Countdown to Wrestlemania
Who really has the power in the billionaire hair match
Posted: Sunday April 1, 2007 10:24AM; Updated: Sunday April 1, 2007 12:21PM
SI.com's Arash Markazi once again skipped out on the Final Four and instead decided to check out the Super Bowl of professional wrestling, WrestleMania. He will check in with several updates from the scene through Monday.
DETROIT -- The idea had been in Bobby Lashley's head for some time. As he sat alone in a meeting room inside the Detroit Public Library looking at a couple of commemorative WrestleMania 23 folding chairs which featured a picture of Donald Trump and Vince McMahon in front of himself and Umaga, he finally could hold it in no longer.
"Nobody knows this yet, but I'm going to let this out now," he says. "OK, Vince McMahon, billionare, Donald Trump, billionare, powerful people, but who has the real power in this match? Me. I could go out there and throw this match and get Donald Trump's head shaved or I could go out there do what I'm supposed to do and get Vince McMahon's head shaved. So, I think before this match starts I need to sit everyone down and let everyone knows who has the real power now."
So is Lashley going to pull a double-cross during one of the most publicized matches in WrestleMania history? "You never know," he says with a wry smile. "It's going to be a fun match."
While Lashley wouldn't reveal the actual game plan on the heels of the McMahon-Trump, hair vs. hair match, he did have his game face on before he was introduced to group of children before the WrestleMania Reading Challenge at the library. Before he went out he clinched his fists, closed his eyes and rested his head on his knuckles before stepping through the doors.
"Whenever I go through the curtain or something I usually have a T-shirt and I squeeze it," says Lashley, who attended Missouri Valley College and won three national wrestling championships between 1996 and 1998. "It's like a silent prayer to myself where I repeat the letters, ILMD, I'm living my dream and also I love my daughter. I have a little two-year-old and she means everything to me and I'm trying to give her something I didn't have growing up. I always drip sweat into that shirt and when I smell it kind of triggers something in my mind to let me know of all the training I did to get to where I am. Even if I don't have a shirt I'll close my eyes and squeeze my hands together and do my silent prayer before I go out."
The prayer has become routine no matter how many people he is speaking or performing in front of, but even Lashley knows things will be different before he steps through the curtains at Ford Field in front of over 75,000 fans at WrestleMania on Sunday. "It's going to be different," he says. "Not too many people have been knocked out, but that's what it felt like when they told me I was going to be in this match. It was like that first time you get your bell rung. The magnitude of it all is really hitting me but I tortured myself to get to this point. I did a lot. So I don't want to say I deserve it, but I deserve it."
Lashley was at the Detroit Public Library along with Rey Mysterio for the WrestleMania Reading Challenge on Saturday morning where a crowd of about 500 gathered inside and outside the packed auditorium to watch five students answer questions about books they had read in a game show-style setting with Lashley and Mysterio asking the questions. Adrianna Slaughter, 15, from Iowa ending up winning the competition and a couple of ringside tickets to WrestleMania. Before the competition Myesterio's five-year-old daughter Aaliyah gave Slaughter a "lucky" sticker and afterwards she presented her with her tickets. "Having kids of my own I know how important it is to motivate them to read," said Mysterio, who constantly had to put his mask back on after taking it off when people would come into the waiting room. "Hopefully this will encourage more kids to read."
After the Reading Challenge, Lashley and Mysterio got in their respective limos and headed over to Skore Lanes, a bowling alley in Taylor, where he was joined by a few other WWE wrestlers including Val Venis and Victoria to help raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Detroit. While the wrestlers took pictures, signed autographs and bowled with the fans, the most popular guy in the room was actually former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski. The Harvard grad was surrounded by a quartet of Hooters Girls, helping cater the event, begging him to stop by the restaurant later.
While Nowinski basked in his glory we hopped into our car and were driven over to Ford Field where Jimmy Hart was finishing up taping a funny segment that will feature many WWE legends during WretleMania. "Baby, that took forever," he said as he stepped into the car. "I felt like we were filming Casablanca. It took over four hours. Sgt. Slaughter said he never needed two takes to do anything. I told him, 'Yeah right, you needed 10.'" As we headed back to Mario's Restaurant to grab an early dinner, Hart got a call on his cell phone from his son, Jimmy Jr., who served in the Army's 101st Airbone Infantry in Iraq for over a year and was recently sent back for a second tour of duty. "Just be safe over there," he said. "God in heaven, just be safe."
After dinner we drove over to the Fox Theatre for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony where legends such as Nick Bockwinkel, The Wild Samoans, Mr. Fuji, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Dusty Rhodes and the late Sheik and Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig, were going to be inducted. Before the show Mr. Perfect's father, Larry "The Axe" Hennig, asked Hart if he had brought a CD of his favorite song, "Rap is Crap," a song Hart wrote and Curt sang while he was feuding with Master P in WCW. In fact he liked it so much he wanted to play it instead of Mr. Perfect's usual theme song at the ceremony. Wade Boggs, who has been a friend of the Hennigs for years, also loved the song and gave Hart his card and told him to send him a copy.
Talking backstage to Boggs before the ceremony, "The Axe" got emotional as he talked about his son and what he had accomplished during his career before passing away in 2003. "I am as proud as any man could be," he said. "Every book has a beginning, middle and an ending and we had a great beginning and middle and now this ending is beautiful."
Vince McMahon will be the first to admit that no one in the business has a larger ego than "Mr. McMahon," but on this night, he takes a back seat to the hall of famers. "This is your night," he tells them during rehearsals. In fact, while McMahon's family sits in the front row for the show, he is in behind the curtains sitting in front of three monitors, adjusting his glasses, constantly tapping his left foot and talking into a headset as he reacts to each speech.
Before the show, he was on stage, flipping through the script for the show as he spoke to each inductee and presenter, although he became antsy as he looked at his watch as he walked backstage. "Everyone, get ready," he said. "We're on in less than an hour." While everyone scurried off to get dressed, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who premiered his upcoming film, "The Condemned" in the same theater the night before, relaxed while he drank a cup of coffee in his camouflage T-shirt and pants. "Steve," he said. "We're on in less than an hour." Austin nodded and said, "I thought all I had to do was shave." McMahon laughed. "Right," he said. "Let's go. You know how long it takes you to get into a tux."