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Countdown to WrestleMania XXIII
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff
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It's time, ladies and gentlemen, for your main event of the year.

Yes, after months of hype, WrestleMania 23 is finally here, and the SLAM! Wrestling staff is out in full force. As you have already seen and will continue to see over the course of this weekend, SLAM! Wrestling will be providing readers with unparalleled coverage of wrestling's ultimate showcase.

Of course, our efforts include our traditional PPV preview, with a little twist. Not only will you find out who we like to win each match on the card, but also find out a bit more about the SLAMmers. Like the WWE superstars, we are "all grown up" and now take the opportunity to look back on our childhood. Enjoy SLAM! Wrestling's look at WrestleMania XXIII.

WHAT YOU THINK
Who do you think will win the Money In The Bank match at WrestleMania? Ken Kennedy - 23%
Randy Orton - 22%
Jeff Hardy - 20%
Edge - 14%
CM Punk - 13%
Matt Hardy - 5%
Finlay - 2%
King Booker - 2%

Name: Jason Clevett
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling: 2003
Favourite wrestler growing up: Bret Hart

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
Can Undertaker pull something great out of Batista? This is WrestleMania and a chance for Batista to really bring his working shoes. I can't wait to see Undertaker's entrance into a giant stadium. I have to give it to 'Taker here as I can't see the streak ending.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
This is the hardest match of the show to predict for me. Which is something that appeals to me about it. I expect an incredibly split crowd, and Michaels to once again pull off something special. I'm going to have to flip a coin here and say... Cena retains.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
The "real" main event. This is going to be overbooked like crazy. Vince is getting his head shaved.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
I hate that Edge is in this match because it makes it either a) really predictable or b) a lousy ending to Edge's winning streak (which I would love to see actually in a streak vs. streak match with 'Taker in the next few years.) Should be a showstealer and I have to give it to Edge.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer/Sandman vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
ECW! ECW! This for me is going to be exciting. As much as I dislike the new ECW, there is a nostalgia aspect of seeing Sandman, Sabu and Dreamer in 'Mania for the first time. In an ideal world, this match would end with the Extremists victorious after all they have done. But this is WWECW, and the New Breed wins.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
There are 105 restrooms in Ford Field. This will be the chance to use them. Ashley does not belong in this match. Melina wins.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
This could be the Lesnar/Goldberg of Mania 23. Almost makes me with WWE had come to terms with Hogan to face Khali because at least the crowd reaction would have been amazing. Kane can't drag anything good out of Khali but takes the win.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
The second year in a row that Benoit is relegated to US Title status. Hopefully he can give MVP a career making performance on his way to losing the belt. MVP wins.



Name: Brian Elliott
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling: 2006
Favourite wrestler growing up: The Undertaker

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
As a childhood fan of The Undertaker, I have (mostly!) enjoyed his previous 14 successes at WrestleMania. With Batista's in-ring performances more lethargic than ever, I expect a win for the Deadman.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
This face vs. face matchup has inspired some of the best WWE TV in quite some time. In a match that can hopefully live up to that hype, Cena retains.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
Though he is Trump's protege in storyline terms, the irony is that Lashley is the product of a behind the scenes mega-push by McMahon. The match may be secondary to the inevitable shaving of Vince's head, but Lashley will have to impress in taking this one.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
The array of young talent in this match is tremendous, backed up by two seasoned pros in Finlay and Booker. This should be an exciting contest, and I predict a surprise as Punk wins.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
This is a remarkably uninspiring contest which has no place on a PPV event, and is hardly the type of match to highlight the talent on the ECW roster. RVD, Sabu, Sandman and Dreamer to take the win.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
Ashley's curvaceous, tomboy character may be easy on the eye, but her wrestling matches are even less appealing than a Playboy centrefold featuring Roseanne Barr. Melina to retain in a dreadful match.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
Given Khali's incredibly limited wrestling ability, let's hope they keep this one short. Kane seems the obvious choice for a babyface pop, but I think Khali will be kept strong, and will triumph here.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
Benoit and the U.S. title have been rather quiet on Smackdown recently, but I expect this to be a good matchup, especially given promising reports from the house shows. MVP to capture the gold before Benoit heads to Raw.


Name: Bob Kapur
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
1998
Favourite wrestler growing up: Superfly Jimmy Snuka

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
Undertaker's streak is still real to me, damnit. A year ago, I could see Batista as the guy to break it, but not anymore. Taker is your new champ.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Too bad about the superkick on Monday - I would have liked the awkward tension to continue, as it was pretty entertaining. Shawn does his part in passing Cena the torch.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/VinceMcMahon)
Lashley's been built up like the favourite, and it will prove true when he wins. I'm hoping for Ted Turner to run in and help Trump shave Vince's head.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
Kennedy is this year's Edge in terms of awesome heeldom, so he's my pick to win. CM Punk will shine, but it's still too early for him - next year, though.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
My heart's pulling for the veterans, but my head knows better. The New Breed will win handily, shutting the casket on the old ECW forever.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
I know other writers hate the Diva stuff... but I'm still a horny perv at heart, so I say bring it on! Ashley has Playboy momentum, so she wins.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
I'd sooner have my eyes ripped out, like in Kane's movie, than watch this. Bring back the Divas. Khali sucks, but look for him to win anyway.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
MVP? WTF? When Flair, Finlay, Taylor and Regal aren't on the card? Benoit wins.


Name: Amy Lawson
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
2006
Favorite wrestler growing up: Since I only started watching about two years ago, it's been Edge, and it'll stay Edge. Ah, those blonde locks.

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
I don't see Undertaker taking his first 'Mania loss here, but you never know. They've pumped up the match, but not so much Batista. I'm sticking with the Dead Man.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
I like Cena, but I'm tired of him being the champion. I see Triple H making an appearance (a girl can hope), and Michaels taking the title.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
Lashley has been everywhere and they've been promoting him big, while Umaga gets more annoying by the match. Lashley with the win, Trump with his hair.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
I favour Edge for obvious reasons, but he's already won. I'll go out on a limb and say Jeff Hardy, with hopes that he'll dance if he wins.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke:
I see the Originals being solid and leading, but predict the New Breed will do something underhanded to win.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
I have to agree with some of my SLAM! comrades, and say that since Ashley was on the cover of Playboy, this is her time to win.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
I'd like to see Kane win, but he won't. With such limited "wrestling" skills, and I use that term loosely, Khali shouldn't even be in a 'Mania contest.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
Benoit is an old favorite, and I like him. MVP is pretty cocky (take his entrance, for example), and that hasn't boded well for other stars so I see Benoit taking the title.


Name: Matt Mackinder
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
2006
Favorite wrestler growing up:
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
In my eyes, this is the most anticipated match due to ‘Taker’s undefeated streak. Batista is a horrible champion, but Vince likes the big men. I hope Undertaker wins, but my gut says Batista leaves Motown with the belt.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Cena is almost a modern-day Hulk Hogan with his following and his Chain Gang. HBK maybe has one more run, but does it come here? Yeah, why not. Michaels triumphs.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
Should this match be the last one of the night, I’ll puke. Vince thinks he IS WrestleMania and that may be the case, but he’ll be the one bald after Lashley defeats Jamal, er, Umaga.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
If there’s justice, CM Punk wins. Kennedy is solid, so he may win. Is eight men too crowded for this match? I like Punk and I’ll go out on a limb and say he grabs the briefcase.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer/Sandman vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
Sadly, the swan song for the old ECW. Anyone can gripe and moan about it, but it’s the unfortunate truth. I see Burke pinning The Sandman to get the win, but the Originals get a standing ‘O.’

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
If Ashely wasn’t in Playboy, would she ever get this big of a push? No sir. Does she win the title? Probably.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
From the “why is this match on the card” department, I hope this one jerks the curtain and Khali’s bellowing screams don’t echo all night long. Khali wins, but who really cares?

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
This is the best Benoit gets? Come on, WWE. Benoit should retain, but I won’t rule out the Terrell Owens rip-off winning the gold. Nah. Benoit keeps the title.


Name: Andy McNamara
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
2005
Favourite wrestler growing up (only one wrestler or tag team):
Hulk Hogan, brrrrrother!

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
The story of championship vs. undefeated streak is solid and this one could go either way. Batista's in-ring and promos have been weak since his return so my pick is that the streak lives on and Undertaker has one last run with the title.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
With the superkick landed this week on Raw Cena wins the war at 'Mania. It will be a battle and I think Cena comes out looking like a million bucks after it's all said and done.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
No way is Trump getting shaved, and Lashley got smacked around got this past Monday. The match will be more sizzle then steak, and the most entertaining part will be seeing a bald Vince!

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
Two too many wrestlers and the ring will just be crowded. CM Punk will steal the show, but Mr. Kennedy takes the briefcase.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
ECW is a dead brand, and I have no interest whatsoever in The New Breed. Sadly, The New Breed wins in an average match.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
Not a classic by any means but these two ladies have worked very hard to improve their games. Ashley's Playboy has been pushed to the moon so she becomes the new champion.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
This has worst Mania match of all time written all over it. The Great Khali remains unbeatable as Kane comes close but fails in the end.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
I wish Benoit had a higher profile match at the grand-daddy of them all. MVP gives The Crippler a run for his money, but ends up tapping out.


Name: Ryan Nation
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
2005
Favourite wrestler growing up:
If you were a child of 80s like myself, then you were a Hulkamaniac…or was that Kamalamaniac?

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
Taker's streak will live on to Orlando for WrestleMania 24 - Cheeseburger in Paradise. I predict the fans at Ford Field will turn on Batista.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Although I predict Cena will walk out the champion; HBK will prove again why he is Mr. WrestleMania. Regardless, they will still be the tag champs which should make Raw interesting.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
Trump doesn't like to lose, and I highly doubt he will come out anything but a winner. McMahon will morph into Lex Luthor - think Gene Hackman's portrayal from Superman.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
This is too difficult to call. All of the competitors deserve the win. It would be nice to see CM Punk go over to calm down the Internet fans.

Eight-Man Match: Sandman/RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
Although the late Ed Farhat (The Sheik) will be inducted into the WWE HOF Saturday, his two protégés Sabu and RVD along with their fellow ECW alumni will be defeated.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
Ashley will win a la the Playboy push. Perhaps Foley will appear and cause Melina to lose the championship since she cost him his job. Okay, maybe I'm reaching…

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
I predict Khali over Kane. Deep down I want the Grudge Match to turn into a Karoke Battle. If that happens, the winner will be the fans.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
The Rabid Wolverine will make MVP tap to continue his title reign.


Name: Greg Oliver
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling: 1996
Favourite wrestler growing up (only one wrestler or tag team): "Ravishing" Rick Rude

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
I don't think anyone believes that Undertaker will lose here. It's possible, but only with a full-fledged Batista turn out of nowhere, with the help of somebody.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Match of the night? There's a good chance. Michaels lays down after a great battle.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
If this was anything longterm, then Trump should be shaved; but it isn't, so Vince will be shaved. More importantly, will Lashley develop any personality?

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
Probably the most intriguing match of the night. I'll pick CM Punk since he's proven his loyalty by laying down for slugs like Bob Holly and is over.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
Will there ever be payback for the vets? Nope. The "New Breed" wins and we probably won't see Sabu again.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
The way they are pushing Ashley is a good indication that she'll win.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
Kane has been putting others over recently, so I see him being the one to defeat Khali once and for all.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
MVP is the male version of Ashley - being pushed hard when he's not ready. He'll score the upset to lead to a longer feud where he'll improve working with Benoit a lot.



Name:
Chris Schramm
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling:
1997
Favourite wrestler growing up:
Mulkey Brothers

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
Undertaker's streak is going to end, but with no disrepect to Batista, it won't be this year. Undertaker is winding down, but he has a few more years, and an opponent more needed of the upset will come.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Should be the match of the show. Michaels and Cena could have one of the best matches, with all credit going to Michaels. Cena should hold onto the title, but Michaels will be the one stealing the match.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
This one is just simple logic. Trump won't lose his hair. Although, if he was smart, he would. I mean what publicity would that be? Umaga, because McMahon is in
your corner, you will be losing. And thus, probably fired (in storyline).

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
Wide open. I'd like to see CM Punk win this one, but Edge has a streak. But does that mean he has to win? Not sure. CM Punk is the most needed of this. He is
new and this could push him close to main event status, but most needed doesn't always win. My pick? Edge.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
I hope ECW shines. There show is tanking. PPVs are dead. This could really resurrect them. But knowing WWE and McMahon, he will have Thorn and his posse
win, thus further burying ECW.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
WWE was hoping the Playboy issue would really help Massaro. Guess what? No one cares. The bits and matches building up this match have been yawned by fans. Melina will win and Massaro will follow the fate of other WWE divas who were in Playboy (minus Torrie).

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
I expect this match to be near five stars with the men using classic ring psychology to tear the crowds off their seats. Sorry, I mistaken read the match, thought it was Steamboat vs. Flair in 1989. Bigger is better, right Vince? I give this to Khali is a "bathroom break" match.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
MVP is a dud. Benoit is deserving. I expect a short match with Benoit getting the win. That is all.


Name: Nick Tylwalk
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling: 1998
Favourite wrestler growing up: The British Bulldogs

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
One last title run for the Dead Man? I suspect that's what's in the cards here. Sorry Animal, but you're about to become the next victim of Undertaker's undefeated streak.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Great build-up for this one, as they played the old "rivals as tag team champs" storyline perfectly. A win here only makes Cena an even bigger star.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
Much more interesting than if Trump and Vince were not involved. I expect Lashley to win or some type of screw-job finish.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
Always a fun match with many different ways to book the ending. I'll pick the upset and take Kennedy to win, with Edge and Orton feuding after neutralizing each other.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
Never thought I'd see the day when classic ECW stars would perform at WrestleMania and I wouldn't care, but that day is here. Next!

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
Five years from now we'll look back astounded that this match was on the WrestleMania card... unless the Women's Division continues to go downhill.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
Kind of like the Lashley versus Umaga match without the interesting personalities added. Kane will still be over if he loses, so that's my guess.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
One of my favorite wrestlers (along with Michaels) in a pretty nasty spot on the card. He will make MVP look good in defeat.


Name: Jon Waldman
Year started with SLAM! Wrestling: 2000
Favourite wrestler growing up: Mr. Perfect

Picks:

World Heavyweight Championship: Batista vs. Undertaker
If you told me this was the main event a year ago, I would've said Batista in a cakewalk. Now, however, Big Dave is a shell of his former self. 'Taker takes one last ride with the strap.

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Well, you can't have two big belt changes again...can you? It won't be a reversal of WM XXI my friends. Cena keeps the god-awful spinny strap.

Hair vs. Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (w/Donald Trump) vs. Umaga (w/Vince McMahon)
We know Lashley wins. My fear, though, is that Umaga will suffer, especially after Armando Alejandro Estrada is fired as punishment.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Ken Kennedy vs. Fit Finlay vs. King Booker
If I had any faith in WWE bookers I'd pick CM Punk, but Mr. Kennedy is the golden boy here and is the second-most deserving of the big push. Perhaps he comes at the end of the night and beats Cena for the belt.

Eight-Man Match: RVD/Sabu/Sandman/Tommy Dreamer vs. Kevin Thorn/Marcus Cor Von/Matt Striker/Elijah Burke
In theory, this should be a Survivor Series match. In practice, as an eight-man schmozfest, this is bowling-shoe ugly. Give the W to the New Breed.

Women's Title Lumberjill Match: Melina vs. Ashley Massaro
This is the perfect setting for a surprise. If not for the messed up life, I'd say Chyna comes in and destroys Ashley, proclaiming herself the Playboy queen. Instead, it will be a jealous Beth Phoenix. Melina wins here.

Grudge Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali
The only way the buildup will be worth it is if the hook gets used somewhere here. Khali wins and puts Kane on the shelf so the Red Machine can lose his Buddha Belly.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
Benoit deserves better than the Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger reject. With two titles changing hands tonight, you have to figure this one stays around Chris's waist.


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-- compiled by Jon Waldman