April 2, 2007 at 1:00 am


Motown mad for WrestleMania

It was the haircut heard 'round the world.

During the "Battle of the Billionaires" match at WrestleMania 23 Sunday at Ford Field, billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump shaved WWE chairman Vince McMahon bald before a Ford Field-record setting crowd of 80,103.

The match was the "mane" event of the heavy-metal extravaganza, which was like an unwieldy circus of beefed-up brawlers and silicone-heavy divas.

OK, so the fighting wasn't real, but the spectacle was, and no one puts on a show quite like World Wrestling Entertainment.

Sunday's explosive event featured enough pyrotechnics to nuke a small island, and used enough electricity to power a small city for several months. The Kane vs. Khali, monster vs. monster, match began with a backstage scare when Kane's entrance pyrotechnics started a fire behind the entrance ramp. While the fire was being extinguished, the match went on.

In its four-year history, Ford Field has hosted a Super Bowl, Eminem and Rolling Stones concerts and several seasons of Detroit Lions football. But it has never seen an event quite like WrestleMania, where rabid fans came dressed as their favorite wrestlers and the wrestlers themselves put on a show worthy of Broadway -- if Broadway were unusually testosterone-heavy for an evening.

The event's theatrics were grand in scope. Two dozen torch-carrying druids and a chorus of Gregorian chants preceded a match with The Undertaker. When 'Taker finally made his way down the 62-yard entranceway, he made each methodical step count, and the fans ate it up to a chorus of wild cheers.

John Cena drove a Ford Mustang into the arena, crashing it through a glass pane at the stadium's entrance.

Then there was The Sandman, who entered the ring through the crowd, guzzling a beer and smashing it against his head while fans surrounded him. Before his match started, blood was gushing from his forehead.

WrestleMania is professional wrestling's largest annual event. Tickets to Sunday's event, which were sold in 24 countries and all 50 states, pulled in a WWE record of $5.38 million. According to a release from the WWE, the event brought $25 million to the local economy, mostly from fans who booked rooms in the city's hotels for the weekend.

"It's the biggest show of all time," said fan Don Campagna, who came to Detroit from Albany, N.Y., for the weekend's festivities. He's been to several WrestleManias, and he's already planning his trip to next year's event in Orlando. "No single sporting event, with the exception of the Super Bowl, draws this many people from around the world."

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, opened the show (as she did for WrestleMania III in 1987), singing "America the Beautiful," backed by a choir. As she hit the final notes, red, white and blue pyrotechnics exploded behind her as images of the American flag waved on the enormous 70-foot-tall stage.

Among those seated near ringside were Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr.; Detroit Piston Chris Webber; Detroit Tigers Curtis Granderson, Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya (who was wearing ear plugs) and Pudge Rodriguez; and Rev. Run of the '80s rap duo Run DMC and star of MTV's "Run's House."

Boxer Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns, Miss Teen USA Katie Blair, Miss USA Rachel Smith and Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera also were there.

Former Miss USA Tara Conner escorted Trump to the ring.

The Trump-McMahon match was among the most anticipated of the evening. The two took the ring while Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" roared.

Once there, Trump clotheslined and tackled McMahon. After Trump's representative, Bobby Lashley, pinned McMahon's representative, "Samoan Bulldozer" Umaga, Trump and Lashley together shaved McMahon's head with clippers and finished him off with razors.

Later, referee "Stone Cold" Steve Austin toasted Trump in the ring, and the two shared a beer. But that wasn't the end.

Austin turned on Trump, leaving him in the middle of the ring after a "Stone Cold Stunner," Austin's finishing move.

WrestleMania also saw The Undertaker continue his undefeated WrestleMania streak, as he beat Batista to win the world heavyweight championship. It was the only title to change hands Sunday.

Though rumors that Hulk Hogan would show up never came true -- Hogan starred in the marquee match at WrestleMania III, which was at the Pontiac Silverdome 20 years ago -- fans still left seeing a high-wattage show.

"The expectations for WrestleMania are so high, that you always know it's going to be a good show," said Rick Achberger of Dallas, one of the WWE's most famous fans (he's known as the "Sign Guy"), who was attending his fifth WrestleMania on Sunday. "It's just wild."

Matt Johnson, Darrin Hill and Matt Johnson contributed to this report. You can reach Adam Graham at (313) 222-2284, or at agraham@detnews.com">agraham@detnews.com.

Detroit's own Aretha Franklin sings "America the Beautiful" during the ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
An explosive pyrotechnics display lights up the stage during the opening ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Fans cheer during the opening ceremonies, which included a performance by ... (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)