WrestleMania's legacy meets its future

An electric crowd of over 3,500 eager fans packed into Ford Field on Tuesday afternoon for the WrestleMania 23 Fan Rally, hosted by WWE Hall of Famer "Mean Gene" Okerlund. Twenty years after setting an indoor attendance record of 93,173 at the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III, the fans of Detroit showed the WWE Superstars that they were ready for the next installment in WrestleMania history.

In the past year, the Motor City has been home to the MLB All-Star Game, Superbowl XL, and even the return of WWE Saturday Night's Main Event. But on April 1, 2007, the world will be watching when 78,000 fans fill Ford Field for what RAW Superstar John Cena called "the biggest event in sports entertainment history."

Eight months before WrestleMania 23, John Cena arrived to a mixed reaction from the Detroit crowd. Having competed in three championship matches in three WrestleManias, The Dr. of Thuganomics explained the magnitude of an event like WrestleMania 23.

"It's been 23 years in the making for WrestleMania and it's bigger than global," said an energized Cena. "It's the biggest sports event in the universe."

Cena's embittered rival and WWE Champion Edge spoke of WrestleMania's illustrious legacy and then digressed into his own. Edge recalled sitting in the 11th row at the Toronto Skydome for WrestleMania VI and feeling the electricity of the night. He then reminded the fans of his own legacy, being one of the very few WWE Superstars who is undefeated at WrestleMania. The champion guaranteed that on April 1, the audience is going to "feel the Rated R Superstar."

Just two days after unceremoniously losing the World Championship to King Booker at The Great American Bash, Rey Mysterio still maintained a broad smile under his mask to address the fans in attendance.

"Winning the [World Championship] at WrestleMania 22 was, without a doubt, a dream come true in my career," said an optimistic and grateful Mysterio. "I've done it once and I'll do it again. And what better place to relive my dream than at WrestleMania 23."

Having missed last year's WrestleMania 22, Batista's strongest memories are of WrestleMania 21 -- the night Batista walked away as the World Heavyweight Champion. Reminiscent of that day, The Animal put the current World Champion, WWE Champion, and ECW Champion on notice, saying that on April 1, he will be looking for championship gold, no matter which championship it is.

"I want to be in the main event [at WrestleMania] and I want to walk away World Heavyweight Champion," exclaimed Batista. "And that's exactly what I plan on doing."

A man who might be in Batista's sights, the new World Heavyweight Champion King Booker, made his way to the fan rally to address his royal subjects. Queen Sharmell interrupted Mean Gene to introduce the "imperial majesty in all his royal splendor" for the first time since The Great American Bash.

As Mysterio and others looked on, King Booker spoke of his quest to WrestleMania 23, saying, "I will defend, as your King, my World Heavyweight Championship against any and all peasants."

ECW fans at Ford Field were treated to an impromptu exhibition from ECW's Kelly Kelly who demonstrated her sultry dance moves all over Mean Gene Okerlund on stage. Another Extremist, Big Show also represented the hardcore brand and made his massive appearance at the rally.

"I think that WrestleMania 23 in Detroit is definitely going to be…extreme," said the 500-pound ECW Champion. "As your ECW Champion now, and your ECW Champion on April 1, I'm going to give you an extreme giant like you've never seen."

Big Show explained that in his 12-year career, it has been his goal to compete on the grandest stage of all at WrestleMania in Detroit just as the great Andre the Giant had against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III.

"I only hope that I can fill [late Hall of Famer Andre the Giant's] shoes," added a genuine Big Show.

Speaking of Hulk Hogan, the Hulkster's SummerSlam opponent, Randy Orton also addressed WWE fans in the Motor City.

"After I destroy the legend of Hulkamania at SummerSlam," said a boastful Orton, "WrestleMania will be right around the corner. And only time will tell which legend the Legend Killer will destroy here in Detroit at WrestleMania."

With 13 WrestleManias under his belt, the charismatic Shawn Michaels was on hand at Ford Field as well. The Heartbreak Kid said that at this year's WrestleMania, he and the other WWE and ECW Superstars will give the performance of their individual lifetimes.

"Ford Field is the premiere place to have a sporting event this year," said Michaels. "[On April 1], we are going to go above and beyond like we never have before."

Tickets for WrestleMania 23 go on sale Saturday, November 11 at 10 a.m.

To watch the WrestleMania 23 Fan Rally, click here.

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