WrestleMania 23 from April 1, 2007 at Ford Field in Detroit with 80,103 people in attendance
Welp. I was in the crowd for this one. Unforgettable experience, just wish I could forget how I looked. This is pre-110 pounds being lost, me discovering deodorant, and growing out my luscious blonde locks and beard:
The only WrestleMania in this series that the author will have attended the show in actual, real life! WrestleMania 23 from Ford Field in Detroit, which is where this then-18-year-old was on the night of April 1. This show took place 20 years after WrestleMania III with Hogan and Andre the Giant, so it was really cool to be a part of another massive Detroit area crowd.
We've only hosted two WrestleManias, but Detroit has accounted for nearly 200,000 people in attendance over the course of those two shows. So, not bad.
I had a fantastic view in the lower 100 level from the 50-yard line, so this show will always hold a special place in my heart. Going to a WrestleMania is unlike anything else I've been to, and I've been to a lot, and it certainly helps that the show was rock solid when it came to in-ring action and storytelling between its two championship matches.
The Undertaker and Batista, and Shawn Michaels and John Cena tore the absolute house down for the World Heavyweight Championship and WWE Championship, respectively. WrestleMania 23, of course, was also highlighted by the Billionaire vs. Billionaire challenge featuring the now U.S. President Donald Trump. It was Bobby Lashley in Trump's hair's corner and Umaga in Vince McMahon's hair's corner.
Other than that, there was the Money in the Bank ladder match, Great Khali vs Kane, Chris Benoit vs MVP for the US Championship, ECW Originals vs The New Breed and Melina vs Ashley for the Women's Championship in a Lumberjill match to promote an issue of Playboy.
Favorite moments and matches
Whew, between that eight-man MITB ladder match opener, Batista-Undertaker, the theatrics of Lashley-Umaga, and Cena-HBK, this card was loaded when it came to in-ring action. My favorite match on the card is its main event, which featured Raw's tag team champions John Cena and Shawn Michaels facing off for Cena's WWE Championship. We are in the midst of Cena's reign as he had been champion for 20 of the past 24 months as of this show and HBK was fully re-cemented as one of the top guys and the best worker in the company.
To take into account that this was a WrestleMania on the heels of Eddie's death the year before, HHH's second serious leg injury and the first since Kurt Angle's departure, No. 23 did a damn fine job.
Cena and HBK was everything you could ask for in a WrestleMania event as it was heart-throbbing action from bell to bell and back and forth action the entire time. Cena and Michaels even pull out some insane spots on the outside of the ring while playing the right amount of shenanigans to make it a fun spectacle without bringing the match down. It's important to note that this is the last show where blading to bleed was heavily featured. Michaels bleeds early, and Cena gets a nasty little gash in the top of his head after taking a piledriver on the steel steps.
Ford Field was absolutely on fire for this match, and I vividly remember experiencing the intense highs and lows of being in the crowd with a solid seat for a WrestleMania main event. I remember Cena taking the brutal piledriver on the outside and the crowd gasping at the blood on the top of his head, and Shawn Michael's desperate, erratic Superkick to Cena who was distracted by the second referee of the match. It ends with Michaels tapping out to the STFU, and take that for what it is, but it doesn't damper the match. The crowd was strongly in HBK's corner, duh, but WWE didn't do either of these men disjustice that night as they tore the house down.
The Detroit crowd gasped at every nearfall, cheered its ass off at the HBK's hellacious Sweet Chin Music and sighed at yet another legend tapping out to a submission move where the champion just lays on your leg.
As for Undertaker and Batista's match for the World Heavyweight Championship, this match was a fantastic tease between the champion's dominance and the challenger's historic streak. This came at a point in time where Batista had never been beaten for his World Heavyweight Championship since WrestleMania 21, he just got hurt. So when he came back and won it, he picked right back up where he left off.
The streak was very much in jeopardy if you asked those fans in attendance that night, because when Batista powerslams Undertaker through the announce table and hits the Batista Bomb in the middle of the ring the crowd gasps for air. It was great in person and just as great on a screen. High drama, and two big-name stars living up to their hype. With Undertaker winning the championship and extending the streak paired with HBK losing and Cena retaining, this match should have been the main event. Send everyone home happy, and put the Royal Rumble winner's match on last. EVEN WITH ALL OF THIS, seeing this match live, taking in an Undertaker WrestleMania match for the championship ... there's not much more you can ask for as a lifelong wrestling fan.
While people will laugh at Mr. Kennedy winning the Money in the Bank ladder match in hindsight, he was very much trending upwards at the time and was over as a character and worker. Unfortunately, he would piss off the wrong Randy Orton's shoulders and find himself in TNA by WrestleMania 24. Don't let that take away from the match, because these guys pulled out all the stops and beat the crap out of each other.
Jeff jumped off a 20-foot ladder onto Edge who was spread out across a ladder at ringside, Randy RKO'd everyone, hit one of the ladder, Booker hit a Bookend off the ladder, Kennedy killed Hornswoggle and then won the damn thing. Everyone hit their spots, took a beating and contributed to this match. Overlooked as hell, but might be one of the best MITB matches out there.
Other than these three, the Lashley-Umaga match was fun and was filled with ridiculous Attitude Era-influenced interference, swerves and near falls. Stone Cold works as the ref, stuns everyone, Shane interferes and hits a coast-to-coast on Lashley who prevails after getting beat up and screwed for 10 minutes. Our president jumps McMahon, shaves McMahon's head and takes a stunner from Stone Cold after the match. Yep. It was fun, take it for what it was. Also, you never forget seeing the U.S. president beat someone up, shave a fellow billionaire's head and so on and so forth. WTF.
Least favorite moments and matches
This is going to sound like nit-picking, but Shawn Michaels coming out to DX's theme music and both he and Cena leaving their tag team belts backstage bothered me. If you're going to have the tag team champions face each other in a singles match in the main event of WrestleMania, rub our faces in that fact. Seriously, this stuff WWE should rub our faces in, they don't. It was a cool rare moment in show and company history, and I feel that it captures how the company treated its tag division in 2007.
The ECW Originals and The New Breed bothers me to this day. I know WWE had some new guys to try and force over, but doesn't a tag match between RVD/Sabu vs Sandman and Tommy Dreamer in an ECW style match sound so much more fun? Felt forced, and like a missed opportunity coming off of RVD's brutal year of wining MITB at WM22, beating Cena for the title, and then blowing at all getting caught driving with weed with Sabu.
The fact that there was no tag team championship matches on this card, and that Undertaker-Batista didn't go on last. You could still have Cena drive in his Mustang through Ford Field in the middle of the show. To me, the final slot is reserved for moments like Taker-Batista instead of a champ retaining.
Does it hold up?
This match absolutely holds up. Undertaker and Batista got the best out of each other, and the same could be said about John Cena and Shawn Michaels. Both were worthy of the main event, even with everything previously stated in this post.
It's some of the endings and not the show itself that might not hold up well. Moments like Cena and Michaels bleeding and hitting piledrivers on steel steps will stick out, because it feels like we're so far removed from that version of the WWE. Other than that, it's a little more raunchy, still humiliated the women's division and catered to the ego of Donald Trump who didn't look like he wanted to be there.