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.

Wrestlemania XXIII

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The build is here.

Wrestlemania XXIII – Detroit
(Dark – Benjamin/Haas d. Kendrick/Noble
Hart/Smith d. Rhodes/Doane)

Joey and Taz are on the announce. JR and Bradshaw do the NWA Title match, Matthews and Snow do the ECW Title match.

Steamboat opens the show; says 20 years ago right here in Detroit, in front of 93,000 people, he won the WWF Championship over the Dynamite Kid in one of the most memorable matches in wrestling history.


And tonight – 20 years later – in what will almost certainly be another of the most memorable matches in history, in front of 84,000 people, a new Ford Field record, Matt Hardy will take on Edge in the Hell in the Cell!

People will react as they will.

Steamboat explains that it was a match a year in the making – the main event of Wrestlemania made a year in advance.

It was a good idea.

So we’re going to do it again.

Steamboat announces that next year – Wrestlemania XXIV will come from Orlando – and the main event – the main event will again be contested in one of the most notorious, most death defying, most infamous matches in WWF history – the main event of Wrestlemania XXIV will be contested in a Tables…Ladders…and Chairs match!


1.Heat: Porter/Burke d. Cena/Kennedy
-Porter and Burke, protégées of Booker, go over in the opening tag. Announce sells this promising young team as making their Mania debut, uses this match to sell the WWF Title match coming up tonight where the first African American world champion will be crowned.

Heat rolls, obviously – using our favorite whipping boys, Cena and Kennedy, as stepping stones. Announce notes the frustration in Cena and Kennedy, that they just don’t seem to be gaining any ground in the WWF. Porter and Burke take some Jim Jones jumpshots post match. Ballin’!

2.Winner Gets a Contract: Eddie Little d. Monte Brown
-Steamboat remained at ringside after cutting his opening promo – Dusty now joins him, the two rival commissioners both donning headsets to join Joey and Taz on the announce. Steamboat roots for Little, as if he wins, he signs a WWF contract; Rhodes for Brown. Ideally, Brown does a LT thing and has some former NFL’ers with him, preferably a Lion included in that mix, as he’s the babyface in the matchup. 3-4 former football players seconding Brown would be a good contrast for Little.

Little (Umaga) recall broke virally on the internet, streetfighting in as brutal a way as possible, garnering as much street level buzz as can be mustered. He’s untamable, out of control – shirtless, jeans – the heavy Umaga tats, he’s nothing but asskicking.

And he kicks Brown’s ass. If we have the ex NFL’ers, he kicks their ass too. Little busts heads, goes to the announce, signs his contract, Steamboat extends his hand – Little swipes some of Brown’s blood from his chest – and piefaces Steamboat with Brown’s blood.

Steamboat gets hot – trying to go after Little – Dusty and security hold him back – Little glowers menacingly at the whole lot of them, including Joey and Taz – Little gets back in the ring to perform some devastating maneuver on whatever NFL’er will take it. Wonder if Barry Sanders feels like earning a couple of extra bucks? That would be sweet.

3.Legends Match: Undertaker d. HBK (w/special guest referee Steve Austin)-Taker wins his 6th Legends Match, most all time. Michaels works heel here, disgusted by the fans increasingly turning on him over the past several months. I like an opening shot of the two Triple Crown winners, Austin and Michaels, along with the WM Legend Undertaker, in a tense mid ring conversation prematch.

Austin’s gonna ref bump; he gets in a shoving thing during the match with Michaels, Shawn superkicks him dead. That allows for Michaels to grab some plunder; going further heel by attacking the Dead Man with a foreign object or two. Michaels soaks in the boos as he stands over by the Taker and Austin – the old smirk finally….finally returning to the face of the Heartbreak Kid as he makes the sign of the Clique.

There’s no official, since Austin’s down, so Michaels can’t get a pinfall – Michaels revives Austin, but he won’t count the fall – he hits Shawn with a stunner, drapes the Taker on top and counts a fast 3 – but Michaels kicks out.

Dead Man goes over soon with the tombstone. Michaels, upon recovery, dismissively goes up the aisle – the announce speculating what the future will hold for the Showstopper.

4.Unified Tags Weapons Match: LWO: Carlito/Chavo (w/Crazy) d. Sandman/Dreamer
-Chavo wins his first ever tag title, adding it to his IC title; it’s Carlito’s first title of any type. It’s an ECW-like plunder match, trash cans and stop signs. Crowd’s split, the LWO is a hot act, pushed hard since this current formation; Sandman/Dreamer are more babyface that not, having split from GDI and having feuded with Noble/Kendrick. It’s nothing but plunder and color and eventually Sandman doing his farewell job. Backstabber. Frog splash. LWO goes over.

5.Worldwide Titles Triple Threat Match: Orton d. Helms d. Jeff
-Helms and Jeff come in as babyface friends; they doubleteam Orton early, but since it’s one fall to a finish, all it takes is one of them to try to get a pinfall and it becomes every man for himself.

Jeff takes some terrible bump that takes him out of the finish – and Orton surprises with an RKO out of nowhere to add the IC title to his previous tag strap. Orton shows the vicious streak by adding a couple of additional RKOs to the fallen Helms, enough such that, a year later, Helms still has yet to return to the ring. Jeff is unable to help, as he was helped from ringside immediately after the fall. The NWA takes the Worldwide belts – Randy Orton surprising many by becoming the Intercontinental Champion.

And now come the singles title matches. NWA is first – there’s a Flair clip package, as if he were to lose his title match tonight, rumor is it will end his career as a full time wrestler. JR and Bradshaw take the announce – both pleased with Orton’s win; JR expresses disappointment with his postmatch actions, but Bradshaw loves it, says that’s the type of spirit that the NWA represents – they will kick your ass and they have kicked ass tonight – he’s glad Brown didn’t win the Contract Match, he couldn’t cut it – but at the biggest show of all time – Wrestlemania XXIII – one NWA wrestler has just beaten two WWF wrestlers for the Worldwide belts and Bradshaw loves it.

6.NWA Championship: Fit Finlay (w/Dean) d. Ric Flair (w/AA)
-It’s the match you’d expect from the two; Fit is positioned as the face of the relaunched NWA, tough, stiff, absolute no-nonsense – he and Malenko, himself a former NWA Champion – are the epitome of the new NWA.

Flair gives it all he has, he and Arn cheat when they can get away with it; Flair runs the ropes, does the buckle flip; the flop, the Fargo strut, the rocket launching – Flair gets color – there’s Arn/Dean shoving on the outside, the two friends from the Brain Trust getting into it – Flair gets the figure four – but Fit breaks it and pins the Nature Boy clean and in the middle of the ring with the emerald froisien.

Flair hands the NWA belt to Fit – Fit Finlay is the new NWA Heavyweight Champion. The NWA locker room comes to the ring to hug Flair – it’s the end of Ric Flair’s career as a full time wrestler – Flair walking back up the aisle, waving goodbye to the crowd.

Josh Matthews and Al Snow (who is always introduced as former Intercontinental Champion Al Snow) then take the announce; they quickly put Flair over but then complain – what is the ECW Title, which clearly is the legitimate world heavyweight title, no offense to Fit Finlay or to Lashley and Booker – but CM Punk is the world champion and everyone knows it – what is the ECW Title doing 3rd from last at Wrestlemania? This should be the main event, not the Cell and not the WWF Title – and you know the Champ is gonna be hot about it.

With the match about to start, after the 3 wrestlers have entered, Joey and Taz, unexpectedly have the mics turn back on and join Matthews and Snow on the announce. Joe and Taz say that with Van Dam and Sabu wrestling for the ECW Title at Wrestlemania, they’re doing this match and they don’t care what anyone else says – so all 4 men are on the announce, the GDI guys clearly rooting for Punk; Joey and Taz both rooting for Van Dam, while everyone pays respect to Sabu.

7.ECW Championship 3 Way Dance: CM Punk (w/Maria) d. RVD d. Sabu-The Detroit connections with RVD and Sabu are heavily played up – as are the obvious ECW connections the two have. It’s an ECW match; Van Dam, of course, given the contractual stip negotiated by Heyman when RVD came to the WWF a half dozen years earlier, has all of his matches under No DQ rules.

So, there are objects, although used judiciously – Sabu will have a spot where he pulls out a glass light tube and levels Punk with it – effectively serving as a way to get Sabu and Van Dam back together for a series of double team spots – the WWF announce and presumably most of the 74,000 in the crowd pulling for – perhaps expecting Punk to get put away so Sabu and Van Dam can square off – but Punk is able to barely, each time barely squeak by – Punk escaping elimination multiple times – until his girl Maria (mmmm, Maria) plants the ECW Title belt into the side of Sabu’s head. Sabu’s distracted enough to allow a desperate Punk to roll him up and eliminate him.

Punk gets Van Dam clean – Go To Sleep, Pepsi Plunge. 1-2-3.

CM Punk pins both Van Dam and Sabu and keeps the ECW Title.

That wraps up Sabu and, to date, Van Dam.

Joey and Taz have to shake it off – putting over the WWF Title as a David/Goliath; the veteran Booker against the unbeatable monster, the Executioner Lashley. One of these men about to take the vacant WWF Title belt and become the first African American World Heavyweight Champion.

8.WWF Title: Booker T d. Executioner Lashley
-And in a stunning turn of events; one of the more improbable turnarounds in WWF history – Booker T is the new WWF Champion.

Book had largely been forgotten since coming from NWA, pushed aside for the superior workers who moved ahead of him on the card; in fact, in numbers of PPV’s, Book did not make the card, positioned as “the guy who only wrestled when he needed the money.”

Book’s career resurgence began when he teamed with another veteran who felt he had been overlooked, Bradshaw in an oil and water tag team, the two men united only by veteran camaraderie. They took and lost the tag straps; Book then running Bradshaw into retirement. That was immediately followed by the introduction of Porter and Burke (Porter spent the 90s in jail, his favorite wrestler was Book, then of Harlem Heat in the NWA, he wrote to Book – Book responded, they became friends, Book sending him wrestling tapes, saying he’d train him when he got out – Porter, along with Porter’s childhood friend Burke, took Book up on it, moving to Houston, Book trained them and here they are) who Book has christened with the name Heat. Book teaches them the ropes; they’ve rejuvenated Book with the fire of his youth.

Lashley’s a monster. And dominates here; kicking Book around just as he has everyone, from Benoit to Hogan to Rey to HHH to PAUL and Kane – and just as he kicked Book around at Survivor Series – Lashley clearly destined to win this match, to become WWF Champion, to dominate the company perhaps for years to come – he can’t possibly be overcome –

And then Book battles back.

Book does a total Hulking up – drawing strength from some heretofore unseen and unknown place – Book, driven by the need, the hunger, the passion given to him by Porter and Burke – he comes back, chops, suplexes – axe kick – a Harlem Hangover –

And a pinfall.

An absolutely stunning result – Booker T is handed the WWF Title – Lashley attempts to attack – but Heat runs in for the face save – a Yakuza kick by Porter lays Lashley out – Heat laying Lashley out on a table, the announce and the fans understanding that Dominators through tables are the ways in which Lashley has ended the careers of WWF legends – and Book hits a second Harlem Hangover, sending Lashley crashing through the table and to the mat.

Book/Porter/Burke – all winners tonight – Book your new WWF Champion all hitting some We Fly High jump shots as they exit the ring – a huge Heat celebration – Booker T is your WWF Heavyweight Champion!

And then the Cell comes down.

And the match a decade in the making is set.

Matt. Edge. Hell. Cell. Your main event of the evening.

9.Hell in a Cell: Matt Hardy d. Edge
-You know the build by now. Ring Boys. The heel turn. The TLC tag feud. Edge wins the IC with the Clique; Matt turns heel with Bischoff, then quits. “You screwed Matt.” The Unsanctioned Summer Slam ’05 match. The Empty Arena Match at Royal Rumble ’06. Matt beating Flair, Edge beating Michaels at XXII. The year long buildup with 24/7. Jeff’s return. Edge costing Matt the ECW Title at Rumble ’07.

10 years in the making settled in the 3rd Cell match in history.

There has to be the big, giant bump – that’s how the Cell works. They take it together; I see a spot where they’re fighting on the cage – either on top or on the side, however it best works and however much the reconstructed neck of Edge can take. I see them fighting while holding onto the cage – and as opposed to either one of them saving himself – they both let go of the cage in order to fight. They’d rather fight than not crash through a table.

That’s one thing – they have to take the big bump together.

Another thing is the top of the cage has to have a hole in it at some point; either the mutual bump is one they take through the top, like the second Foley bump or the gimmicked Foley bump – or just one of them takes that second bump through the top. Doesn’t matter, but there’s a hole.

Whatever plunder has been left over from the evening that winds up still in the ring or around the ring is used – from table shards to a glass light tube to whatever it is.

It’s Matt, of course, who goes over. It’s a long, exhausting, brutal match. It’s the blowoff – they don’t leave anything in the bag. They each kick out of each other’s finish. Matt hits a second twist of fate, gets the fall. 1-2-3. Boom

Both men have to look as if they’re near death. The announce puts over hard that it’s over. The Matt/Edge feud is over. Wrestlemania XXIII is over.

But it’s not.

‘Cause here comes GDI.

Punk/Kendrick/Noble/Yang/Moore/a debuting Colt Cabana all hit the ring – Colt locking the cage door – and then they beat the holy hell out of Matt Hardy.

Total destruction – only stopped when –

A bloody, battered Edge crawls on top of Matt – putting his body between Matt and GDI to stop the onslaught.

GDI takes a moment so the fans can understand what’s happened, so it can sink in – and then they attack Edge too – GDI putting it to both Edge and Matt –

--Jeff limps in, still selling the bump that caused him to be helped from ringside after losing his IC shot – Jeff tries the door – he can’t get in – he can’t get in the cage door because it’s locked – GDI taunts him – Jeff can’t get in.

But he looks up.

And sees the hole in the top of the cage.

And so he starts to climb.

GDI keeps stomping out Edge and Matt – Jeff climbs to the top of the cage now, the cage door is unlocked, one of the guys, let’s say Jimmy Yang, starts to climb after Jeff – Jeff, keep in mind, the Jeff gimmick is that he’s clean, sober, totally sane – Jeff’s gonna go to the hole and leap into the fucking cage.

Ideally, with a swanton.

Jeff’s not moving after the bump; it’s a six month vacation after the bump for Jeff, so however bad it has to be is how bad it is (and Matt and Edge are getting long, long vacations too – so this can be all the beating you’d want) ideally it’s an all time crazy bump, Jeff intentionally sacrificing himself to save Matt (and Edge).

He wipes out a couple of GDI guys with the bump – but then he now joins Edge and his brother in getting stomped out by GDI –

Until a face save ---

By Paul London.

London ends Wrestlemania XXIII by running into the cage, now unlocked, and cleaning house – London decking all of the heels, Kendrick and Punk coming last – London with the monster face save as the show ends.

That’s XXIII.

In about a month, I’ll be back with something. There’s been something every month since I started; April/May/June will all have a little something, even if it’s small. July has the full build to Summer Slam ’07. Who will take on Punk/Book/Fit for the 3 big straps? What about Orton and the LWO? And the new monster, Eddie Little?

We start all over again with the drive toward Wrestlemania XXIV and the TLC Main Event.

Thanks for reading.  Here's the build.

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