wrestling / Video Reviews

Kevin’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania 23

December 20, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
John Cena Shawn Michaels WrestleMania 23
WWE WrestleMania 23
April 1st, 2007 | Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan | Attendance: 80,103

WrestleMania III drew the largest crowd in company history. They returned to Michigan for 20 years later for WrestleMania but moved things to Ford Field in Detroit. The original plan for the main event was a John Cena/Triple H rematch. A major injury forced Triple H to the sidelines and in his place stepped Shawn Michaels for a fresh WWE Title situation. This show is also notable for being the first to feature the ECW roster, after the brand was introduced the prior year.

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Did the event have logical booking decisions for the stories they told
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity interaction, concerts, etc.



Match Quality


Money in the Bank: CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Finlay vs. Jeff Hardy vs. King Booker vs. Matt Hardy vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. Randy Orton ` The biggest Money in the Bank to date. I loved the way this started. Guys just kept trying to climb. It makes sense to use that as a strategy. There were unexpected moments like Finlay being the first person to take to the skies and the Hardys trying the spot that destroyed Joey Mercury’s face. There were well thought out spots like Edge hitting everyone with a Spear only for Punk to leap clean over the final one and Punk paying homage to ECW with the famous Terry Funk ladder gimmick. The biggest spot of the match saw Jeff Hardy leg drop Edge through a ladder and it took both men out of action. It remains one of the craziest things I’ve seen at a WrestleMania. We also got an RKO and a Book End off of a ladder, which were cool. They found smart uses for Sharmell and Hornswoggle. Booker letting go of the briefcase to save Sharmell was a good idea, while Kennedy hitting Hornswoggle with a huge Green Bay Plunge was stellar. It came down to Punk and Kennedy, with surprisingly strong drama with Kennedy winning at 19:10. An improvement on last year but not at the highs of the original. It had plenty of action, big spots, and some clever moments. [****]

The Great Khali vs. Kane ~ It’s the historic WrestleMania debut of the Great Khali! There were two reasons this match happened. One was to continue the Khali push by having him manhandle a monster. The other was to relive some classic Mania moments with the most notable being Kane slamming Khali like Hogan did to Andre two decades prior. Except it had almost no impact and nobody remembers it. Khali still won with his chokeslam in 5:31. It sucked. However, it was kept short so it’s not the worst. [¼*]

WWE United States Championship: Chris Benoit [c] vs. Montel Vontavious Porter ~ MVP’s entrance with the cheerleaders was pretty rad. Lots of crisp chain wrestling to start. It seemed like they were trying to prove that MVP could hang with Benoit on the mat. I liked how Benoit would still remain a step ahead. Like when MVP hit a superplex, Benoit quickly pulled him into a pinning combination. Where MVP would find his openings was by using big strikes and high impact offense but he could still hang with counters and such. Benoit hit the triple Germans and added the diving headbutt to retain in 9:19. It was kind of an anti-climactic finish. Technically strong and it did well to ensure MVP looked good. It just never quite hit that next gear to be something great. [***¼]

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista [c] vs. The Undertaker ~ Undertaker was fresh off of winning the Royal Rumble. A lot of this was built on Batista not being intimidated by Undertaker. He showed that immediately when he took him down and battered him in the corner. Being the veteran that he is, Undertaker was able to weather the storm and turn the tide. When he did, the pace slowed. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing. The slow pace worked for the story and at no point did it get boring. This was Undertaker’s world and the opposite of how Batista wanted things to go. That was honestly a lot of the “push and pull” of this match. I liked that Batista had a chance to win by countout but instead kept on the offensive and powerslammed Undertaker through the announce table. You could see Batista’s frustrations that it wasn’t enough to win. The closing stretch started the trend we’d come to love about Undertaker WrestleMania matches. It was filled with huge near falls and late drama that the crowd was hooked on. He hadn’t quite mastered it (that will come in two years) but it was great. Undertaker planted him with the Tombstone to win the title in 15:47. A fantastic match that started Undertaker’s ridiculous run of stellar Mania performances. One of the best big time power matches I can recall. These two had way better chemistry than most expected. [****]

Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von and Matt Striker vs. Rob Van Dam, Sabu, The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer ~ The first official ECW match on a WrestleMania. Seeing the Sandman compete in front of 80,000 fans is so weird. Each guy in there was given enough to hit a signature spot or two but not much more. Other than Tommy Dreamer playing the face in peril, there wasn’t much in the way of a flow to this one. The treat for the fans was Rob Van Dam getting the hot tag and hitting all the stuff he’s known for like Rolling Thunder. Also, Matt Striker’s sell of the DDT was an all-timer. RVD added the Five Star Frog Splash soon after to give the Originals the win in 6:26. This was inoffensive. They got to do their thing in short order. I can also sleep well knowing their the Extreme Rules rematch on ECW was fantastic. [**]

Hair vs. Hair Match: Lashley vs. Umaga ~ So this is what the ECW and Intercontinental Champions were up to instead of defending their titles. THE BARBER CHAIR GOT ITS OWN ENTRANCE COMPLETE WITH THEME MUSIC! A lot of this actual match was pretty lackluster. Umaga could go but Lashley was still hella green at this point. The crowd was into everything because this was good old fashioned SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT. Umaga bumped all over the place, Shane got his ass kicked when he ran in, and Donald Trump got the chance to hit Vince near the end. Umaga went after Austin, which led to him getting dropped with the Stunner. Lashley added the Spear and that was all after 13:03. Like I said, a lot of this was mediocre at best. Yet the entertainment value was high enough that I could give it some love for being fun. [**¼]

WWE Women’s Championship Lumberjill Match: Melina [c] vs. Ashley Massaro ~ The worst of the worst when it came to giving Playboy cover girls a big Mania opportunity. It’s a shame to see Mickie James doing nothing around the ring when she had that banger last year. This was really bad. Ashley was nowhere ready for this spot and Melina wasn’t nearly good enough to carry her to something watchable. After Ashley missed an elbow, Melina retained with a rollup in 3:14. It doesn’t go into negative stars because at least it was kept short. [DUD]

WWE Championship: John Cena [c] vs. Shawn Michaels ~ The World Tag Team Champions competing against each other in the main event. That’s pretty cool. I appreciated how they went different from the expected path to start. Shawn offered the handshake and Cena declined it. Knowing their personalities, I would have thought it’d be the other way around. After a big moonsault to the outside, Michaels put the target on Cena’s leg. Lawler put it best by saying Shawn was giving him a wrestling lesson. He was a step ahead at every turn. Cena fired up to rally with strikes, which is his strong suit. At some point, Shawn got busted open and it added to the intensity and drama. After a ref bump, Shawn resorted to a piledriver on the steel steps. You could sense the desperation. That sent this into a fantastic final few minutes where they started throwing their best bombs at each other. The closing stretch was one of the best I can recall in a Mania. From the counters to the STF survival to the Sweet Chin Music, it all worked. Shawn had nowhere to go and was left to submit to the STF after 28:21. That had a big fight feel and was filled with great exchanges and tense drama. [****¼]

Like most WrestleManias to this point, there was some good and some bad. This is an eight match card, with three of those contests clocking in at ****+ (HBK/Cena, Taker/Batista, MITB). A fourth is what I considered good (Benoit/MVP). The eight man tag was inoffensive and Lashley/Umaga proved to be decent sports entertainment. Only Kane/Khali and Melina/Ashley were terrible. That means most of the show is good. I’d call it a slight step down from last year.

SCORE: 7.5





For the first time in a few years, this didn’t feature the first World Title win for someone. That hurts this score. I feel like the most memorable thing on this show was the ladder spot involving Edge and Jeff Hardy. It is often replayed in video packages and marked another famous ladder moment for the two of them. Vince McMahon getting shaved is another notable thing from this show, as is the fancy entrance for John Cena. I think this show deserves a slightly above average score here.

SCORE: 6.0



Historical Significance


In the opening contest, we were treated to the WrestleMania debut of CM Punk. He’d go on to be part of several more and even defend the WWE Title there a few years later. That’s kind of a big deal. You also had less notable debuts like MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Lashley, and Umaga. It marked the only WrestleMania appearance for the King Booker character. It was also the first time that ECW got the opportunity to participate at WrestleMania. While it didn’t mean much in the long run, this was unfathomable even a year prior.

SCORE: 6.5



Booking Decisions


A lot of the WrestleManias that I’ve recently come across have done well in this section. They did a surprisingly strong job of making logical booking decisions. I think this one did as well. Mr. Kennedy may not have panned out but he was red hot as a rising star coming into this. Lashley winning was clear, while the ECW Originals winning was a nice little moment. John Cena and Undertaker walking out with the titles was also the way to go. If there was something I questioned it might be MVP losing but that can be excused because it was more about him showing that he could hang here.

SCORE: 9.0





The era of WrestleMania being held in stadiums is upon us. Ford Field looked great and really amped up the feel of this being a big event. I liked the “All Grown Up” theme. It was cheesy at points but it got the point across and featured some fun little segments. They did a good job with the special entrances. John Cena’s Ford intro was really cool and I loved MVP having cheerleaders with him. The latter wasn’t a grand move but it worked wonderful. The Undertaker also had a pretty sweet entrance. My only major gripe was commentary as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler continued to be lackluster.

SCORE: 8.0





I think a fair amount of this WrestleMania paced well. It starts with a bang with Money in the Bank before giving fans a rest with Kane/Khali. Then it picked back up and I appreciated that it ended in grand fashion. I do think it dragged a bit in the middle. Maybe they should have put the ECW tag before the World Heavyweight Title. But that’s a minor issue because it’s not like Lashley/Umaga felt too long. If I had to pick a real beef, it would be that the haircut segment went on a bit too long. Again, not a big problem.

SCORE: 8.0





Though the idea of “America the Beautiful” to start the show isn’t my favorite, I loved the decision to bring Aretha Franklin in for it. She performed at WrestleMania III and that was a recurring theme so it worked. A lot of the promos and segments did as well. Mr. Kennedy’s post-MITB win promo is a hidden gem and one of my personal favorites. I liked the weird segment where Ron Simmons hit everyone with a DAMN. Donald Trump and Vince McMahon both had bad backstage segments but I found the haircut to mostly work. The fans loved it, it was entertaining, and Austin ended it by hitting Trump with a Stunner. You can’t hate that.

SCORE: 6.0





An absolute treat of a WrestleMania. It mostly features matches that are very good and even the bad ones don’t stick around for too long. A good chunk of the non-wrestling segments are fun enough, the show is paced out nicely, and it has a handful of memorable moments. Despite being more than three hours, it came across as an easy watch. Big thumbs up for WrestleMania 23, which cracks the top 10 so far!

TOTAL: 51/70


WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania XIX – 62/70
2. WrestleMania X-Seven – 61/70
3. WrestleMania III – 55/70
4. WrestleMania 21 – 52.5/70
5. WrestleMania X – 52/70
6. WrestleMania 23 – 51/70
7. WrestleMania VIII – 50.5/70
8. WrestleMania XX – 50/70
9. WrestleMania I – 50/70
10. WrestleMania XII – 48.5/70
11. WrestleMania 22 – 48.70
12. WrestleMania VII – 46/70
13. WrestleMania XIV – 46/70
14. WrestleMania VI – 44/70
15. WrestleMania X8 – 43.5/70
16. WrestleMania 2000 – 39.5/70
17. WrestleMania V – 39/70
18. WrestleMania 13 – 37/70
19. WrestleMania XV – 35/70
20. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
21. WrestleMania XI – 31.5/70
22. WrestleMania IX – 31.5/70
23. WrestleMania II – 29/70

article topics :

Wrestlemania 23, Kevin Pantoja