Of the WrestleMania's of the past decade, XXIV is my second favorite. It was my favorite of the era until my obvious bias and undying love of WrestleMania XXIX came about. It was outdoors, it had the dramatic lighting effect that only Mother Nature can pull off, and it had several "WrestleMania moments" that have been shown time and time again. Most of all, it had the "WrestleMania feel," something that not every show under the banner has been able to pull off.
Near the front of the program are pages dedicated to the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2008. WWE has taken several different directions regarding programs for WrestleMania and the Hall of Fame ceremony itself. 2008 marked the final year in which a smaller, more elegant, Hall of Fame program was produced. In 2009, a standalone Hall of Fame program of the same size as the WrestleMania programs was available. From 2010-on, the programs were merged into one and sold the entire weekend at Axxess, the Hall of Fame, and WrestleMania.
The particular copy shown here was acquired from the daughter and son-in-law of Gordon Solie, Pam and Robert Allyn. The Allyn's were present at the event to honor the late "Dean of Wrestling Broadcasters" who was inducted into the Hall of Fame that year along with Eddie Graham, Jack and Jerry Brisco, Rocky Johnson, Peter Maivia, Mae Young, and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. The Hall took on a decidedly Floridian flavor that year, especially considering the inclusion of Graham and Solie.
Another reason that the Mania title matches of this era don't quite measure up is that fans simply weren't behind the main eventers of the time as they once had been. In a fact that's been discussed to death, WrestleMania (and WWE shows in general) began to sell solely on the brand name factor alone rather than the drawing power of select stars. Although I have speculated that we may going back in the opposite direction with stars like Daniel Bryan, The Shield, The Wyatt Family, and even the Rhodes and Uso families, the remnants of the past "era of disinterest" is still very evident with the backlash on names like Randy Orton and Batista.
Perhaps even more memorable was the match between Flair and Shawn Michaels. Going in, most fans realized that Flair would be losing this match, which in turn would trigger his retirement. I can tell you from watching the show live with a mixed group of casual and regular wrestling fans, it didn't matter to anyone. Two of the all-time greats told a story that could captivate fans on any level. Although it didn't turn out to be Flair's final match altogether, it will ultimately be his final WWE match.
This WrestleMania program is unlike many of the others in that it includes a poster highlighting the Show-Mayweather match as well as the two title matches. This "bonus" is reminiscent of an old style wrestling event poster and helps give the title matches a bit more "oomph," although it is telling that the boxer vs wrestler match overshadows everything else. The inclusion of a poster is very hit or miss with pay-per-view programs (several in the '94-'95 era had them as does Survivor Series 2011), so it's always a nice little extra.
Mania programs rarely disappoint, even if the corresponding show does. With XXIV we had a winning show and a nice program to boot that, while not the rarest, isn't the easiest to find in the collection. Of any niche wrestling collectors that I hear from the most, it's definitely WrestleMania program collectors. After all, "The Greatest Sports Entertainment Extravaganza of All-Time" should have the greatest memorabilia of all-time. What will the thirtieth edition bring us? Time will tell. "Laissez les bon temps rouler" may be this years tagline, but I think that the thousands of fans in the Superdome will more likely be chanting, "Sainte merde!"