Thursday, April 11, 2013

WrestleMania XXIX Weekend: The Memories

 WrestleMania.  Everyone knows what it is.  Beginning in 1985, it has become a brand name that redefined wrestling events.  New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Boston have all hosted it.  Hundreds of thousands of fans have attended it.  Thousands of fans that never before included yours truly.  That has finally changed, with an unexpected, personal, "WrestleMania Moment" to boot, but we'll get to that later.

For a myriad of reasons, I hemmed and hawed about attending WrestleMania XXIX despite it being the closest to my area that it has been in awhile.  When a friend took it upon himself to buy some relatively inexpensive (for WrestleMania) tickets, I just couldn't pass it up.  Had I said no, I may very well have given up on wrestling forever once Bruno Sammartino was announced for the WWE Hall of Fame.  While 'Mania would be an experience, there was no way that I could be absent for "The Living Legend" being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

With these spectacles and other "piggyback" events taking place, the NY/NJ area was packed with wrestling fans from around the globe.  TNA and independent companies like Shimmer promoted shows to capitalize on the "mania" in the area.  Even Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and other legendary stars were brought in for meet and greets.

The merchandising surrounding WrestleMania is always a favorite topic on this blog.  For the 29th edition of the event, WWE seemed to have produced more merchandise than ever before.  From shirts to sock monkeys, pendants to pull-string bags, WWE pulled out everything but the kitchen sink.  Where did they keep it all?  At the WWE Superstore inside of MetLife Stadium, of course!

Open to all for hour after hour all weekend, the WWE Superstore was an impressive and expensive merchandising mecca for all WWE Universe members to trek to, not just the 80,000 that attended WrestleMania.  Exclusive t-shirts featuring the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Class members?  Check.  A WWE Championship replica belt signed by The Rock priced at just over $2,000?  Check.  Overpriced Mattel figures?  Check.  The WWE Universe ate it up, especially when WWE talent would attend for appearances.  My personal pick?  The WrestleMania taxicab pullback toy.  Simple, inexpensive ($10), and just the kind of item that collectors will be marveling over years from now.

This trip not only marked my personal WrestleMania debut, but also my first time inside the famous Madison Square Garden.  I always knew that I'd get to the Garden for a special wrestling event, but never in a million years would I have thought that I would be attending Bruno Sammartino's 188th sellout in the building.  Along with Bob Backlund, Mick Foley, Booker T, Trish Stratus, and Donald Trump, Sammartino entered the Hall of Fame in front of an audience full of peers and fans alike.  The full event will be available with the WrestleMania XXIX DVD and Blu-Ray release coming May 14th and it is one that you won't want to miss.  Not only is one of the most star-studded Hall of Fame classes honored, but it is also one of the most physical and fun ceremonies in the event's history.

WrestleMania XXIX itself has already become one of the most debated and controversial editions of the show.  The more recent four hour WrestleMania's have been loaded with skits, "musical" performances, and other "entertainment" filler.  Aside from a P. Diddy performance that was perfectly placed for a restroom break, this WrestleMania was exactly what many fans look for from the event: wrestling on the grandest scale.

Fans who watched on pay-per-view have said that the crowd seemed dead or disinterested.  That really could not have been further from the case.  Astute fans will realize that the event was held in the open-air MetLife Stadium.  It has been noted many times that crowd reaction is often hampered under these conditions.  The only time I can remember a rather silent crowd would be in the first half of the match pitting Triple H against Brock Lesnar.  This had the unfortunate task of following the match which received the most audience reaction (and rightfully so) of the night, The Undertaker versus CM Punk.

For someone who isn't always enamored with the current WWE product or the current state of wrestling in general, I will say that it was an incredible experience that I will never forget.  While it was definitely not the greatest wrestling event that I have ever witnessed live, I doubt that I will ever attended a greater spectacle.  From the spectacular staging to the lighting, music, pyrotechnics and general aura, I will never forget the feeling.  Just watching the pre-show on YouTube upon my return home brought the feeling flooding back.  I can only imagine how great it will be to relive WrestleMania XXIX on Blu-Ray.

And then there's my own "WrestleMania Moment" that I had previously mentioned.  It is in fact something that I have, in fun, dubbed "The MetLife Miracle."  Despite my group having what were probably the lowest priced tickets available for the event, we knew that we would have a blast simply being there.  We figured that we might possible have terrible sight lines between the far distance and ornate staging, but that didn't bother us.  After all, it's WrestleMania.

Clutching my ticket while making the trek towards MetLife Stadium, I had a feeling that the Hall of Fame ceremony the night before was the highlight of the weekend for me.  I was at peace with that feeling.  After  being frisked, poked, and prodded by security at the gate, we made our way to the ticket takers to be scanned.  If you weren't aware, tickets haven't been "torn" in many years.  Once you're scanned and hear the "beep," you get the full ticket to keep and cherish.  Our tickets did not beep.  Instead, an "X" appeared on the scanning device.

Encountering a situation such as this before at a WWE event, I did not panic.  In that instance, a camera had been placed where two of our four seats were located.  This time, the ticket scanner told us that our tickets had to be exchanged due to obstructed sight.  We were directed to a tent where they would be exchanged for us.  This tent actually did not exist.  After waiting in a long line where the "tent" was supposed to be and being tossed around through various security checks and gates by clueless employees and "supervisors," we finally joined another long line in front of a tiny kiosk simply labeled "guest services."  After about another half hour of waiting, two employees took our tickets and seemed to mull over a seating chart while deciding where we would be placed.  The anticipation, mixed with the anger of being tossed from gate to gate by clueless workers, was about to pay off.

We were handed four tickets labeled "COMP" and "MetLife Stadium" as opposed to TicketMaster along with a small seating chart crossing out our old seats and circling a new section.  While the section was central to the stadium, we still had no idea what we were given.  Once our tickets finally scanned and we were able to walk through the "Great Gate of Kiev," I screamed and jumped for joy.  Between it being WrestleMania and our ordeal finally ending, I had to let off some steam.

Escalators and corridors to our destination were seemingly endless.  Passing hundreds of screaming, singing, excited WWE Universe members was getting old.  I just wanted to see where we were.  At last, our group stopped.  In front of us were glass doors and to the left was a staircase that apparently led to the parking lot.  Where were we to go?  That's when two suited gentlemen, with those all-important ticket scanners, opened the glass doors.

It may as well have been the gates to Heaven at that point.  We had club seating for WrestleMania?  For $96 a piece?  As we trailed behind a father and his young son who was proudly proclaiming "It's WrestleMania!", I couldn't help but note out loud that, at that moment, I felt like I was his age again.  The young fan's father nodded in agreement and said, "I think we all do!"

When we hit the glass doors to lead us from the amazing club area (with special concession areas and restrooms) into the stadium, we remembered that these new tickets said "Row 1."  Since we were not at all familiar with MetLife Stadium, we were still unsure as to exactly what this meant.  When we finally reached our four seats, it became perfectly clear...

An amazing central view of WrestleMania XXIX.  With Vince McMahon's Statue of Liberty staring us in the face, we were treated to a full view of the ring, stage, screens, and 80,000 fans.  Even the tent which held production was right below us.  We have since come to realize that for fans who were able to purchase these tickets, several hundred dollars had to be parted with.  For many surrounding us, however, it seems like that "COMP" mark may have come into play.  A woman behind us discussing her support of women's liberation during Undertaker-Punk?  A man behind and to the right of me proclaiming that he "used to watch this stuff." and that he remembered Koko B. Ware?  Members of the "Universe" these weren't, but that didn't bother us in the least.

"Obstructed view" was the original reason given for the exchange.  After scanning the stadium, the most we could figure out was that a spotlight was placed on or in front of our original section.  But why did "The MetLife Miracle" take place at all?  Why were we so lucky?  Prayers?  Karma?  A horseshoe?  None of that.  Not even close.  Thanks to events from earlier in the weekend, bird poop was our best guess.

On the Friday of WrestleMania weekend my group decided to spend the day in one of my favorite places, New York City.  During a visit to the famous Central Park, we came under attack by a group of pigeons rivaled only by the flock that dive bombed Joe Pesci thanks to Macauley Culkin.  While three of us escaped unscathed, my friend Mike was not so fortunate.  Or was he?  Luck from such a...special...event is a well-known omen.  Who ever said that carrier pigeons are extinct?  That bird may very well have carried us to an amazing WrestleMania experience.

God bless that pigeon, for he was the true WrestleMania VIP in our books.

1 comment:

Loneman1 said...

Nice story there man! That truly sounds like it was an epic experience!