From Big Apple to Oranges

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March 26, 2008

NEW YORK CITY -- Before hitting the orange-shrouded Citrus Bowl this Sunday, a slew of WrestleMania XXIV competitors raided the Big Apple on Wednesday for the final press conference for The Granddaddy of Them All. WWE Superstars, Divas and, of course, Floyd "Money" Mayweather invaded New York City's Hard Rock Café, with an alluring high-definition WrestleMania display on the NASDAQ and Reuters Video Boards in the very heart of Times Square.

The Road to WrestleMania XXIV's last stop outside the Sunshine State was in a most appropriate locale: New York City, where it all started 24 years ago with the inaugural WrestleMania. In what WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon described as the birthplace of the phenomenon known as "sports-entertainment," hundreds of our fans in attendance and countless others watching live on WWE.com witnessed an historic address driven by the raw emotion of the competitors.

WWE Champion Randy Orton, World Heavyweight Champion Edge and Triple H described their championship golden dreams on The Grandest Stage of Them All, while Maria -- along with BunnyMania partner Ashley -- openly expressed her anxiousness to compete at WrestleMania for the first time in her career. (Watch: Press conference recap)

Fans' deafening chant for Big Show ultimately led to the entrance of Floyd Mayweather. Amid shouts of "To hell with Mayweather!" and other jeers at the undefeated boxer, a pocket of support for the WBC welterweight champion expanded greatly when a sharply dressed Mayweather stayed true to his "Money" moniker. The brash fighter tossed out wads of cold, hard cash and called out his massive opponent come Sunday, Big Show. (Exclusive post-press conference video with Mayweather)

Unimpressed by Mayweather's boastful display, the seven-footer swaggered to the forefront, once again casting a vast shadow over his confident rival. After some big words from the equally large Superstar, a photo opportunity encouraged by host Jonathan Coachman nearly turned to fisticuffs.

Combating the urge to trade blows, The World's Largest Athlete placed his giant paw beside Mayweather's skull while the flashes of cameras from fans and media alike lit up the stage. Keen to the visible mismatch, the 39-0 fighter then pulled out an oversized golden boxing glove, mocking his gargantuan foe and drawing ample laughter from the crowd, but steam from the ears of Big Show.

Despite weeks of witnessing (and even experiencing) Show's dominance, Mayweather was successful in making an angry giant even angrier before their history-making confrontation this Sunday -- one that many New York City fans claimed they will not miss.

"I'm definitely, definitely watching WrestleMania," stressed Ricky Colon, a private first class in the United States Army who took the day off from his military security job at JFK International Airport to be on hand for the press conference.

"I guess the day payed off," Colon added, referring to the $500 he snagged, courtesy of Mayweather. "When Floyd started tossing money around, I was in the front and the crowd went crazy -- it was pandemonium, as Vince would say."

He continued, "It doesn't necessarily put [Mayweather] in my corner, but it's good to see a person of his caliber -- and his bank account -- do that for the public. It was a great experience. I can just only imagine being at WrestleMania."

Colon's fellow U.S. Army private and wife, Jennifer, wasn't fooled by the boxing champion's attempt to "buy people with that money," Nevertheless, she'll still gladly support Mayweather when she watches sports-entertainment's biggest spectacle Sunday night.

"[Today] was very cool because I leave for Iraq in two weeks," she said. "It was a great privilege being down there and seeing all the WWE Superstars. It was pretty cool."

Of course, not all those in attendance at the electric Midtown Manhattan press conference were as fortunate to clinch some extra cash while on hand. However, lucky fans like Omar Small of Queens, N.Y., were still waving an even more priceless piece of paper.

"This was the best [press conference] ever because it was my very first one ever," Small explained excitedly while flashing his ticket to the Citrus Bowl. "This is also going to be my first WrestleMania."

"[Today's event] really prepared me, in a way, because it's going to be great [this Sunday]. Seeing these Superstars before WrestleMania made me feel good; it really hyped me up."

Even if you can't join Omar Small and roughly 70,000 other fans live in Orlando, Fla., this Sunday, be sure to catch WrestleMania XXIV, live and only on pay-per-view, at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT. However, you can catch a 24-Man WrestleMania Battle Royal "freeview," which will be streamed live exclusively on WWE.com starting at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. And, as always, stay tuned to WWE.com all week long for video updates and much more from the Sunshine State -- the location of this year's greatest spectacle, WrestleMania.

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