Ruthless Aggression #16. WrestleMania 23 (April 1, 2007) Part 1

On the Card: Ruthless Aggression #16 WrestleMania 23 – April 1, 2007

The Ruthless Aggression Era was a time when the WWE roster was so huge and so varied that they had no way of continuing storylines each week on their two main shows – RAW and Smackdown – and so they created the draft where wrestlers and announcers would be drafted onto either one of the two shows. Smackdown wrestlers would not (usually) be able to appear on Raw or interact with Raw wrestlers and vice versa.

Ten years ago, on April 1, 2007, WrestleMania 23 aired. It was a WWE PPV, the first one since Royal Rumble back in January. Personally, the PPV came at a time where I had grown weary with professional wrestling, confused by the sheer number of wrestlers and unwilling to spend so much time per week watching hours of footage and trawling through shows, replays, promos and matches. I simply watched the PPVs. Over the next few weeks, I will review this PPV from the perspectives of a fan looking back at it after a decade as well as my original thoughts as a younger man watching it at the time.

WWE WrestleMania 23

All Grown Up.

Ha ha! All grown up. Because, you see, it’s the old blood versus the new blood. Cena and Michaels. Batista and Undertaker.

If there is one thing I love about each year being a wrestling fan, it’s the Royal Rumble. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s WrestleMania. Yep, there, I said it. WrestleMania has so much hype surrounding it that it cannot help but disappoint. The best thing about Mania is normally the entrances and the crazy spots. The matches are sub-par, normally, and half of it is aimed at the people who don’t watch wrestling but want to see celebrities. I would hate, hate, hate to go to WrestleMania and be anywhere but the front row. I’ve seen pictures of the ring from the nose-bleed seats. It is no way to spend your money.

WrestleMania 23 was at a time when wrestling ratings were low but spending was high. Trying to recoup losses, WWE made ‘Mania as crazy as possible and called in some old friends and crazy matches to intrigue and entertain fans. Let’s see if it’s just a full undercard!

Old promo package showing the titles of the last twenty-two WrassleManias. We see Hogan, Andre, Warrior, Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Rock, Shane McMahon, Triple H, Eddit, Cena etc. There’s a big pop for the fact that WrassleMania is all grown up. Hey! That’s the tagline!

Here we are in Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, the city that never stops stabbing, we join 80,103 people in attendance with 1,188,000 at home (higher than the 930,000 from the year before) as the Queen of Soul, Miss Aretha Franklin sings America The Beautiful with a whole fucking choir and a piano and shit. Lovely promo package showing some soldiers, bombers, mountains, a woman in a sea of soldiers, firemen, the statue of Liberty, Shawn Michaels, more soldiers on parade, John Cena, Maria, a bald eagle, Abraham Lincoln’s statue, more bombers and big pyro. USA! USA! USA!

Fucking jingoistic bollocks.

Cut to everyone in a corridor, being kids, saying one line each and looking into the camera. It’s actually a fucking brilliant promo package. It looks amazing. Except for the laughable bits with the women. You’re not champions, ladies.

Raw, Smackdown and ECW present WrestleMania 23! Big pyro hits and we are officially welcomed in by Jim JR Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. The other announcers are Cunt JBL and Maggle Cole. ECW is here as well: Joey Styles and Tazz.

(Note: Before the PPV began, there was a dark match that featured Ric Flair and Carlito teaming up to defeat Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero. It was a lumberjack match and an excuse for some lads to get a WresleMania payday without doing much. They included: Viscera, Shad Gaspard and JTG of Cryme Tyme, Chris Masters, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas of the world’s greatest tag team, Robbie and Rory McAllister of the Highlanders, Val Venis, Super Crazy, Johnny Nitro, Jim Duggan and Eugene, Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch, Kenny Dykstra, Daivari, Shannon Moore, Sylvain Grenier, Deuce n’ Domino, Paul London and Brian Kendrick who should really have been on the fucking show, The Miz, Vito, Scotty 2 Hotty, William Regal, Dave Taylor, Jimmy Wang Yang, Jamie Noble, Sho Funaki, Balls Mahoney, Stevie Richards, Little Guido, Cunt Bob Holly and Snitsky. Phew!)

The opening contest, as Lillian and her plunging neckline tell us, is for a contract to allow the winner to have a championship match at any time.

First down is Jeff Hardy, first appearance in five years. He hardly gets halfway down the ramp before Booker T comes down with his King gimmick and his mental wife Sharmell. What a guy. Thankfully, she does not hail him.

Fucking Finlay is next, shaming all Irish people with his bollocks.

CM Punk comes down with his electric guitar entrance. No Cult of Personality to be heard.

Kennedy! Fuck right off. The camera can’t have him at all. His mic actually falls from the roof. That’s quite cool, actually.

Ooooooh yeaaaah! It’s fat Matt Hardy. Jeff! Matt! Hardys! Hardyz! Team Extreme! Same match!

What? Randy Orton! Hey! There’s nothing in my way! Nothing gonna change what you done to me! Brilliant. It’s a great matchup already.

The other member of Rated-RKO turns up. Big Edgey. Down he comes, face on him. He’s desperate to kick the shite out of everyone tonight. The announcers put over tag team dissension.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Mr Kennedy def. CM Punk, Randy Orton, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy and King Booker (w/ Queen Sharmell) via ascension to the heavens in 19:10.

Referees on the outside. All the men stare at the ceiling and then leave the ring. Kennedy and Randy pair off. Finlay takes his damn time, goes top rope and has a bowling ball spot, knocking everyone off. Edge gets a ladder, sets it up mid-ring and Matt pulls him down from it. Randy and Finlay take their place, punching atop the ladder until it falls over. Jeff goes up, damn near gets the briefcase until Kennedy takes him down. Outside, Booker goes for a ladder and finds a tiny stepladder. It is used by CM Punk as a weapon until Edge tosses it at his face and busts him wide open. Blood already.

The ladder is set up against the barricade like a bridge and CM Punk reverses a suplex to avoid being put through it. Booker cleans house in the ring and does a spinneroony before the Hardys knock him down. Matt hits a Side Effect on Edge and set up the ladder in a repeat of the Joey Mercury spot that opened it up but escapes and suplexes Matt onto it instead.

It’s Kennedy’s turn to be in the ring and sets Matt up for the Kenton bomb, bopping the back of his head off the edge of the ladder. Jeff hits the Swanton and both Hardys use the ladder to clear house. They both climb the ladder and fight each other on top. Finlay tosses the ladder over and batters everyone, clearing the house and lifting up the ladder before Edge spear him followed by Randy, Booker, Finlay, Matt, Jeff and attempts to spear CM Punk but he leapfrogs. Then we have a Three Stooges spot with CM Punk putting the ladder on his head and knocking the shit out of everyone.

Edge is alone and getting big boos when he leaves to get the biggest ladder. The announcers make penis jokes.

Edge lifts up the ladder and sets it near the briefcase. Randy is up and pushes the ladder – and Edge! – over, out onto the concrete. Jeff knocks Randy down, sets the ladder up and moves the ladder about. Matt sets up Edge on the ladder-bridge and Jeff decides not to climb the ladder to get the briefcase (it’s miles away anyways) and hits a dumb leg drop onto Edge. Lots of time spent focussing on these two men. Edge looks legit hurt and Matt looks worried.

Randy RKOs Matt then Finlay and Kennedy. He sets up a ladder – very small ladder – and slowly ascends it. CM Punk is up, hits Orton and sets the two ladders next to each other. Both men climb the ladders and the video cuts to Edge being “eliminated” by being sent out on a stretcher. Randy and Punk have a lovely RKO off the top rope but Randy is up to beat on Booker and sets up another RKO but booker reverses into a Book End and goes back up the ladder. Matt Hardy enters and so does Sharmell. He threatens to give the Twist of Fate to Booker’s wife if he doesn’t descend the ladder. Booker, to his credit, does, and gets a Twist of Fate for his effort. Finlay comes in, lifts the ladder, sending Matt flying. Finlay is bust open. He gives Matt the Celtic Cross on the ladder and sells it like it hurt him. It did not.

Finlay is bust badly, having difficulty getting up. And then Hornswoggle comes in. Oh God. He goes up the ladder himself to help Finlay. He’s nearly there and Kennedy is in, up the ladder and shouting at Hornswoggle. Little Bastard slaps Kennedy and gives him a lovely rolling senton from the ladder. Finlay throws the ladder straight at Kennedy’s face. Finlay is climbing, inches away when Punk dropkicks the ladder and sends him off. Punk sets up the ladder, he could win this, there are no others in the ring… until Kennedy comes in and the pair exchange blows. Punk kicks Kennedy and the blonde bastard picks up a ladder, throws it, repositions the ladder mid-ring and gets the briefcase to win the Money in the Bank in 19:10.

2017 comments:

Good opener. High-octane, lovely spots, setting the scene and getting a little blood in already. Only downside is that not everyone in the match was equally used, especially Finlay (apart from the end), Punk (who seemed to just fill in when no one was available), Edge (in, out, shake it all about) and Jeff Hardy (who did one spot and left).

2007 comments:

Fucking Kennedy. Why did it have to be Kennedy?

Grade: B

Kennedy runs out of the ring and up the aisle, away from the ring, happy to be shot of the place. Some great replays of the last few minutes. Hornswoggle took a great hot on the ribs, boy.

Cut to the theatrical release of The Condemned with Stone Cold Steve Austin. The release was basically like a wrasslin’ match. Lots of cheering and that.

Backstage, Todd Grisham is speaking to Mr. Kennedy, who is inspecting his briefcase as if to ask, “How does this open?” and, “Where are the sweets? I was promised that sweets would be inside.”

Oh, Kennedy,

He interrupts Todd, congratulates himself and sends a message to the lads in the back with gold because Kennedy has a contract to kill any of them… with a referee and ring permitting, of course. He is, after all, Mr. Money in the Bank… Bank.

Cut to Baby Batista promo where our boy Dave talks about his childhood. Is it legit? Is it kayfabe? We may never know. He says he has a focus – wrasslin’ – and it’s his passion. That and going to space.

It’s time for the piss break match as Khali enters to a silence. Fuck off. You’re no good and you’re pushed to be better than Taker. Nonsense. He’s fighting Kane and not even Jobber to the Stars can help this nonsense.

Big pyro and down he comes, walking with a purpose and big chubby belly on him. He gets into the ring, smiles creepily and the bell rings.

The Great Khali def. Kane via pin in 5:31.

Khali pushes Kane to the ground and the Big Red Machine sells it like a shotgun blast. Kane boots him in the nuts, runs the ropes and Khali says no. Chop attempts from the Punjabi Playboy and Kane goes flying. Kane gives Khali a wee guillotine, gets a clothesline for his efforts. JR and King are trying to put over this match and failing. Khali hits the Vulcan Nerve Pinch and Kane fights to his feet. The crowd are dead. No interaction with them. Khali has Kane in the corner and chokes him for a bit. Kane fights back, gives Khali big right hands and is tossed back. Kane goes top rope, attempts a clothesline and a boot. Khali gets stuck in the ropes, tied up like Andre. Kane goes under the ring, gets a hook and chain – like the ones used in See No Evil! – and it hooks onto the ropes. Khali rips off the turnbuckle pad and Kane uses the chain to hit the low blow. Big body slam from Kane and there’s a huge pop! WrestleMania 3 callback! Andre! Hogan! Kane! Khali! Kane and Khali shake chokes for a bit until Khali chokeslams Kane, puts a foot on his chest and gets the pin in 5:31.

2017 comments:

I love Kane and this was guff. Other than the body slam and the pop, this was a waste of time.

2007 comments:

Oh Kane, how far have you fallen?

Grade: F

Khali chokes Kane, gets some extra heat and leaves.

On the Card will return on April 8 2017 with the second part of WrestleMania 23.

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Ruthless Aggression #8: No Mercy (October 8, 2006) Part 1

The Ruthless Aggression Era was a time when the WWE roster was so huge and so varied that they had no way of continuing storylines each week on their two main shows – RAW and Smackdown – and so they created the draft where wrestlers and announcers would be drafted onto either one of the two shows. Smackdown wrestlers would not (usually) be able to appear on Raw or interact with Raw wrestlers and vice versa.

Ten years ago, on October 8, 2006, the PPV No Mercy aired. It was a SmackDown! PPV, and the first SmackDown! PPV since The Great American Bash way back in July. Personally, the PPV came at a time where I had grown weary with professional wrestling, confused by the sheer number of wrestlers and unwilling to spend so much time per week watching hours of footage and trawling through shows, replays, promos and matches. I simply watched the PPVs. Over the next four weeks, I will review this PPV from the perspectives of a fan looking back at it after a decade as well as my original thoughts as a younger man watching it at the time.

No Mercy 2006

Once again, there was no tagline for this PPV. I’m beginning to feel like the tagline thing isn’t such a big deal. I should probably stop talking about it at the beginning of each of these PPV reviews, probably. The poster makes up for it, however, as it shows King Booker and Queen Sharmell standing over the body of a slain dragon. Great.

We see King Booker force Bobby Lashley to kiss his feet and Teddy Long sets up a fatal-fourway match to see who will be the new World Heavyweight champion. Batista, who fought Booker at SummerSlam and won by DQ, thus failing to win the belt and Finlay, sometime ally to Booker but recent enemy, are also in the match. Lashley loves his steroids. So does Batista, actually. The pair of them.

There’s actually no promo for any other match. We have The Undertaker battling Mr. Kennedy, we have Benoit vs. Regal, we have Rey vs Chavo with Vickie. Great matches, great storylines, but we focus on the main event. What you’re saying there is that the rest of the card is shit.

Overly complex CGI welcomes us to WWE No Mercy. Pyro hits and the smoke fails to clear as we are introduced to the RBC Centre, Raleigh, North Carolina. 9,000 people in attendance with 197,000 PPV buys, a drop from the 230,000 buys the year previous and the 232,000 buys at The Great American Bash. Your announcers are moustache-and-soul-patch Michael Cole who says that we are on the campus of North Carolina State University, on the Legendary Tobacco Road, which seems unhealthy for students, but there you go; and Cunt JBL who is sticking around despite his utter lack of talent. JBL says nothing of consequence, which should go on his headstone. They are joined by oft-forgotten and regularly cut-off Mexian commentators, mental Hugo Savinovich and Carlos Cabrera.

 (Note: Before the PPV began, there was a dark match featuring Jimmy Wang Yang and Sylvan. It was of little import.)

Out comes Fat Matt Hardy, all fired up on McDonalds and cocaine. Raleigh is near enough his hometown of Cameron, NC and, according to Google Maps, is little under an hour away by car.

Gregory Helms comes out, introduced as the “longest running Cruiserweight Champion.” We see a flashback to SmackDown where the men share low blows. Helms is not putting his belt on the line at this PPV out of spite towards Matt Hardy, the rascal.

Matt Hardy def. Gregory Helms via pin in 13:07.

The bell rings and the two men square off. Matt has a wee sticker on his nipple, there, like a wee plaster. Reportedly, it is due to an infection there, although one reputable blog claimed that he was growing a third nipple, which as we all know is false. If anything, it should be a fourth nipple, the third one being his brother, Jeff Hardy.

The two of them start off and Michael Cole already fucks up, mixing up Hardy and Helms. Helms, in a fit of anger, throws his doo-rag at Hardy and shouts at the crowd. Hardy hits a full nelson slam and Helms goes for a leg lock, getting shoved away. This match comes across already like it is a straight-up shoot fight, with lots of shoving, pushing, shouting. They finally do the test of strength and the heel Helms wins, booting Hardy in the back, choking him in the corner. Helms drags Hardy to the middle of the ring but his suplex attempt is denied and Hardy hits it before throwing Helms outside of the ring, suicide diving out himself. Great.

The boys are back in the ring and Matt is giving Gregory hell, a pin attempt followed by a four-punch in the corner. They never reach the lofty heights of ten punches. JBL sucks up to Vince on commentary as the two men in the middle of the ring take their time. Matt goes to top rope and hits a Russian Leg Sweep from the top rope. JBL states that such a move hurts the guy giving it as much as the guy taking it, which is true out of kayfabe but cannot be true in kayfabe because otherwise only an idiot would do it. Helms is choking Hardy again, really living up to his heel persona. He hits Hardy with a Codebreaker but only gets a two-count for his efforts. Hardy might have a bust lip.

JBL states that this match “means the world to both of these guys,” which is a bit of an exaggeration. Rest hold city followed by an attempted fireman’s slam reversal to a reverse DDT. The ref starts his ten count and the men are up, punching each other like madmen. Hardy takes over and hits the running bulldog to a two-count. Hardy hits the body slam, moves to Bret’s rope, hits the leg drop, calls for the Twist of Fate but it’s reversed and Helms is back in control with a close two-count. Helms hits another Nightmare on Helms Street/Eye of the Hurricane (spinning headlock elbow drop) followed by a third but is unable to get the pin. Michael Cole calls it, “an almost backwards DDT”. Fucking idiot.

Helms goes to the top rope and Hardy is to his feet, countering Helm’s top rope axe-handle nothing with a punch to the gut. Hardy hits three Side Effects and goes for the moonsault, but Helm’s knees are up. Helms goes for the Shining Wizard to a roll up. Another Shining Wizard, a close two-count. Helms sets hardy on the top rope and attempts a superplex but is thrown off. While Hardy gets steady for the Swanton, Helms chucks him onto the ropes where he smacks his nuts. Helms hits the top-rope Shining Wizard, lands badly. Helms goes for the pin but Hardy’s leg is on the rope. Helms goes for another Eye of the Hurricane, is reversed into a Twist of Fate followed by a pin for the win in 13:07.

2016 comments:

Good start. Lots of tiny botches though, like the boys were trying too hard to get all their spots out and weren’t being careful enough. Good thing no one got injured.

2006 comments:

Great, great match but not enough high flying from the cruiserweights.

Grade: B

As Hardy celebrates and almost falls into the crowd. Helms still has the Cruiserwight belt, but he has lost his pride.

Cut to Booker and Sharmell backstage. Sharmell attempts to calm her king down and is interrupted by “Sir Regal”. Regal and Booker do a great job of pretending that they are in a royal court. Booker calls his opponents in the Fatal-Fourway as “fire-breathing dragons” and calls Finlay a “fallen Knight”. Good times. Booker orders Regal to convince Finlay to be Booker’s ally. Regal disappears and Booker stares into middle-distance.

Back to ringside and Cole and JBL run through a badly-scripted interaction. The music hits and out comes Teacher Michelle McCool with KC James and Idol Stevens AKA Damien Sandow. He looks young, fresh, cared about. How times have changed. KC James looks like a roided-up Gangrel.

Generic rock hits and down run the Tag Team champs, Brian Kendrick and Paul London with bad-jogger Ashley Massaro, who looks amazing but has less talent than clothes on. Little Naitch is the ref and holds the belts aloft to signal the start of the match.

WWE Tag Team Championship match: Paul London and Brian Kendrick (c) (w/ Ashley Massaro def. KC James and Idol Stevens (w/ Michelle McCool) via pin in 9:35.

Stevens starts off with London and the man in pink beats on the man in white in the corner. London hits a beautiful flying head scissors and tags in Kendrick to deliver stereo kicks to Idol’s heads. Revolving door of tag teams as the champs tag in, beat on Idol, tag out and wait for a bit. Stevens finally takes over and tags in James but it doesn’t take long for the champs to beat on him for a while. Idol attempts to jump in but gets a kick to the tummy for his effort. The challengers are thrown out of the ring and stereo suicide dives to either side of the ring. Good stuff, boys.

Stevens and Kendrick are in the ring but as London attempts to go in, he is harassed by McCool and James, falling to the outside. Stevens gets London in the old headlock but it doesn’t take long for London to hit the sunset flip, some Aloha Idol and eventually lose the advantage. James is working on London in the ring and there is some chinlock city in the centre of the ring followed by an absolutely brutal backbreaker. Stevens is back in and London is being tossed about like a ragdoll. Mrs. Undertaker watches from the outside as Stevens roars to some unknown god. London fights to his feet, lays the boots into Stevens, goes for the hot tag, but is literally dragged kicking and screaming to his opponent’s corner. James takes control once again and is rewarded with a head to the turnbuckle for his effort. London is going for the hot tag but once again he is denied by the heel challengers.

London escapes a double team, gets the hot tag and Kendrick cleans house in predictably high-flying fashion. Stevens sabotages the runnin’ wild, brother, but London suicide dives through Bret’s rope to knock him to the outside. Superplex from Stevens to Kendrick but only gets a two-count. Double team attempt from the challengers but it is beaten away by Kendrick and a pin attempt is thwarted by McCool casually placing James’ foot on the rope. As Ashley gives off on the apron, Idol hits a high-impact backbreaker on Kendrick but only gets the two count. Michelle once again attempts to interfere but Ashley runs to her, starting a caaaaaaat-fiiiiiiight. Ugh.

Stevens and James attempts a double suplex on Kendrick but he is saved by London and the two lads clean up, getting the pin in 9:35.

2016 comments:

Very fast paced, no storyline and unnecessary women. This match was brilliant without the inclusion of McCool and Massaro. In truth, they took away from the match and that is a shame. They should have been kept for less-talented teams than these two. Kendrick and London continue to be God’s gift to tag-team wrestling.

2006 comments:

I am sick of these motherfucking women taking away from my motherfucking wrestling.

Grade: A-

Ashley beats on Michelle as the champs celebrate in-ring. We see a replay of the last few double-team moves including an impressive shooting-star press from London off Kendrick’s back. JBL has the gall to say, “that reminds me of the old APA, flying around everywhere!” which is bollocks because the APA were a shite tag team whatever way you slice it and I doubt JBL has jumped for joy never mind off another man’s back.

On the Card will return on October 15 with the second part of No Mercy 2006.