop that their pay-per-view match had but it is still a very respectable TV main event – this is non-stop, from the moment ‘Taker jumps Cena until a rather clever finish. The previous tag match ended with one the team members double-crossing their tag team partner – would this one end the same way?; Maria interviews (her former real-life boyfriend) CM Punk for WWE.COM, in your standard pre-match interview; Rounding things off we get a Home Video Exclusive in the form – of the Tag Team Lumberjack Match that took place directly before WrestleMania. Its okay (certainly better than Kane/Khali and the Divas match) but nothing “must see” either.
The Aftermath: The first of two TV angles featuring the first public appearance, following WrestleMania, of a fedora-wearing Vince McMahon and his interaction with Bobby Lashley and Lillian Garcia… Which remains the highlight of Lashley’s WWE career; The second is the final segment from the April 6th SmackDown! consisting of a video package featuring The Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches to date, Batista challenging Undi’ to a rematch, and ‘Taker beating up King Booker; The photo gallery is worth a look thanks to some nice still shots from the pay-per-view to the sounds of “The Memory Will Never Die” by Default.
“The Sheik taught me the importance of being original. The value of being one of a kind is overlooked by most and appreciated by few” (Rob Van Dam sends a message to his then-employers whilst inducting his mentor The Sheik into the Hall Of Fame, WWE Hall Fame Induction Ceremony, 31/03/07)
WWE Hall Of Fame 2007 Induction Ceremony
Held on March 31st at Fox Theatre in Detroit, the Class Of 2007 was by far my favourite ‘Class’ to be inducted thus far. Things got off to an amateurish start when Todd Grisham asked the WWE Superstars to stand up so they could be recognized – the look on Shawn Michaels’ face says it all: he (and others) seemed to think ‘The Grish’ was joking. Fortunately things picked up with the inductions themselves. These were as follows:
- Nick Bockwinkel Inducted by Bobby Heenan
- The Wild Samoans Inducted by The Great Samu and Rosey (their sons)
- The Sheik Inducted by Sabu (The Sheik’s nephew) and Rob Van Dam – Accepted by his widow Joyce Farhat
- Mr. Fuji Inducted by Don Muraco
- Jim Ross Inducted by ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
- Jerry “The King” Lawler Inducted by William Shatner
- “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig Inducted by Wade Boggs – Accepted by his widow Leonice Hennig, four children, mother and father (Larry ‘The Axe’)
- “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes Inducted by Cody and Dustin Runnels (his sons)
The whole thing lasts around two hours and fifty minutes. A lot of that time is taken up by the induction of Good Ol’ JR who spends a looooong time talking about John Wayne, Leroy McGuirk, Danny Hodge, the Brisco Brothers, Bill Watts, Oklahoma, Ernie Ladd, Junkyard Dog, Bells Palsy, barbeque, and a bunch of other topics. Looking at the calendar I thought time was running out. As a result, Ross (who was fully deserving of his Hall Of Fame spot, due not only to his role as a commentator for Mid-South, JCP/WCW and WWF/E but also as the head of Talent Relations during the boom period signing the likes of Austin, Mick Foley, The Rock and Kurt Angle) became the butt jokes from both Lawler and Rhodes.
As has been the case in recent years, the ceremony itself was broadcast in two parts as the inductions of Bockwinkel, The Samoans, Sheik and Fuji were shown live on WWE.COM and then the ‘main’ inductees were broadcast on USA Network. When I say ‘main’ inductees that’s not to say the others were undeserving: Bockwinkel was a long-time AWA headliner (four time AWA World Heavyweight Champion), one half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time along with ‘Crippler’ Ray Stevens (they held the AWA World Tag Team titles four times and the NWA Florida Championship Wrestling Tag Team titles once) and one of the greatest promos of all-time; The Wild Samoans were part of one of wrestling’s most famous families, won tag titles everywhere they went (most notably Mid-South, Georgia, CWA, Southeastern Championship Wrestling and the WWF), and were extremely over with their gimmick (“I was scared to death of them”, Triple H)- paving the way for the likes of The Islanders, The Headshrinkers and Umaga. Although I will say, it seems slightly odd their going into the Hall Of Fame before High Chief Peter Mavia (scheduled to be inducted this year); and Michigan legend The Sheik, of whom Bobby Heenan (whilst inducting Bockwinkel) says “And I still think, in my opinion the greatest heel ever in this business was The Sheik. Without a doubt.”, ran one of the most financially successful promotions of the Sixties, would live his gimmick, trained some big names (Van Dam, Sabu, Scott Steiner and fellow WWE Hall Of Famer Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine) and is widely credited as the originator of Hardcore. In fact the only criticism I really heard about this Class related to Mr. Fuji. Well, when the weak link is a guy who was the first five time (W)WWF Tag Team Champion, was part of some of the most memorable skits of the 1980s along with Don Muraco (Fuji Vice), managed the likes of Yokozuna (to two WWF Championships) and Demolition (the company’s longest ever reigning Tag Team Champions) and worked for the company (on-and-off) from 1972-1995, then compared to some of the other Inductees over the years, you know this is a decent year. What is really meant by the ‘main inductees’ each year is more who WWE management thinks Joe Public cares about that year.
This catering for the mainstream also includes appearances by celebrities, which is why there was some controversy surrounding the fact Jerry Lawler was inducted into the Hall Of Fame by William Shatner (whom he was involved with in a one-off angle twelve years previously) under the suggestion of Kevin Dunn, rather than Lance Russell (who was responsible for him getting his break in wrestling) Lawler’s choice to induct him. What I found most interesting about that story was that thirty seven year veteran, Lawler thought himself too young to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame since he’s still very much an active competitor in Memphis. This doesn’t apply to all celebrity ‘inductors’ and Baseball Hall Of Famer Boggs was the perfect fit to induct his real-life friend Mr. Perfect, as he tells a story about the time Hennig saved his life. Unfortunately he accidentally says the word “WWF” which has to be censored. It’s also weird seeing Umaga out of character as he stands up when his uncles The Wild Samoans are waving at their sister (Umaga’s mum).
Minor problems aside, the most interesting part of the show is hearing Rob Van Dam and Cody Rhodes talk without having lines fed to them by a comedy writer. “Sabu, you got my script?” jokes Van Dam before showing just how good he is on the microphone in an unscripted environment with his honest, witty (to the extent even Sabu has to cover his face because he’s laughing), style of delivery reminiscent of his show-stealing (unscripted) promo at One Night Stand.
Meanwhile, young Cody puts over his older brother (leading to a “Thank you Goldust!” chant) and dad (whom he calls “the greatest talker in the history of our business”) in a way which highlights his own ability as a great communicator… So of course they stuck him in a generic non-speaking role on Raw.
All things considered, the ceremony itself is an entertaining one and looks like it would have been a lot of fun to attend – a dapper-looking Steve Austin, in particular, seems to be having a great time throughout. Along the way we get some amusing anecdotes about wrestling back in the day (Afa tells a story about Sika, who was just a fan at that point, starting a full-scale riot during a match between Mavia and Pat Patterson at the Cow Palace), old rivalries (“How ‘bout Kevin Sullivan, ‘The Deibel’ himsalf. Hit me in the heart with a Golden Spike! Damn, if Stephanie would ‘o been around then she’d have fired his ass right on de spot!”, Dusty Rhodes), marriage (“I did learn one valuable thing though: Don’t ever tell your wife that she’s lousy in bed because I found out she’ll go out and ask for a second opinion”, Jerry Lawler), and partying with The Four Horsemen (“I thank The Good Lord that my liver has survived knowing Ric Flair for these twenty something years”, Jim Ross).
TheBigBoot’s Best Match: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Batista vs. The Undertaker ****¼
TheBigBoot’s Most Memorable Quote: “I didn’t have the natural skills to be a wrestler. If could have, Lord knows! Man, I could have been the ‘Stone Cold’ of the Seventies… At least the beer-drinking part.” (Jim Ross, Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony, 31/03/07)
Overall this is an excellent look at WrestleMania XXIII. In terms of pure-wrestling there have been better shows, but five (out of eight) matches delivered, with Batista/Taker standing out as one of the best WWE matches of the year. In my opinion, the event itself surpassed the previous year’s much-lauded WrestleMania 22 and I would rank this as one of the top five WrestleManias of all-time.
Of course, there’s much more to it than the wrestling itself and the collection of extras provide a nice backdrop to the event. From the backstage skit with the legends, to McMahon’s facial expressions, to the Hall Of Fame this was a fun weekend’s worth of Sports Entertainment and the main show is one that I’d watch again.
If you only buy one WWE pay-per-view on DVD this year, make it WrestleMania XXIII.
Points: 9.5 / 10