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WrestleMania 23 Previewed, plus
Ratings, Hall of Fame, Henry, and Other News 
March 30, 2007

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


This is it: that one weekend out of the year when the stars align, and we get Final Four Basketball, Baseball Opening Day, and of course, WrestleMania.

This weekend is the 20th anniversary of WrestleMania 3, which is objectively the biggest one ever, and subjectively one of the best ones, too. On a purely selfish note, I can also report that WM3 was my Very First WrestleMania, as my parents weren't too keen their promising eldest son developing a taste for blood sports before he was 10 years old.

I still recall it vividly: sitting in an arena watching on closed circuit, knowing even at that young age that I had just seen Ricky Steamboat (my favorite wrestler) and Randy Savage steal the show no matter what history would try to tell us about Hogan/Andre, and then going home and the next night getting to watch my Indiana Hoosiers win the NCAA Basketball Championship over limp-wristed whiny douche Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse squad.

I thought that was the greatest weekend ever. A few years later, the vagaries of Expanded Playoffs and Cable TV Contracts meant that Major League Baseball also started kicking off its season a little earlier, and more often than not, on the same weekend as the Final Four and WrestleMania. The Annual Greatest Weekend Ever just got better, and with rare exceptions, has been one of the coolest things to look forward to each spring.
Unfortunately, the side effects of being "All Grown Up" (as this year's WrestleMania is using as its catchphrase/sub-title) mean it's getting a little harder with each passing year to muster up that same youthful enthusiasm. Not helping matters here in 2007 is the fact that there is not a single team in the Final Four about whom I could possibly give a crap. Not helping matters is the fact that the Cincinnati Reds are still probably a year or two away from being able to field a genuinely competitive team. Not helping matters is the fact that freaking CARL PAVANO may be the Yankee's opening day starting pitcher.

And yes, not helping matters is the fact that WWE isn't just celebrating the 20th anniversary of the memorable evening in Detroit... they're also celebrating 3 years running of WrestleMania just not -- you know? -- feeling like WrestleMania. WM20 had that "it" factor, but it's the last time I remember it being as strong and as visceral as it ever was at any other point of my childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.

After a couple years of diminishing returns, WWE is serving up a show that is essentially nothing more than a set-up show to Backlash later in the month (where all of WM's key matches/stories will be done again). Just with the added bonus of getting to see Vince and Trump prance around till one of them gets a haircut. Even the rumors of a sort of cheesy, feel-good, Hulk Hogan Homage To WM3 died down months ago, leaving us with not a whole lot special or distinctive to latch onto.

On behalf of wrestling fans everywhere, allow me to state for the record: Vince and Trump will no doubt be good for a chuckle or two, but it ain't exactly Steamboat/Savage. It's not something you build a 4 hour event around, and expect it to work out well. Unless your only goal is go rope in a hundred thousand "impulse buys" from the E! Network-watching retards out there in TV land who don't quite comprehend that there is a zero-percent chance of Donald Trump getting his head shaved, and to hell with whether or not the show is actually satisfying or not once they've already plunked down the money for it.

That's not to say there won't be tons of effort and potentially entertaining matches on Sunday. But there just won't be that air of WrestleMania Finality. Of Climax. Of getting somewhere after a year-long journey, and knowing that we may not ever be able to recreate that magic again. The biggest problems? The two top title matches (Cena/HBK, Taker/Batista) experienced little to no advancement character-/story-wise after being established 2 months ago. What little dramatic tension existed was milked dry and stretched thin, rather than added to and amplified. Now, both matches feel like little more than tentative first steps, with the IMPORTANT matches starting later in the month at Backlash, once -- you know? -- something interesting has actually happened among the four.

Even the Money in the Bank match -- which should still be good for upwards of 30 minutes of insane high-spottery -- has a bit of a taint to it, as if it's just the background for the all important story of Edge and Randy Orton breaking up, en route to a one-on-one feud.

I don't think it makes me too jaded or cynical if I say this is a disappointing state of affairs. WrestleMania -- the WrestleManias I remember, anyway, the WrestleManias of my youth and young manhood -- is about closure, satisfaction, and unabashed marking out. It's not about half-assing the storytelling, banking on the fact that at least the main event will have heat because half your audience still freaking hates John Cena, and not really caring who wins because there's just going to be a rematch in 4 weeks anyway.

Still, I say all that, and the naive little kid in me still knows it's WrestleMania, and can't even begin to fathom being anywhere other than in front of a TV on Sunday night.

Just like I have been for every WrestleMania for the past 20 years (well, except for the year I was at WM8 in person), and just like I imagine I will be for 20 more. 

Let's run down the announced card for Sunday night in a little WM23 preview, and then I'll close out this weekend's column with a few final WWE-centric newsbites...

At the conclusion of this week's TV tapings, WWE had established an 8-match card for Sunday's big event. Eight matches for a four hour show. Off the top of my head, that's the thinnest WM line-up I can remember since WM12, when a one-hour IronMan main event gobbled up one-third of the broadcast and necessitated a 6-match card.

And while the idea of not over-booking a show is noble and all, still... EIGHT MATCH for FOUR HOURS? And that's with only four matches that you should be looking at to go 20 minutes or longer: Money in the Bank and Cena/HBK could bother top 30 minutes, Lashley/Umaga could be up there in the "over 30 minutes" category once you add in all the Vince/Trump shenanigans, and with Taker quarterbacking things we could stretch him and Batista out to 20 minutes.

But beyond that, you have two matches where the dearth of in-ring ability dictates you'd be nuts to try to go much longer than 5-6 minutes (Kane/Khali and Melina/Ashley), and two more matches where I'd estimate a high probability of fans not giving a crap (Benoit/MVP and the ECW 8-man) so you'd be wise to keep things brisk.
I figure WWE is gonna do one of three things with what appears to be a lot of extra time: (1) add another match or two (preferably something fast-paced and crowd-pleasing), (2) surprise fans with some unexpected-but-cool bonuses (cameos by legends/Hall of Famers, etc.), or (3) non-stop video packages on the grounds that WWE thinks that Trump will be bringing in a lot of non-fans so they're going to try to over-explain things to that 10% of fans at the risk of pissing the other 90% of us off.

Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of (3). Even if they are designed for casual fans/non-fans, I don't see the point: once the broadcast starts at 7pm, they've already bought the show. Bombarding them with obnoxious repetitive video packages won't get them to pay for the show a second time out of sheer excitement and appreciation. It just slows things down for everybody, and especially pisses off fans such as myself who have attention spans longer than 90 seconds and don't particularly care to have the soul-crushingly epic tale of "How Posing in Playboy Makes You Into a Top Rated Women's Wrestler" spun for me for the fourth year in a row. Ugh.

Here's hoping for some kind of satisfying blend of (1) and (2) above, so that we get us a WrestleMania that isn't 40% pissbreak material or that wraps up a half-hour earlier than expected.

And of course, here's hoping that the 8 announced matches each live up to whatever passes for its potential. Here's the full slate:


The Undertaker won the Royal Rumble, but the other 3 guys who joined him in the Final Four were Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Edge and Orton took an early powder, leaving just the two legends to duke it out for the Automatic Ticket to WrestleMania.

When Michaels came up short, he still figured his 2nd place finish was good enough to net him the shot at John Cena's WWE Title (since Taker decided to go after Batista's World Title). He caught a little static from both Edge and Orton, but once he topped them in a #1 Contenders' Match, HBK had earned himself yet another WrestleMania Main Event.

After being locked in as WrestleMania Opponents, Michaels and Cena also became Tag Team Champs (beating the increasingly-dysfunctional duo of Edge/Orton). And they also entered into an interminable 2 month phase of Not Doing Anything. Oh sure, one or the other would TEASE doing something, but just to send the message "Hey, I could have punched you there. But I didn't. Just a heads-up. Now, let's have Yet Another Uncomfortable Staredown!"... it got old pretty quick, as it seemed like the creative team was just lazily banking on Cena's naturally polarizing tendencies to keep fan interest piqued.

Finally, this past week on RAW, we took a step forward. Michaels delivered the intense "Mission Statement" promo he should have used at the very start of this feud: he intimated that he's fed up with rappers and movie stars and other nonsense like that because he's a time tested WRESTLER who has no peer in the middle of the ring, and if John Cena thinks he's in the same class with the types of guys HBK has sent packing in the past, he's crazy. Yes, it's a touch heelish, but that doesn't mean the fans would boo him for saying it; and mostly, giving Michaels' character that drive earlier on would have given Cena some traction for building some character of his own. Lord knows he has none: he's just an amorphous blob of marketing ideas, not one of which rings true or feels genuine.

Then: after that promo, Michaels superkicked Cena, causing Cena to get pinned by Batista in RAW's main event match. The crowd in Chicago loved every second of this. Well, except the girls aged 12-17, anyway. It was the first real display of hostilities between the two, and though Cena/HBK remain tag team champs, they're heading into their WM23 showdown on a sour note.

Prospects: this is the match I'd probably put on last, and the two guys who I'd ask to turn it up and deliver a 30-40 minute Show Stealer. Michaels is simply amazing once you ring the bell, and whatever Cena's limitations are, the fact is that he has shown a knack for busting his ass and nailing the "WWE Main Event Brawl" style of match in the past 15 months or so. Throw in a possible Triple H cameo to go with all the action, and you've got opportunities for drama and Sports Entertainmenty Goodness all over the place; afterall, there's GOTTA be a reason why Michaels keeps on using the DX Theme Music/Ring Entrance (instead of his own), and there's no better time to reveal what HHH thinks of all that than at the biggest show of the year....

Prediction: Michaels defeats Cena to win the WWE Title. Michaels isn't a long-term champion, at least not as long as he's still trying to find an opening long enough for him to take a break to deal with a nagging knee and an aggravated back. But as long as we're struggling with this whole "WrestleMania As Prelude, Instead of As Climax" issue, we know that Cena is only 4 weeks away from being able to reclaim his lame little Spinner Belt at Backlash, so we should focus on doing something as memorable and compelling as possible, here. Give HBK the win, let HHH lend a bit of a hand, and see how fans react over the next month or so... would a full-on Cena heel turn be possible? Might there be tension between HBK/HHH going into the Backlash match because HHH tries taking too much credit for the WM win? Do you just sow the seeds for a later Cena/HHH match (which was originally envisioned as the WM main event)? Plenty of options, and they seem like they'd be best explored coming off of a Shawn Michaels title win on Sunday....

BATISTA vs. UNDERTAKER (World Title Match)

As alluded to above, Taker won the Royal Rumble. He had his choice of champions to face. He opted to stay Brand Loyal, and selected World Champ Batista as his WM Foe.

Starting back in January, the two fan favorites started getting involved in a friendly bit of "Hey, why don't you let me help you with that?" which quickly morphed into a nonstop game of attempted One-Upsmanship. When Taker made his choice of WM opponents public, Batista tried to show-up the Undertaker by acting unintimidated. He got powerbombed for his troubles. And then, a few weeks later at the No Way Out PPV, Batista returned the favor by abandoning Taker in the middle of a tag match, causing Taker to be defeated by Cena/Michaels.

The two have (much like Cena/Michaels) continued in that holding pattern for essentially the last 2 months. Some weeks, Taker didn't even appear on TV so they couldn't even do the Uncomfortable Staredowns. But unlike Cena/Michaels, this one did seem to have a bit more traction out of the gate, and fans are definitely siding with Undertaker, and may be primed to deal with a full-on Batista heel turn come Sunday.

It's vitally important to note that the subtext here is that Batista is putting the World Title on the line.... but Taker is risking his incredible WrestleMania Undefeated Streak (14 wins and 0 losses at WM since debuting at WM7). Though it probably makes me some kind of assholish mega-dick for saying so, at this point, the way SD!'s been re-branded as a "B-show," I'd almost say that Taker's streak is of more value than the title up for grabs, here.


Prospects: like I said, this one had a *bit* more traction, storywise than Cena/Michaels, but I also would have much preferred it to move even faster so that we could have hit WM and put a gimmick in place for this match (Hell in the Cell would have been ideal). Batista simply hasn't shown a proclivity for intense, compelling, straight-up wrestling matches/brawls, and history has shown us time and time again that Taker is good but is no miracle worker (witness 2006 matches with Mark Henry and/or Khali). Without a gimmick (and with Cena/Michaels being more capable of a fast-paced "Main Event Style Brawl"), this one is going to have to get by on Slobberknockery. And anytime you enter that realm, you always run the risk of having a 25 minute match that only actually had about 10 minutes worth of worthwhile action. This match does, however, have one possible trick up its sleeve, as any sort of decisive Batista Heel Turn would add oodles of drama/psychology to the match's closing minutes, and undoubtedly make it all worthwhile. They could even conceivably have the most electrifying End Game of any match on the card, if they do it up right.

Prediction: Undertaker defeats Batista and wins the World Title. At this point, there is no defensible reason to have Taker lose his Undefeated Streak. Not to Batista, anyway (maybe in another year or two, he can lose it to Edge, who is also nursing a remarkable Undefeated Streak of his own). With a Batista heel turn, Taker becomes a reasonable choice as a long-ish term champ (at least through till SummerSlam) on the horribly depleted SmackDown! roster. If you're just going to throw disposable heels at a dominant babyface champ, then Taker works way better in that role than Batista has lately. Given their past mini-feud, Taker and Kennedy would be something I'd consider down the line as the summer/fall end to Taker's reign and the start of trying something fresh. We'll see...

BOBBY LASHLEY vs. UMAGA (Vince vs. Trump Battle of the Billionaires, Guest Referee: Steve Austin)

Pragmatically speaking, Lashley and Umaga might as well be Iron Mike Sharpe and SD Jones, competing here under some kind of "WrestleMania 3 1987 Nostalgia Clause." They don't, technically, matter.

Instead, what matters is that Vince McMahon and Donald Trump will be at ringside, and -- in a scheme dreamed up by NBC/Universal execs who were disappointed in the ratings for "The Apprentice" and wanted to get Trump some extra exposure -- one of them will end up bald.

Except: we all know it'll be Vince. Let's face it, Donald Trump is known to be a pompous twit who takes himself too seriously. While Vince McMahon has willingly peed his pants on national TV in the name of "entertainment." I think we can all agree that it's pretty obvious who has agreed to take the fall in this one. So despite all the mainstream press this is getting (and it is quite a bit), this really isn't any significantly different than Molly Holly vs. Victoria three years ago at WM20: the match should be solid but nothing special, and we already all know who is going to end up bald.

The story, such as it is, had Vince trying to claim he invented the phrase "You're Fired" and using a Trump Impersonator for a "Donald vs. Rosie" match. Donald fired back that Vince doesn't understand what the fans want, and dropped money from the ceiling to win them over. Vince got jealous, and started issuing various challenges until Trump accepted one in which he and Vince would each hand pick a "representative." Then the two "representatives" would fight at WrestleMania. And the man whose "representative" lost would get his head shaved bald.

And no, I have no freaking clue why they keep calling them "representatives," when it seemed to be a no-brainer that they should just call them "Apprentices."

Anyway, Vince picked Umaga. Then Trump picked Lashley. Then, to ensure justice is served, WWE's board of directors installed Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special referee. Presumably because if anybody knows head-shaving, it's Stone Cold. 

Prospects: I actually hope they do let Umaga and Lashley beat the crap out of each other for about 10 minutes, because I can see those two slobberknockering in a way that Taker/Batista can't. In fact, if WWE ever gets un-tarded with regards to the ECW brand, Umaga going up against Lashley in a series of brutal no-DQ brawls, and possibly even taking the title from him for an extended run, is something I wouldn't mind seeing. But here: ECW Champ Lashley and IC Champ Umaga really are just afterthoughts to the Trump/Vince stuff. And I'm sure they'll seriously over-book this thing with crazy run-ins and ringside shenanigans, so it'll be good for a few yuks in terms of Sports Entertainmentiness. How far that goes to leaving fans satisfied? Will have to do mostly with how much each individual fan cares about the head-shaving gimmick. For me, personally, part of the problem is that I think WWE forgot to include a babyface in the equation: though trying to push Trump as the fan favorite, the simple fact is that he's just as inherently likeable as Vince is. Which is to say: not very. To me, anyway. That makes it hard to get too vested in the match one way or the other, if you don't really care which over-rated blowhard gets his comeuppance. This match, more than any other on the card, is one where I just know all our mileages will vary.

Prediction: Lashley defeats Umaga, Vince gets shaved. I suppose they could get cutesy and try to pull some hyper-active, Russo-tastic, logic-defying swerve in which Umaga wins, but Vince is *still* the one who gets his hair cut, but I implore them not to bother. This match isn't for the wrestling fans, it's for the non-fans and casual fans who have been roped in by the mainstream press. They don't need anything convoluted or complicated to be satisfied. They just need it to be action-packed and dramatic. So let's keep it simple, and put the ECW Champ over in relatively heroic fashion, leading to Vince's new 'do.

EDGE vs. RANDY ORTON vs. JEFF HARDY vs. MATT HARDY vs. CM PUNK vs. KEN KENNEDY vs. BOOKER T vs. FINLAY (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)

It's an annual tradition, fans seem to dig it, so here it is again in 2007. T'ain't rocket science, people.

There's really no need for any storylines or anything, because the match is about two things: (1) crazy, non-stop highspots, and (2) the winner of the match getting a guaranteed title shot of his choice whenever he wants (and the history of this match, the MitB Winner has never failed to convert on that title shot).

That said, this year, there is a bit more storyline oomph heading into this match...  it's the first time Matt and Jeff Hardy have been together in the ring with a ladder since the memorable TLC matches of 6-7 years ago...  Edge and Randy Orton are erstwhile buddies who have been increasingly unbuddy-like lately (with Orton deciding to latch onto Kennedy as his new best friend)... the dysfunctional partners thing is even playing out to a slightly lesser degree between Booker T and Finlay. 

There are certainly a few more threads of dramatic tension to toy with in between the high spots than we've seen in past MitB matches. But with the Hardys, Edge, and CM Punk involved, there's also  no reason to be worried about any lack of action and big spots.

Prospects: Everybody brings something useful to this match (yep, even Young Randall, the Limp-Dicked, Beer-Fruiting, Chin-Locking, Line-Mangling Metrosexual Mantard is a contributor thanks to his burgeoning break-up with Edge), and that means lots of options and lots of chances to change gears from action to drama and back again. With 8 guys all able to contribute, and with the Ladder Match experience of Edge and the Hardys, there's every reason to expect those three to quarterback things and craft a 30-plus minute epic where everybody gets a chance to shine. Even with there seeming to be only 2 (or maybe 3) really plausible winners, this is the kind of match where your rational brain shuts down after the 2nd or 3rd "Holy Shit" moment, and just decides to sell out to the moment. Even if the "moment" is Matt Hardy climbing the ladder under the misapprehension that anybody would ever really want to see him in a World Title match....

Prediction: Edge wins. This match is set up to be the final breakdown of relations between Edge and Orton. Everything else is just gravy. But Edge and Orton coming out of this bickering over which one of them is a deserving #1 Contender is almost certainly where this one is headed. [The only other outside chance going to Kennedy, who could very easily be a main event performer by year's end. Finlay, Punk, and the Hardys simply have zero chance of winning this prize, while Booker doesn't need the MitB in order to stage a title run at this point of his development as SD!'s best heel.] So if we're essentially down to picking between Edge and Orton, then I say it'd be damned short-sighted and foolish to not give Edge the win. Not only is he infinitely more-verbally-capable than Orton of making the MitB Title Shot into a useful prop, but it keeps Edge's WM Winning Streak alive for future use. And mostly: Edge and the MitB Briefcase equals Instant Gravitas.... he already won this once before, and he turned that into a WWE Title win. How much fun would it be to write for Edge as he turns into an insufferable (and perhaps over-confident?) asshole, who can spend months and months and months of acting like his 3rd WWE Title win is a foregone conclusion? That'd be gold....

ECW ORIGINALS (Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman) vs. THE NEW BREED (Elijah Burke, Monty Brown, Matt Striker, Kevin Thorne)

As simple and straight-forward a storyline as you can imagine, the only confusing thing about it is how WWE's idiot Writer Monkeys managed to wait until it was 8 months too late to bother running with it.

Eight months after Vince McMahon's New ECW disappointed and annoyed fans (and marginalized established ECW stars), the handful of "old timers" have banded together to defend the good name of ECW against a crew of young, hungry new guys (who have gotten the tacit approval of Vince McMahon himself). Of course, since this is the New ECW, all their defending and revenging is being done under standard rules and without even a hint of extremity. Such is life when WWE higher-ups enjoy wearing their asses as hats, and believe the way to fix ECW's plummeting ratings is to make the show as similar as possible to RAW and SD!, instead of differentiating it in any way.

At present, there has been no announcement of *this* match taking place under "Extreme Rules," which would go a long way to perhaps making it tolerable. But as it stands, in so far as fans can or will care about this, it would be to get fired up for RVD/Sabu/Dreamer/Sandman and their respective tables, chairs, cheese graters, and canes. The "New Breed" might as well be four Bob Hollys for as little as the fans care about them. [Which is a shame, since individually, Burke has heaps of potential, Striker is a dickhead heel heat magnet, and Thorne is an underrated big man. It's just when you put them together in this nonsensical marriage of convenience and try to present them as the equals of a crew of guys the fans actually buy into that you run into trouble. Also: by any other name, Monty Brown still pretty much sucks.]

Prospects: if they go "Extreme Rules," then this could be a crowd pleasing garbage match (kind of a nice change-up in the same way that token New Jack appearances used to be on ECW PPVs). If they don't go "Extreme Rules," this could rival Benoit/MVP for the night's most effective cure for insomnia.

Prediction: the New Breed win. With the future employment prospects of 75% of the "Originals" team in serious doubt, I won't bother picking them to win, no matter how sick it makes me to contemplate this random coupling of "New Breeders" getting the duke. The only thing I can hope for is that they do go "Extreme Rules," and thus, the New Breed have to settle for the cheapest and luckiest of wins after a fun, messy brawl.

CHRIS BENOIT vs. MONTREAL VOLUPTUOUS PORTER (or NAMBLA, for short; United States Title Match)

So, Chris Benoit is the US Champ. How? When? Why? I don't rightly remember. Last thing I remember is JBL stinking up the ring in a boring-ass US Title Match against Benoit at WM last year. Then Benoit took a vacation. Then he came back. And despite rarely if ever appearing on TV, somehow, he got the US Title back last fall. And after one quick feud with Chavo Guerrero, proceeded to once again rarely if ever appear on TV.

So, MVP is the #1 Contender to the US Title. How? When? Why? These are even more baffling mysteries than how Benoit ended up as the reigning US Champ. The guy is a big heaping pile of "Nobody gives a shit," but he thinks that losing a one-sided feud to Kane somehow qualified him for US Title shots, and so voila....

Prospects: Poor Chris Benoit. For the second year in a row, he will be a in a sub-par match that induces the deepest of sleep among the majority of fans. Partly because a guy like Benoit needs more than just a semi-competent in-ring dance partner to capture a crowd's attention, but mostly just because 95% of WWE's audience sees MVP as a badly-attired joke and a curtain jerker and has no desire to see him presented as the equal of Benoit.

Prediction: Chris Benoit wins. Most people actually expect MVP to win as part of a big push, but I refuse to accept that Benoit has to drop a title in a sub-par match to an unworthy opponent for 2 WrestleManias in a row. I'm not one of your standard internet Benoit Huggers who thinks he should be main eventing and holding multiple world titles... but that doesn't mean he needs to be asked to hemorrhage his credibility by dropping matches to guys fans simply don't believe in. That doesn't benefit anybody. I'm not sure what Benoit could do constructive with the US Title, but I know it's more than what MVP would do with it. Maybe if the "Benoit to RAW" rumors are true, you hold off on that until Benoit can drop the title to somebody decent, like Kennedy. Or possibly even the heel-turned Batista.

MELINA vs. ASHLEY ("Lumberjill" Match for the Women's Title)

WWE has two seasoned, capable female wrestlers left on the active roster. These are neither of them. Melina has the desire and the basic training, but not the repetitions or the comfort level, yet. And Ashley? Well, at least she's naked in Playboy this month, cuz lord knows her development as a performer ground to a disappointing halt shortly after her Diva Search win.

And yes, this is yet another year in which "posing in Playboy" is used as the primary criteria for determining the #1 Contender to the women's title at WrestleMania. Which is so wrong, so stupid, so frustrating. The talented Mickie James had been doing just fine as the babyface women's champ, and probably could have had a nice extended series of matches with Melina culminating at WM. But Vince McMahon apparently thinks Mickie is too fat, and thus, we had to shake things up to get Ashley's narrow ass into a title match. So Mickie lost the title to that bitch Melina, and hasn't been seen since, all while Ashley has stepped up as the alleged ass-kicking-est punk rock grrrrrrrl (who wears lacy pink things) in the history of the universe. Nee haw?

At least WWE seems to have concluded that there isn't a high probability of crisp in-ring action here, so they've added the "lumberjill" gimmick, in which the entire WWE roster of divas will surround the ring, and probably end up in it, rolling around in various states of undress with one another. And I guess there are worse things in this world than that....

Prospects: Ashley's never really put it together in terms of in-ring smoothness, and Melina's just not at a point in her career yet where she's capable of covering that up. So here's hoping they keep it short, keep it simple, and make effective (read: "half-naked") use of the 'jills so fans don't mutiny on this one.

Prediction: Ashley wins. Melina's whole gimmick is that of being an UberBitch. Not even the other heel divas like her. Meanwhile, Ashley's got the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsless, as she has a deep, spiritual, throbbing, moist connection with Torrie Wilson and Titties McSuperBowl over their shared experience being naked in Playboy. Once the lumberjills get involved, you might as well make use of this dynamic and have Team Hefner give Ashley the cheap win to delight all the 13-year-old masturbators in the audience. While the rest of us lament what has become of poor Mickie and Victoria.


So WWE was originally going to have Khali face Lashley for the ECW Title. Then WWE was going to have Khali face Hogan. And when WWE's best-laid plans fall through, and their left scraping bottom, who do they call to bail them out?
Yep, poor Glen Jacobs. The man who has endured the single most heroic levels of Suck since starting with the company over a decade ago once again finds himself taking one for the (creative) team, here. After a career that has seen demented dentistry, Kevin Nash impersonation, magical vocal chord recovery, Katie Vick, testicular electroshock therapy, Lita impregnation, and May 19th-o-phobia, what's a little Stinking Up The Joint With Khali among friends?

Near as I can tell, this feud began pretty much at random, when Kane interrupted one of Khali's equally random beatdowns on incredibly random personnel. Since then, the interruptions between the two have become a weekly tradition, and for some reason, Kane has decided to start carrying around the meathook his character used in the movie "See No Evil." Even though it's the most retarded weapon of all times, since there's no way in hell you'll ever actually see him sink it into anybody.

Well, I take that back: a carefully staged, special effects laden, pre-taped vignette, and I can see WWE trying to convince us the meathook got used. But I don't want to see that. So forget I mentioned it. I don't want them taking it as a dare.

Prospects: none to speak of. Khali sucks that bad. If this goes longer than 3 minutes, they will not only have over-extended Khali, but have decimated the patience of every paying fan. 

Prediction: Khali wins. I'd job Khali out and hand him his pink slip later in the night if I was in charge. But I'm not. So I'm left to contemplate the fact that Kane hasn't won a single important match in recent memory, and he's also still slated to take a little vacation at some point in the near future. What a trooper Glen Jacobs is.

And that's that. All eight of WM23's announced matches. Some more compelling than others, for sure, but each still branded as being WrestleMania-worthy here in the Year of Our Lord 2007.

Be sure to come on back here to OO on Sunday night (sometime around 12 midnight, eastern) for full results and analysis from the big show.

In the meantime, we close this over-sized Weekend Column with a few newsbites:


  • In addition to WM23 itself, there's the 2007 Hall of Fame Ceremony taking place this weekend in Detroit. Earlier this week, WWE finalized the Class of 2007 by adding Jim Ross to the list of honorees.
    The Class:
    Jerry Lawler (inducted by William Shatner)
    Dusty Rhodes (inducted by his sons, Dustin "Goldust" Runnels and OVW Prospect Cody Runnels)
    Curt Hennig (inducted by Wade Boggs)
    Jim Ross (inducted by Steve Austin)
    The Sheik (inducted by Sabu)
    Mr. Fuji (inducted by Don Muraco)
    Nick Bockwinkel (inducted by Bobby Heenan)
    The Wild Samoans (inducted by ??????, Lou Albano would be a neat choice)
    An edited hour-long version of the HoF ceremonies will air on the USA Network on Saturday night at midnight. [Actually, if you're setting a VCR/DVR, be sure to give it at least a 15 minute over-run, since the last 2 years, WWE has gone several minutes over their allotted timeslot.] The hope is that the inductions and speeches for Lawler, Dusty, JR, and Hennig can all be squeezed in, although it wouldn't surprise me if they could only manage 3 of those four. [Despite having the "star power" of Austin doing his induction, JR would probably end up being the guy who takes the hit, if necessary.]
    The hour-long version will also be replayed on Sunday morning at 10am on USA. It doesn't look like WWE.com is planning a live webcast of the entire ceremony, which is too bad.
  • Continuing the alarming trend from last week, this past Monday's RAW did a 3.9 cable rating. Though a gain of two ticks from the week before, it's still one of RAW's lower ratings of the year, and it came on a night that was heavily hyped as a major blow-away show just six days before WrestleMania.
    In fact, combined with the prior week's 3.7, this is the least ratings momentum that RAW has had heading into WrestleMania since 2003. In 2003, the last two editions of RAW averaged out to a 3.6 rating (WM19 then delivered a mere 600,000 buys). In '04 and '05, the last two pre-WM editions of RAW averaged out to a 4.0; last year, the last two episodes averaged a 4.2.  (Each of the past three years, WM also generated 900,000 or more buys.)
    This year, the final two weeks' average is a 3.8, which has got to be a disappointment to WWE. But what'll be important is how that ratings momentum translates to PPV buys for Sunday night. History seems to suggest that when week-to-week interest in WWE's TV product contracts, unexpectedly, heading into WM, that could be bad news.
    On the other hand, despite this year's mysterious evaporation of week-to-week fans in the final stretch run to WM23, WWE might be insulated against PPV losses because of the MASSIVE amounts of mainstream press they are getting courtesy of Donald Trump's involvement.
    Trump's "bitchslap" of Vince made all the rounds on the gossip/entertainment shows on Wednesday, and on Thursday was a hot topic of discussion on SportsCenter and on ESPN's afternoon block of Original Programming (PTI and.... ahhh, crap, I'm brainfarting on what the other one is called). Rather than take a dismissive or mocking tone, everybody seemed to be presenting it as goofy fun to think about these two blowhards possibly getting hair cuts.
    Also: Trump is the lead guest on Letterman tonight, which oughta be a YOOOOOGE boost for WM23 awareness, since Dave is, himself, a reformed wrestling fan who also delights in the many comedic aspects of Trump's "hair." And hell, last night, Craig Ferguson's patented Best Monologue in Late Night dedicated his entire opening bit to talking about wrestling because of the Trump tie-in.
    It all adds up to what could be a fascinating Case Study... the loyal week-in and week-out wrestling fans seem to be telling WWE "Meh, we're not impressed." But the mainstream coverage may more than offset things so that WWE can turn around and tell us "Neener neener neener, we don't care about you, we found 100,000 other suckers whose money spends just the same as yours." At least, they'll tell us that until next month, when they suddenly realize they don't have access to Donald Trump, cheap PR, and an army of tabloid-TV-watching retards the other 15 times per year they want to run PPVs.
    Even before we get the information about WM23's PPV buys, it'll just be interesting to see what happens to RAW's rating on Monday. On one hand, it is up against the NCAA Finals. On the other, if the mainstream interest is there, the first place we should see a surge is in the form of a "Hey, I wonder what happened in that haircut match" ratings boost for Monday's RAW.
    Very, very interesting...
  • Speaking of Monday's RAW, have I mentioned that it's taking place right here, in Dayton, OH? Probably only several dozen times.
    I also realized something curious: over the span of three weeks, RAW will have completed the entire The Rick Journey of Life.  Two weeks ago, the show was in Indianapolis. Last week, Chicago. This week, Dayton. Meantime, I was born in Indianapolis, moved to Chicago for a few years, and then finally ended up here in Dayton. 
    SpOOky, eh? No? You inconsiderate boors!
    Anyway, I am justified in bringing this up, because it's been over a month since I first passed along word that Mick Foley was planning to make his return to WWE storylines at the first RAW after WM. One can only presume he selected this one because it's taking place in the hometown of his favorite Internet Jackoff.
    Well, that little newsbite has been reinforced by a recent interview in which Mick says that he doesn't expect to appear in any capacity at WM23, but he has pitched a "tremendous idea" for a "shocking announcement" that he wanted to take place the day after Mania. I likes me the sound of that.
    Then again, the last time WWE tried to do something "shocking" in Dayton, it was the night we found out Lita was pregnant. Some things are best left forgotten....
    Anyway, even if you take a pass on Sunday's PPV, there's a little something for you to keep an eye out for on Monday night. 
  • An update on Lilian Garcia, who surprised just about everybody by making it to RAW for TV this past Monday, when she was expected to keep resting an injured knee until WM weekend....
    Turns out, her injury (skiing related) is actually a torn ACL, and she'll need surgery. She wasn't gonna make it any worse by doing Monday's RAW, so she hopped on a plane and toughed it out. 
    The surgery is now scheduled for late next week, on the grounds that (much like Mick) Lilian didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to bring the gOOdness to Dayton. Oh, and possibly WrestleMania had something to do with that decision, too.
    Once Lilian goes under the knife, though, we're apparently looking at an extended run for that Justin Roberts guy. I can't be the only one who votes we just put The Fink back on TV, can I?
  • Many readers have sent along a link to a Prominent Hair Replacement Clinic, which indicates that our beloved Chris F. Masters is a new patient. These readers requested that I please do my standard smear job and mock the holy living shit out of Masters.
    The worst thing is, CFM has decided on getting hair plugs NOW, which is only two-and-a-half years after I initially mocked his hairline. So I'm not even going to waste my time hand-crafting any new jokes for this toolbox. I'm just going to let you are marvel in my prescience and prognosticatory powers by going back in time.
    On the night Chris F. Masters made his RAW debut, this is precisely what I wrote: "JR informs us that Masters is 21-years-old. You know what's funny about that? He has basically the hairline that motivated me just shave it all off a couple years ago at the still-too-young age of 27. In my case, the culprit was genetics... but why do I have a sneaking suspicion that if I wanted to make a joke about what Jose Canseco may or may not have injected into Masters' butt, I might be on to something in his case?"
    So I don't know what's funnier: the fact that Masters thinks *this* is the one thing he can fix about himself that will lead to success and the respect of his peers? Or the fact that Masters decided to think that nearly 30 months too late?
    Masters getting hair plugs.... christ, that's easily the dead-on man-equivalent of Paris Hilton getting a boob job. It's not a real problem to begin with, and worse, it's so far down the list of genuinely important things that actually are cataclysmically broken and the cause of one's utter worthlessness so as to be a non-factor when prioritizing the many ways one blows. If Paris wasn't a horrifyingly awful creature in every substantial way, her boobs would be just dandy by me. And CFM, if you didn't objectively suck in every facet of Sports Entertaining, nobody would give two shits about your roid-ravaged hairline, you insecure, narcissistic tool.
    There, Constant Readers: did that mockery satisfy your blood lust?
  • Brace yourselves, folks... Mark Henry returned to the ring last weekend on SD! house shows in Mexico. He squashed Gregory Helms.
    Henry's return actually comes 2 months later than what I remember being the original prognosis last summer when he tore up his knee on SNME. But I guess this means that those talks of his contract renewal last autumn were true (when his mind-numbing, big money, 10-year contract signed shortly after the '96 Olympics would have expired unless WWF/E had somehow previously finagled their way out of that one).
    Henry's injury occurred while he was in the ring with Rey Mysterio, but of course, in keeping with last year's "Never Say Or Do Anything That Might Help Rey Get Over" Policy, Rey was never "credited" with sidelining Henry. He's not around, anyway, to be Henry's first feud back (Rey's still hoping to be back later this summer, though), so I guess it doesn't matter.
    Henry was also primarily feuding with Batista at the time of his injury, and in fact, lost out on a World Title Shot on PPV because of the injury, which could give us an idea of what might be first on Henry's agenda once he's back on TV.
    And which also leads me to one iron-clad conclusion. I'm going to say this, and I'm only going to say it one time, WWE, so listen closely:
    Nobody wants to see that. So please, just heed this sage advice, and in general, keep Mark Henry as far away from vital developments on my TV screen as possible. Put him on ECW; I'm not hardly watching that show anymore. Thank you, drive through.
  • And lastly for today: Joey Mercury (the other "M" in MNM) was released by WWE on Monday. You'll officially file this one under "Wellness Issue," but according to several second-hand reports, you might as well file it under "Intelligence Issue." Because not only was Mercury apparently not abiding by the standards of the WWE Wellness Policy, he was apparently showing up to work in a condition that made this plain to see.
    Given that WWE'd be well within their rights to be quite touchy and urine-test-y because of the recent bad press they've gotten, it takes a special kind of stupid to be that cavalier in one's abuses.
    Sadly, this leaves us back to dealing with the prospects of Johnny Nitro, Singles Competitor, which is just something that has yet to come anywhere near close to jelling. MNM, as a unit, were money. N, even with the other M, is still little more than a steaming pile of Potential who's yet to really effectively seize any singles opportunities that have been put in front of him. My feeling is that a longer run with MNM leading to a more organic break-up of the duo is what he could really have used (just like successful tag team break-ups such as the Hart Foundation and the Rockers showed us), but Mercury's heart just wasn't in being employed, so Nitro's gonna have to flail around aimlessly until he can figure out some way to get people to give a crap about his shtick (other than his woman's rump, that is).
    More than likely, Mercury's sudden dismissal probably had a direct impact on the WM23 line-up. MNM and London/Kendrick would have made for a pretty killer undercard match (or they'd have been sweet as anchors for a bigger, multi-way tag team match). Now, without that reasonably strong heel tag team to make the contest click, who knows how or if WWE will sneak these guys onto the WM23 card? Ah well....
  • I think that's about enough for today. If this is the Greatest Weekend Of The Year, then I vote I quit writing about it, and start enjoying it!
    Remember, I'll have full WrestleMania 23 results at some point shortly after the show on Sunday. Then there's fall-out and Monday's RAW-in-Dayton that I'll cover in an early-week column next week. And man alive, have I ever got a load of TNA stuff stored up, since they've kinda gotten stuck on my own personal Back Burner the past 2 weeks, what with Mania and the Steroid Scandal and everything. 
    So enjoy the big weekend, and then be sure to come on back to OO early and often as we fill you in on WM, equip you with the most expert analysis available anywhere as WWE embarks on its new PPV Philosophy, catch you up on TNA news, and a whole lot more. Later on, folks.....

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.




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