The Mania of WrestleMania, part three
WrestleMania may be only one day out of the year, but it takes 364 days of preparation to earn the right to compete at WWE's biggest pay-per-view on the calendar. Along with the opportunity to perform in front of millions of viewers around the globe, it's also the chance for a WWE Superstar to elevate their status to legend.
More than one million people are projected to contact their local cable/satellite providers to watch WrestleMania 23 April 1. Current estimates have more than 70,000 rabid WWE fans migrating to Detroit's Ford Field that day, anxiously awaiting the outcomes of several high-profile matches like the Battle of the Billionaires, Undertaker versus World Heavyweight Champion Batista and WWE Champion John Cena defending his gold against his co-World Tag Team Champion Shawn Michaels.
The enormity of WrestleMania is unquestionable — and constantly on the forefront of the Superstars' minds. For them, the magnitude of what will take place April 1 is the culmination of their blood, sweat and sacrifice.
"This will be my third WrestleMania and my second main event," said Batista. "Sometimes I ask how I got here. I suppose it's a ‘right place, right time' kind of thing. It's funny how a bum like me gets to headline such a huge event."
All joking aside, The Animal told WWE.com that he knows what being on the grandest stage of them all means for his career, his fans and for the sports-entertainment industry. The importance of his match and the legacy of WrestleMania are two elements he takes very seriously.
"Some people on the Internet say I don't deserve to main-event WrestleMania," he explained, acknowledging the doubters who don't believe he's worthy of wearing the World Heavyweight Championship around his waist. "That's fine, but I have been given this opportunity, and I'm going to use it."
Shawn Michaels certainly understands what WrestleMania can do for a career. To name a few of his greatest moments, The Showstopper captured the WWE Title from Bret "Hit Man' Hart at WrestleMania XII, after an hour-long WWE Iron Man Match; against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, he wrestled with a back injury that would sideline him for four years; he competed against Triple H and Chris Benoit in a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XX; and took part in one of the greatest WrestleMania Ladder Match in WWE history, facing Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X.
"Nobody cuts a guy any slack," said HBK. "I'm not bitter or disgruntled, but if I don't perform at the same level I have in the past, people will shut the door on me. That's what keeps me inspired."
Michaels doesn't doubt his ability. He believes in his skills to captivate the sold-out audience at Ford Field. But things have changed for the former World Champion. Over time, he's learned to take his profession, as well as many other things in his life, in stride.
"I'm held to a different standard. Whether that's fair or unfair, it's a standard that others aren't held to. But if I did have a sub-par performance this year, I'd be able to look in the eyes of my wife and my children, and know I've got the best things God could ever give me — a loving family that is healthy, and that I'm in a line of work that I truly enjoy."
Don't ask John Cena to reminisce or give a "retrospective" career assessment. The WWE Champ takes everything day to day. Always has. Always will.
"I get tons of reflective questions about my career. ‘What's your favorite match?' Or ‘What is your favorite moment?' My answers are always the same: My favorite match is the next one, and my favorite moments are the ones that are going to happen tomorrow," he said. "After WrestleMania, I have a 250-mile drive to Dayton, Ohio for Monday Night Raw. WrestleMania 23 will be exactly what it is billed to be — the biggest attraction in sports-entertainment. After that, it all starts building toward WrestleMania 24."
At WrestleMania 23, these three Superstars will carry a major portion of the load that will make this year's event the most talked-about WrestleMania in recent history. Who will emerge victorious? Can Cena retain his WWE Championship against one of the greatest sports-entertainers in WWE history? Will Batista be the first to defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania? With pride and WWE gold on the line that night, the only way to know is to watch WrestleMania 23 live (7 ET/4 PT) April 1, only on pay-per-view.