Somehow, it’s already been more than 10 years since WrestleMania 23. And of course, when I say (or type) the words “WrestleMania 23,” the thing that comes to your mind immediately is the Vince McMahon vs. Donald Trump hair vs. hair match (by proxy). Do you remember another match from that card off the top of your head? Do you remember which match went on last? If so, you retain information a lot better than I do.
Anyway, if you’ll recall, the “Battle of the Billionaires” pitted Donald Trump’s chosen avatar, ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, against Vince McMahon’s stand-in, Intercontinental Champion Umaga. The loser billionaire would have their head shaved by the winner. And to ensure no funny business went down (read: to ensure maximum funny business went down at all cost), the special guest referee for the match was none other than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
That much you probably remember about the match. But did you remember that the barber chair got its own entrance?
Yeah, I didn’t remember that, either. Like, not even a little bit. I also didn’t remember Lilian Garcia flubbing the introduction to the match harder than the Absent-Minded Professor when she said — and this is absolutely, 100 percent verbatim — “The following match is the Battle of the Billionaires! The billionaire who represents … loses the match, will have his head shaved off, in this very ring!” You nailed it, Lilian. The Grammy Award-winning Lilian Garcia, everyone!
Anyway, as pretty much everyone with eyeballs and a pulse expected, the match broke down into shenanigans aplenty, with Armando Alejandro Estrada, Vince, Trump, Shane McMahon and Austin all getting involved, and Austin handing out Stone Cold Stunners to pretty much everyone except Bobby Lashley. The only other people who managed to escape unscathed were the representatives from Donald Trump’s many beauty pageants, who were stationed in the front row.
So in the spirit of nostalgia and criticism, let us rank the many Stone Cold Stunners that were distributed on that day, from best to worst. All four of them.
No, Donald. Four.
1. Vince McMahon
The two people who have probably taken the most Stone Cold Stunners over the course of their lifetimes are The Rock and Vince McMahon. McMahon’s first few attempts at selling the Stunner are hilariously bad, and often invoked the D-Von Dudley Memorial “Flop Like A Fish” technique, but practice makes perfect. By the end of their run, few people were better at taking the Stunner than Vince.
There are two schools of taking the Stunner: comically oversell it, or act like it causes immediate permadeath. The Rock and Scott Hall are stupendous examples of the former. To wit:
And to further wit:
And Vince is probably the best at the latter. Look at that Stunner. It’s gorgeous. One shot, one kill. Vince goes down in a heap and all that’s left to do is shave his head.
2. Shane McMahon
This one only loses some points because Shane gets caught up trying to fall through the ropes, but his initial bouncing off the ropes actually adds to the effect. Then we get into some real bullet-time shenanigans as Shane tries to figure out how his body and ropes work, and the moment lasts forever. Great initial impact, followed by an eternity of waiting for it to be done. It’s an analogy for life!
Umaga was absolutely the bee’s knees, and it’s a shame this is such a garbage Stunner that he’s taking. In fairness, he wasn’t able to truly sell the Stunner, because he had to be upright to eat a spear from Lashley and take the pinfall, but really his jaw and face gets nowhere close to the point of impact on Austin’s shoulder. This is maybe the only blemish on Umaga’s impeccable wrestling career. Sad!
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the replay angle, which is a bit less bad.
4. Donald Trump
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know: this is a stinker of a Stunner. Donald Trump and Linda McMahon are in a class all their own of “sweet Jesus, that looked bad” Stunners. It’s just garbage. It’s garbage and it’s bad and Trump should feel bad and Steve Austin should feel bad that he was part of this.
I mean, look at it. Trump falls in STAGES. He drops to his knees (sort of), and getting onto his back from there is at least a four-step process. Takes the Stunner, bing bing bing, now he’s on the mat.
Here’s how bad this Stunner was: it was worse than Donald Trump throwing a clothesline earlier in the match.
And look at that “clothesline.” That’s just a guy Youth Group half-hugging another guy to the ground in an awkward heap. Followed by a couple punches so bad that they’re only half a step better than Shane McMahon’s awkward shuffling dad-baby jabs. (Those Shane punches were also part of this match, but they’re likely burned into your memory by now, so there’s no need for a GIF.)
Of course, none of these are among the best Stunners that Austin ever delivered. This was about four years after Stone Cold retired from being an active wrestler, and although he’s been good for an average of at least a couple Stunners a year ever since he hung up the boots, we’ll never reach those Rocky-backflipping heights of importance and gravitas again.
But thanks to The Donald, one of Austin’s WrestleMania 23 Stunners was among the very worst he’s ever dished out. It’s been almost exactly 10 years since that abomination of a Stunner was delivered, and it still packs a cringe-worthy punch.
As for the match that surrounded the Stunners, it’s worth a revisit if it’s been a few years since you’ve seen it. In part for the spectacle of it all, but also because the actual match holds up a lot better than you might think. It’s one of those overbooked WrestleMania spectacles that WWE does best, where everyone plays to their strengths, all the bells and whistles are amped up to the max, and a Lashley vs. Umaga match that might otherwise be at risk for turning into a clunker becomes a rollicking sprint that the crowd never gets sucked out of.
It’s also, you know, super duper weird to watch given what’s going on in the world right now, but that’s beside the point. As with all things 10 years old or more, about the only thing that is guaranteed not to hold up is Jerry Lawler’s commentary. Before the match even starts, he dusts off the old chestnut about Trump being so rich that he has a “Persian rug made out of actual Persians.” Not a … not a great thing to hear in 2017!
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. Until next time, remember to be the Stone Cold Stunner recipient you wish to see in the world. And remember that if you’re ever hit with a Stunner, try to go down in one motion. It’s just better for everyone involved.
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran February 9, 2017.