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And the reading champion is ...
The Road to WrestleMania 23 has been a long and highly physical one for WWE and ECW Superstars, but for Adriana Slaughter, the road has been one of words and chapters.
Slaughter, 15, came to Detroit's Public Library along with four other finalists from around the country to compete in the WrestleMania Reading Challenge. With ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley and SmackDown's Rey Mysterio on hand to support the challengers, Slaughter became the undisputed WrestleMania Reading Champion.
"For me personally, what's special about this is the fact that I started something and finished it and I rose to the top," explained the Reading Challenge winner, with her trophy in hand.
Slaughter was up against four other young adult regional finalists (T.J. Cody, Cardeale Lightfoot, Caitlin Bollbach and Gena Uzzle) in a 25-question competition based on Chris Crutcher's Athletic Shorts and Paul Volponi's Black & White. In the closing moments, competition was fierce as Slaughter maintained a one-point advantage over T.J. Cody. Ultimately, it was the 15-year-old from Iowa who took the win with a total of 10 correctly answered questions.
"I have a really good memory so I didn't really need to prepare that much," said the beaming teen. "I skimmed through [the books] this morning and last night to make sure I had the facts down."
Though each of the finalists received a trip to WrestleMania 23 as well as spending money for their hometown libraries, the winner would receive ringside seats to the "Biggest Spectacle of Them All" at Ford Field. Slaughter said that she will be joined by her stepfather who is an even bigger WWE fan than she is. Together, she said, they will cheer on Lashley in the Battle of the Billionaires.
Ironically enough, the ECW World Champion was cheering on Slaughter and the other finalists earlier today.
"It was great to see all these people come out and support these guys," Lashley said. "These teens have been reading these books and doing some great things -- they are the champions, they're celebrities. The fact that Adriana came out and won it, and now has the opportunity to be in the front row at WrestleMania -- that's an event in itself."
According to the ECW Superstar, an event like the WrestleMania Reading Challenge has tremendous implications for the youth and the community at large.
"[At WWE], we branch out to several different avenues and this is our way of saying what we're about: the kids, the people, the WWE fans," added the champion. "WWE is not just about fighting; we're about the community."
Lashley and Mysterio participated in the Reading Challenge by asking the questions in the competition, making this event extra special for the talented teens.
"Coming out to the library for a competition like this is even harder, with even more pressure than being in the ring," Mysterio admitted. "It's very important for the youth to know that reading is part of your success in life on a daily basis, and I hope we can get that message across, not just to the contestants today, but throughout the world."
It was actually Mysterio's five-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, who gave each of the competitors one of her lucky stickers this morning. The SmackDown Superstar explained that it was important to him to have his daughter present to see an event like this, even at an early age.
"I have kids of my own, and I try to motivate them as much as I can," Mysterio revealed. "I find myself being a role model not just inside the ring, but out. It's all about getting kids to realize that if Rey did it, they can do it too."