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Arena Report - Joe Louis Arena
In the days since winning the World Heavyweight Championship at The Great American Bash, King Booker has promised WWE fans "the grandest celebration in WWE history." It is fitting then, that the gala festival for the self-proclaimed "King of the World" should take place tonight in Detroit, as SmackDown returns to the Joe Louis Arena, a venue named for a man who made 25 defenses of his heavyweight boxing title from 1937-49 and was world champion for 11 years and 10 months.
While the anticipated coronation extravaganza should provide tonight's show with some exciting images, it will not be the first memorable WWE moment to occur within the walls of the arena known as "Hockeytown." At Monday Night RAW on March 22, 2004, WWE fans witnessed an event that changed the game forever, as RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff and then-SmackDown GM Paul Heyman met for a draft lottery in which each GM was given the opportunity to choose six names from the other brand to join their locker room. The chaos that ensued set off a conflict that seethed for more than a year before erupting to the surface when, fittingly, RAW and SmackDown superstars returned to the Joe Louis Arena on November 27, 2005, for Survivor Series.
It was the main event of this pay-per-view which punctuated the increasingly intense rivalry between RAW and SmackDown, when Team SmackDown (World Heavyweight Champion Batista, Rey Mysterio, JBL, Bobby Lashley and Randy Orton) defeated Team RAW (Shawn Michaels, World Tag Team Champions Kane and the Big Show, Carlito and Chris Masters) in a traditional 10-man Survivor Series Elimination Match. However, their joy was only short-lived. As the SmackDown locker room poured into the ring to celebrate, the capacity crowd watched in horror as a group of attending druids stood a coffin upright at ringside. With a flash of lightning, Undertaker returned from a month-long absence, bursting forth from the flaming casket to unleash the fury of Hell on the SmackDown Superstars.
Perhaps the Deadman's wrath was awakened when he returned to the arena where he was stripped of his last WWE Championship. In a Triple Threat Match against Kurt Angle and The Rock at Vengeance 2002, Undertaker found himself on the receiving end of a Rock Bottom followed by an Angle Slam, and could only lie helplessly on the mat as The Rock covered Angle for the win.
It seems as though the Joe Louis Arena is a veritable sarcophagus of memories for the Deadman. It was here at Survivor Series 1991 where the Phenom slammed Hulk Hogan with a Tombstone onto a steel chair for the WWE Championship in a match billed as "The Gravest Challenge."
The Joe would see Hogan return in 1994 for WCW's Halloween Havoc, where the Hulkster defeated Ric Flair in a steel cage to retain his WCW Championship and force The Nature Boy to retire. Unfortunately for Hogan, one year later, at the same event in the same building, Big Show, then known as The Giant, took the Hulkster's gold by virtue of disqualification.
The last time WWE was in Detroit was for Saturday Night's Main Event on March 18, 2006. That show featured the return of The Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin, to WWE television after a six-month absence. The Texas Rattlesnake was challenged to a beer drinking contest by JBL, who was caught cheating and received a Stone Cold Stunner for his troubles.
The Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, and seats over 21,000 screaming fans for WWE events. Hockeytown is home to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and is the site of the annual Great Lakes Invitational in college hockey. It has also been the venue for college hockey's Frozen Four three times.
Tonight, Detroit will play host to the crowning of a new king, and WWE electricity will heat up the Joe Louis Arena yet again. Tune in tonight at 8/7 CT on UPN to catch all the action on WWE SmackDown!