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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 480 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 9 2007
Twenty years after the landmark WrestleMania III, the Showcase Of The Immortals returns to a major stadium in Michigan (this was the first WM in a stadium since 2003, and it has continued to be hosted in stadia to this very day). Historically, WM 23 does not compare to WM 3, but in terms of action, this is a very good if underrated WM that surpasses everything that wasn’t Steamboat vs. Savage in the Pontiac Silverdome.
The card kicks off with what is, to me, the best pyrotechnics display in WWE history; it is stunning. But better than that is the third Money In The Bank match, which here features eight participants. Although it is longer than most MITB bouts have been, it is a bit slower and features fewer major spots. But there are still plenty of big moments, including one of the most insane Ladder match moments ever in the form of Jeff Hardy’s huge legdrop off one ladder into Edge and through another ladder (an unseen stunt at the time). Equally crazy is Mr. Kennedy’s Green Bay Plunge from a great height on Hornswoggle (yes, Hornswoggle!) en route to his win. Unfortunately, injury denied Kennedy his cash-in moment and he never became the star he was projected to be – but on this night, he seemed every bit the future after winning a great opening contest.
Kane vs. The Great Khali is slow and dull. A backstage segment involving then-current wrestlers and Legends is fun yet bizarre. Chris Benoit’s successful US Title defence against MVP is surprisingly good given that MVP had only recently debuted and not shone as an actual wrestler prior to this. But the match is uncomfortable to watch knowing that this was Chris’ last WM bout before the horrific Benoit Tragedy in June 2007.
An appearance by the 2007 Hall Of Fame class is followed by a great World Title match between The Undertaker and Batista. Going in, Taker hadn’t had a really good match (besides those with Kurt Angle) for years, and Batista was sleepwalking through his work at that point. Nobody expected a five-star match – but that’s what we got. Arguably the best big-man bout ever in WWE, it ends with Taker going 15-0 and winning his first top title since 2002 (which I was happy with as rumours suggested that The Animal would end The Streak here). Its placement as bout four was odd on the night, but makes no difference when watching it again here.
Match 5 sees the ECW Originals beat The New Breed in a regular 8-man which is okay, but their Extreme Rules rematch on ECW a few nights later was far better and should have been on the WM card instead. Then comes the Battle Of The Billionaires: Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga, with their rich representatives (Donald Trump and Vince McMahon respectively) having wagered their hair, and refereed by Stone Cold Steve Austin. I was going to say that this is one of those matches that you’ll either love or hate, but it actually lies between the two. It isn’t the most entertaining spectacle ever, but one still cannot help but enjoy it as Umaga is beaten and Vince is shaved bald. Post-match, Trump takes the worst Stone Cold Stunner ever from Austin.
By the way, Austin at one point was meant to face Hulk Hogan on this card in a hopefully-he’ll-do-it kind of way. It didn’t happen, partly cause Austin didn’t like Hulk at the time, as didn’t a suggested Hogan-Big Show match to replicate Hogan’s WM 3 top-liner with Andre The Giant because of a serious back injury to the behemoth. And, in fact, Hogan messed up his own appearance as Trump’s man in this match by helping to reveal potential HOF inductees in a radio appearance, which actually ended his in-ring career in WWE in hindsight. Google it and you’ll find the full story somewhere. So, he was out and, eventually, in as ref came his old enemy Stone Cold. Wrestling, eh?
A filler Divas Title match between Melina and Ashley is followed by the main event, a WWE Title match between John Cena and Shawn Michaels. Not regarded as one of Shawn’s finest bouts, this is nevertheless a really good end to the show, and it ends with Cena securing a submission victory with the STFU to retain the crown in what was probably his best match ever.
WM 23 felt a bit anti-climatic at the time, perhaps because the dream Austin-Hogan match never happened, and because injuries to Triple H and Rey Mysterio prevented those two WM 22 main eventers wrestling here (this was actually the first Mania that HHH had missed since his WWF debut in 1995, and he hasn’t missed one since). But it is definitely a fun show and while it lacks that absolute classic match, there are several very good ones here.
The extras include promos both before and after the show related to the big matches, a bonus pre-show bout (a tag Lumberjack affair), the WM 23 press conference and the 2007 Hall Of Fame ceremony. The class has plenty of notable names: The Wild Samoans, Nick Bockwinkel, The Sheik, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Mr. Perfect and Dusty Rhodes. This part of the DVD is quite entertaining and is actually one of the real highlights of the release.
Summing it up, then, WrestleMania 23 serves as a way to show how much the WWF/WWE had advanced since WrestleMania III. Yet, it doesn’t deliver a moment to rival Hogan slamming Andre or a match to equal Steamboat vs. Savage. On the whole, though, it is a very enjoyable card which to a fan watching in hindsight should not disappoint. Combined with entertaining extras and a more-than-worthwhile HOF presentation, the WM 23 DVD receives a strong recommendation from me.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent