WWE Champion John Cena def. Shawn Michaels

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April 01, 2007

After months of anticipation, weeks of cooperation and hours of speculation…ladies and gentlemen, The Champ is still here.

For the second consecutive year, John Cena walked into WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. And in a result correctly chosen by 59 percent of WWE fans polled in an AT&T Mobile poll, Cena defeated Shawn Michaels in Detroit to walk out with the gold for the second year in a row.

From the moment The Champ entered Ford Field, it was obvious that his A-Game was in full effect. In a scene reminiscent of his unforgettable gangster entrance last year in Chicago, Cena entered Ford Field by driving a Mustang down through the loading dock and crashing through the glass set. It was an impressive sight, even if it did nothing to turn the favor of the raucous capacity crowd of 80,103 that was clearly in favor of HBK.

It didn't faze HBK any, as Michaels clearly had a game plan, focusing on Cena's knee and dominating the early portion of the match. However, an errant charge led Michaels head-first into the steel ringpost, busting him open and giving Cena an opening to get back into the match. Unfortunately, just seconds after, Sweet Chin Music intended for The Champ instead nearly took the head off of referee Mike Chioda.

As both men lay prone on the mat, the fans rallied behind a bloodied HBK. But in a move that is quite uncharacteristic of the challenger, he tosses aside the top level of the steel ring stairs and delivered a vicious piledriver that bounced Cena's head off the bottom level.

Things always look darkest before the dawn; unfortunately for HBK, WrestleMania wasn't the dawn of a new championship reign, as Cena somehow kicked out of Michaels' pinfall attempt. The challenger then threw his entire arsenal at Cena, but the resilient champion stood tall.

In a furious final few minutes, both men hit the other with their signature maneuvers, with Cena applying both the FU and STFU in an attempt to claim victory. They both staggered to their feet, and somehow, Cena was able to take HBK down with a second STFU. Left in the middle of the ring with nowhere to go, the challenger was forced to tap out, ending the instant WrestleMania classic in favor of the champion.

Following the bout, Cena sat in the middle of the ring and stared at the WrestleMania logo, nearly in tears after realizing what he had just done. He then dedicated the match to his father, saying "this one's for you, dad," before holding the WWE Championship in the air. But when he tried to shake HBK's hand, the sullen challenger simply walked away; instead, he was given a salute from Cena in a show of respect.

When WWE.com caught up with the champion moments later, he was still emotional.

"The past two years have been very difficult for me, because even with all the momentum I have, I always go into the big one as the underdog," he said. "I've been in a lot of situations where people don't even want to see my face, but I've never told anyone to not be themselves. Even if the crowd reaction isn't what I want, I'm still me. I am who I am and there's only one me."

As for the match, The Champ was surprised at the attack Michaels threw at him.

"It's difficult enough when you have a veteran like HBK, with six weeks of mental torture to live through," he continued. "Coming out like he did, I didn't expect that at all. God, it shook me up, but once I got in my groove…I don't mean to sound cocky, but once that steamroller gets going, nothing stops it."

WrestleMania is All Grown Up, and with perhaps one of the signature victories on his resume coming at Ford Field, The Champ is now truly All Grown Up himself.

"I've seen a lot of stuff in my life; stared down the barrel of a loaded gun, seen children born and people married, but I always managed to keep it together," he said, nearly in tears. "I'm the last guy to break down, but tonight I couldn't help it. I thought about watching WrestleMania 20 years ago with my dad in that shack in West Newbury, and it hit me all at once."

Both Cena and Michaels are men that should never be underestimated, counted out or considered defeated until their opponent is declared the winner. At WrestleMania 23, John Cena ended up as the better man, and because of that, The Champ is still here.

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