It was a bucket list item completed.
I have been a WWE fan since 1998. The idea of attending a WrestleMania seemed to be an unachievable dream. Real life and monetary concerns got in the way of attending the “Showcase of the Immortals”. After missing a golden opportunity to attend WrestleMania XIX in nearby Seattle, I eagerly waited for the chance to fulfill this fan’s dream. Then it finally happened.
The WWE was going to have its signature event on my side of the country, the beautiful West Coast. It was going to be at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. That is about a two-hour plane ride from my home. Being the “rich” teacher that I am, I was able to save up enough money to attend WrestleMania during my Spring Break. It was amazing.
I somehow convinced by brother Ben to attend as well. He is not nearly the fan I am, but he does watch every pay per view with me and sure plays a lot of WWE Super Card on his phone. It was going to be fun to spend my Spring Break with my brother in San Jose. After spending an amount of money I don’t really want to think about, it was off to WrestleMania 31.
So I wanted to share my experience of achieving this fan’s dream of attending his first WrestleMania and I will include my brother’s thoughts in italics too.
(Ben’s Thoughts): Hi, I’m Brandon’s older brother. I was a pretty big fan of wrestling back in the Hogan Era and again in the Attitude Era. I basically stopped once the Invasion angle happened and Vince was without any real competition. It seemed to be more about talking and a lot less about wrestling. That said I still play the video games and pay some attention. So think of me as an interested outsider’s view on this experience. A fan, but not the guy who keeps up on everything like Brandon.)
You Meet Wrestlers Everywhere
It is amazing what happens when you go to a WrestleMania. You literally meet wrestlers everywhere and some times by random chance. On my flight from Seattle to San Jose, I was sitting across from John and his family. John is a seventh grader from my hometown who was attending WrestleMania with the help of another great organization, Make-A-Wish.
What Make-A-Wish does for kids is quite amazing. The excitement for John and his family was clear. It was not only his first WrestleMania but also his first time on a plane. His experience reminded me that all those times we complain online about the WWE not pushing our favorite wrestlers are really pretty trivial in the grand scheme of life. WWE was a fun entertainment and escape for a kind and loving family who truly needs it. The fact John’s family got to meet dozen of wrestlers, attend parties and get all expenses paid trip to WrestleMania says a lot about the WWE and Make-A-Wish as organizations.
As I talked to John and his family about wrestling, the lady directly in front of me wanted help from us in catching her up on the wrestling storylines. A strange request until she formally introduced herself. It was WWE’s Ivory! She was randomly sitting in front of me. It is the strange world of a WrestleMania weekend.
I’ll admit it was pretty cool to have a 45-minute discussion with a former WWE wrestler. Hearing her thoughts on working the stressful WWE travel schedule, leaving the WWE and random tidbits about wrestlers (i.e. Undertaker is a great dog sitter) was a fun experience. Best of all, it was cool to see these on-screen figures as real life people who, in Ivory’s case, led successful lives post-WWE. I don’t honestly know if John actually knew who Ivory was (she left the WWE when he was 2) but it was a thrill for him to hear from a former WWE superstar. She spent a lot of time with the family after getting off to the plane too despite the fact she had to get over to the autograph signing at Axxess. Ivory (Lisa) is a wonderful person and I told her I missed her purple outfits and her quality wrestling from a great era in WWE history. It was quite a start to WrestleMania weekend.
(Ben’s Thoughts): I’m not really a fan of bothering a celebrity when they are trying to get a meal or spending time with their friends or family. When they approach you, it is amazing. It’s nice to see some people really like what they do and make time for their fans. Don’t rely on this to happen or feel entitled to their time. Sadly I was sitting two rows back next to some dude watching “Robots” on DVD. I did get to talk to John a little bit in the airport on our flight back. He had an amazing time.
Mick Foley Comedy Show
Mick Foley was always my favorite wrestler when I first became a fan. His humor, crazy stunts and eventually his writing is what made me a fan in his early days. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to see him perform his stand-up act in front of a very appreciative WrestleMania weekend crowd at the San Jose Improv Club. Mick took his time to meet and greet with everyone who attended his show. He kindly even moved up the meet and greet so all fans could attend the NXT show if they chose to do so. What a guy.
Mick’s warm-up comic gave a profanity filled warm-up complete with discussions of the homoerotic nature of pro wrestling and a series of insults he hurled at the Great Khali once during a live event. Poor Khali can’t seem to catch a break. The warm-up comedian was funny but his language didn’t seem to fit with Foley’s performance later on.
Then it was Mick himself. I’ll admit it is tough to watch Mick walk around as he does. It is hard for me to think about how all of those bumps I enjoyed watching as a teenager had such a long-term impact on his everyday life. That being said, Mick is still an amazing showman. I am quite the stand-up comedy aficionado, teaching classroom lessons and attending a few shows a year, and Mick is a natural. He isn’t really telling traditional jokes but focuses on story-based humor. Did I expect to hear jokes about Tim Tebow and George Clooney? Not really but it sure was a lot of fun night overall. The theme of his 45-minute set was “Why it made sense for Brock to defeat The Undertaker”. Make of that what you will. It was certainly a well-created story that shows that Mick has a good second career in stand-up comedy.
The second part of his show was fun too. He had Kevin Sullivan and Roddy Piper join him on stage for a twenty minute Q & A. Needless to say, Piper is either insane or plays the rambling crazy man to perfection. At its core, the night was simply a bunch of retired pro wrestlers telling funny stories and I enjoyed this nostalgic trip during this WrestleMania weekend.
(Ben’s Thoughts): Easily worth the money and time to see him. If Foley comes to your town, do not miss the chance. Bang, Bang!
A Whole Lot of Wrestling
Do you not have enough wrestling to watch during WrestleMania weekend? Then you have come to the right place! During the weekend we had Ring of Honor, Evolve, Kaiju, WWN, Shimmer and a show at WrestleCon. If you wanted to watch wrestling non-stop from Thursday to Sunday, you certainly could do so.
I stuck to the NXT late-night Friday show at San Jose State University. It was a wild night with 5,000 rabid fans. I wrote about it here. http://tjrwrestling.net/this-is-awesome-my-experience-at-nxt-san-jose/
(Ben’s Thoughts): The NXT show was amazing and I’ve only seen maybe two NXT matches before this show. I wish RAW was this good some nights, I’d start watching it again. It’s almost like people want to see matches and not Triple H and Stephanie talking for 30 minutes about nothing. Additionally, Charlotte and Sasha Banks (and perhaps Bayley) need to be on the main show. That way Paige and Nikki have someone worthwhile to fight.
WrestleMania Axxess: Waiting is the Hardest Part
You want Axxess to be like this:
Wow, I just met the recently retired AJ Lee! We talked about comic books for a few minutes. Axxess is amazing.
In reality, Axxess was generally waiting, waiting and more waiting.
I sure was waiting in line for a long time of my Axxess session. I wanted to get a picture with Charlotte and Sami Zayn, but a lot of my time consisted of simply standing in a line to meet them. Even after forty-five minutes, we ran out of time and couldn’t even get a picture. Bummer.
This is not the fault of the WWE Superstars. They were kind and generous with their time. They would talk to each fan for a while and take a picture with them. The problem was there simply are too many people and not enough time for them to meet all of us. I stood in line for Cesaro and Kidd for thirty minutes but then their two-hour window was up and they had to leave. The Wild Samoans replaced them. This caused 90% of the line to leave. I felt bad for the Hall of Famers and stayed to have an autograph and picture. Axxess is a strange world that basically involves paying a lot of money for a few autographs and pictures.
(Ben’s Thoughts): Axxess is not a bad deal as you get to meet some current and some past wrestling greats. The problem is the amount of fans. The session we went to must have been the busiest. The line to meet A.J. was fine for Brandon and I but just ten minutes later the line had escaped the barriers and began to wrap around the outside. All the little girls and most of the 20+ something boys wanted to meet their hero/crush. She was only signing from 8am to 10am, so once she left, so did the line. It was a weird popularity contest.
You couldn’t plan ahead to pick the correct line you really wanted to get into because the WrestleMania app, didn’t get updated until it was useless. Someone needs to work on this for sure.
I also disliked the fact that some stars were VIP stars and you had to pay even more to stand in that line to see those wrestlers. John Cena, Sting, and Bret Hart were in a more expensive price range. We met more than one person who had paid for multiple sessions, and at 50 to 100 dollars that is a lot of line standing.
Since the autographs were the main draw, we never even really got to see the “free” NXT matches that were going on or many of the great displays like Undertaker’s gravesite or Triple H’s chair. WWE 2K15 was available to play along with the Elimination Chamber being set up for photos with stars too. If I ever talk him into it, I’ll help Brandon with an article on how to fix all of this. As it stands now, I’d save the money and avoid this if I was to go to WrestleMania again.
Too Much To Buy
Have you ever wanted to buy a 100-dollar replica Slammy Award? Do you need to buy five different Mega Powers shirts? Do you want a WrestleMania 31 stuffed animal shark? How about a t-shirt where Randy Orton is hitting a RKO on a bear? Then the WrestleMania Superstore is for you! It is the place a fan’s wallet goes to die.
Sure I got some WrestleMania shirts and a program, but was amazed by the vast amounts of money being spent on the literally thousands of potential items to buy. The most amazing thing to me was the Replica Belts. Each one was 400 dollars. I saw a gentlemen in front of me buy six of them. I mean you can’t live without a WCW Heavyweight Title spray-painted with the NWO letters right? If I ever wondered how Vince McMahon became a multi-millionaire, I now have figured out how.
(Ben’s Thoughts): Best store I’ve ever seen, not only the high-end items (400 dollar belts and 300 dollar statues) but to affordable items (10 dollar pins and stuffed animals). It has something for every budget. If WrestleMania comes to your town and you can’t afford to do much, stop by this shop. It is free and sometimes there is a Superstar autograph session for free here as well.
Eight Hours at Levi’s Stadium
I will say it was pretty easy to get to Levi’s Stadium. The Bay Area has a good light rail system and security was smooth. It was fun to wait for the doors to open as we listened to a wide variety of wrestling chants. You know what is even weirder? The idea of seeing grown men dressed as pro wrestlers. Honestly, who goes to WrestleMania dressed as Tugboat?
I’ll admit I was pretty upset to see a massive post blocking two ring posts from my view. I was reliving John’s nightmare palm tree from WrestleMania 28! You think with the ticket cost the least they could do is mention it is an obstructed view. However, I doubt with over 70,000 ticket sales Vince cares what I actually think.
You know what the biggest problem with a West Coast outdoor WrestleMania is? It is really hot. I went through many expensive collectible soda cups. Another “shocker” is that the men’s bathroom line is far longer then the women’s line. Are you telling me that there are actually a lot more male wrestling fans? It was a surprise I know.
Oh and there was a show too. I don’t think I need to do a full play by play but it sure is quite a unique experience being with such a large crowd. The crowd was loud and boisterous throughout the show but it was really hard to get a proper chant going in a crowd that size. We certainly tried during the night and I hope it came off that way on television.
That being said we still had clear crowd favorites. There was a lot of support for Mizdow, Bryan, The Rock and especially Brock Lesnar. It was fun to watch a crowd that size support one wrestler so passionately and loudly. It was fun to be a part of that.
It was wonderful to see a group of fans get so into certain matches/segments that it was standing the entire time. I know I didn’t sit down for the last ten minutes of the Triple H/Sting match and yelled like crazy when the NWO’s music hit. The crowd refused to sit for the entire Rock segment and the applause for Ronda Rousey was deafening. It was a special moment for sure.
The most fun part of the night was the main event. I’ll admit the nighttime setting added a lot to the feel of the final match. The crowd was certainly not split in their support. It was clearly 90 percent in favor of Brock. A lot of the chants directed at Reigns are not printable in a TV-PG setting. It had that big fight feel.
The sense of dread was loud and vocal as Reigns made a comeback. So, it was ear-splittingly loud when Rollins music hit. The crowd was into the fight and screaming at every pinfall. When Rollins got the three count, I think I lost my voice. I wasn’t the only one in the stadium. Did I think I would ever get that into a WWE show? Not really, but it shows what a good event can do to a true fan. As the fireworks went off to celebrate Rollins’ win and the end of WrestleMania, we left the stadium in a wonderful mood. After seeing creepy scarecrows, drummers, Terminators and Russian tanks, it was time to leave this magical place. Sigh.
(Ben’s Thoughts: I never would go to one of an outdoor WrestleMania again, stupid pole. It basically meant you could only see two of the four ring posts, making someone standing in the middle of the ring invisible. So basically I watched most of the matches in a stadium in the hot sun on a big screen. I could have stayed home if I wanted to watch it on television!
There is no “halftime” for bathroom breaks/food runs and with 10,000 extra people in the stadium, the lines were that much longer. I left when the musical act started to get food and missed the Divas match along with the beginning of the Hall of Fame recap. Brandon missed more. This is sad because the Divas match was something I was looking forward to.)
Attending WrestleMania exceeded my expectations. The fans, in their brightly colored shirts were easy to spot, and fun to talk to. To meet fans from around the world was an experience I will never forget.
The fun comes for the little things as well. I invented a new wrestling game with my brother. It is called “Hipster or Sami Zayn”. There are sure a lot of wrestling fans that look like Sami Zayn. Try it at your own local WWE show.
Sadly all things must end. As my brother and I returned to Oregon, we got home and watched the post-Mania Raw. After all, the show must go on and it is only a year until WrestleMania 32. I know that my first WrestleMania experience will not be my last. After seeing Triple H carry a bunch of Terminator heads to the ring, how can one expect to ever really return to the real world again?
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I have my Twitter account @WWEBNRL as well. I would love to hear your thoughts about attending a WrestleMania? Has the experience been the same for all WWE fans?