Wrestlemania, “The Grandest Stage of Them All”, is the greatest wrestling spectacle in the world today. Only the best of the best can make it to the big stage. Every single wrestler (and Diva) dreams of setting foot on that stage at least once in their lifetime. They want to witness the grand lights, the roaring of thousands of fans screaming their name whether in the form of boos and cheers, and they also want to be a part of the aura that is Wrestlemania. They want to be involved in “The Show of Shows”. They work their careers for this and want to achieve their dreams. They want to be a part of the “magic” of Wrestlemania.
But for Wrestlemania to have that magical feel to it, the matches for it has to be spectacular. The wrestlers have to deliver to all of the hype that is given to them. The spotlight is on them, they have had many weeks of buildup just so their match can seem special. The pressure is on and the wrestlers have to make the most out of their time that is given to them. Not every one who aspires to set foot into Wrestlemania gets to actually participate in it. Only those lucky few can say that they were given a chance.
The performance that one gives at Wrestlemania can either make them or break them. There may be many Wrestlemanias to come in a wrestler’s career or just one. The performance that one gives at Wrestlemania is basically the defining moment in one’s career. A wrestler can say that they did something great and it can actually mean something. But to have a truly great Wrestlemania, the whole show must deliver. There have to be few to no flaws at all in the card. The show has to be perfect.
In the many years that Wrestlemania has existed as the spectacle that it is, out of 26 PPVs, Wrestlemania 23 was the closest Wrestlemania to being “perfect” out of all of them. It had the buildup, the stars, and most importantly of all, delivered to all of the hype. The tagline for this certain event was “All Grown Up”. Since Wrestlemania 3 was also held here, it made sense to think of it as “growing up” but it can also be interpreted as a time when the company was in their prime, “All Grown Up” if you think about it.
The event was one of the most star-studded events ever with Edge, Randy Orton, Mr. Kennedy, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Booker T, CM Punk, Kane, Chris Benoit, MVP, RVD, Bobby Lashley, John Cena, Batista, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and even fellow billionaire to Vince McMahon, Donald Trump. To make a memorable event “memorable”, the card needs to have stars who can make it a one of a kind show. At Wrestlemania 23, that’s exactly what these performers did. They made Wrestlemania 23 a true “show”.
The show kicked off with the Money in the Bank match, the most star-studded to date. The participants were Edge, CM Punk, King Booker, Mr. Kennedy, Randy Orton, Finlay, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy. When you hear these names now you must think of stars so imagine what was done before they were “true” stars. This was a match that had story, high spots, and 8 men who all wanted a chance to get a contract to get to the “true” goal that one pursues aside from setting foot in Wrestlemania, which is to become a WWE champion. All 8 men delivered a WrestleMania worthy performance but only one could come out on top. That person and the Wrestlemania 23 Mr. Money in the Bank was MR. KENNEDY…….Kennedy.
The next match to follow was Kane vs The Great Khali. It wasn’t exactly a memorable performance because it really wasn’t supposed to be anything that special even if Khali was in his prime here, this match was supposed to be a match to make the crowd remember the old days. It involved a body slam by Kane to the Great Khali, a spot reminiscent of the old days when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed the giant that was Andre. Although Kane did most of the work for this match, the victor ended up being the Great Khali. This match wasn’t that bad if you count the time that it was given so this didn’t really ruin the “perfect” show.
The match that followed as the third match of the night was MVP vs Chris Benoit for the United States Championship. It was a good technical match and also marked the final Wrestlemania for Chris Benoit’s career and life while being the first of many Wrestlemanias in MVP’s career. These two men put on a good showing and battled it out in a great match. MVP wanted to prove something heading into his first Wrestlemania while Chris Benoit took on all contenders to his title and defended it with aggression. Chris Benoit ended up fending off MVP and retaining his championship at WM 23.
The fourth match of the card and one that I along with many believe should have gone higher up the card was The Undertaker vs Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship. This match marked the first shot for the prestigious World Heavyweight Championship that the Undertaker had ever received not to mention that the Undertaker had a huge obstacle to overcome in Batista to continue his legendary Wrestlemania streak. This was the underrated match of the night as both men performed stellar performances that can define a superstar’s career while making it seem as if the match could go both ways. At times, it seemed that Batista could’ve actually ended the streak especially after driving ‘Taker through the announce table. At other times, it seemed as if the Undertaker was going to keep his streak alive which actually happened as “The Animal” Batista failed to end the streak, and possibly the Undertaker in the process, as Undertaker and the streak are practically one and the same now. The Undertaker moved his streak up to 15-0 and finally became a first-time World Heavyweight Champion.
The next match that followed practically defined a brand. It showed that that brand had finally made it big. That brand was ECW. After many years of making a “Hardcore” product, ECW became bankrupt and eventually was bought by the WWE. The WWE seemed to try to revive ECW but eventually just gave up. The name “ECW” lost its meaning but before it did, the ECW Originals were given a shot to be a part of the big stage. The Originals vs the New Breed was the match the represented a brand. Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, RVD, and Sabu were the winners of the match as they were the ones who practically defined “ECW” itself.
The match to follow was the “Battle of the Billionaires”. Donald Trump vs Vince McMahon, well not literally as they each chose their own representatives in Bobby Lashley and Umaga respectively with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee. This match defined the grandeur feel of Wrestlemania as there was hype everywhere, from the media to newspapers to the WWE itself. This was a contest that showed who indeed was the better man. After a long hard fought battle between Umaga and Lashley, Stone Cold helped give Trump the upper hand after Shane McMahon interfered and made Lashley the winner of the match, thus getting Vince to have his head shaved. This match was mostly about pride, Vince lost some while Trump gained even more than before although he was stunned by Stone Cold.
The only Divas match of the night followed next. It was Melina vs Ashley in a Lumberjill match for the Women’s Championship. It was your basic Divas match with the lumberjills eventually brawling in the end. Melina retained her championship in a matter of minutes. This is basically what you would expect out of these Divas so there is no way you can thrash this match.
The main event was next. It was Shawn Michaels vs John Cena for the WWE Championship. After Michaels made his entrance, Cena arrived in speedy fashion by driving into the arena. Michaels was representing his DX partner who had gotten injured so Michaels wanted to make a name for himself. After many years, Michaels ended up receiving this title shot. Michaels was so close yet so far at the Royal Rumble and the same thing happened again at the Grandest Stage of Them All. Michaels had the title within his grasp but John Cena ended up being the better man that night as he made HBK tap out. Cena ended the show as champion but to retain his title, he had to battle it out against a valiant and worthy contender in the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
Cena celebrated to conclude the “perfect” show. The audience of 80,103 were welcomed to the show with a spectacular performance involving eight ferocious men who were thirsty and had a lust for gold, and left with the Champ staying the champion, breaking the heart of the Heartbreak Kid.
“Ladies and Gentlemen”, this show was Wrestlemania 23.