Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII - Finale

Friday, March 21, 2008

Part V is here.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII – Part VI - Finale

Five previous parts in the build up to XXIII. Take a look. The show itself will go up next weekend. Perhaps during the actual Mania.

7 matches set up. 2 to go.

One addition made at the very end, an addition to the Legends Match – Steamboat says that a match like Michaels/Undertaker requires a referee of enormous credibility to keep those two in line – Stone Cold Steve Austin.

So add that to the package.

The ECW Title will be defended as it should be, in a Three Way Dance. Note, the difference between this and the IC title is this match is an elimination match.

Right after the Rumble (so, before the tags and the IC are sorted out – this one is getting set up right at the top).

Punk returns to GDI (Tuesday nights on Sci Fi at 10:00) having defeat Matt Hardy at the Rumble. Recall the Punk story; he was the guy who wouldn’t work on TV; he’s representing the indie movement, the ROH (unsaid) workrate based challenge to WWF. Punk (with Maria, mmmmmm) as his valet, carves out an “Us v. Them” attitude in rallying the former indie workers against the monolithic corporation. He turned London and Kendrick against each other – and now most of the GDI wrestlers (and fans, one assumes) view Punk as the champion of a righteous rebellion.

Punk’s first match on WWF TV was the epic Number One Contender’s Battle Royal, where he became the first man ever to start at number one and win. He then defeated Flair at Survivor Series to (briefly) become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Punk immediately threw down the NWA and WWF belts, spitting on them, drawing the wrath of the locker room – and started the GDI revolution. Flair assigned his return match contract rights to Steamboat, who made the Punk/Matt match for the Rumble – and when Edge couldn’t stomach the thought of Matt winning a world title when he could not, he speared Hardy, allowing Punk to get the fall and keep the strap.

And now – here we are.

Punk says he’s going to Wrestlemania XXIII. Last year, in his hometown, he wrestled in the dark match. Only one year later – he’s the man – and it’s all because of GDI.

So, who will he wrestle, he says. Who will be the man…who will be the INDEPENDENT man…to take me on at Wrestlemania XXIII??

(There should be some chants for Paul London – which Punk will ignore – Punk was able to convince still babyface London to leave WWF, turning down a spot in the WWF Title Tournament, to come to GDI by promising him that he would face Punk at Mania).

And then the lights go out.

When they come back on – Sabu. Holding a glass light tube.

Sabu and Van Dam were Unified Tag champs until the Rumble (two nights ago, recall) when they were defeated by Sandman/Dreamer, who, recall were embraced by Punk and GDI, Noble and Kendrick joining Sandman and Dreamer to win the straps. So, Sabu’s in a feud with Punk, and all of GDI – and we expect him to swing the light tube upon Punk’s head.

Punk notes that. Says Sabu could lay him out right now. Or he could hear him out.

Punk holds up the ECW belt. Says that Sabu may not like him, but he has to like that ECW belt, for the first time ever, will be contested on its own at Wrestlemania. The WWF title match, for the first time ever, won’t be the last title match on the show – the last title match at Wrestlemania XXIII will be for the ECW title.

And Sabu has to like that – because he was the first ECW champion – he defeated Cactus Jack (roll the clip~) to become the first ever ECW Champion – and more than any other man – Sabu is the reason this belt exists.

Punk says he knows, all the boys know, all these GDI fans know – that the godfather of the GDI movement is Sabu. That 10 years ago – the man who should have been wrestling on the biggest stage in the world – Wrestlemania – was Sabu.

But the corporations didn’t understand that, did they? You were too raw – too untamed – you didn’t cut promos and didn’t look right – you were a scarred up freak of nature, breaking tables and diving into the crowd. You gave every drop of blood for this sport – and the people in the suits didn’t care—isn’t that right, Sabu?

Punk, perhaps, is making sense.

You’ve spent your whole career as a misfit, you’ve spent your whole career being too dangerous – so you had to create your own belt --- this belt – and your own movement --- this movement – and right now, Sabu – right now you’ve made it.

The best thing that happened to you was losing those tag titles last night.

Because, Sabu (Maria takes out a GDI t shirt) I am going to wrestle someone at Wrestlemania XXIII – I am going to wrestle an independent worker at Wrestlemania XXIII – I want that GDI wrestler to be you – Sabu. You. Punk v. Sabu…hell, Sabu v. Punk, for the ECW Title – in the town….in the town built by the Sheik (Sabu points like he does) Detroit….in front of 70,000 people – you can’t turn this down, Sabu – you take the shirt – you accept your destiny!

Sabu considers…moves to the shirt….moves to swing the light tube...Sabu slowly backs away…backs away from the ring. The announce saying Sabu is clearly considering it – Punk has gotten to Sabu.

On RAW the following week – RVD calls Sabu to the ring. They show the GDI clip. RVD is stunned – says they have a rematch clause – they can go Mania as a team – how many times did they sit at ECW – RVD is clearly wounded – how many times did RVD go on and on about how he went to WM III as a kid in Detroit – how it’s why he got in the business – how he watched Steamboat and Dynamite in WM III and wanted that to be him – and here it is – WM comes to Detroit 20 years later – and the Michigan kid – and you too Sabu – we are hometown guys – we get to come home and wrestle Sandman and Dreamer to get our tag belts back – tag belts that GDI took from us.

RVD says Sabu can’t take that away from him – he can’t. RVD says he won’t let Sabu do it.

Sabu doesn’t like that. He tenses his hands around the glass light tube.

RVD says he’s sorry. Says he doesn’t want to threaten Sabu – says they are here in a WWF ring, in 2007, after all of these years – and he just can’t believe his best friend is about to turn his back on him and join GDI – he can’t believe it.

GDI the next night begins with Van Dam’s entrance.

He says he wants Punk to come to the ring.

Punk, smug – hits the ring.

RVD says he knows what Punk’s trying to do – he manipulates people – he’s a liar and a user – everyone knows that.

Punk says Van Dam’s selfish. He’s always been selfish. And everyone knows that. His real problem isn’t that Punk asked Sabu to be in GDI….it’s that he didn’t ask Van Dam.

RVD says he’ll go anywhere he wants. But he’s not taking a t-shirt handed to him by Punk’s slut (Maria, mmmmmmm)

Punk says no – see, back in the day, you could have hung with us in GDI – but your years in the corporation have made you soft, sluggish – and 4:20 isn’t helping year either Van Dam. The truth is – you can’t cut it anymore – so let Sabu go – let Sabu wrestle for the biggest title in the world at the biggest show of all time – in the town built by the Original Sheik – and you can carry his bags if you want.

RVD attacks Punk – and the lights go out immediately.

Lights on. Sabu. With glass tube. Pause.

He hits Van Dam.

Sabu lays RVD out and takes the shirt from Maria. Sabu has gone GDI.

The following Tuesday starts with Paul London, out with an “injury” and off TV since the Rumble until right now. London plays the clip where Punk promised him the shot.

London said he never trusted Punk, never liked him – that 2 years ago, he wrestled Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania, - and here he gave up a shot at the holy grail – the WWF Title – a title that – and London doesn’t care what you think about it – he would never have spat on.

He gave it up because he was supposed to go to Wrestlemania. He was supposed to wrestle CM Punk for the WWF Title.

And he got screwed. Screwed by Punk. Screwed by Sabu. And he’s not gonna take it. And he wants an explanation. And he wants it right now!!

Kendrick comes up the aisle.

Kendrick says at least London had a Wrestlemania moment. Even it was losing to Mysterio.

Kendrick’s been here as long as Paul has. They were partners since the very first day at Shawn Michaels’s training camp in Texas. And London can talk all he wants about getting screwed – but London got an IC Title shot against Eddy Guerrero. And London got to wrestle Chris Jericho. And London was in the Clique. And where was Kendrick – busting his ass on the independent circuit – in front of these people – while his “partner” collected checks from the huge corporation.

You want an explanation, Paul?

The explanation is – you don’t deserve that Wrestlemania shot. I do.

Lights out. Lights on. Sabu. Glass tube.

Recall, Sabu has just been in a program with Kendrick.

Sabu crashes the light tube on London. Sabu and Kendrick take London apart – totally decimating him, so we aren’t surprised when London isn’t on TV until Mania.

Punk enters as the onslaught goes on – Punk says, “You want an explanation, London? I lied to you. That’s your explanation.”

They stomp Punk out.

Run in by Van Dam.

Van Dam cleans house – disposing of Kendrick first – then Punk – and finally Sabu – RVD laying them all out. Thumbs.

There’s some pretense the following couple of weeks that gets RVD in the title match, let’s say he has to beat Sabu and Punk in a handicap match – he does, pinning Sabu ---

So the ECW Title becomes a 3 Way Dance at Mania. Punk v. RVD v. Sabu. In Detroit. As we get closer – after it’s been established that Sabu and Van Dam aren’t together, that it’s a rivalry – they’ll split Punk and Sabu – Punk will say too many times that he and Sabu will team up to eliminate RVD first – maybe Matthews and Snow, on the announce for GDI, question if maybe it’s Punk who has gotten snookered here – he’s always been the manipulator – but look what’s happened – he’s wrestling the former WWF tag champions – at Wrestlemania – at the same time – in their hometown – for the ECW belt that both of them have held.

Maybe Punk, in fact, got played.

Enough so we consider it.

Punk v. Sabu v. RVD – ECW Title

And finally – the main event.

We’ve covered it multiple times, as often as possible, in pretty much every posting over the past year. Matt. Edge. Hell. Cell. Was made at WM XXII, one year ago – it was named as the main event for XXIII. For that year, there has been build up through the 24/7 segment (stealing from Mayweather/De la Hoya). Matt is the top babyface and Edge the top heel in the company. This is only the 3rd Cell match in WWF history, both of which saw the enormous top of the cage bump (Foley, Christian). It is the ultimate blow off a feud match – and it is clear that this is going to mark the end of this chapter of Matt v. Edge.

Their careers are inextricably linked. 10 years ago, along with their brothers Jeff and Christian, they were the Ring Boys. The Hardys carrying the bags for the Clique, E and C for the Harts – those two factions being the enduring Hatfields and McCoys of the WWF. But the 4 young men forged a bond – stealing time before shows and at intermissions to have impromptu spotfests – earning an underground love, a love from the WWF faithful that began to manifest in “let them play” chants.

8 years ago, at WM XV, the Hardys won the tag straps – an ultimate moment in celebration for the Ring Boys – that was shattered when E and C, along with Jeff’s girlfriend Trish Stratus, joined HHH and Waltman in a new incarnation of the Clique and beat the Hardys down. This was a betrayal not only of Matt/Jeff, but of all of Canada, E/C and Trish joining up with the faction consistently hated by Canadians, the ultimate bad guys, the Clique.

That kicked off one of the great WWF rivalries ever, E/C v. Hardys v. Dudleys, who tore buildings down for years in a series of increasingly violent collision matches.

The feud took an unimaginable toll. Following the last WWF TLC match (the match declared too violent for the company to continue with) 5 of the 6 men were taken from the ring by stretcher (not Matt) and none of those men would be the same again.

The Dudleys WWF career was effectively over after that match. Jeff left for years, just returning in mid ’06, and now wrestling for the Worldwide titles at Mania. Christian was gone 6 months, Edge a year and a half.

While Christian and Jericho were double turning in a protracted feud; so were Matt and Van Dam – the personality of Matt beginning to twist, to harden, to gnarl under the tutelage of Eric Bischoff, who was using Matt as his puppet in his game of “can you top this” with Heyman. Matt faces Van Dam in 5 straight PPVs, including back to back Manias – finally losing the blow off to that feud at XX when Christian was losing the blow off to his feud with Jericho in the Cell.

But that loss led to Edge’s dramatic babyface return and the formation of the last configuration of the Clique (E/C/Michaels/London) Edge would go on to defeat Jericho and win the Worldwide titles; Matt meanwhile, embittered, quit “shoot style” after losing to Booker at Summer Slam ’04.

A year later came “You screwed Matt”, as Edge’s affair with Matt’s girlfriend Lita was impossible to keep from the crowds, which began to turn on Edge and the entire Clique. Edge denied it to the end, his stable, particularly his brother, standing up for him as Matt returned – a darker, clearly troubled enigmatic Matt Hardy returned – Edge beat Matt at the Unsanctioned Match at Summer Slam ’05, revealing the truth in the process.

That led to the destruction of the Clique – Edge beat Christian in a Loser Leaves Town; Michaels’s moralistic, puritanical tone began to grate on some wrestlers and fans, building to the current Michaels who faces the Dead Man at XXIII, and London was left to fend totally for himself as Kendrick, then Noble, then Punk all arrived from Ring of Honor to attack him – an attack that would eventually turn into GDI and the breakup of the WWF.

So, sort of a big deal.

Matt was kept away from arenas by Flair and the 51% Solution – but he defeated Edge in the Empty Arena match at Rumble ’06 – setting up Mania XXII….

Where they didn’t meet.

Instead, Edge beat Michaels and Matt beat Flair, a win that ensured that Matt and Edge would not have any physical contact for a year – but in a year they would meet in the 3rd ever Hell in a Cell match in WWF history – at the main event at XXIII.

They were able to do that for a year – running on parallel tracks – both men wrestling Michaels, Edge beating the returning Jeff – both men losing chances at Rumble ’07 to grab singles belts, Edge shocking upset by Booker T, and then costing Matt a chance at defeating Punk by spearing him.

Edge. Matt. Matt. Edge.

Both men broken in similar places for similar reasons but in different ways. Both men gave their bodies for the company in the TLC matches, but neither one could elevate to the top of the card. Both men lost their brothers – lost their way – and as we’ve seen the inner lives of Matt and Edge over the past year – we see men more similar than different.

Matt – dark, enigmatic, brooding – sort of a babyface Raven – in that Raven/Sting enigmatic mold mixed with the anti authoritarian streak of Austin/Pillman. He’s Matt F’n Hardy.

Edge is the real world Edge character – a great heel character, IMO, the guy who will fuck your girl and smirk about it. Edge wants money and pussy and belts. If any of those things belong to you – all the better.

But Matt Hardy…Matt Hardy and the ten years of feuding – the constant war – the prospect of years of battle coming to an end in a win or a loss – Matt Hardy sticks in his craw in an ugly way.

They are two halves of the same whole – locked in a vicious struggle – and they’ll be locked in a Cell at Mania.

The Hell in a Cell is the most protected gimmick in the company. Cactus Jack made his name when he was suplexed from the top by Ken Shamrock. Christian took the same bump – thrown off by Trish and Jericho, in Jericho’s turn toward being the Lizard King.

Foley comes back for a special segment on Cell history – as part of the build for the match has to be the bump. A Hell in a Cell has to require some dramatic, death defying fall. Additionally, both Matt and Edge have had their own ring boys over the past year – Teddy Hart and Harry Smith and Cody Rhodes and Ken Doane – those four men went at it in the Rumble brawl – and they’ll meet in a dark match to kick off XXIII.

As we get to Mania – the full weight of the history between those two men will have been recounted, every slap, every slight, all of it recorded. All of the other workers will have had to give their predictions in taped vignettes – every corner of every show – a constant, incessant, wild buildup to the blow off to end all blow offs – the match a decade in the making.

Matt. Edge. Hell. Cell. Main Event. Wrestlemania XXIII.

1 Hell in a Cell: Edge v. Matt Hardy
2 ECW Title: CM Punk v. Rob Van Dam v. Sabu
3. WWF Title: Executioner Lashley v. Booker T
4. NWA Title: Ric Flair (w/Arn Anderson) v. Fit Finlay (w/Dean Malenko)
5. Worldwide Titles: Shane Helms v. Jeff Hardy v. Randy Orton
6. Unified Tags: Sandman/Tommy Dreamer v. LWO: Chavo Guerrero/Carlito Colon (w/ Super Crazy)
7. Legends Match: Shawn Michaels v. Undertaker (w/Steve Austin as special guest referee)
8. Contract Match: Monte Brown (NWA) v. Eddie Little (WWF)
9. Opening Tag: Heat: Montel Porter/Elijah Burke v. John Cena/Ken Kennedy

It is Wrestlemania 23. It is a week away.


Anonymous said...

Nice work with the setup... Already I'm looking at the WM24 lineup to try and figure what matchups you'll have (the 24 man ECW Battle Royale will for next year)

Too bad they don't ever put Paul London on a match for one of their big four- you've done a great job building up a Punk-London match.

jcj said...

It could be that London and Kendrick worked dark at Summer Slam '07.

Could be.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

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