WrestleMania 23

October 4, 2014

This was the first time I had ever watched this WrestleMania, and unfortunately I watched it in 3 sessions doing cardio so I don't think I got a fair over all feel of the event. My first session was only 45 minute so I watched the opening ceremony and the MITB match. My second sitting I watched to the end of Taker's match and then finished the show in the third sitting. Because of this it felt like just a 3 match show to me, which I suppose outside of the haircut stip it really was.

The event was from Ford Field with a live crowd of an announced 80,103. The place looked huge and they constantly drew comparisons to WrestleMania III, which took place at the nearby Pontiac Silver Dome. They showed footage from the Silver Dome and while I'm not sure why the building and the crowd looked way bigger than the one here at Ford Field . While many of you may say, of course it looked bigger Mania III drew 93,173 fans, but truth is that number was greatly exaggerated and was really about 78,000 fans and I think 23 actually out drew it by a few people.

I've always thought it a shame that they exaggerated the number for 3 by so much because WWE feels so much bigger now and has never officially beating that inflated number which makes you feel like they peaked back in 1987. I'm pretty sure both Summer Slam from Wembley Stadium, and this event from Ford Field topped the attendance of WrestleMania III. Maybe Texas Stadium will be the magic event at WrestleMania 32 to both officially and unofficially beat that long standing record.

This was the tri-branded WrestleMania featuring the three WWE Brands RAW/SmackDown/ECW, because of this we had three announce teams, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, JBL & Michale Cole, and Taz & Joey Styles. I thought all three combos were quite good and amazingly all three groups called the opening MITB match and gelled well and managed to not step all over each other. Aretha Franklin opening the show with America the Beautiful, much like she did back in 1987. The only other thing of note before getting to the matches is that it became very clear very quickly that this event was pre Wellness Policy, and not just because of the names and bodies you may think of first.

Kennedy, Punk, Orton, Finlay, The Hardys, Booker, & Edge. MITB: Wow what a huge line up of guys in this opener. MITB is all about the drama and the stunts climbing the ladder and I thought these guys did a great job of making this match exciting while not completely risking life and limb. That said the Jeff Hardy / Edge deal through the ladder bridge was one of the craziest things I've ever seen, and I texted Edge immediately after watching it and he responded by telling me that it was in fact absurdly painful. A couple guys were bleeding in this bout, which added a bit of drama and emotion. Eventually Mr. Kennedy pulled off the big win to become Mr. MITB. If memory serves he would end up being the only guy to never cash in his brief case, getting hurt later that year, and thus having to lose the briefcase to Edge in a match, who would later cash it in. Oh and hats off to Hornswaggle for taking that crazy Kennedy flip deal off the ladder. Insane!!!!

The Great Khali vs. Kane: This match was not good and to be perfectly honest was almost a squash match for Khali. Khali sold almost nothing for Kane, including not bumping for Kane's top rope clothesline. Kane's only offence was a cover after a body slamming Khali, which got a good reaction and was put over huge (perhaps Khali had never been slammed before) but did seem silly in that this guy who no sells almost everything nearly got beat by a body slam. Khali hit the tree slam and pinned Kane with a foot on his chest. This could not have been more decisive. Only other thing of note was how much better Khali moved back then. He could walk with purpose and had what looked like good balance. That may sound odd, but if you watch this poor guy today he looks like walking is a painful chore and if he got moving too fast he might topple over.

Chris Benoit vs. MVP, US Title: As I've mentioned before I don't enjoy watching Benoit matches anymore, so I always just skip them. Others can separate wrestling from real life, but seeing him just brings back memories of times I don't wish to relive. In order for me to enjoy wrestling I always just skip over his matches. Benoit retained the title.

In here somewhere was a whacky dancing skit that was very common at the time. It featured the ECW dancing trio of Kelly Kelly, Brooke Adams (of TNA fame) and Layle. We also got Moolah & Mae Young, Eugene, Gerry Briscoe, Sgt Slaughter, a hilarious Ricky Steamboat cameo, and of course Ron Simmons with the closing DAMN!

The show was also littered with "All Grown Up" videos, which started to really get on my nerves. That was the theme of Mania that year, WrestleMania 23 "All Grown Up'. Because of this we got a video pretty much between every match of some SuperStar or another talking about growing up with clips of little kids dressed up like them, closing with a shot of them now, All Grown Up. These might have been cute ads for the Event ahead of time but having to watch what felt like a dozen of these throughout the show, annoyed the hell out of me.

Batista vs The Undertaker (World Title & Streak): This was a tremendous match that I really enjoyed. We don't get enough matches today that feel like men going to war and that's what this was. The crowd was super into it and I think this was a time when fans at least still partially believed the Streak might be broken. They didn't do a thousand near falls, which I prefer and the ones they did do were great. Taker won the World Title and the Streak extended to 15-0. Really great match, these guys worked very well together.

ECW Originals vs. ECW New Breed: This match felt so weird and felt like just a buffer match, which I suppose it pretty much was. I wasn't watching WWECW back then so this was just a bunch of guys to me. I had forgotten Marcus Cor Von was ever even in WWE, and never would have associated Matt Striker with ECW. The originals won, and I was happy for the old school ECW guys who got to have a WrestleMania match. It was great hearing Joey Styles call a match on the largest stage as well.

There was a really weird backstage segment with Vince before his match. He was in his office when Steph brought in his granddaughter in baby carriage. At first Vince was the loving grandpa, but quickly term quite evil giving Steph a hard time for bringing the baby to his office. I guess it was to make Vince seem crazy but it just made me uncomfortable. We then got a camera angle from inside the baby carriage looking out at Vince as he told his granddaughter what he was going to do to Trump. I hated this bit because it broke the 4th wall so to speak because to shoot it like this you obviously had to remove the child and set a camera in the carriage to shoot Vince. Very fake.

Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga (Trump vs McMahon Hair match): Steve Austin was the referee and I remember thinking at the time how odd it was that one of the combatants and the ref were bald baby faces in a match where the point was to humiliate the loser by shaving him bald. I guess since both Trump and VKM had such trademark looks it worked. The match wasn't anything special, and got messy at the end after a ref bump and Shane McMahon run in, but once we got Stunners and the big haircut I think everyone was more than happy. Say what you want about Vince and his Kiss My Ass Club stuff, but when it's time for him to get his, he doesn't half ass a thing; he gets humiliated with the best of them and does a tremendous job selling his humiliation. Kudos to Trump for taking a Stone Cold Stunner post match; he certainly could have said no to something like that but was a team player.

Melina vs. Ashley (Women's Title): This was a Lumber Jill match, I guess just to get all of the other girls on the show. I had a hell of a time recognizing a lot of them and never would have got Trinity had they not announced everyone's name. Just a short buffer match before the main event; these girls always get stuck in this death spot and I really feel bad for them. Melina (the heel) won clean, so post match Ashley (the baby face) attacked her and beat her up afterwards. So weird.

John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE Title): This was a very long slow match, which I enjoyed a great deal. This should be news to no one, but Shawn Michaels is really great. The match built and created great drama and in the end they exchanged some really fantastic near falls before Shawn eventually tapped to the STFU . Very good stuff.

I guess on the whole you'd have to say this was a good show, we got three great matches with the MITB Match and the 2 Title matches, as well as the haircut spectacular but everything else on the show just felt like filler. I suppose the US Title match was probably good but not seeing that, there was nothing else on the show of much note.

Lance


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