The Three Count

T3C: Wrestlemania 23 Preview – ‘Bald will suit you Vince!’

So we come to the biggest show of the year and a rather strangely constructed Wrestlemania 23 event. Despite being present the Raw tag champs, IC Champion and ECW World Champion aren’t putting their belts on the line. No sign either of a cruiserweight title match or Smackdown tag title match either. Why have titles if they’re not going to be defended on the biggest show of the year? As is often the case Mr McMahon thinks he’s more important than his wrestlers and again will steal the limelight in his Battle of the Billionaires match which will see him doing Kojak impressions for the next few months. Time to preview Wrestlemania 23…

So we come to the biggest show of the year and a rather strangely constructed Wrestlemania 23 event. Despite being present the Raw tag champs, IC Champion and ECW World Champion aren’t putting their belts on the line. No sign either of a cruiserweight title match or Smackdown tag title match either. Why have titles if they’re not going to be defended on the biggest show of the year? As is often the case Mr McMahon thinks he’s more important than his wrestlers and again will steal the limelight in his Battle of the Billionaires match which will see him doing Kojak impressions for the next few months. Time to preview Wrestlemania 23.

World Heavyweight Title: Batista v The Undertaker

Wrestlemania Fact File


Win-Loss Record: 2-0

Ok it’s not quite on the scale of his opponent but Batista hasn’t lost at Wrestlemania. He made his debut at Wrestlemania 20 as part of the Evolution team that defeated The Rock and Mick Foley and then the following year beat Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Title.

The Undertaker

Win-Loss Record: 14-0

Nobody has a Wrestlemania record like The Undertaker and his feat of 14 wins is unlikely ever to be matched. He made his debut way back at Wrestlemania VII defeating Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka and hasn’t looked back since. Amazingly though this is only his second title match at Wrestlemania, the other being at Wrestlemania XIII when he beat Sid for the WWE Title.

The Story Behind the Match

The Undertaker has achieved more than most in WWE but until January 2007 he’d never won the Royal Rumble. Coming in at number 30, he had a golden chance to finally win the Rumble and when he took Shawn Michaels over the top rope, he’d finally won and secured himself a title shot at Wrestlemania. But as has often been the question since the Brand extension, which belt would he choose to go after.

After the usual teasing he decided to stay on Smackdown and challenge Batista for the World Heavyweight Title. It was to be the undefeated streak against the champion.

The rivalry between the two has been intense with Batista declaring that he would end the streak at Wrestlemania. On the March 9th edition of Smackdown, Batista defeated Kane while The Undertaker faced Finlay giving the Irishman a tombstone to win the match. Batista came out and the staredown began as the champ gave Undertaker the thumbs down and Undertaker replied with a throat slash.

The following week Batista appeared on Miz TV who soon got the Batista Bomb after fooling the champ that Undertaker was about to interfere. Later that evening The Undertaker took on King Booker with interference from Finlay while Batista was on commentary. Undertaker threw Finlay into the path of Batista and then left, the champ was not a happy man!

On March 23rd the two title contenders tagged, as they had done at ‘No Way Out’ when losing to Cena and Michaels, but this time they were up against the team of Finlay and King Booker. However, Batista was attacked backstage leaving Undertaker to take on both his opponents alone. As Finlay attacked him with his shillaleigh, Batista finally made it to the ring for the save and then threw Booker into Undertaker and Finlay knocking them both to the canvas then leaving. Taker rose from the canvas and stared at the departed Batista.

With just a week to go to the big show, Batista and Undertaker tagged together again for a No Way Out rematch with Cena and Michaels on Raw. This time, thanks to Michaels they got their revenge. On Smackdown the pair were interviewed by Smackdown GM Teddy Long and there seemed to be no love lost between the two. Batista declared that he had lost his respect for his Wrestlemania opponent and a fight soon broke out with Undertaker being given a spinebuster. As he sat up it was obvious that their match at Wrestlemania 23 would be nothing short of all-out war.

So who’s going to win?

I’m praying that The Undertaker doesn’t lose his unbeaten streak at Wrestlemania. Why build it up so far and then knock it down? When in a few years time he’s inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, that unbeaten streak at Wrestlemania is the main selling point surely? Batista is an ok champ and a win over The Undertaker could step him up to the next level but I just don’t see it happening this Sunday. A Batista heel turn is more favourable giving Undertaker a win by DQ and setting up a rematch at the next PPV now that all WWE PPV’s feature wrestlers from all brands. That would set us up nicely for the summer.

WWE Title: John Cena v Shawn Michaels

Wrestlemania Fact File

John Cena

Win-Loss Record at Wrestlemania: 3-0

Cena has never lost at Wrestlemania having made his debut at Wrestlemania 20. Not only has he not lost but all three victories have been in title matches. He won the US title from The Big Show at Wrestlemania 20, defeated JBL to win the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 21 and retained his WWE Title last year beating Triple H.

Shawn Michaels

Win-Loss Record at Wrestlemania: 5-8

It was way back at Wrestlemania V that Shawn made his Wrestlemania debut teaming up with Marty Jannetty as The Rockers. They competed together at the next three shows winning once and losing twice before the big split. Michaels made his singles debut at Wrestlemania VIII recording a win over Tito Santana. His next three appearances at Wrestlemania were all title matches and he lost the lot! At Wrestlemania IX he lost by DQ to Tatanka in a defence of his IC title, lost that amazing ladder match to Razor Ramon in another IC Title match at Wrestlemania X and then failed to take the WWE Title from Diesel at Wrestlemania XI. His run of losses ended in style at Wrestlemania XII when he finally won the WWE Title beating Bret Hart in the longest ever Wrestlemania match. Injury prevented him from wrestling the following year but at Wrestlemania XIV he didn’t just lose his WWE Title to Steve Austin but got punched by Mike Tyson as well. His back injury meant Michaels didn’t appear at Wrestlemania again until Wrestlemania XIX when he beat Chris Jericho. The following year he lost in the triple threat match against Chris Benoit and Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title, lost again to Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania 21 but last year beat Mr McMahon. Most worrying fact? Michaels has had six title matches at Wrestlemania and just that one win against Bret Hart.

The Story Behind the Match

A title shot at Wrestlemania was almost within Shawn Michael’s reach when just he and The Undertaker were left in the Royal Rumble match this January. However another Royal Rumble victory was not to be as The Deadman finally won the Rumble for the first time. However, Michaels was given another chance to become WWE Champion at Wrestlemania when, after The Undertaker had chosen to challenge Batista for the World Heavyweight Title, a triple threat match was held on Raw to determine the number one challenger for John Cena’s WWE Title. Michaels overcame arch-rivals Edge and Randy Orton to get the title shot and Cena v Michaels at Wrestlemania 23 was confirmed.

A face v face match for the title is a rare occurrence but the big question was, would that still be the case come April 1st? Cena and Michaels weren’t to be just rivals on the road to Wrestlemania but tag partners and World Tag Champions too as they defeated Orton and Edge on January 29 to win the belts. At the ‘No Way Out’ PPV they teamed together to take on Batista and The Undertaker with Cena pinning Undertaker to get the win and all seemed to be well in the tag champions camp.

In many ways the build-up to this match has been similar to when Randy Savage defended his WWE Title against The Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam 92. Both were fan favourites but the interference of Ric Flair and Mr Perfect made fans wonder if one of the title contenders was about to turn heel. It’s been like that between Cena and Michaels as tension and mistrust has risen over the past few weeks. Would Cena turn heel on the man who threatens to take away his cherished WWE Title or was the champ just moments away from Sweet Chin Music?

On the February 26th edition of Raw, the tag champs defended their belts against Edge and Orton and the challengers did their best to damage relationships between Cena and Michaels reminding the champ of the many times Michaels had turned on his partner in the past. Cena and Michaels retained their titles but after nearly superkicking Cena, Raw ended with the pair having a stare down but eventually raising each others arms in victory.

The following week on Raw, Michaels was to face Orton and Cena was up against Edge. Cena was still questioning HBK over what happened last week and wondering why he hadn’t been attacked yet but still offered to help Michaels in his match against Orton only for HBK to say he didn’t need his help. Michaels got the win over Orton but got RKO’d onto a steel chair by his opponent only for Cena to make the save. Michaels later told Cena he’d have his back during his match against Edge but this time it was the champs turn to say he didn’t need his assistance. In the end it was Johnny Nitro who faced Cena and the champ found himself being attacked by both Joey Mercury and Edge. Michaels stood and watched the pair attack Cena and turned away and began to walk back up the ramp only to change his mind and rescue Cena only to then leave the ring and not even look back at the champ.

The tension between the two continued to rise over the coming weeks as, on the March 12th edition of Raw, Cena continued to ask if he could trust Michaels and just when was he going to be stabbed in the back (or at least kicked on the chin!). HBK told Cena how much he wanted to win the title but wasn’t going to attack him and was worried about just when Cena would be attacking him. That night they had to defend their tag titles in a gauntlet against the teams of Benjamin/Haas, Cade/Murdoch and MNM. The champs managed to defeat all three teams (that’s the tag division on Raw finished) but the evening didn’t go without yet more tension being added. Cena put the FU on Murdoch but it was HBK who superkicked Murdoch for the pin and then when under fire from all the tag teams Cena teased hitting Michaels with a steel chair but instead hitting Charlie Haas. The distrusting pair left separately but that superkick still hadn’t been delivered.

The following week Michaels was due to meet JBL but rather than come out of retirement, JBL was intent on dishing the dirt and taunting HBK by criticizing him for not attacking Cena yet and claiming Michaels knew he couldn’t beat the champion. Later that evening Cena defeated Chris Benoit while Michaels was on commentary. HBK again teased Sweet Chin Music but instead shook the champ’s hand. Cena scooped HBK up for the FU but put him down. Surely something was going to happen soon? We didn’t have long to wait. On March 26, there was a rematch from ‘No Way Out’ as the tag champs again took on Batista and The Undertaker. This time Batista and Undertaker got their revenge but only because Michaels finally delivered Sweet Chin Music to Cena leaving him flat out on the canvas and giving Batista an easy pin.

So who’s going to win?

A Cena victory really makes him the dominant force on Raw having already defeated most of the other challengers. I think a successful defence is on the cards but will it be the great performance that we all want to see? Michaels doesn’t know how to wrestle a bad match and I don’t think he’s about to learn what that’s like this Sunday. A heel turn is a possibility and sets up a different feel to the inevitable rematch against Cena at Backlash but I think the title is staying with the champ and I have very personal reasons, which will be explained sooner rather than later, why I hope that is the case.

US Title Chris Benoit v MVP

Wrestlemania Fact File

Chris Benoit

Win-Loss Record: 2-5

A mixed bag of results for Benoit at Wrestlemania that’s for sure. At Wrestlemania XVI he won the IC Title in the triple threat match against Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle but then lost the European Title half of that match. His greatest moment of course was winning the World Heavyweight Title against Triple H and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XX but last year he dropped the US Title to JBL. Could history be about to repeat itself?

MVP: Debut at Wrestlemania

The Story Behind the Match

MVP, despite jobbing to most of the big hitters on Smackdown, still begged Teddy Long for a US Title match against Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania 23. Long agreed to consider the request. On the March 16th edition of Smackdown, MVP beat El Grande Latte, called Benoit a coward and finally heard the news he longed to hear as Teddy granted him his wish and gave him a shot at the US Title. Since then MVP has been beating unknown wrestlers and getting on Benoit’s nerves.

So who’s going to win?

Well the word is that Benoit is off to Raw so history could well repeat itself this weekend with Benoit again losing a title match at Wrestlemania. It’s a long way from headlining Wrestlemania XX but hopefully he’ll drag a good match out of the guy in the horrible costume. MVP as US Champ? The guy will be even more unbearable than he is now!

WWE Women’s Title LumberJill Match: Melina v Ashley

Wrestlemania Fact File

Both Melina and Ashley are making their in-ring Wrestlemania debuts

The Story Behind the Match

It’s Wrestlemania so there must be some naked Diva flesh in Playboy. This time around it’s Ashley hence the fact the Raw Diva Search winner who always seems to be getting injured in the ring now has a title shot. On the March 5th edition of Raw, Mickie James met Melina in a Falls Count Anywhere match with Ashley as the guest ring announcer. Melina retained her women’s title then got in Ashley’s face at ringside only for Ashley to push her over. Later that week on Smackdown, Ashley was being interviewed by Miz talking about her Playboy shoot and how jealous Melina was of her. Cue Melina to come out, she is on Raw after all, to tell Ashley “I should be getting the attention, people would like to se me in Playboy but they have to settle for you.” Sounds fair to me!

More rows on the March 12th edition of Raw as Melina took on Torrie, all hell broke loose with interference by Mickie James, Victoria and Ashley who took out the women’s champ. Tension continued to rise on Smackdown as tag champs London and Kendrick, with Ashley took on MNM. More fighting between the pair of Diva’s. The feud got racier on Raw the following week as Melina beat Candice in a Bra and Panties match only for Melina to get stripped by Ashley. Back on Smackdown, Kendrick and London had a rematch with MNM and Ashley brawled with Melina after she inevitably interfered. The week leading up to Wrestlemania saw Team Ashley take on Team Melina and an announcement that the title match would be a LumberJill match.

So who’s going to win?

Not quite what we’ve come to expect from the Diva’s but Trish, Lita and Molly are all history and it’s sad to see Victoria and Mickie not getting a proper chance to shine at Wrestlemania after all their efforts in the ring. At least the stipulation means all the Diva’s can appear giving plenty of eye candy. The build-up has been rather predictable though the fact both are allied to decent tag teams does help. Shame actually they couldn’t have made it a six-person match with the tag and women’s titles on the line. Who wins? Well, the momentum seems to be with Ashley but I go for a Melina win here.

The Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Edge v Randy Orton v Finlay v Mr Kennedy v Matt Hardy v CM Punk v Jeff Hardy

Wrestlemania Fact File

King Booker

Win-Loss Record: 1-3

Not a great record that’s for sure with just one win while tagging with RVD. Most memorable moment was his unsuccessful challenge for Triple H’s World Heavyweight Title and like all of us he’d love to forget last years match against The Boogeyman.

Mr Kennedy: Wrestlemania debut

CM Punk: Wrestlemania debut

Randy Orton:

Win-Loss Record: 1-2

Only win was in the tag match at Wrestlemania XX that saw Evolution defeat the Rock and Sock Connection. His two other appearances have seen defeat by The Undertaker and his loss in the World Heavyweight Title match last year when pinned by Rey Mysterio.


Win-Loss Record: 5-0

Ok not quite on the Undertaker scale but impressive none the less and he has form in this type of match as three of his Wrestlemania victories have been in ladder matches. Two with Christian and the third, his win in the first ever Money in the Bank Ladder match which of course led eventually to his capture of the WWE Title at New Years Revolution. Strangely though he’s still yet to have a singles title match at Wrestlemania despite his high profile this past couple of years.


Win-Loss Record: 0-1

Just one Wrestlemania appearance losing in last year’s MITB match.

Matt Hardy

Win-Loss Record: 1-4

Just one win in his only singles match at Wrestlemania when he successfully defended his cruiserweight title against Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania 19. His three defeats were all alongside Jeff including two TLC matches.

Jeff Hardy

Win-Loss Record: 0-3

First ever singles match at Wrestlemania after losing those three tag matches with Matt. First appearance at Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 18.

The Story Behind The Match

The build-up to this match has been dominated by the gradual disintegration in the relationship between Randy Orton and Edge. Over the weeks Orton, after qualifying for the match by beating Ric Flair and Carlito on Raw, has had his eyes set on winning this match and getting a title shot even if it means beating his tag partner Edge. On the March 12th edition of Raw, Orton confronted Edge only to be told that the fact is Edge has been in 12 ladder matches and this is Orton’s first. Just to cheese him off even more, Edge told Orton that he’d be facing Lashley in ECW that week. On that show more tension arose between the two with Orton claiming Edge had been kissing up to Vince but Edge assured him he’d have his back during the match with Lashley. During that match Edge got himself chucked out after using the ECW belt against Lashley leading to more rows between him and Orton. The fact Edge left with a smile on his face said plenty. The following week on Raw, Orton confronted Edge over what happened in ECW and told his tag partner that there was a Battle Royal that night for Edge’s spot in the MITB match (Edge hadn’t been wrestling for a while due to injury). Edge managed to win that and save his spot but later that night irritated Orton even more by getting him disqualified in his match with Jeff Hardy. Since then Orton has seemed to be getting rather friendly with Mr Kennedy. This week on Raw, Edge had a eight-man MITB Cutting Edge slagging off all and sundry and tension between all concerned in the match.

So who’s going to win?

This match shapes the future of the WWE for the coming year. Both winners of the match have gone on to use their title shot to win titles so whose turn could it be this year? The main tension is between Edge and Orton while CM Punk seems to be getting a push with impressive performances this week. I believe this is between Edge, Orton and Mr Kennedy. I see Orton and Mr Kennedy teaming up to deny Edge another victory (he can lose his unbeaten streak but still say he’s never been pinned at Wrestlemania) then Kennedy can turn on Orton to get the win

The Battle of the Billionaires Hair v Hair Match Mr McMahon v Donald Trump Umaga v Lashley

Wrestlemania Fact File

Umaga: Debut at Wrestlemania


Win-Loss Record: 0-1

His only appearance at Wrestlemania was last year when he lost in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.

The Story Behind the Match

Always keen to include celebrities around Wrestlemania time, Vince couldn’t resist including the argument between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell on Raw regardless of how much the crowd hated it. Eventually all the ribbing led to Donald Trump himself coming to Raw and challenging McMahon to a match at Wrestlemania. As the insults were traded between the two a match was confirmed but not with the billionaires in the ring (though I’m sure McMahon will find his way in there sooner or later). Instead it was decided each would nominate a wrestler to represent them but whoever’s choice lost they’d have to lose their hair! So who would end up a bald as a coot, Trump or McMahon?

Vince chose the Inter-Continental Champion, Umaga as his representative but who would Trump choose? On the February 26th edition of Raw, all was revealed as ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley came to the ring and began to brawl with Umaga.

With Lashley on Trump’s side, times were destined to become hard for the ECW Champion as Mr McMahon made his way over to ECW on a regular basis. On the February 27th show McMahon set up a title defence for Lashley against Hardcore Holly with the match in a cage and Lashley had to win inside five minutes to keep his title. Inevitably Umaga turned up and threw a chair into the cage but it was Holly who got the chair shot and Lashley kept his belt. Lashley and Umaga fought and it was advantage Lashley as Umaga found himself trapped under the cage.

At the Smackdown taping that week a livid McMahon turned the heat up on Lashley further slapping the ECW Champ. The following week on Raw another announcement was due, that of who would be the special guest referee for the match. Vince had proposed his son Shane but after a few false alarms during which it looked as either Eric Bischoff, Mick Foley or Shane McMahon might be given the job, Shane announced that the board of directors had decided it would be Stone Cold Steve Austin who’d referee the match much to the disgust of Vince. The following night on ECW McMahon was again present and called out Lashley demanding an apology for choosing to represent Trump. Lashley did apologise but only for not beating him down when being slapped by McMahon on Smackdown. Lashley drove McMahon down to his knees and left the ring. Later that evening Austin returned to ECW and told fans he’d call the match right down the middle and wouldn’t be on anyone’s side, yeah we believe you Steve. Anyone getting in his way would receive a stunner, now that I can believe.

March 12th saw the official contract signing and celebrities including The Rock giving their views on who’d win. Backstage Trump was asking McMahon’s official hairdresser (due probably to get a month or two off soon) if Vince’s hair was real or not and she wasn’t telling. The two billionaires entered the ring along with Umaga and Lashley for the contract signing and out came Austin who had a right go at both Trump and McMahon, Trump infuriated McMahon by showing him an image of a bald Vince McMahon leading to the pair fighting. Trump pushed a shocked McMahon over a table and onto his back leaving him shocked.

The confrontations continued on Raw the following week as Lashley became the first man to break the Masterlock. Backstage Eugene, as he does, spilled a drink down Vince leading to Eugene facing Umaga in the main event, predictably losing and then having his hair shaved off, well he did need a haircut to be honest. More problems for Lashley on Smackdown later that week as he had to face Orton and Mr Kennedy in a tables match.

A week to go to Wrestlemania and Austin was on Raw again, unhappy that he’d been receiving presents from Trump that in the end turned out to be from McMahon. Cue a middle finger FU to Vince in the car park. Vince had challenged Lashley to a no holds barred match but of course had an evil plan up his sleeve. A host of wrestlers attacked Lashley and after a low blow Vince got the 1-2-3 followed by another attack by Umaga.

So who’s going to win?

Do I really have to tell you? Here’s a sneak preview of what Vince will be saying in April: “But you promised me it’d grow back!” “The blonde wig or the brown one.” “Actually the Kurt Angle look suits me.” “Look, it’s a miracle my hair grew back overnight.” And what he won’t be saying: “I’ll be there in a minute Linda, just brushing my hair.” Lashley is getting a mega push at the moment and I can’t see anything stopping him getting the win. It’s just a shame neither the IC Title or ECW World Title are being defended on the biggest PPV of the year.

The New Breed v The ECW Originals

The Story behind the Match

When Vince McMahon decided to revive ECW some of us feared the worse but none of us could have imagined it’d have been quite so disappointing or have imagined a PPV so bad as ‘December to Dismember.’ On January 30th, Mr McMahon finally made his way to ECW and he was not a happy man. He wasn’t impressed with the history of ECW (despite all the money it’s made him) and slagged off stars such as Sandman, Sabu, Mahoney and Dreamer. He proclaimed that he would change ECW for the better and introduced Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Kevin Thorn and Marcus Cor Von as the New Breed of ECW wrestlers who would destroy the ECW Originals.

So now it’s Wrestlemania and the old meet the new. Big questions include who will CM Punk side with and is this the last time we’ll see the ECW Originals on the big stage?

So who’s going to win?

I fear it’s the New Breed who will win the day and carry ECW onto whatever lies ahead whether that be good, bad or just oblivion. It’s disappointing but inevitable. RVD is probably on his way to TNA, the same can possibly be said for Sabu and Dreamer/Sandman have certainly seen better days. It says something doesn’t it when the ECW World Title isn’t even being defended at Wrestlemania and its champion is likely to leave for Raw before the summer is out. It really should have been left alone.

Kane v The Great Khali

Wrestlemania Fact File


Win-Loss Record: 3-5

Not a great singles record at Wrestlemania as he’s won just one out of six. Then again two have been against The Undertaker so a great record is not to be expected. His one singles victory came when he won the Hardcore Title beating Raven and The Big Show.

The Great Khali: Debut at Wrestlemania

The Story Behind the Match

After failing to win the first ever Money in the Bank Ladder match, Kane had a chance to qualify for this years when he faced King Booker on Smackdown. Cue interference from The Great Khali and it was the royal one who was starting to plan for the ladder match, the Red Monster was not a happy bunny.

On the February 26th edition of Raw, The Great Khali accepted the Master Lock challenge only for Kane to come out and chokeslam Masters while Khali wisely left the ring. On March 9th at Smackdown, Kane was being interviewed by Kristal after his defeat by Batista and out came Khali to attack him. The following week on Raw things turned nasty in a film promotion kind of way as Kane interfered in Khali’s match against Jeff Hardy carrying a large steel hook connected to a steel chain just like his character in ‘See No Evil.’ Anyone would think it was out on DVD! That week on Smackdown Kane destroyed Daivari dragging him out the arena with his hook. This week on Raw, it was Khali v Flair and guess who turns up with his hook. Kane (yes you guessed right) knocks the great one down with a bunch of right hands and Khali rolls out the ring as Kane tries to hit him with his hook. No real confrontation on the final Smackdown before Wrestlemania just Kane threatening Khali on video.

Who’s going to win?

A difficult choice and face it most of us will be in the toilet or making tea during this match. Khali is a likely winner as Cena will eventually be stuck in a feud with him I guess, though hopefully not a long one. It serves the purpose of promoting Kane’s movie but could be the disaster of the night.

Well it looks a decent card with the main title matches and the Money in the Bank Ladder match stand-outs.

Stephen Ashfield