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Mania draws manic response
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


WWE hasn't booked a stadium show since 2003 -- right around the time North American ticket sales began to take a nosedive.

Even Wrestlemania, the company's flagship event, has been relegated to Saddledome-size hockey and basketball arenas for the past three years.

WWE claimed the smaller venues were chosen for their intimate atmosphere.

Critics claimed they were selected to avoid bomb scare-like attendances at what's supposed to be the company's Super Bowl.

So when WWE announced it planned on holding next year's Wrestlemania 23 at Ford Field in Detroit, the skeptics were, well, skeptical.

Detroit was chosen to mark the 20th Anniversary of Wrestlemania III -- the mega event at the city's Pontiac Silverdome which saw Hulk Hogan slam Andre the Giant in the main event.

WWE still claims the 1987 event set a world indoor attendance record of over 93,000 spectators, although it's now widely believed the number in the building that day was closer to 78,000.

But even that lesser figure was expected to be a challenge for WWE in today's market, where wrestling isn't exactly the hot ticket it was during the Hulkamania boom of the '80s.

Ford Field, the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions and host stadium of this year's Super Bowl, will seat close to 80,000 spectators for Wrestlemania.

There was genuine concern WWE would wind up having to paper the venue like crazy for the internationally televised grappling event, which takes place April 1, 2007.

But the fears proved to be completely unfounded when 'Mania tickets finally went on sale last weekend.

Even with some seats priced at over US$700, the 50,000 available tickets sold out in a single day -- with the help of the usual internet pre-sales.

With only two thirds of the venue sold, WWE has already broken its own live gate record.

'Mania 23 has drawn US$4.35 million (so far) in ticket sales, smashing the previous US$3.9-million record set at Toronto's Rogers Centre (then the SkyDome) in 2002.

And that's before a single match is even announced, proving while WWE isn't the media juggernaut it used to be, the Wrestlemania name is definitely still a draw.

Around 28,000 more tickets are expected to be gradually released as production and media considerations are finalized, with a quick sell-out expected.

CALGARY CONTENT: Harry Smith, the son of the late British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, isn't the only Stampede Wrestling regular headed to WWE.

Calgary's TJ Wilson has reportedly been signed to a developmental deal and will soon be heading to WWE's Deep South farm system.

Wilson, a current Stampede tag team champ, trained in the Hart Dungeon and is considered an honuorary member of the legendary grappling clan.

THE ANVIL II: Nattie Neidhart, another Calgarian and daughter of Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, has also talked with WWE recently. Neidhart, the first third-generation female wrestler from the local Hart dynasty, could be signed to a deal next month.

PREVIOUS WRESTLEMANIA 23 STORIES

  • September 7, 2006: Edge plans for more fond Detroit memories
  • July 26, 2006: Rally gets Detroit ready for WrestleMania 23


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