WWE WrestleMania XXII
April 2, 2006
Chicago, Illinois

These WrestleMania reviews were originally written in 2012 and are being re-published on our new site.

WrestleMania 22 was “Big Time” according to the Peter Gabriel song they played way too often in anticipation of this event.

A lot of the key players that were set up to have bigger roles the year prior were in those spots when WrestleMania made its return to Chicago. I wrote this live back in 2006. What you’ll see below is my live recap from 2006. I also re-posted this in 2010. If you’re an old school TJR reader you may have already read this. I have added some things and formatted it to make it look like all the others as well.

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They show a wide shot of the crowd as they welcome Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child (and Chicago) to sing America the Beautiful. She did a great job. Then they play a video package highlighting WrestleMania moments through the years. Then the song changes as they go into videos for the big matches in the order of Undertaker/Henry, McMahon/Michaels, Mysterio/Angle/Orton and Cena/HHH is last. As expected, an awesome video package. Sometimes we take the production team for granted. They are stars.

First voice we hear is Jim Ross welcoming us to the show as they pan the crowd to show that it’s a true sellout. As Carlito comes out for the first match, JR is sitting with Lawler to call the Raw matches and he throws it to Cole and Tazz to call the Smackdown matches. Then we get Masters’ entrance. Carlito and Masters come out first individually. There’s a ramp in the aisle for those wondering. Kane and Big Show come out together.

Tag Team Titles (Raw): Big Show & Kane vs. Carlito & Chris Masters
The challengers are making their WrestleMania debuts. Masters and Kane start out with Masters getting a shoulderblock, then Kane hits a dropkick after another exchange. Yes, a dropkick from Kane. Must be WrestleMania. Show tags in, hits the “shhh chop” a couple times. Slam by Show. Carlito gets tagged in to a big pop surprisingly. Crowd starts a “Carlito” chant. Show picks him up and crotches him on the top ropes, then boots Masters down. Press slam on Masters, then one on Carlito although out to the floor onto Masters. Kane comes off the top with a punch/clothesline onto both heels on the floor. Ref gets distracted, they Show goes face first into the exposed turnbuckle and then they nail him with a double flapjack. Tag into Masters, they go for a double suplex, but Show counters and suplexes both at once. Crowd is hot for everything, which is great. Kane in, backdrop to Carlito, slam to Masters. He puts Carlito down again, clothesline attempt by Kane, but Masters has the Masterlock on him. Show boots him in the face to break it as the crowd boos. A crowd that likes the heels. That should be interesting later on. Double knee backbreaker by Carlito on Kane. Show goes to chokeslam Carlito, Masters takes out his knee. They double team Kane, whip in, Kane boots Masters and a punch to Carlito. Masters hits Carlito by mistake after a jump off the top. Kane hits Carlito with a chokeslam for the three count. It went around 7 minutes.
Winners: Kane and Big Show

Analysis: *1/4 Just a basic tag that was pretty good for an opener in terms of getting the crowd excited because the crowd was really hot for everything in it. It was interesting to hear the cheers for Carlito since he was a heel. Not like they booed Kane and Show, though. It was mostly a case of cheering everybody. The purpose of the match was to mix the vets with the younger guys, but the vets going over isn’t going to make the younger guys look that good. Congrats to Big Show for winning his first match at WrestleMania for the impressive record of 1-6.

Post match, Masters and Carlito argued about the loss.

Backstage, Coach interviews Shawn Michaels. He doesn’t regret telling Vince to grow up back in December. If you were watching at the time you’ll recall that promo that led to the Michaels/McMahon match here. He said don’t expect a five star match like against Angle or Benoit/HHH. He says tonight Vince is going to endure his own personal hell. In other words, Vince can’t wrestle a real match, so we’ll have a spotfest. At least he’s honest.

It was time for the second Money in the Bank match. The announcers for this one were all four main announcers since there was a Raw/Smackdown mix. The Smackdown guys talked when their guys walked down to the ring while the Raw guys talked when the Raw men walked to the ring. Biggest pops went to Flair and RVD, I’d say. Lashley’s pop was pretty good.

Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Finlay vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Ric Flair
Lashley clotheslines Finlay in the corner, then a press slam on Flair. Benjamin hits a huge kick on Lashley surprisingly. Hardy gets a ladder already. RVD baseball slides into the ladder crashing Hardy. Then a plancha onto Hardy as he’s holding the ladder. Benjamin beats on Finlay with the ladder a bit. He puts the ladder vertically on the top rope, climbs it like last year and hits a somersault plancha onto RVD, Lashley and Hardy. What a great move. Flair knocks down Finlay, then makes a climb. Hardy catches up to him and hits a superplex on Flair off the ladder. The refs check on Flair, then make the “X” sign meaning he’s hurt. Crowd starts a huge “Flair” chant as he holds his leg. Probably just a work and everybody seems to know it, I think. In ring, Benjamin takes a drop toe hold on the ladder by RVD. Then RVD’s rolling thunder misses as Benjamin moves meaning RVD crashes into the ladder. Lashley slowly climbs up, Benjamin catches up and they throw punches. Benjamin goes for a flipping powerbomb on him, but Lashley holds on, so Finlay and Hardy help powerbomb him down. Crowd with a huge RVD chant now. Finlay rams Benjamin face first into a ladder. Finlay counters a Hardy charge, but throwing a ladder in his face. Then he throws it at Lashley and knocks RVD down with a gut shot. Not surprisingly, here comes Flair limping back to the ring. Finlay meets Flair, Ric chucks him into the barrier. Flair battles with Benjamin and Hardy sending Benjamin to the floor with a chop. Benjamin’s awesome. Flair’s a step away from getting the briefcase when Finlay comes in to crack him in the head with the shillelagh. Crowd was ready for Flair to win there.

Benjamin and Finlay exchange punches on top when Lashley uses the ladder to knock both down. Dominator by Lashley on Benjamin. Another RVD chant as Lashley climbs and there’s Rob dropkicking a ladder into Lashley’s back when he’s on top of the ladder. Another great spot. Hardy takes out RVD, then hits a legdrop on Lashley from the top of the ladder. Again, the announcers reference his history in ladder matches. Hardy’s close, but Finlay catches up and Hardy ends up giving the Side Effect on him from on top of the ladder. Damn. RVD climbs a ladder in the corner and hits a splash on Finlay. Not a five star frog splash because Finlay was too close to him, but still effective. “ECW” chant starts up. Crowd definitely likes Flair and RVD best. RVD’s close and Benjamin springboards off the ropes onto the ladder face to face with RVD. They slug away, Hardy climbs another one and now Benjamin slugs with him. RVD shoves them both off and Hardy and Benjamin go all the way to the floor. That leaves RVD on top to grab the briefcase! He wins! Cool. Match was 14 minutes.
Winner: Rob Van Dam

Analysis: ***3/4 Not as good as the match the year earlier due to some of the participants, but still a match with some awesome spots in it. I think the two stars were Benjamin and Van Dam who both showed just how awesome they are athletically. The highlights were the Benjamin spots as always, the RVD splash (although not a five star frog splash) and I loved the triple powerbomb on Lashley off the ladder. RVD won the WWE Title from John Cena at One Night Stand 2006, which is one of my favorite shows ever. Then he lost it after getting pulled over for marijuana possession. He did well here, though.

Backstage, Josh Matthews talks with Gene Okerlund. Randy Orton interrupts, and then insults Okerlund saying he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame for just being an announcer. Behind him, Batista taps him on the shoulder. Shaved head. Says it doesn’t matter who wins the title because he’s going to win it when he comes back. By WrestleMania 23, he’ll be the World Champion again. Batista was injured, so he couldn’t wrestle at this WM. He was right about walking into WM23 as the champ, though.

Hall of Fame. In ring, Howard Finkel says Bret Hart was uncomfortable with coming out tonight so he’s not there despite being the main attraction of the Hall of Fame a night earlier. Bret wouldn’t step into a WWE ring again until January 2010. Then we meet the other inductees. Gene Okerlund accompanied by Kristal, Sherri Martel accompanied by Ted Dibiase, Tony Atlas accompanied by Victoria, Verne Gagne accompanied by Kristal, William “The Fridge” Perry with Melina, the Blackjacks accompanied by Maria and then Eddie Guerrero represented by his wife Vickie and nephew Chavo standing on the ramp. Huge “Eddie” chants by the crowd. It was a really touching, great moment. That’s it for the Hall of Famers.

United States Title: Chris Benoit vs. John Bradshaw Layfield w/Jillian Hall
Ha, cool spot as the ramp rises up and JBL’s limo comes down the aisle. Jillian’s looking nice in a cowgirl type of outfit. Thank God they got that stupid mole crap off her face. Good pop for Benoit in this matchup between two former main eventers. They throw hard punches right away as a quick “Let’s Go Benoit” chant begins. Benoit goes for a crossface rather quickly, but can’t get it on good and JBL gets ropes. JBL with a rough headlock on Benoit, then Benoit works on the legs. Huge chops by Benoit in the corner. Whip in, boot by JBL, arm drag by Benoit and a Sharpshooter is avoided by JBL by pushing him off with his legs. Out on the floor, he puts Jillian in front of him and then eyepokes Benoit. JBL clubs him in the back with a forearm and then works him over with some hard punches in the corner. Definitely a stiff match so far. Hard whip in, JBL’s charge misses and Benoit hits the three German suplexes with the third one being a release. Headbutt signal for Benoit, he goes up and JBL pulls the ref in front of him, and then grabs the top rope to prevent Benoit from jumping. JBL does the Eddie Guerrero dance to huge boos. That pissed a lot of people off. I wasn’t very happy about it. Heels can do what they want though and everybody knew he was close to Eddie. He did it to get heat. JBL goes to get Benoit and he hits a nice superplex leaving both men down on the mat. JBL crawls over for the two count as another “Let’s Go Benoit” chant begins. JBL hits the three vertical suplexes that Eddie would do. He gets two of them, Benoit knees out of it before the third and then Benoit runs into a boot for a two count. JBL headlock on Benoit. Back to a vertical base, Benoit hits a back suplex. To their feet, Benoit hits the Three Amigos vertical suplex in honor of Eddie as the crowd goes wild for it. That’s cool. Another headbutt attempt for Da Crippler and he hits it like 3/4 of the way across the ring. Maybe like 3/5ths. That gets two. He charges in the corner, JBL moves, he goes for the clothesline, Benoit grabs him with a waistlock and goes for a German. JBL uses the ref to avoid it. Benoit with a Crossface, JBL rolls over so Benoit’s on his back and holds the ropes while the ref counts the three for the JBL victory after 11 minutes.
Winner and New United States Champion: JBL

Analysis: **1/4 Pretty good match. It was as good of an 11 minute match anybody could have with JBL, who was never that good in the ring unless he had a gimmick to hide his deficiencies. Crowd was really hot for this one as well, which was another great sign for the bigger matches later on. I’m not that surprised with the cheap JBL win because it fit his gimmick. Jillian wasn’t doing the comedy singing gimmick yet, but she had a good body so I had no problem with her being out there.

We got a long video package to set up the Edge/Mick Foley feud. Edge was the WWE Champ earlier in the year. Edge lost the WWE Title back to Cena with Foley as the ref in the match. The feud escalated from there and the result was this match with Hardcore rules. JR welcomes Joey Styles to the booth to call this match due to his experience in hardcore matches. No countouts, no DQs and falls count anywhere. Edge is out first with Lita and her cleavage. Foley’s out in the darker flannel shirt and a Cactus Jack shirt underneath.

Hardcore Match: Edge w/Lita vs. Mick Foley
Edge attacks with the bat. Foley counters, hits a bulldog and hits the Tree of Woe elbow to the head of Edge. Edge gets a forearm on Foley as Lita hands him a cookie sheet. He kills Foley with it twice. Now another larger cookie sheet to the head of Foley. Baseball slide dropkick into a side crashing into Foley’s face. Edge goes for the spear and he hits it only two minutes into the match. Edge starts yelling like he hurt his arm, which proves to be a work as Foley takes off the dark flannel to reveal the red flannel and shirt. Then we learn why Edge is hurt because Foley’s got the barb wire wrapped around his stomach. Edge’s arm is bleeding as Mick attacks him with the wire. Edge gets tied up in the ropes while Mick goes under the ring steps to find Barbie the barbed wire baseball bat. Lita jumps on his back and he charges at Edge with Lita on his back while hitting the Cactus clothesline sending all three to the floor. What a crazy bump by Lita there. Neckbreaker on the floor by Foley. Punches on the floor, then a charge but Edge hiptosses him into the steel steps with Foley’s legs and hip hitting the steps. Ouch. This just in: Mick Foley is still insane. I guess that’s why we love him so much, huh? Here’s more proof as Edge chucks him legs first into the steps sending him crashing over those knee first.

Back in the ring, Edge with a baseball slide dropkick that sends him out to the floor. Edge pulls a table out from under the ring. Edge rams the back of his head into the steel ramp. Ouch. Again. Edge pulls out some lighter fluid and sprays it all over Foley’s flannel shirt. Foley comes back with punches, then hits the pulling piledriver for two. Foley places Edge’s face headfirst on the cookie sheet, then grabs a chair for the conchairto. Lita comes in, Edge gets up and hits the DDT on the cookie sheet (or close to it anyway) for two. Edge picks up the barb wire bat, Barbie, and cracks Foley with it in the stomach, the back and then in the forehead as Foley bleeds. Edge sticks it into Foley’s forehead in a gruesome spot. Facecrusher into Barbie gets two for Edge. Edge looks under a different set of steps, then gets a back of thumbtacks and puts them in the corner of the ring. Edge punches him down in the corner and then Foley drops him with a backdrop suplex into the thumbtacks leaving Edge’s bare back full with tacks. Crowd liked that. Mr. Socko comes out. He wraps it in wire and puts it in Edge’s mouth and then Lita’s. They show Lita’s mouth bleeding on the floor outside. Ewww. Now Foley with Barbie in his possession he smashes Edge in the stomach, back and then face leaving Edge bloody. Then a Barbie smash to the face. They’re both bleeding huge. Big “Foley” chant as Mick now grates the wire into Edge’s face. Foley gets the lighter fluid and sprays it all over the table that’s right by the ring. He poses on the apron with it. Lita takes the Barbie bat into Foley’s knee and she lights the table with fire. Foley’s on the apron, Edge charges in and spears him through the ropes and into the flaming table! Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Wow. Edge pins him on the floor after 15 minutes of hellacious action. What a finish. That visual is something I’ll never forget. That’s for damn sure. It was an amazing finish. I’ve never seen anything like that before.
Winner: Edge

Analysis: ****1/2 I loved it. Great action in this match. I loved the intensity that Edge showed off the bat. The barbed wire around the waist of Foley at the start of the match was a really innovative idea too. That bloody arm that Edge had was pretty gross. The spots in this match were fantastic including the Cactus clothesline while Lita was on Mick’s back, the thumbtack spot and of course the finish through the flaming table. I think that flaming table spot is one of the most memorable endings to any WM match. It was masterfully done and it’s a good thing that they were safe about it. The other thing I noticed was how much of a difference the TV14 era was from the TVPG era because there’s no way a match like this would happen now.

Post match, they both sell the beating as Edge shakes in shock while Foley just lays there knocked out. That was nuts. Huge standing ovation for Foley.

Backstage, Sharmell wants to get out of the Boogeyman match. Paul Burchill shows up out of nowhere. All the freaks are back there with Burchill, Eugene, Mae, Moolah, Snitsky and then Goldust tells Booker some advice in his ear that we never hear. Ted Dibiase does his laugh too. It’s a comedy segment basically.

They show Todd Grisham in the crowd talking to some fans that won the Snickers Mania sweepstakes.

Boogeyman vs. Booker T. and Sharmell
Booker and his wife come out first. He looks under the ring for worms, doesn’t find any and gets in the ring with his wife. Boogeyman comes out with his usual freaky entrance to a pretty good pop from what I can tell. Booker stands on the apron, telling Sharmell to start. He was a cowardly heel in case you couldn’t tell. Booker attacks him from behind with a forearm, then beats him down with fists and kicks. Boogeyman grabs him, Sharmell distracts the ref, Booker with a lowblow and a sidekick gets two for Booker. Booker chokes him on the ropes, then with forearms that Boogeyman no-sells Ultimate Warrior style. He stares Booker down, goes for something, Booker catches him with the Book End for two. Crowd is pretty quiet at this point. They exchange blows, Boogeyman with double chops send him down. Booker goes for the a scissors kick and Boogeyman hits some sort of forearm. Then he whips him into the pole. It wasn’t that good of a whip. Boogeyman puts warms in his mouth that he got from his pocket. Sharmell goes to hit him, so he kisses her with a mouth full of worms. Booker charges, double choke by Boogeyman and he does a double choke into a power slam for the pinfall after 4 minutes.
Winner: Boogeyman

Analysis: -* Waste of time. The most popular part of the match were the worms. Boogeyman’s offense was weak, he can’t bump very much and the crowd knows it because they were very quiet for this one. Tazz had the line of the night comparing Sharmell’s reaction to Cole’s wife’s reaction when he makes out with her.

There was a fantastic video package that highlighted the Women’s Title match between champion Trish Stratus and challenger Mickie James. It had six months of build. Mickie debuted as a huge fan. Then she went crazy as she got closer to Trish. She did a phenomenal job in her first Fantastic video package highlighting the feud with great music emphasizing Mickie’s craziness. Mickie’s out first looking as exuberant as ever. Or should I say bouncy? Yes, I like bouncy. Here’s Trish in a leather outfit that’s pretty damn cool.

Women’s Title: Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James
Trish works her over with chops, then a hard kick and then a dropkick type move using the ropes to send Mickie out to the floor. Trish goes for a left footed chick kick on the floor that misses, so her left leg/foot hits steel. Of course it does because it’s easier to sell the left leg. Mickie rams her leg first into the post. They slug it out and Mickie hits a low dropkick to the left knee, then some more moves on the knee. “Let’s Go Mickie” chant emerges from the crowd. JR calls it a defiant crowd. Well, that’s a word for it. James slams the knee into the mat. Single leg crab on the left knee. Mickie drapes the knee on the ropes and comes down on it with a foot. The crowd starts another chant for James as the crowd gives her a big ovation. Standing leg bar on Trish as another chant for Mickie begins. Trish hits a spinning leg scissors on Mickie as the crowd boos that. Trish wins a slugfest with forearms and a couple clotheslines that looked okay. Spinebuster that Mickie kicks out at two. JR again calls the crowd defiant. Trish charges her in the corner, Mickie gets the foot up and Trish goes down. To the top, Trish’s headscissors move is reversed into a move that slams Trish hard in the middle of the ring while Mickie lands on her feet on the floor. Great counter. Another huge pop for Mickie as she gets two. Inside cradle for Trish for two. Hurricanrana attempt by Mickie countered into a running powerbomb by Stratus. That was cool. Trish throws punches at her head. Crossbody charge by Mickie that Trish ducks with the Matrix Move. Stratusfaction attempt, but Mickie GRABBED her down there. Down where? Down there. Let’s call it the vag bone. How about that? Then Mickie does what I can only describe as the V lick. The crowd loved all of it. She turns around and Trish drills her with a punch. Trish bends down to attack, but Mickie counters with a knee to the face. Mickie goes for a Stratusfaction, Trish’s knee buckles or she isn’t able to get Mickie up, so the finish got messed up there. The crowd starts a “You Fucked Up” chant and Mickie hits a Chick Kick to for the win after 9 minutes to a huge ovation.
Winner and NEW Women’s Champion: Mickie James

mickie trish blow kiss

Analysis: *** You could tell they HATED the crowd reactions because JR was basically calling the crowd crazy by the end of it. I’m surprised by the reaction, but I think they just appreciated the good job Mickie did in building up the feud. This was Mickie’s first feud in WWE and it was the best one in her career. It was also one of the better one in Trish’s career although her feud with Lita lasted longer. The match was really solid because they told a story in the 10 minutes they were given with Trish doing a good job of selling the bad leg while Mickie was relentless in her assault. Trish was always my favorite diva until this feud. Mickie won me over with the promos, the in-ring work and the level of acting involved with this story. I would learn in later years from Mickie herself that she came up with the story, pitched it to Vince and they ran with it. That’s pretty amazing. I miss those skirts of hers too. This was a star making match for Mickie. On the DVD version of the PPV, the lick and the botched Stratusfaction attempt are edited out. Years later, Mickie mentioned getting in trouble with Vince for the licking motion, but she did get a good push after she won and was the centerpiece of the divas division for the majority of the next five years. It’s not the best women’s match in WWE history, but the STORY is the best.

Backstage, Vince was in his muscle shirt with Shane, Linda and a very pregnant Stephanie as he calls for a family prayer. “God, let’s face it, I don’t like you, you don’t like me. I’ve defied every law you’ve ever had and been tremendously successful.” I can’t go word for word, but he calls HBK God’s favorite wrestler. He says he’s going to send Shawn to the fiery depths of hell. “Amen. Hallelujah.” I don’t know what color Vince was here. Bright orange? Light brown? It was weird looking at him. It’s not normal. The prayer was hilarious.

The Undertaker’s match against Mark Henry was next. The druids come out with the casket. They show a video of when Henry put Undertaker through the table. Henry is out first. No Daivari, who was managing him, because he was selling the piledriver from Saturday Night’s Main Event two weeks earlier. Cole compares Undertaker’s Mania streak to Dimaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and the Celtics eight titles in a row among other things. It’s not comparable at all to any of those things, but this was around the time when they were really pushing “The Streak” hard.

Casket Match: Undertaker vs. Mark Henry
Henry attacks Undertaker before he was ready for him with some clubs to the back. Big clothesline from Henry. Not from hell, apparently. Henry rams him head first into the top of the steel steps. “Un-der-taker” chants start up. Taker wants to go for the old school clothesline, but Henry blocks that and kicks him in the gut. Henry wants the casket open, Undertaker fights back with a boot to the face, then an arm wringer and he goes for the old school clothesline. This time he hits it. Undertaker powers Undertaker down and drapes him over the middle rope. “Henry Sucks” chant from this very truthful crowd. Henry goes to splash him, but he slides through and lands in the casket. They start fighting in the casket. Undertaker with right hands, Henry catches him with a powerslam and then pins him? Crowd laughs as Henry realizes no pins allowed. Oh Mark. He tries to put Undertaker in, but the Deadman fights out. Henry with punches in the corner. He goes for the ten count thing that NEVER works on the Undertaker, so of course he does the Last Ride powerbomb out of it. There’s the most contrived spot in wrestling. Undertaker beat Triple H that way four years earlier, yet heels kept doing it to him. Henry gets thrown on top of the casket. Undertaker charges and hits the no hands plancha over the casket onto Henry on the floor! Wow! That was impressive as hell. Back in the ring, Tombstone for Undertaker. Crowd loved that. Undertaker rolls him over, puts him in the casket and closes the lid after 9 minutes. The Undertaker is 14-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker

Analysis: *1/2 Nice plancha by Taker. That was one of the highlights of the show. He’s done that move before, but wow, I didn’t expect it to be over the casket. It was “Air Deadman” as Tazz said correctly. Undertaker had his working boots on. Henry just wasn’t very good. There’s a reason why when they talk about Undertaker’s best matches they skip over this one.

We get a very long video package to set up the Vince McMahon/Shawn Michaels match. Vince was being a jerk to everybody. Shawn stood up to him. Shane was helping Vince through it all. This led to the No Holds Barred match here.

No Holds Barred: Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels
HBK is out first. Big reaction. Vince is next looking as roided up as ever. He does his strut down to the ring. How are the quads, Vinny? What’s the difference between the No Holds Barred match and the Hardcore match earlier? Nothing. HBK attacks him out on the floor, then throws him over to the top of the announce table, choking him with the cords. Crowd chants “We Want Bret” pretty loudly. Back in ring, Shawn takes the framed photo of Vince’s magazine cover and smashes Vince over the head with it as JR tells Shawn to shove it up Vince’s ass. JR doesn’t want to be objective. Spirit Squad time. They do a 5 on 1 beatdown on HBK with each guy grabbing a limb and ramming Shawn down powerbomb style. Kenny goes to the top for a legdrop, Michaels moves and HBK uses the megaphone on all of the guys. They sell it like a giant plastic megaphone would hurt. Michaels chucks Kenny out and he takes the bump like a somersault plancha landing on all the other members of the group. Vince is back in with a clothesline, then some knees to the gut and shoulders in the corner. He chokes him in the corner, then throws him out to the middle of the ring. The belt comes off and he whips him in the back with it a few times. He chokes him with it. Michaels fights back with a chop, but Vince uses the belt as a clothesline to take down Michaels. Vince works himself into a frenzy, setting up for the superkick. Michaels catches his foot on the kick and chops him back a few times. Whip in, Vince counters, but HBK hits the forearm and the kip up. Belt to the back a few times. Then he uses it chop style across the throat. Bodyslam, to the top and he hits the big elbow off the top rope. Ross: “If he has a heart, I swear to God it’s black.” Michaels tunes up the band as Shane McMahon expectedly pops out from under the ring to crack Michaels in the back with a Kendo Stick. He pulls out some handcuffs. Vince says no and unzips his pants for the Kiss My Ass Club spot. HBK fights Shane off and puts Shane’s face into Vince’s ass. Crowd loved it. Vince is smiling all the while. Low blow to Vince by HBK and then a clothesline to Shane to send him out to the floor. Shawn handcuffs Shane to the ropes while Shane is on the floor. Shawn grabs the keys and then throws them to the crowd. He does the Shane dance in a funny spot and beats the hell out of Shane with the stick.

Big HBK chant starts up as he goes back in the ring to smack Vince HARD in the head with the steel chair. That one had to hurt. Vince is bloody, as expected. HBK goes for the superkick, but then he stopped mid-move. HBK goes out to the floor, then grabs a ladder from under the ring. He smacks him in the head with the top of the ladder. Now HBK goes for a superkick, but he stops mid-move again. Trash cans get tossed in the ring by HBK as well as a table. Vince turns around, trash can to the head by Shawn. Michaels sets up the table and puts Vince on top of it. He sets the ladder up, climbs it and then he comes back down. He goes back out to the floor, punching Shane in the head. He gets another ladder out. This one’s huge. Lawler says it’s 30 feet long, which is an exaggeration. Ladder is like 12 feet I’m guessing. Michaels sets up the ladder, punches Vince a bunch of times and puts the trash can on his head. Crowd is going nuts as Michaels climbs up to the top. Shane, as well as the ref, hold onto it for balance I guess. Michaels comes off the top and hits the elbow through Vince! Wow! He did the DX crotch chop when he was on the top of the ladder. Awesome spot. Doctors come out to tend to Vince, but Shawn tells the doctors to get out of there. Shane tells Shawn he’s sorry, Shawn does the DX chop to him. He picks Vince up, tells him he’s going to knock his teeth down his throat and he hits the Superkick to get the pinfall after 19 minutes.
Winner: Shawn Michaels

Post mach, when Vince is being carted out on the ambulance he gives the middle finger. Crowd laughs. That’s funny. Also post match, HBK kisses his wife in her seat in the aisle way.

Analysis: *** Hard to rate this match because while it was entertaining, it obviously doesn’t rate on the traditional scale. This was the kind of thing that we expected it to be. There was a lot of lying around, a lot of entertainment spots in there, but obviously they suited the match well. Entertaining match, though. It was similar to Shane/Vince at WMX7. It did go a little long, though. The 19 minutes felt like 30. That elbow spot by Shawn was pretty great and I’m surprised we don’t see it on highlight reels more often.

April 1, 2007 – WrestleMania 23 at Ford Field in Detroit. It was two hours away from me, but I didn’t go. Too damn expensive for a good seat and I had no interest in sitting way up high. I should have went, though.

It was time for Smackdown’s World Title match. Video package to start it off. Rey won the Rumble, Angle was the World Champ and Orton ended up being thrown into this match too to make it a triple threat. We start it with the band POD singing Rey’s “Booyaka 619” theme song. Rey pops up on the ramp, then goes over to the band and comes out wearing this weird feathery headgear. Orton is out next. He gets a nice heel reaction for his entrance. Angle is out last to a HUGE pop since he was a babyface again. The smart Chicago crowd appreciated him for being the best.

World Title (Smackdown): Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio
Before the bell rings, Orton grabs the belt and smacks Angle in the head with it. Springboard by Rey, Orton gets a dropkick. Angle back in, hits a German. Rey jumps again, Orton catches him and it’s a double German suplex as Mysterio gets launched! Wow! Orton gets his side neckbreaker move for two. Angle whips in him, back elbow, belly to belly by Angle followed up by a forearm. He puts Orton up on the top. Angle rams Kurt head first into the corner with Orton on top. Angle charges into Rey, Angle lifts him up and he hits a hurricanrana on Orton off the top. Wow. Angle chucks Rey out, gets two. Suplex on Orton for two. Angle clothesline on Rey gets two. Mysterio rolls through a sunset flip, kick to the head gets two. Headscissors by Rey, 619 time, Rey is about to tap. He does tap, but the ref is distracted by Orton with a steel chair while he’s on the apron. Angle knocks Orton off, puts the hold on again and Orton comes in to knock Kurt down. Those two exchange punches that Angle wins with a German on Orton. There’s one for Rey with Rey taking it moonsault style on his gut. German on Orton, then an Angle Slam on Rey over the top. Ankle lock on Orton. Angle goes down with the hold, Rey distracts the ref now and Orton taps out. So there’s been two tap outs that the ref has missed. With another ankle lock on Orton, Mysterio hits a springboard legdrop on Angle for two. They boo Rey again. Now this crowd is disappointing me. Angle chucks him shoulder first into the ring post. Orton gets up selling the ankle, Angle Slam countered into the RKO, but Angle kicks out at the very end.

Orton, with the bad ankle, goes up top. Angle pops up with the overhead belly to belly suplex off the top. Mysterio charges on the apron, slips on the 619 and misses. He kicks Angle as the crowd stupidly chants “You Fucked Up” at him. Springboard plancha for Rey gets two. Orton is up, kicks Angle out of the ring and hits that beautiful reverse neckbreaker from his shoulder on Mysterio. That gets two. I’m very perplexed as to why the crowd is booing Mysterio. Some of the other ones I understand, but not Rey. Orton wants to RKO Rey, but Angle comes in and hits an Angle Slam out of nowhere for one…two…no, shoulder up. Rey’s up, Angle slam countered into an armdrag. Dropkick to Orton, 619, West Coast Pop! One…two…three! Mysterio wins! Woo! The crowd is mostly cheering now. Thank you Chicago. Match was like 10 minutes. Awesome moment right here with Rey holding the belt up as the crowd gives him a standing ovation. Now the crowd is behind him. They show his family at ringside cheering him on.
Winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Rey Mysterio

Analysis: ***1/4 Awesome match although my biggest complaint is it was way too short. Ridiculously short. The match I mean, not Rey. They were going into what should have been the finishing sequence about five minutes into it. It’s terrible that this only got ten minutes considering some of the other stuff that was on this show. This had the potential to be have a match of the year contender if they got 15-20 minutes. Instead, it felt like a throwaway match or a TV match. It still bothers me to this day that they treated a World Title match like this at a WrestleMania. There were so many other things on the show that they could have taken off like some of the video packages, the pillow fight that occurred after this and some interviews. Instead, the World Title was booked like an afterthought. Lame. Meanwhile, this was also Kurt Angle’s last WrestleMania. We didn’t know it at the time, but he went to TNA soon after this and he’s been there for the past six years. Will he ever come back to WWE to end his career? I’m not sure. I hope so.

At the top of the ramp, Rey is greeted by Chavo Guerrero and Eddie’s wife Vickie. Mysterio’s crying on the ramp. Awesome visual there. Good for him. Very well deserved. I’m a huge Rey fan, so I was genuinely happy for the guy. It’s a shame that he ended up being one of the most poorly booked heavyweight champions ever.

Backstage, they show Cena and HHH warming up. Pillow fighting is next.

Pillow Fight: Candice Michelle vs. Torrie Wilson
Candice is out first and Torrie is last. They’re in dresses. Torrie’s in a black dress, Candice is in a yellow one. They “brawl” on the mat. There’s a bed in the ring with Playboy logos all over it. Whip into the ropes, backdrop onto the bed. She dumps the mattress on Candice. Torrie gets her dog and puts the dog’s ass in Candice’s face. The ref urges them to get back in the ring, so Torrie yanks off Candice’s dress. Torrie charges. Candice gets some scissors and cuts her dress off of her. Crowd chanted “boring” a couple of times. Announcers did not mention that at all. JR: “Think these girls will have a smoke after this is over?” That was funny. Candice takes out her Playboy and puts it in Torrie’s face. Um…okay. Torrie then hits a rollup for the pin since she was the babyface. JR even rips the match saying put out the bowling shoes because this match is over after four minutes. That means it was ugly.
Winner: Torrie Wilson

Analysis: DUD Not really a match. Crowd obviously hated it and I think it’s a shame that Rey/Angle/Orton only got ten minutes while they gave this a total of eight minutes counting intros. It was done so poorly that two ridiculously attractive women couldn’t even make the crowd care.

The WWE Title match was up next. Motorhead was out to sing “Bow Down to the King” for the challenger Triple H. He rises up onto the stage in a throne as well as headgear with his logo and a furry coat. It’s bizarre, but pretty cool in a cheesy wrestling entrance kind of way. Then his real theme song kicks up as he gets off the throne and marches down to the ring. Cena gets an intro video of his own talking about the depression and they showed Chicago gangsters in a video clip. They say to survive you needed hustle, loyalty and respect. Cue Cena. He comes out in a car like he’s some gangster while some dudes in suits and hats stand ringside with fake guns in their hands. Check out the movie the Untouchables for a reference. One of the “gangsters” that came out with Cena was Chicago native CM Punk, who was in WWE’s minor leagues at this point. Cena emerges with his music starting up wearing a black top hat and a black overcoat as well as a toy gun that he shoots in the air. Lilian Garcia announces HHH first to a huge pop while Cena is next to huge boos. Keep in mind that Cena was the top babyface that held the WWE Title for the majority of the previous year while Hunter was a heel although he was showing babyface tendencies. They show a kid at ringside with the Cena replica belt looking totally confused.

WWE Title (Raw): John Cena vs. Triple H
The crowd is rabid. Really rabid. HHH outwrestles him at first, then a little slap to the back of his head as the crowd approves. Now Lawler loves the reaction of the fans. But he’s right in saying they’re really into the match. He outwrestles Cena with a hammerlock as the crowd cheers again. A “Fuck You Cena” chant for Cena. Very classy. Cena whips him in, HHH counters an FU attempt and knocks him down with a hard chop. Three minutes in, not much action. “Triple H” chant starts up now. Knee to the gut by HHH, then he tosses Cena to the floor. HHH celebrates, Cena comes in with big punches to huge boos from the crowd. Cena whip in to the corner, back body drop for two. Whip into two turnbuckles and then a twisting Fisherman’s Suplex gets two. “You Can’t Wrestle” chant. Ouch. More punching in the corner, then Cena whips him into the corner and HHH takes his bump over the top, then lands face first into the barrier on the floor. Cena comes out after him, thumb to the eye. HHH takes him to the ramp, goes for a Pedigree, but Cena counters with a backdrop on the steel ramp. I think there was a “Let’s Go Cena/Fuck You Cena” dueling chant in there. Back in the ring, whip in, duck by HHH and a high knee to Cena. Out on the floor, HHH whips him into the steps. Crowd was doing a “Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” chant to Cena once HHH was on offense. We’re about ten minutes into the match now.

Hunter is playing to the crowd. Thumb to the eye. He rolls Cena back in and gets a two. Suplex by HHH. “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants now. HHH hits the knee to the face with Cena on his back. That gets two. This crowd has not been quiet the entire match. Punch by Cena, whip in, HHH counters with a face buster on the knee and then a hard clothesline that’s apparently not from hell because that only got two. Neckbreaker by HHH for two. Cena fights back, more dueling chants, whip into the ropes, lowers his head and HHH hits a swinging neckbreaker for just two. Neck vice by HHH as more dueling chants begin. Cena tries to fight out, but doesn’t make it and HHH applies the sleeper. This quiets the crowd down a bit for like thirty seconds. Cena fights out with shoulder blocks while the audience boos some more. Boot to the face by HHH. He charges the ropes, but gets caught with a big clothesline by Cena out of nowhere. They get up at the same time, punches are exchanged and the crowd goes along with all of it reacting to punches! Hilarious. Cena with a couple clotheslines. Whip into the ropes, big powerslam for Cena. Spinning back suplex by Cena. Crowd is standing all around the building. What a great sight.

Five Knuckle Shuffle countered into the spinebuster by HHH for a long two. Cena’s up, shoulderblocks and this time he counters Cena’s sleeper to a back suplex again. Now he hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle as most fans boo. Pump up the shoes, drop toe hold, STFU for Cena. HHH fights out of it after like a minute until he finally makes it to the ropes as the majority cheer that. FU attempt on HHH. HHH counters, shoves Cena into the ref and gives both Cena as well as the ref a low blow. He does the “You Can’t See Me” thing to Cena as well as a DX chop. That’s two DX references tonight. Sledgehammer time. Cena beats him to the punch, but then he bounces off the ropes and HHH smacks him in the face with the hammer shot. The ref, Mike Chioda, holds his nuts as he comes over for the one…two…no. And another. No. Both were VERY close. Pedigree countered into a backdrop by Cena. FU to HHH. Kick out at 2! Nobody kicks out of that. Now Cena goes up top, which makes no sense since he never goes high. Crossbody misses, HHH goes for the Pedigree. Cena steps through into the STFU again. He’s grabbing HHH’s right arm so he can’t crawl. The ref raises HHH’s left arm once, twice and HHH fights it off. He holds the move on some more and HHH taps! Holy shit! Wow. I didn’t see that finish coming. It was 21 minutes. The crowd isn’t too thrilled with it, but the music playing drowns them out.
Winner: John Cena

Analysis: **** Really slow start to it, but the last seven minutes or so were really strong. It picked up big time. A clean tapout by HHH. I thought maybe a pinfall, but a tap? Surprised, but pleased. It was nearly a four star match. I think watching it again it makes you appreciate how awesome this crowd was. They were into EVERY single hold in the match. Every punch. It was so refreshing to see, to be honest. They were the biggest story of the match because they went nuts for all of it. In terms of chemistry, I liked what we saw out of Cena and HHH. This was at a time when they hadn’t wrestled that much before, so it was very fresh. Seeing HHH kick out of the FU was pretty momentous back then. They don’t have many people kick out of that move. I was surprised that HHH tapped out clean because that was pretty rare for him although he did it two years earlier against Benoit. I would have thought that the finish would be a second FU. It did help get the credibility of the STFU over, though, so it definitely was the right call in hindsight. This was also the third straight clean loss at WrestleMania for HHH after losing to Benoit (via tapout) and Batista (via pinfall) the previous two years. This was a fun match.

After all the video packages highlighting the show, they show HHH walking up the ramp with his sledgehammer as the crowd chants his name. Pretty cool visual with him posing at the top of the ramp to a MASSIVE pop. The show went off at 10:57pm, just before the allotted four hour time for the show. Hunter turned babyface soon after this leading to the DX reunion with Shawn Michaels.

John-Cena-WM22

—————-

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– There were a bunch of good matches on this show, but nothing that I’d consider as a true all time great match although the Edge/Foley brawl was exciting. I give them a lot of credit for laying it on the line. When you watch a match like that you realize why both guys retired early too.

– I’m still unsure as to why the Smackdown World Title match was so short. If somebody wants to theorize as to why it was rushed I’d love to hear your opinions. If they had the chance they could have had an epic triple threat like the main event of WM20. Instead, they left us with a feeling of wanting more when it was supposed to be the biggest show of the year. The year before when Cena/JBL was a short match I was okay with it because I didn’t have high hopes. This one had the potential to be great. They never got the chance to prove it.

– The Michaels/McMahon feud wasn’t as good as they likely thought it would be. I’m sure Vince had a lot of fun working with the man considered to be the best ever, though. As much as a HBK mark as I am, there’s probably no bigger HBK mark than Vince himself.

– The Chicago crowd was amazing. Lots of heat for Cena. They cheered big time for a heel like Mickie too. It was a smart crowd that did what they wanted to do and didn’t necessarily care to follow the roles being portrayed in the stories. Some people hate that. Not me. I love the Chicago crowd.

– I think Cena/Hunter would have been better if there was more of a face/heel dynamic and if they had a brawl. I believe the plan for WrestleMania 23 was a Triple H/John Cena rematch. It didn’t happen because in early 2007, Hunter tore his quad. It was the second time he suffered a torn quad injury. Shawn Michaels ended up getting the title shot. It would have been nice to see the HHH/Cena rematch to see how they would have booked it and to see if Hunter would have gone over that time. Not that I’m complaining about Cena/Michaels, which we’ll get to next time.

OPINIONS
Best Match: Edge vs. Mick Foley – Awesome brawl. Just ahead of Cena/HHH for best match.

Worst Match: Boogeyman vs. Booker T – What the hell was this? Pillow fight sucked too, but at least the girls were nice to look at.

Most Memorable Moment: Edge spearing Mick Foley through the flaming table – Epic spot.

Five Stars:
1. Edge – Put his body on the line at WrestleMania like usual.
2. Mick Foley – He wanted to put on a WrestleMania classic. He did just that.
3. Triple H – Putting over Cena clean was a good thing for Cena’s dominant run as the WWE Champion.
4. John Cena – You could tell he was starting to become a better worker in big match situations. Not great, but he improved from where he was a year earlier.
5. Rob Van Dam – He deserved the MITB win and worked hard in the match to prove it.

It’s so weird not putting Shawn Michaels here. I can’t do it though.

Show rating (out of 10): 7

It was an above average show. I think shows like 19, 20 and 21 were all a notch above this, but this was still one of the better WrestleManias. I have it ranked in the 6th spot out of the first 22 WrestleManias.

Previous recaps listed in order with main event and ranking out of 10:

WrestleMania 17 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (10/10)

WrestleMania 19 – Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (9.5/10)

WrestleMania 21 – Batista vs. Triple H (8.5/10)

WrestleMania 20 – Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (8/10)

WrestleMania 10 – Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (7.5/10)

WrestleMania 22 – John Cena vs. Triple H (7/10)

WrestleMania 8 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sid & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (7/10)

WrestleMania 3 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (7/10)

WrestleMania 14 – Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (7/10)

WrestleMania 18 – Triple H v. Chris Jericho (6.5/10)

WrestleMania 7 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter (6.5)

WrestleMania 6 – Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (6/10)

WrestleMania 16 – Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show (5.5/10)

WrestleMania 12 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (5.5/10)

WrestleMania 15 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (5/10)

WrestleMania 11 – Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (5/10)

WrestleMania 1 – Hogan/Mr T vs. Piper/Orndorff (4.5/10)

WrestleMania 4 – Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (4.5/10)

WrestleMania 13 – The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid (4/10)

WrestleMania 5 – Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (4/10)

WrestleMania 2 – Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (4/10)

WrestleMania 9 – Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (2/10)

The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM21: *****
3. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
4. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
5. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
6. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
7. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
8. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM20: ****3/4
9. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle @ WM19: ****3/4
10. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
11. Money in the Bank won by Edge @ WM21: ****1/2
12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
13. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WM19: ****1/2
14. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
15. Edge vs. Mick Foley @ WM22: ****1/4
16. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
17. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WM20: ****1/4
18. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
19. John Cena vs. Triple H @ WM22: ****
20. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WM19: ****
21. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
22. Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley @WM20: ****
23. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****

You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here.

John Canton mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport