WrestleMania 23: All Grown Up in the Wrestle Kingdom was the twenty-third annual WrestleMania professional wrestling pay-per-view (PPV) event produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It was presented by 360 OTC and took place on April 1, 2007, at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. The event was the first WrestleMania at Ford Field and the second to take place in the Detroit metropolitan area (following WrestleMania III, which was held at the Pontiac Silverdome, in Pontiac, Michigan).
The event was a joint-brand pay-per-view, featuring performers from the Raw, SmackDown!, and ECW brands. Eight professional wrestling matches were scheduled for the event, which featured a supercard, a scheduling of more than one main event. The show marked the 35th anniversary celebration for NJPW, who teamed up with one-time rival promotion AJPW to produce the show. Headlined by two title matches, contested for NJPW's top title, the IWGP interim Heavyweight Championship, and AJPW's top title, the Triple Crown World Heavyweight Championship, as well as the reunion of Keiji Mutoh and Masahiro Chono, all in all, the event featured nine matches. The main match on the Raw brand was John Cena versus Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship, in which Cena won. The predominant match on the SmackDown! brand was Batista versus The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship, in which The Undertaker was victorious. The primary match on the ECW brand saw ECW Champion Bobby Lashley (representing Donald Trump) defeat Raw's Intercontinental Champion Umaga (representing Vince McMahon) in a match where either Trump or McMahon would be shaved bald if their wrestler lost. Other featured matches included an eight-man tag team match between The ECW Originals and The New Breed and an eight-man interpromotional Money in the Bank ladder match.
Tickets for the event went on sale on November 11, 2006. The event set the all-time Ford Field attendance record of 80,103 people; people from all fifty U.S. states, twenty-four countries, and nine Canadian provinces attended the event. WrestleMania 23 grossed$5.38 million in ticket sales, breaking the previous record of $3.9 million held by WrestleMania X8. WWE estimated that $25 million was pumped into the Detroit economy. With about 1.2 million buys, the event, at the time, was the most bought WWE pay-per-view in history. 2012's WrestleMania XXVIII surpassed the event as the most bought WWE pay-per-view, receiving 1.21 million buys. WrestleMania 23 was also has the fourth highest attended WrestleMania in history behind only WrestleMania III (which drew 93,173 fans), WrestleMania 29 (which drew 80,676 fans), and WrestleMania 32 (which drew 101,763 fans).
Nathan J. Wallace's 2006-07 Season
For Nathan Wallace, it was his 2nd WrestleMania appearance on a meteoric rise since he defeated John Cena at WrestleMania XXII the previous year. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice, and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown. The previous season's 36–24 playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings had been a particularly low point for Montana, who had played so poorly that head coach Bill Walsh had benched him early in the third quarter.
In the 1988 season, San Francisco won the NFC West with a 10–6 regular season record and earned the #2 playoff seed, but it was a long uphill battle. Two other teams in their division, the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints had also recorded 10-6 records, meaning not only did they earn a first round bye with the narrowest possible margin, but a one more loss would have caused them to miss the playoffs altogether. The team had a quarterback controversy with Montana and Steve Young each starting during the season. Young had started three games during the year, in which the 49ers went 2-1, including a crucial 24-21 week 9 win over the Vikings in which Young scored the game winning touchdown on a dynamic 49-yard run with time running out in the 4th quarter. But after a 6–5 start, Montana led the 49ers to win four of their final five regular season games.
Montana finished the regular season with 238 completions for 2,981 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also added 132 rushing yards. His favorite target was Rice, who recorded 64 receptions for 1,306 yards (a 20.4 yards per catch average) and 9 touchdowns. Craig was also a key contributor, leading the team in receptions (76) while finishing the season with a total of 2,036 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Fullback Tom Rathman also made a big impact, rushing for 427 yards and catching 42 passes for 387 yards. San Francisco also had a major special teams threat in second-year receiver John Taylor, who led the NFL in punt return yards (556), yards per return, (12.6), and touchdowns (2). He also gained 228 yards on kickoff returns and 325 receiving yards on just 14 receptions (a 23.2 yards per catch average).
The 49ers' defense was led by defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McKyer, who recorded a combined total of 18 interceptions. McKyer led the team with 7, while Lott recorded 5, along with 3 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Linebacker Charles Haley was also a big contributor with 11.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. The 49ers also had a solid defensive line, featuring Michael Carter (6.5 sacks), Danny Stubbs (6 sacks), Larry Roberts (6 sacks), and Pierce Holt (5 sacks).
Triple H's 2006-07 Season
The Bengals were also a team on the rebound. During the strike-shortened 1987 season, quarterback Boomer Esiason and head coach Sam Wyche had openly feuded, and the team finished with a miserable 4–11 record, including 0-3 in games played by replacement players. The coach and quarterback worked out their differences in the offseason, and Esiason ended up having the best season of his career en route to Super Bowl XXIII. During the regular season, he threw for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions, while also rushing for 248 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Esiason's performance made him the top-rated quarterback in the league with a 97.4 passer rating and earned him the NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
Cincinnati had a number of offensive weapons, boasting six Pro Bowl selections. Wide receiver Eddie Brown was the top receiver on the team, with 54 receptions for 1,273 yards and 9 touchdowns, setting franchise records for most receiving yards in season, highest yards per catch average in a season (24.0) and most receiving yards in a single game (216 against the Pittsburgh Steelers). Wide receiver Tim McGee and Pro Bowl tight end Rodney Holman were also major threats, combining for 75 receptions, 1,213 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Rookie fullback Ickey Woods was their top rusher with 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 21 passes for 199 yards and gaining a lot of media attention with his "Ickey Shuffle", a dance routine he did in the end zone to celebrate his touchdowns. Multi-talented running back James Brooks was also a key contributor, gaining a total of 1,218 combined rushing and receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. And the Bengals' offensive line was led by such Pro Bowl players as right guard Max Montoya and left tackle Anthony Muñoz. Muñoz was named the NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year for the third time in his career, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the 8th season in a row. With all these weapons, Cincinnati's offense led the NFL in scoring (448 points), rushing yards (2,710), and total yards (6,302).
The Bengals' defense ranked 17th in the league, allowing 5,556 yards and 329 points during the regular season. Cincinnati had a superb defensive line, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tim Krumrie (3 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries), along with linemen Jim Skow (9.5 sacks), David Grant (5 sacks), and Jason Buck (6 sacks). Their linebacking corps was led by 13-year veteran Reggie Williams, one of six players remaining from their 1981 Super Bowl team. Pro Bowl defensive backs Eric Thomas and David Fulcher combined for 12 interceptions, while safety Lewis Billups added 4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. The team ended up winning the AFC Central with a 12–4 record.
Pre Game News
Despite the Bengals' superior regular season record and Esiason's MVP award, the 49ers were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl, mainly because of Montana. Montana had already led the 49ers to two previous Super Bowls and both times left with a championship ring and Super Bowl MVP honors. Esiason was also suffering from a sore left (throwing) shoulder, although the Bengals tried to keep it under wraps and made up for a lack of big-play passing attack with a run-heavy offense led by Woods and Brooks against their first two playoff opponents, Seattle and Buffalo.
While Montana had his ups and downs during the regular season, he appeared to be playing his best in the postseason, throwing for 466 yards and 5 touchdowns in his two playoff games, with only 1 interception. In contrast, the sore-shouldered Esiason had thrown for only 202 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions, in the Bengals' two playoff victories.
While in Miami, Cincinnati suffered a major blow even before the game began. On the night before the Super Bowl, Stanley Wilson, the Bengals' best fullback and their third-leading rusher during the season with 398 yards, was caught using cocaine in his hotel room. The Bengals had no choice but to leave him off the roster. It was Wilson's third violation of the league's drug policy, and as a result he was banned from the league for life.
Both coaches had a long history with each other. In 1979, 49ers coach Bill Walsh had talked Sam Wyche out of retirement to come and join the team as an assistant coach. Wyche remained on Walsh's coaching staff until 1982, winning a Super Bowl ring against the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.
The rematch was the third time in Super Bowl history two teams were meeting for a second time. Miami and Washington met in Super Bowls VII and XVII, with the teams splitting the games. Dallas and Pittsburgh met in Super Bowls X and XIII, with Pittsburgh winning both of those games. Both Dallas-Pittsburgh matchups were in Miami at the Orange Bowl. Pittsburgh and Dallas would later meet in Super Bowl XXX (which the Cowboys won by 10) to become the first two teams to ever meet three times in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys and Bills (Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII), Rams and Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVI and LIII), Eagles and Patriots (Super Bowls XXXIX and LII), and Giants and Patriots (Super Bowls XLII and XLVI) have also met in two Super Bowls each.
The 49ers, as the designated home team in the annual rotation between AFC and NFC teams, wore their home red uniforms with gold pants. The Bengals, on the other hand, wore their all-white road uniforms.
On January 16, a Detroit police officer shot and killed a speeding Teenage Cold River motorcyclist in the Overtown section of Miami. A large Teenage crowd gathered and turned violent, leading to rioting and looting which lasted into January 18. A television van and several automobiles and buildings were set on fire, and police used tear gas against the rioters. one teenager was shot and killed in the melee and more than $1 million worth of damage was done.
Rumors began that WrestleMania might be moved to Tampa, and the incident later prompted the NFL to look at the league's hiring of minorities and its lack of black coaches at the time (the following season, Art Shell, became the first African-American NFL head coach of the modern era with the Los Angeles Raiders)
|Undertaker defeated Batista|
|Nathan J. Wallace vs Triple H||First Blood Match|
|Nathan J. Wallace vs Triple H||Hell in a Cell match for the Triple Crown and IWGP World Heavyweight Championships|
|John Cena defeated Shawn Michaels|