I’ve been polling the Indeed Wrestling Weekly staff about Wrestlemania 23. We’re only a few days away from the big event and results are intriguing. There’s eight announced matches headlined by two Face vs Face brand Title encounters and a “Battle of the Billionaires” Hair stipulation featuring RAW’s top Heel and the babyface ECW champion. Of these three top matches, the former two still have a huge split in who is projected to win while the latter is beyond a foregone conclusion. However, WWE should be lauded for raising the stakes high enough not only to garner significant interest from casual fans but excitement from longtime fans too.
They’ve got four hours. Let’s run down the card and the latest predictions!
BATTLE OF THE BILLIONAIRES! UMAGA VS BOBBY LASHLEY
VKM’S HAIR VS TRUMP’S HAIR
While many people complained about how boring specific matches would be (in particular, the plodding Undertaker/Batista and Kane/Khali match-ups drew a number of derisive remarks), not a single person complained about the prominent Lashley/Umaga battle. I believe that everyone is eagerly awaiting the insane facials from Vince McMahon when he loses, along with the huge pops as Steve Austin delivers stunners left and right. Will Eugene be running down to help man the clippers? Will we see VKM in a wig next week ala Kurt Angle? It should be a fun spectacle.
WINNER: BOBBY LASHLEY (11-0 in IWW polling)
ASHLEY VS MELINA © for the WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP in a LUMBERJILL MATCH
This doesn’t promise to bring the house down in a technical classic. Fit Finlay and Dean Malenko have worked wonders in the past bringing out some surprisingly entertaining women’s matches in the past years. However, this one doesn’t promise to even live up to last year’s great Mickie James/Trish Stratus matchup. The pressure is reported to be on Melina to have a good match as the company sees her as a top act, but also as someone of an arrogant and possibly dangerous (Mickie James’ just got hurt again at a recent show) talent. Ashley is riding the wave of Playboy publicity but isn’t very good in the ring. Do you move an already meaningless title just so the babyface wins? Or do you keep the title on a rising act (which is now cemented as a singles act since Joey Mercury was fired) and line up new challengers such as a returning Beth Phoenix? IWW voters were also closely split 5-5. However, TC Watts weighted in at the last moment and agreed with my vote to call this one for the heel. In a year, I think Melina will still be around while Ashley will be gone or in TNA.
WINNER: MELINA (6-5 in IWW polling)
KANE VS GREAT KHALI
Originally, I had assumed this would have some kind of stipulation added to it. Not necessarily “amateur wrestling” rules, but perhaps making it a chain?, cage?, scythe?, something match. But, as of the time I’m writing this, it’s still an ordinary wrestling match. Kane has a lousy Wrestlemania Record (4-5) with his sole singles victory being a DQ win over HHH at WM15. Great Khali was moved to RAW from ECW to become a heel contender. Rumors have a returning Mark Henry feuding with Kane in coming months. What does it all mean? IWW Voters weren’t sure either:
5 votes for KANE victory
3 votes for KHALI victory
2 voters for KANE VIA DQ (i.e. Mark Henry attacks Kane and Khali is disqualified)
1 vote for KHALI VIA DQ (i.e. Kane takes out his hook and Kane is disqualified)
What do we know? As IWW Navy correspondent, Empire JH put it – “This match may even take place in slower motion than Hogan vs. Andre from 20 years ago.” Maybe that’s the real reason it’s on WM!
WINNER: KANE (7-4 in IWW polling)
ECW NEW BREED (Burke, Striker, Brown, Thorn) VS ORIGINALS (Sabu, RVD, Sandman, Dreamer)
The story of this match really is what’s happening with Rob Van Dam. As Kip Corona put it, “if RVD is planning on not resigning and will be leaving the WWE, it’ll be the New Breed. Otherwise, the Originals will win.” I laid out my thinking in this column a few months ago. I think we’re at point where the New Breed needs to win in order to really be worth something. Otherwise, they’re basically less than Tommy Dreamer on the totem pole, and can you really be any less than that? (See also, Balls Mahoney.) On the flipside, some (like IWW’s DJ Terry) have argued that giving the ECW Originals a victory at Wrestlemania would be seen by the audience as “a great feel-good moment”. Perhaps Mick Foley will get involved and help out the old-timers. Still, voting was close and...
WINNER: ECW NEW BREED (6-4 in IWW polling)
CHRIS BENOIT © VS MVP for the US CHAMPIONSHIP
It appears that Ray Rhodes & I are truly in the minority on this one in believing that Montel Vontavious Porter will take the title away from Chris Benoit. Reportedly, the two have been having long, excellent matches (not quite a rarity when you’re working with Benoit!) on house shows leading up to the PPV. While there have been rumors about moving Benoit to RAW in the next few months, it appears most IWW voters don’t think this will be the moment he’ll lose his title.
WINNER: CHRIS BENOIT (7-3 in IWW polling)
MONEY IN THE BANK MATCH
Edge, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Fit Finlay, CM Punk, Ken Kennedy and Booker T
This is another match with very interesting ramifications. The WWE has done an excellent job making the MITB contract into a very important thing on par with the role that the Intercontinental Title used to hold over a decade ago. IWW voters had a wide array of comments concerning this match ranging from bemoaning the lack of Shelton Benjamin, Ric Flair & Carlito to questioning whether the Edge vs Randy Orton dynamic might overshadow the match. They expanded the match to include two more competitors than last year. Whether that will be a good idea remains to be seen! As Biff from Tampa put it, “8 men? This could really be a cluster…. (mess)”.
Fit Finlay: a Smackdown star that is respected by all but not really seen as singles main event material
Randy Orton: a RAW star that has been the chosen one (in particularly, HHH wants Batista & Orton to be his legacy in creating stars) that may have been hurt by the recent drug allegations.
Jeff Hardy: has proven himself a capable performer since returning from TNA but questionable whether he’ll ever rise above the IC title.
Matt Hardy: a relentless popular performer on the Smackdown brand with some important creative people aligned against him becoming a headliner.
CM Punk: the “internet darling” who is rising in popularity; may be too soon though!
Ken Kennedy: the “golden boy” who has already feuded with top stars like Undertaker.
Booker T: the former champion who is already reduced to a role where most people forget him and wonder why he’s even in the match!
Edge: currently working through an injury, he’s been a lead heel on RAW and carried WWE’s top feud in 2006.
The favorites are EDGE (5 votes) & Mr. Kennedy (4 votes) with CM Punk, Matt Hardy, Fit Finlay and Randy Orton receiving stray mentions. I’m once again over-ruled with my personal vote: Mr. Kennedy. Edge already has had a run at the top and is well-established as heel. But perhaps the tailor-made feud with Randy Orton that will no doubt be heavily featured on the next few PPVs will include his new MITB win.
WINNER: Edge (5 votes in IWW Polling)
THE UNDERTAKER VS DAVE “THE ANIMAL” BATISTA © for the SMACKDOWN BRAND CHAMPIONSHIP (World Heavyweight Championship)
Undertaker is 14-0 at Wrestlemania having defeating Snuka, Roberts, Gonzalez, Bundy, Diesel, Sid, Kane, Bossman, HHH, Flair, A-Train, Big Show, Orton & Mark Henry. Batista is actually also undefeated (2-0) with a win over Triple H and the Evolution tag match against the Rock & Sock Connection at Wrestlemania 20. Originally, there was heavy internet gossip circulating that Batista had been the chosen one to end the Undertaker’s win streak, about the only record in Professional Wrestling that seems to matter anymore. Recent post-WM house show ads have even advertised Champion Batista vs Challenger Ken Kennedy. However, internally, the tide seems to have definitely changed. Batista’s aloof nature hasn’t won him many friends. While Smackdown creative members Michael Hayes & Dusty Rhodes (now with ECW) lobbied Vince hard for Batista to regain the championship when he returned (they didn’t support comedy heel Booker T as the top draw), it’s difficult to argue that Batista needs to keep the title against a legend like the Undertaker. Also, Batista notoriously injury-prone nature doesn’t make him a safe headliner.
All in all, IWW voters all seem equally impressed by Undertaker’s credentials. Only two voters even ventured that Batista would leave Detroit with the title (and Ray Rhodes felt that would be possible only via Disqualification!) Popular sentiment among Indeed Wrestling Weekly staff is clear.
WINNER: Undertaker (10-1, though with the outside possibility that Batista retains the title via DQ)
JOHN CENA © VS SHAWN MICHAELS for the RAW BRAND CHAMPIONSHIP (WWE Championship)
The Heartbreak Kid always brings his A-game to Wrestlemania. His matches with Razor Ramon (ladder; WM10), Bret Hart (Iron Man; WM12), Triple H & Benoit (WM 20) and Kurt Angle (WM 21) are legendary. Win or lose, this has the potential of being the best match on the card. (Money in the Bank is the other major contender.)
John Cena continues to ride a wave of enormous popularity. He really proved himself with excellent feuds against Umaga & Edge in recent months, and has been a model employee. Backstage, he’s reported spend his time closely with the boss (Vince) and as Emperor JH put it, “If they want him to be the next Rock, he’ll keep the title.” Personally, the only way I see Cena is losing is if they decide to give Shawn Michaels one more run just as a thank-you for his years of service. Triple H isn’t scheduled to return until Summerslam and so that feud seems a long way off. Additionally, if HBK were to win that would mean both titles changing hands at Wrestlemania. This year, I don’t see it happening.
WINNER: Cena (8-3 in IWW Polling)
Additionally, I asked everyone what that thought would be the last match. It’s not going to be Hair vs Hair. Kip Corona had an interesting (though unlikely) scenario where Edge cashes in his MITB title and goes right for the MITB shot that evening and goes right for the RAW Title Most people suggested “John Cena/Shawn Michaels” which I’m inclined to agree. Four voters thought it was possible that Undertaker/Batista went last, but only if Undertaker was clearly winning the title. Again, I must quote the good Emperor JH: “What will be the last match? Cena vs HBK. Even if Taker vs Batista happens to be last, I'll probably fall asleep during it, so Cena/HBK will be the last match I remember!” Well put.
Where are the tag matches? Hmmm.. let's hope for some last minute additions!
Thanks to all the IWW Staff: Ray Rhodes, Biff Cheddarhead, Geddy Lee, Zip Whittle, DJ Terry, TC Watts, Kip Corona, KGBeast, Emperor JH, WJ and LadyA!
Be sure to email your thoughts on Wrestlemania to INDEEDWRESTLING@GMAIL.COM
Also, be sure to the listen to the latest Indeed Wrestling Weekly Podcast! 44 minutes talking the final days before Wrestlemania, looking at new WWE DVDs, TNA's mini-tour, where is Rob Conway?, Mr Fuji & other HOF notes, ZUFFA BUYS PRIDE, Hogan is nuts, Batista is a jackass and MARK HENRY HAS RETURNED. A really fun show!