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CALDWELL'S WRESTLEMANIA 23 REPORT: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of live PPV

Apr 1, 2007 - 9:45:00 PM

By James Caldwell, PWTorch columnist

April 1, 2007
Detroit, Michigan at Ford Field
By: James Caldwell, Torch columnist

We start with a classic look at WrestleMania from 1 to 22 until now. After the opening video package, we went to a wide shot of WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome before going live to Ford Field for Aretha Franklin singing "America the Beautiful". A second Mania package aired on the main storylines tonight.

They went to a huge fireworks display, then Ross and Lawler set the stage. Cole and JBL talked about there being more fans for Mania than at Super Bowl XL in the same building. Styles and Tazz made the trip as well.

1 -- JEFF HARDY vs. KING BOOKER (w/Sharmell) vs. FINLAY vs. C.M. PUNK vs. MR. KENNEDY vs. MATT HARDY vs. RANDY ORTON vs. EDGE -- Money in the Bank ladder match

Punk going from one of Cena's gangsters at WrestleMania 22 to opening this year's Mania. We get our first big spot of the night with Finlay coming off the top rope with a splash onto everyone on the outside. The ring is about two or three feet wider apparently, as they went for a couple of tip-over-the-ladder-and-crotch-the-opponent spots, but men were coming up a few feet short. We have our first blood of the night with Punk coming up with a bloody forehead thanks to Edge. After clearing the ring of opponents, Matt and Jeff battled on top of the ladder after the announcers discussed dissension between the brothers. Finlay then tipped over the ladder and both men crashed into the top rope. Edge suddenly fired up with a round of spears for everyone. He found himself alone in the ring and tried to climb a giant ladder, but Randy Orton tipped him over the top rope to the floor. Jeff then set up a huge spot on the ladder after Matt put Edge on a ladder on the floor. JBL told Jeff to turn around and grab the briefcase, but Jeff opted for a giant leg drop spot that broke the ladder in half. Ross said both men must be broken in half. We then got a stretcher job for Edge after Matt tried to look out for his brother. Back in the ring, Orton dropped Matt and Finlay and Kennedy with RKOs. He then set up a ladder at 12:00, but Punk smashed him in the back with a ladder. Orton and Punk battled on top of the ladder, then Orton gave Punk an RKO from eight feet up. King Booker tried to make a run up the ladder, then he caught Orton with a book end from the top of the ladder. Matt then grabbed Sharmell and threatened to give her the Twist of Fate if Booker didn't stop climbing the ladder. Booker took the bait and Hardy gave him the Twist of Fate. Finlay, busted open from his eye, then caught Matt with a Celtic Cross on the ladder. Finlay couldn't climb the ladder, so Hornswoggle emerged and tried to climb the ladder to a huge pop. He's one of the most over persons in the company. Kennedy then cut off Hornswoggle and gave him a sick rolling Kentaun bomb off the top of the ladder. Punk re-entered the picture and dropkicked Finlay off the ladder. He then scaled the ladder, but Kennedy met him up top. Punk and Kennedy exchanged blows and Punk had the best of him, but Finlay came back with a ladder shot out of nowhere just as Punk had one hand on the briefcase. Kennedy then scaled the ladder and slowly unhooked the briefcase to win the match.

WINNER: Kennedy in 20:00. Not as many big highspots as previous Money in the Bank matches, but great drama at the end. Not surprising to see Kennedy win, as he was the favorite going into the match. Good use of the storylines that were in play from TV to create tension and heighten the drama. (***1/4)

We saw a video package on the premiere of "The Condemned" from Friday night.

Todd Grisham found Mr. Kennedy backstage, who cut off Grisham's line of questioning. He congratulated himself on winning MITB, then he sent a message to anyone in the back who might be holding title gold that he needs to grow a set of eyes in the back of his head. Kennedy with a killer promo here. I have a feeling we're in for a good run with Kennedy as MITB III.


Khali opened up with his bowling-shoe-ugly offense before Kane made a comeback with corner clotheslines. Kane then went up top and landed a clothesline that rocked Khali, but didn't knock him over. Khali was then caught in between the ropes. Kane introduced his hook on a chain, but Khali cut him off with a right hand blow. Kane then crotched Khali with the chain for a big pop, then he slammed Khali for a nearfall. They had a standing brawl before Khali gave Kane a two-hand chokeslam and placed his boot on Kane's chest and scored the pin. Afterward, Khali choked out Kane with the chain before leaving him laid out in the ring.

WINNER: Khali in 6:00. In the opening few minutes, I thought we were entering Giant Gonzales-Undertaker territory from WM 9. They picked it up at the end, though, and got the crowd involved. (*1/4)

Backstage, Cryme Tyme made a rare appearance trying to give Eugene a pep talk about his new haircut. Oh boy, the obligatory get-everyone-on-TV segment. The camera spun over to Extreme Expose, which did a dance with Cryme Tyme. Eugene then found Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah ready to dance. Cryme Tyme didn't get it. More dancing ensued, then Dusty Rhodes interrupted. Apparently, he never change out of his Hall of Fame tux and started grinding with the divas. Jimmy Hart, Sgt. Slaughter, I.R.S. Mean Gene, Pat Patterson, and Jerry Brisco then made cameos sporting their various gimmicks. The Dr. of Style Slick then made a rare appearance and encouraged more dancing. Suddenly, Ricky Steamboat entered the scene in dragon get-up. Finally, the music stopped and Ron Simmons surveyed the scene before shouting, "Damn" into the camera. The music started again and everyone danced.

3 -- CHRIS BENOIT vs. MVP -- U.S. Title match

MVP didn't have the giant inflatable dome entrance, but rather a group of cheerleaders. Good action early on with MVP countering various submission holds from Benoit into his own submission holds. At 4:00, you could hear referee Mickie Henson tell both men, "six minutes," so we know this is going ten minutes. Right on time, Benoit hit a top rope diving headbutt for the win.

WINNER: Benoit in 10:00 to retain the U.S. Title. MVP was solid in the match, but there wasn't enough time allotted or enough of an issue at stake to make this a memorable match on the card. Yes, there was a title on the line to give the match something at stake, but we're talking about a mid-card title that WWE hasn't built up. (**)

Donald Trump was backstage on the phone with his former Miss USA sitting next to him. He told the other person on the line that Mr. McMahon is a bad man and treating him like crap with over 100,000 fans in the building. Trump channeling Hulk Hogan. Trump asked for a sandwich. Boogeyman's music hit, but Trump didn't react. He looked at Boogeyman pop up from under the couch, then Miss USA finally reacted and ran away. Trump asked Boogeyman to fetch him a sandwich and he would give him some worms. Where's Jim Cornette when you need him to slap Trump across the face for no-selling Boogeyman?

We saw a video package on the Hall of Fame from last night. Lillian Garcia then announced a new Ford Field attendance record of 80,103. She handed over the mic to Howard Finkel to introduce the Hall of Fame class of 2007.

Michael Cole and JBL broke down the AT&T text messaging voting with 82 percent in favor of Undertaker to beat Batista. And we're going to Taker vs. Batista right now. Odd placement on the card. After Batista made his entrance, JBL said we're about to see a match that could be monkey-butt ugly. Batista then let out a trademark deep hacking cough as the druids came out to set the tone for Undertaker's entrance. Taker then slowly walked out with huge flames whipping around the ring entrance stage.

4 -- BATISTA vs. THE UNDERTAKER -- World Hvt. Title match

After all the drama for the entrances, Batista waited one split-second after the bell rang and speared Taker hard to the mat. The fans were already turning on Batista here. The fight spilled to the outside in the opening minute, with Batista sending Taker crashing into the ring steps. With Taker back in the ring, Batista came off the top with a flying shoulder tackle before absorbing a big boot and nailing Taker with a clothesline. Taker then made a fiery comeback, which the crowd approved of. Taker connected with the Old School clothesline, then went for a chokeslam, but Batista blocked with a kick to the gut. They fought to the outside again and Taker came up with a running leg drop across the throat from the apron. Taker went back into the ring, then he nailed a flying splash clear over the top rope onto Batista. Amazing agility, made even more outstanding on the slow-mo replay. Batista then reversed a whip on the outside and sent Taker crashing into the timekeeper's table. Batista wasted no time landing hard right hand blows to the forehead. Batista then cleared the ECW and Raw announce tables and pounded away on Taker. He then picked up Taker and gave him a running powerslam off the Raw table through the ECW table right to the floor. JBL and Cole then said we're looking at the end of The Streak, which means we're not. Back in the ring, Batista made a cover for a nearfall, then he pounded away on Taker with right hand blows to the head before making another cover for a nearfall. He then set up for a Batistabomb, but Taker shoved him into the corner. Batista quickly recovered and set up for punches in the corner, but Taker gripped him and delivered the Last Ride powerbomb. One...two...kick out by Batista. Fans going crazy here. Batista then came back with a spinebuster and he shook the ropes to major boos. He went for the Batistabomb, but Taker slipped out and hit a chokeslam. One...two...kick out again. Batista then came back with a Batistabomb. One...two...kick out by Taker to a major pop. Batista, frustrated, went for another Batistabomb, but Taker back dropped Batista to the mat. Batista came back with another Batistabomb attempt, but Taker escaped and hit the Tombstone Piledriver for the win to an amazing reaction.

WINNER: Undertaker in 16:00. Absolutely amazing pro wrestling match that came together perfectly. Never a dull moment, Batista stepped up in a shocking and newsworthy way, the crowd was electric, and Taker showed us why he's one of the best big match wrestlers in the history of the company. (****1/2)

Taker then did an elaborate post-match celebration with fireworks after Batista was rolled out of the ring. He soaked up the crowd response for a while before going to one knee to hoist the World Title belt in the air.

Vince McMahon was combing his hair in the mirror, then Stephanie McMahon walked in with a baby carriage. McMahon made funny faces for his granddaughter, which Stephanie wasn't too approving of. They cut to stroller-cam as McMahon continued to talk baby about beating the crap out of Trump. He took a whiff of something foul and told Stephanie, "She just took a Trump." Really rough segment.

The Sandman led the ECW Originals from the top of Ford Field down to the arena floor.


New Breed isolated Sandman early on, then RVD took a hot tag and gave Striker a sick monkey flip out of the corner. The action then broke down with men spilling to the floor left and right. The smoke cleared and Striker was the only man left in the ring. RVD then came off the top with a Five Star frog splash for the win.

WINNERS: ECW Originals in 6:00. Short, basic match to give the Originals a surprise win. Major insult to the ECW brand if the divas match gets more time than this match. (*1/2)

We saw a video package on Orlando hosting WrestleMania 24 on March 30, 2008.

They aired a video package on Trump vs. McMahon for the 10,000th time, then Lillian Garcia introduced the match. A barber shop set was then wheeled to the ring. Mr. McMahon came out first and strutted to the ring. They cut to ringside where various beauty pageant winners were ringside booing McMahon. Jim Ross said McMahon seemed a bit unbalanced talking to his granddaughter backstage. That's one way to describe it. Armando then led out Umaga, who surveyed the barber shop set before entering the ring. Donald Trump came out with the Rosie O'Donnell's public enemy #1, the former Miss USA, and money fell from the ceiling. Bobby Lashley then came out and Trump clapped it up. Just to show who's the biggest wrestling star in the match, Steve Austin came out last as the special referee. Ross let us know that he and Austin partied it up until 4:00 in the morning, so Austin's in a bit of a gnarly mood.

6 -- UMAGA (w/Mr. McMahon) vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Donald Trump) -- Steve Austin special referee --- hair vs. hair match

Lashley was the aggressor early on, but he wouldn't give Umaga room in the corner, so Austin pulled Lashley away and scolded him. Lashley came back with a corner splash and had a cover, but Armando placed Umaga's foot on the bottom rope. Lashley then dragged Armando into the ring and gave him a running powerslam. He rolled him out of the ring, then pulled the top rope down when Umaga charged him and Umaga crashed to the floor. Lashley then went for a suicide dive, but Umaga moved and Lashley ate the floor. Back in the ring, Umaga made a cover for a nearfall. Umaga choked Lashley, but he wouldn't break the hold, so Austin slapped him across the back. They went face-to-face for the first big cheer of the match. Umaga went back to the choke, then Austin pulled him up by the hair and went face-to-face again. Neither man gave any ground. Umaga then went back on the offensive attack. McMahon hopped up on the apron and Austin told him to get down, but McMahon wouldn't listen, so Lashley bumped the ropes and knocked McMahon on his keyster on the floor. Umaga went up top, but Lashley press slammed him to the mat and landed a knock-down clothesline. Both men were on the mat for a nine count, but Austin stopped before counting to ten and the fans popped. He said there's no count out. Shane McMahon then came to ringside and checked on Vince. Umaga choked Lashley, so Austin pulled him to his feet by the eyes. Shane then distracted Austin, who then turned around and took a Samoan Spike to the throat. Shane then fired up with right hand jabs on Lashley before a trashcan entered the picture and Shane went coast-to-coast with a dropkick to Lashley. Chaos ensued after Shane took off his dress shirt and revealed a referee t-shirt. He tried to make a count, but Austin pulled Shane right out of the ring and laid him out. Umaga dropped Austin with another Spike, then Trump became involved and speared McMahon on the outside. He gave McMahon a series of punches, then Umaga went for the Spike a third time, but Austin ducked and nailed Umaga with a Stunner to set up Lashley for a spear on Umaga for the pin and the win. They cut to McMahon ringside, who did a big gulp. "If McMahon is looking for divine intervention, I think the line is busy," Ross said.

WINNER: Lashley in 14:00. Bag-of-tricks match to cover the fact that Umaga was the heel and Lashley was being booed. Satisfying conclusion for anyone who's wanted to see McMahon's head shaved. They set up some potential follow-up matches for Austin if he wants to have a return match with Lashley or Umaga. (**)

Afterward, Austin, Trump, and Lashley celebrated as Vince tried to sneak away. Lashley then ran down the aisle and grabbed McMahon. He dragged him back to the ringside area and threw him into the ring as the barber chair set was set up into the ring. Austin then strapped McMahon into the chair and held his head back as Lashley and Trump went to town shaving McMahon's head. McMahon screamed and was on the verge of tears before they finished the job with some shaving cream. McMahon then left with his head hanging down. Austin, Trump, and Lashley shared beers before Austin surprised Trump with a Stunner in center ring. The fans exploded, then Ross said all of Trump's ex-wives are doing cartwheels right now. Austin had another beer on the entrance ramp as Lashley helped Trump to his feet.

We saw footage from the dark match before the PPV with Chavo Guerrero & Gregory Helms vs. Ric Flair & Carlito with lumberjacks surrounding the ring. Carlito covered Chavo for the win.

7 -- MELINA vs. ASHLEY -- Women's Title match -- lumberjill match

Melina tried to take a quick breather on the outside early on, but the lumberjills rolled her back into the ring. She then went on the offensive until Ashley went for a top rope elbow drop, but missed it by a country mile. They went into a pin exchange and Melina rolled up Ashley with a bridge pin to retain the belt.

WINNER: Melina in 3:00 to retain the Women's Title. No heat. They kept it short, which was for the best. (1/4*)

Afterward, Ashley was a poor sport and threw Melina to the outside. The lumberjills threw her back into the ring, which led to a giant brawl. JBL called it lumberjill pandemonium. Melina managed to slip out of the ring and Trinity posed with her on the stage as Ashley looked frustrated in the ring.

Ross and Lawler broke down the text messaging voting for Cena vs. Michaels. Cena won with 59 percent of the vote. Those are the same people voting for Sanjaya on American Idol.

We saw a video package on Michaels and Cena in action setting up the main event. One prominent clip of Michaels giving Kurt Angle sweet chin music at WrestleMania 21. They recapped the build up, focusing on Michaels waiting until the eleventh hour to give Cena sweet chin music on Raw six days ago.

Shawn Michaels came out first, then we cut backstage where a Ford Mustang sped through downtown and arrived at Ford Field. The vehicle then sped through the tunnel and crashed through a glass entrance. Cena's music hit, then Cena popped out of the vehicle. I'm not sure which was lamer - last year's gangster entrance or this year's odd Need for Speed entrance. Cena then ran to the ring to start the match. Before the bell could ring, a man jumped the guardrail and ran into the ring. Michaels then waved him good-bye and the bell rang seven minutes past the top of the hour.

8 -- JOHN CENA vs. SHAWN MICHAELS -- WWE Title match

Michaels wanted a handshake to start things off, but Cena refused so Michaels slapped him across the face. Cena then missed with right hand blows and Michaels landed right hand blows before giving him a crotch chop. Story being built up that Michaels is giving Cena a veteran beating and outsmarting him to get inside his head. They built up to a stiff clothesline by Cena, which drew a mix of boos and cheers. Michaels took a while to recover in the corner and Cena showed more determination on his face, but Michaels came back with a hip toss over the top rope to the floor. Michaels placed Cena near the table, then he came up with a springboard moonsault and both men crashed into the announce table without it breaking. Michaels then wrapped Cena's knee around the ringpost and continued to focus on the left knee. Cena remained in the corner for a while absorbing right hand blows, while also delivering right hand blows of his own. Michaels eventually missed with a corner blow and struck the ringpost face-first. He came up bleeding from the forehead as Cena grabbed his knee in recovery mode. He then ran into a clothesline and pounded away on Michaels's forehead. Cena made his comeback, but without selling the knee that Michaels spent six minutes working on.

Cena did "You can't see me", then he dropped the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena went for the FU, but Michaels slipped out and landed a chop before dropping the referee on accident with Sweet Chin Music when Cena ducked. Cena then went for the FU, but Michaels countered in mid-air with a spike DDT. Nice counter. With the referee KO'ed on the floor, Michaels seized his opportunity and dragged Cena to the outside to give Cena a piledriver into the ring steps. Cena came up bleeding from the back of his head as Michaels rolled him into the ring. He then made a cover and a new ref ran to the ring to count a close nearfall. Michaels then went up top and hit a flying elbow drop. He warmed up the band as Cena recovered to his knees, then out of nowhere, Cena flew at Michaels with a hard clothesline just as Michaels was stepping into Sweet Chin Music. They went into a nice standing exchange with Cena teasing the FU before finally hitting the FU to a mixed pop. He then made the cover and scored a two count only generating another burst of energy from the crowd.

We then saw an amazing exchange with Cena catching Michaels off the top, rolling through, then coming to his feet and going for an FU, but Michaels rolled through into a superkick attempt, only to have Cena go for the STFU. Michaels escaped, though, and rolled into a small package for a nearfall. Michaels then went for another offensive attack, but Cena dropped him on his face and slapped on the STFU. Michaels was about to pass out, but he reached out his hand and grabbed the bottom rope. The ref screamed at Cena when Cena wouldn't break the hold, which gave Michaels time to drop Cena with Sweet Chin Music. Both men then recovered on the mat as the crowd stayed on its feet. Michaels then draped an arm over Cena's chest, but it was good for a two count only. Both men slowly came to their feet, then went into another amazing exchange with Michaels slipping out of the FU, only to have Cena drop him with the STFU right in the middle of the ring. Michaels teased tapping out before finally tapping out with nowhere to go.

WINNER: Cena in 30:00 to retain the WWE Championship. Breathtaking finishing sequences after a sluggish opening 15 minutes. They didn't take it out of first gear in the first half of the match, but they laid the foundation for the storyline of Michaels feeling really good about himself, really cocky, and it coming back to humble him in the end. It was classic Showstopper Michaels, with him trying to return to his old persona, but realizing it wouldn't get him the victory he wanted. Cena wasn't going to win over the fans no matter what he did, so he just went out there and busted his ass trying to put together the best match possible. It was clearly WWE telling a major PPV audience that Cena is The Man now and in the future for this company. Michaels might still win the belt at Backlash to set up a rubber match in the summer, but this was WWE sending a message that it's Cena's time. (****)

After the match, Cena went down to both knees and caught his breath. Michaels slowly walked out of the ring, then Cena sat down on the bottom rope, fighting back tears. Ross capped off the story magnificently here, then Cena went to the outside for a handshake with Michaels, but Michaels blew him off and walked up the ramp. Cena then returned to the ring and posed one more time with the ticker tape flying down from the ceiling.

We welcome your 1-10 score and comments on this show for a "WWE PPV Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of To contribute your thoughts on the PPV, click here.

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