To give WWE fans an early taste of the atmosphere that will engulf Detroit on April 1, 2007 at WrestleMania 23, a free WrestleMania 23 Fan Rally was held at Ford Field on July 25. Hosted by "Mean Gene" Okerlund, the event featured Superstars from RAW and SmackDown and ECW Extremists including Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Batista, Edge, King Booker, Queen Sharmell, Randy Orton, Paul Heyman, Big Show and Kelly Kelly. WWE.com broadcast the event live via webcast for those unable to attend.
It's been 20 years since WrestleMania was in the Motor City, and although Detroit has since hosted All-Star Games, a Super Bowl and the NBA Finals, it has never hosted anything quite like WrestleMania III—until now. On April 1, 2007 the event that has become the greatest spectacular in sports-entertainment will make its triumphant return to Detroit—and if the last time was any indication of what's in store, WrestleMania 23 will be off the charts.
WWE has since sold out the following 20 WrestleManias since its first visit to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, and on April 1, 2007 the trend will unquestionably continue.
"When WWE goes into a building like Ford Field, generally the first questions are, ‘What's the most people that have ever been here, and what does the Fire Marshall allow?' That's the number we're going for," said Basil DeVito, senior advisor of business strategies for WWE, and author of "The History of WrestleMania," a detailed chronicle of the first 16 WrestleManias.
Beyond setting attendance records, WrestleMania has progressed and become the stage for mortals to become Superstars, and for Superstars to evolve into Legends. Technologically, WrestleMania has advanced light-years since 1987.
"We actually advertised giant color screens so the 93,000 people sitting in the stands would know that in addition to the Superstars in the ring, there would be giant color screens over the ring so they could see the action. Can you imagine today trying to advertise that the screens would be in color?" DeVito asked.
The nail in the coffin of a franchise is commonly hammered in after a lackluster third installment. "Major League: Back to the Minors," "Beverly Hills Cop III and "Scream 3" were all plagues on their respective franchises; sinking them beyond resurrection.
WrestleMania III had the opposite effect.
"WrestleMania III sort of made WWE like the New York Yankees—it would forever be the most dominant brand in our business," said DeVito. "[WrestleMania III] was just such a huge event that showed us, and also the world, that WWE could do anything."
The last time WrestleMania invaded the Motor City, an indoor attendance record was set. The Pontiac Silverdome was packed with 93,173 screaming fans that witnessed what have become classic WWE moments; like when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant and Ricky Steamboat — in what many considered one of the greatest matches in history — defeated Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship. DeVito recalls a photograph that summed up the atmosphere at WrestleMania III.
"There's a picture taken from the last row of the stands. The place is packed, and there are a couple of teenagers, this guy has his arms up, and he's screaming and yelling…and you can barely see the ring," he said.
Read about what took place at the WrestleMania 23 Fan Rally.