Big fish makes kids' wishes come true at Aquarium

The superstars, legends and divas took over Atlanta Saturday.

Oh, and the WWE wrestlers were here, too.

In this corner of downtown, the Georgia Aquarium debuted its splashy, $110 million Dolphin Tales attraction. In that corner, the Georgia World Congress Center played host to WrestleMania Axxess, the for-frenzied fans-mostly warmup act to Sunday night's WrestleMania XXVII extravaganza at the Georgia Dome.

With so many big fish swimming around the same small pond, what were the chances some would eventually meet?

"I am in the middle of a shark tank right now and I will be in the middle of a shark tank tomorrow night," WWE superstar John Cena wisecracked as he paused in front of the aquarium's Ocean Voyager Tank. Behind him in the window, an enormous whale shark appeared to be sizing up the defending two-time winner of the Slammy Award, given annually to WWE's superstar of the year (in case you didn't know, there are no plain old "wrestlers" in WWE. Everyone's either a "superstar," a "legend" or a "diva").

"I don't think I would do as well in this [tank]," Cena continued. "I think I'd wind up inside of him."

Luckily, Cena was just the lunchtime speaker. His presence at the aquarium was — wrestling fans should pardon the term — preordained. For the fourth year in a row, WWE and the Make-A-Wish Foundation teamed up to bring some 30 youngsters with life threatening conditions to town for WrestleMania weekend; at a luncheon held Saturday at the Georgia Aquarium, Cena posed for individual photos with the honorees, some of whom sped excitedly toward him in their wheelchairs, and presented them with framed certificates declaring them members of the "Circle of Champions."

One of them, Will Thomas of Wilmington, Del., greeted Cena delightedly — despite being more of a fan of the superstar Triple H himself.

"He's a fighter and he's tough," said Will, 15, who hasn't let his cerebral palsy stop him from making the honor roll and winning his high school's talent contest recently. Then, remembering where he was, he admitted, "I'd have to take the dolphin" in a battle between Triple H and the aquarium's new resident superstars.

About those dolphins. At 2 p.m., they took center tank for the first public performance of AT&T "Dolphin Tales," a twice daily, 30-minute show built around a battle between the good guy StarSpinner and a band of evil sea monsters. Every seat in the 1,800-capacity theater was filled as StarSpinner crooned in a brilliantly blinking cape, five dolphins in the rotating cast of 11 tumbled in mid-air and a very realistic rain and lightning storm seemed to weigh in the sea monsters' favor at least temporarily — until those superstar and diva dolphins rode in to the rescue. Some of them with wetsuited humans on their backs.

"I have been waiting for this exhibit since the day the aquarium opened," said Amanda Middleton, 14, of Alpharetta. "I'm so excited, I'm probably going to explode."

Take that, WrestleMania.