Ten Years ago, I graced the streets of Detroit, Michigan as WrestleMania 23 came to town. It was the first time I’d ever been abroad without my family, and also, the furthest I’d ever travelled, I was 18 at the time, and it was an incredible experience, albeit a short one.
We didn’t get too see much of Detroit, just a few bits around town, such as The Ford Plant, The Ford Field, Comercia Park and The Fox Theater. This was before the days that Raw emulated from the same city as ‘Mania, that Raw was in Dayton, OH, as opposed to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
We arrived on the day of The Hall of Fame ceremony, where I witnessed the inductions of:
‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, who sadly is no longer with us, inducted by Cody and Dustin
‘Mr Perfect’ Curt Hennig, the posthumous inductee, inducted by Wade Boggs he was represented by his wife Leonice, his four children, his mother and his father the legendary Larry ‘The Ax’ Hennig
Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler who was inducted by William Shatner.
‘Good Ol’ JR’ Jim Ross inducted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, quite possibly the loudest cheer of the night.
Nick Bockwinkel, another who is sadly no longer with us who was inducted by Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan
Mr Fuji, who passed away recently, in August 2016, inducted by Don Muraco
The Sheik who was inducted by Sabu and Rob Van Dam.
The ceremony took place at The Fox Theatre, a smaller venue than the arenas they use nowadays, it was one of those amazing experiences which was also quite emotional, hearing some of the stories, and seeing some of the amazing legends take their rightful place in the Hall of Fame.
We arrived at The Ford Field having met Teddy Long and Nunzio earlier in the day wandering around the local mall.
We settled into our seats, in awe of the sheer size of the venue and with over 80,000 fans in attendance to witness the spectacular.
This year there was only one pre-show match which featured a number of superstars in the role of Lumberjacks. The Match itself featured Ric Flair & Carlito defeating the team of Gregory Helms & Chavo Guerrero.
Aretha Franklin then greeted the audience to a rendition of ‘America The Beautiful’ and it was time to kick off the show. We kicked off with a high impact Money In The Bank ladder match, which featured CM Punk, Randy Orton, Mr Kennedy, Edge, Finlay, Matt Hardy, King Booker and Jeff Hardy. Heading into this match, Edge had never been beaten at WrestleMania, and this proved his undoing, as Mr Kennedy went on to win the match, only to be defeated a month later by Edge to lose the briefcase, who subsequently cashed in just four days later against The Undertaker, to win his first ever World Heavyweight Championship. Much like when he cashed in Money in The Bank to win his first ever WWE Championship a year and a half previously having won the first ever Money In The Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21. This was a great high intense match which I was pumped for, and it didn’t disappoint. The spot where Edge went through the ladder was immense!
This match was followed up by a quick Kane vs Great Khali match, which the audience seemed very disinterested in, which was won by Khali. We then got to witness for the final ever time at Wrestlemania, ‘The Rabid Wolverine‘ Chris Benoit, who successfully defended the United States Championship in a very good match against MVP.
The only man to ever appear at every single WrestleMania, Howard Finkel then introduced us to the Hall of Fame class of 2007.
It was then time for the first ‘Main event’ of the night, as Royal Rumble winner The Undertaker took on World Heavyweight Champion, Batista in a great match, both men countering and kicking out of each others finishers. The highlight for me was the running powerslam from Batista to Undertaker on the announce tables. Taker eventually won the match and made more history by not only defending The Streak, but by actually becoming the first ever superstar to win both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championships as a challenger at WrestleMania.
We then had a filler match in the form of an eight man tag team match, featuring ECW Originals (RVD, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu & Sandman) facing off against ECW‘s New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker & Kevin Thorn) who were accompanied by Ariel. The match was a decent match overall, and was won via a Five Star Frog Splash from RVD.
Then came my now claim to fame… The match where I got to see now US President Donald Trump receive a Stone Cold Stunner LIVE! This was the match labelled The Battle of The Billionaires match, where a representative for Vince McMahon, (Intercontinental Champion – Umaga) took on a representative for Donald Trump (ECW Champion – Bobby Lashley.) Whoever’s representative lost the match had to have his head shaved bald in the middle of the ring.
This was a match which had been hugely hyped, and it was a decent match, with the prospect of one of the billionaires going bald, it was one I was looking forward to.
To keep order in the match they appointed a man with exactly that haircut – Stone Cold Steve Austin to officiate the match, which was subsequently won by Bobby Lashley. Meaning that Mr. McMahon got his head shaved bald, the next month Mr. McMahon got revenge by beating Lashley (in a 3 on 1 handicap match) to capture the ECW Title.
We then had the match, which sadly, a lot of people decided was going to be where they took their drinks breaks before the main event. The shortest match of the night was the Women’s Championship Lumberjill match between Women’s Champion, Melina and 2007’s Playboy covergirl, Ashley Massaro. It was a match in which Melina won to retain in just over 3 minutes.
We then sit in anticipation for the moment I had been waiting for. The chance to get to see my idol ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels compete live! And boy, did he compete!
The Main Event of the evening was actually a match between the World Tag Team Champions, both facing off against each other for the WWE Title, held by John Cena. The match had the inevitable ‘Lets Go Cena… Cena Sucks’ chants. As well as some huge pops for HBK. The match was a fantastic match and went back and forward throughout, it included HBK delivering a Piledriver on Cena through steps, both men hit and missed finishers, eventually HBK would tap out to the STFU meaning Cena retained the title.
I wasn’t too happy about it, as I would have loved to see my idol leave the biggest show with the championship. But I guess back then I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have how great this match was. It shows that John Cena has been nicknamed ‘Big Match John’ for a reason. He definitely stepped up on the biggest stage of all, and pulled off a great match with the greatest WWE Superstar of all Time… Mr WrestleMania, The Showstopper, The Main Event, The Icon, The Heartbreak Kid, and now ‘Mr Hall of Fame’ Shawn Michaels.
As our time in Detroit came to an end, we gathered together our memories of a great trip and experience. Unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity to sample WrestleMania live again, but would love to do so one day, hopefully in the not too distant future… Hopefully at Wembley Stadium! (Take note WWE.)
Until next time, enjoy WrestleMania 33, and don’t forget to subscribe to, and listen to The Talk & Beans Podcast where the boys talk about the results of WM33!