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My Wrestlemania 32 Diary: Part 1

One year ago, this:

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6 months ago, this:

Me: “You should come to Dallas with me. All the guys from New Orleans a few years ago will be there, it’s going to be a blast.”
My wife Stephanie: “I don’t know, time off work, grandma has to watch the kid…..”
Me: “Shawn Michaels is doing a signing. I’ll get you a photo and an autograph.”
Stephanie: (Brief pause) “Should we fly or drive? Probably drive, it’ll be nice to have a car instead of taking taxis everywhere, right?”

3 weeks ago, this:
Stephanie: “I know we’re driving, can we leave after I do my shift on Thursday? It’ll work out better for me so I don’t get any missed time at work.”
Me: “Sure. Right after you get off?”
Stephanie: “Yeah, we’ll leave at 5. It’s a ten hour trip, we can stop for the night and finish up in the morning.”
Me: “Sounds good.”

This is my Wrestlemania trip diary. I wrote it because I had some fun stories and some neat pictures and thought it would be nice to share them with you all, and since this was my second time, I was more prepared to keep notes and get good pics. It is not a review of the shows (Tommy Hall has that covered) as much as an accounting of the experience. Hope you enjoy it. All credit for photos goes to my wife, who is a much better photographer than I am.

It’ll be in two parts – Days 1 & 2 are here, and Days 3 & 4 will follow in a few days.

DAY ½ – Thursday afternoon, 3:30 PM

I get the house ready for our housesitter. The folks who booked our room in Dallas flew out earlier in the day, and are checked in already, so we’re good to go. We have two errands that need to be run once Steph gets off work before we head to Dallas. I’ve already got the trip set up on Google Maps and in my phone, estimated time is about a ten hour drive from Omaha. I figure that we can drive for about 6-7 hours, stop at midnight and take a nap in a rest area somewhere, then finish in the morning at about 5 or so. We have to be at Wrestlecon for the Shawn signing on Friday starting at 9:30 AM, so that’s the first item on our agenda.

Shawn Michaels is my wife’s favorite wrestler, going all the way back to when she was 13 and had all of his merch. She saw him at an In Your House where, surprise, he showed his ass.

This did little to dissuade her adoration, to say the least.

Anyway, with that being up first, we have a vested interest in getting on the road. So there should be no problems here, right?

Day 3/4 – Thursday evening, 8:30 PM

Me: “Well, since we’re still here, we might as well eat before we get on the road.”

Don’t ask.

Day 1 – Friday morning, 1:00 AM

I wake up in the passenger seat.

Me: “Where are we?”
Steph: “I’m not sure. Why did you plan this route? We’re going through every backwoods road in Nebraska.”
Me: “Google planned it. Said it was the fastest route.”
Steph: “Well, Google is an idiot.”
Me: “This looks like the road where every horror movie ever has started.”
Steph: “Well, it’s just about your turn to take over, so let’s stop and get something to drink.”
Me: “How far away are we?”
Steph: “Says we’re still 7 and ½ hours out.”
Me: “After 4 hours of driving? That can’t be right.”
Steph: “I’m planning the trip back.”

Day 1 – Friday morning, 8:00 AM

Stephanie wakes up in the passenger side this time.

Steph: “Where are we?”
Me: “We are in Texas, it appears.”
Steph: “Yay! How far do we need to go?”
Me: “Well, we’re going to have to go straight to the Con to make your signing, then to the hotel afterwards.”
Steph: “Wait, so I have to meet Shawn Michaels without taking a shower after having been in a car for the last 12 hours?”
Me: “That would be correct.”
Steph: “Great.”

We spend the rest of the next hour navigating the delightful Texas traffic. And by delightful, I mean the opposite of that. We hit the Dallas area at about 8:30, and while it says that the hotel that Wrestlecon is at is only 10 minutes away, we don’t pull into a parking spot until 9:10 AM, thanks to the wonder that is driving in rush hour traffic through the fresh hell that is the Dallas interstate system.

Day 1 – Friday morning, 9:10 AM

Stephanie grabs her camera, loads in the batteries and tries to make herself look presentable while we head into Wrestlecon. Steph made a crack about this being the first time that she’d had to wait in line for a convention in awhile (I manage a comic book store in my real life, so whenever we go to a comic-con I normally have a badge that allows us to bypass the line to get in), but they processed quickly and we hit the floor very fast. The Con itself was pretty well put together, with folks still really setting up while the first of the line started to get in there. The line for Shawn fills up pretty quickly, but since the tickets are being numbered according to when they were purchased, Steph is #45 in line.

Shawn is exceptionally quiet while signing; not rude (trust me, I’ve seen rude signers before, LOU FERIGNO) but not especially engaging outside of handshakes and smiles for the photos, and it seemed to intimidate some people. My wife is not the type to be intimidated, even though she was pretty nervous. She walked right up to him, handed him a custom My Little Pony that was made for him by a friend, and talked to him for a few moments, more than most of the guys in line did. She does take a deep breath while leaving and coming over to me, but she seems happy. We decide to walk around the Con.

5 minutes later, this:

Me: “Hey, where’s the picture that Shawn signed for you?”

We head back over to the booth, where the security guy recognizes her quickly and hands over the signed photo that she had forgotten.

Maybe she was a little more nervous than she let on.

I stop to get a pic with Ricochet, who is awesome. For some reason he had no line at that point, so I was able to ask him about the WWE cruiserweight series, but he dodged it, saying “I don’t know, we’ll have to see.” I’m pretty sure he’s coming in, at least for that if nothing else.

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We keep walking around, and we walk past a booth selling inflatable folding chairs and trash cans.

Stephanie: “You know, Dianne would LOVE one of those.”

The guy running the booth overhears her and comes over. My daughter now owns her very own inflatable folding chair.

Next up, I notice that Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels are standing in another corner, and Kaz is setting up shirts. I get a pic with Kaz, who is his character in every single way while doing so. He’s great, just a really funny guy.
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As we’re walking away, Steph grabs my arm: “Is that the Honky Tonk Man?”

And indeed it is. Let me tell you, Honky has got the convention thing down. He knows his patter, he knows how to make you feel comfortable and talk the money out of your wallet. I briefly think about telling him that I write for Scott Keith’s blog and asking did he still want to kick Scott’s ass, but I decided against it. We ask if he can get us both in the picture to which he replies sure. There’s not anyone else in his line, so my wife asks who’s going to take the photo.

Honky: “Don’t worry about it, we’ve got a photographer right here.”

He goes to the next line over and pulls a random dude out of line to take the picture, who looks rather surprised when Honky starts talking to him, but he agrees. And while my wife teaches him to use her camera, he accidentally snaps this gem of myself and Honky:

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One of Steph’s favorite pictures on the weekend, she can’t stop laughing at it.

At this point, I’ve been up for 22 hours, minus some sleep in the car. I want to go to the hotel, so it’s goodbye to Wrestlecon. As we’re leaving, Virgil is coming into the convention, prompting one of the guys who was outside the Con to ask him if he had his ‘Fuck Money’; Virgil didn’t miss a beat before replying ‘not yet’ and going into the Con. We go up the escalator and pass Chris Hero, who’s also heading in.

Back in time for a moment: yesterday, I told Steph that I was probably going to go to the Evolve show in the afternoon with Nick, Corey, and Rhianna, since I was going to have to skip Saturday’s show because of Ring of Honor.

By the time we get to our hotel, I’m feeling like death warmed over, with NXT looming for the evening. I still want to make Evolve if I can. The crew is sitting in the hotel lobby when we get there, and I greet Nick and Corey for the first time in person since New Orleans. We shoot the shit for awhile, agree that there will definitely be some shenanigans in the Shane/Taker match, probably the Balor club debuting, and that Joe is probably winning the title tonight. Finally, myself, Steph, Rhianna and her son Lucas head up to the room where her husband Bryce is sleeping as well. I take one look at the foldout couch and silently apologize to Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay, because I know in my heart that there’s no Evolve in my future, as I want to be well-rested for NXT tonight. Still, we’ll see how I feel at about 3 or so, right? Maybe I’ll be awake enough?

Day 1 – Friday afternoon, 3:00 PM

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ……………

Day 1 – Friday afternoon, 6:00 PM

I wake up, shower, and get ready for NXT. Myself, Steph, Bryce and Lucas head to the Whataburger next door (The fact that there is a Whataburger next door is important later) and get some food. We’re taking our car over to the show, while the rest of them are taking an Uber. We get parked and meet up with everyone, and the line to get into NXT stretches the entire length of the floor past Axxess. It’s going on about 7 or so at this point; instead of doing a long taping for the preshow, they’re doing a panel discussion and then the Crews/Samson match. We check out the WWE Superstore to get more stuff for the kid, who was very unhappy that she didn’t get to come with us. We wanted some Becky Lynch goggles for her, but they didn’t have any, so she got Balor sleeves, as she watches NXT with us every week and loves Finn. I wanted to pick up the new Balor shirt, but it was sold out. I do pick up the ‘Mania hoodie and that’s that for the store. By now, the line has abated somewhat, and we hop back in.

We’ve got floor seats for NXT. They’re awesome. I’ll touch on a few things, and then pictures. My favorite live wrestling experience ever will probably always be the Raw the night after Wrestlemania 30. The sheer love for Daniel Bryan and his win the night before still puts a smile on my face, and that crowd was great….but man, this came close. That crowd was crazy hot for everyone, and the Nakamura chants that you heard were randomly going up before the show even started. Cheers especially to The Revival for being old-school heels enough to draw boos and heel heat from a crowd that wanted to love everyone. I really, really liked that match, as it was one of the most old-school matches that played the crowd like a fiddle; there was tension in the air as the false tags kept flying and Gable played face-in-peril. It was wrestling the way us old folks like it, consarnit.

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I don’t really think that anyone needs me to tell them that Zayn/Nakamura was a masterpiece. It was.

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Bayley/Asuka drew some interesting reactions from the people around me at least. I don’t know if Tommy can draw a comparison from where he was, but people who were cheering Asuka at the beginning were ready to kill her after she beat Bayley, and that’s just a testament to how crazy over a babyface Bayley is. There was a dude behind me, kid about 13 years old; he went crazy for Nakamura and even though he was kind of loud in my ear, he won me over just by being so damned excited for everything. He was PISSED when Bayley lost. As in, scary pissed.

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My wife got to get the “I told you so!” moment when Finn came out with a chainsaw, as she called that from the very beginning. Great match, with the doctors being the most over heels of the entire evening with the constant stopping to towel Joe off.

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As we’re leaving the arena, I’m handed a flyer for an event taking place after ‘Mania on Sunday at midnight. I decide that might be fun to go to, as Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, and Joey Ryan are all listed as appearing. Might be cool to catch it. Show starts at midnight, so I make a mental note about it. At this point, everyone is tired and we have an Axxess session starting at 8:00 AM. Everyone heads back to the hotel, while myself and Stephanie go to a local Walmart to get some Tylenol for Lucas who isn’t feeling well, and some other provisions to make a sign for Sunday.

Day 2 – Saturday morning, 1:30 AM

We decide to get some food at a local IHOP near the Walmart instead of eating at the Whataburger next to the hotel for the second time that day. As I said earlier, this comes back into play and proves to be a mistake, as I later find out that several ROH wrestlers showed up at that Whataburger at about 1 AM, with Jay Briscoe and Silas Young being mentioned to me by name. D’oh. Oh well. We head back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.

Day 2 – Saturday morning, 8:30 AM

Myself and Steph are sitting down for breakfast in the lobby while the rest of our room gets ready for Axxess. We’re doing this session so Rhianna can meet Heath Slater (she’s a crazy mark for him, they follow each other on Twitter, and she meets him at every ‘Mania) and introduce her family to him. I have no agenda for Axxess and am just killing time until myself and Steph head over for Supercard of Honor Day 2, so I’m in no hurry today. We finally get on the road and get to Axxess.

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Lines are long and everywhere. I’m reminded of why I don’t particularly care for Axxess; while I do recommend that you do it once just to check it out, once you’ve done it, you don’t really need to do it again. So, signings rotate every two hours. You need the Wrestlemania App to tell you who is signing at what station, and that’s key – otherwise, you’re just wandering around this giant hall hoping to find someone you want right away before the line gets too long. Anyway, the App updates about 5-10 minutes before it switches, and my phone is getting some dogshit reception in this place. Bryce is getting some decent stuff though, and he finally unlocks the schedule when it updates. I scan this list, see that Sami Zayn is signing at the Mountain Dew booth and take off, but it’s WAY too late even by then, as his line has extended beyond the barricade. I know that I have to leave Axxess a little early so I can be early for ROH, so that’s a bit of a bummer. I walk back over to where I left everyone, but notice that NXT has changed out their guy too; it was Austin Aries, and now it’s Hideo Itami, and his line is very manageable. So myself and Steph hop into that line.

Itami is extremely nice, and I’m convinced that he didn’t understand a word I was saying to him. I asked him when he would be back, and he just kind of pursed his lips and said “Soon.” I hope that’s true, but I’m not totally sure he really heard what I was saying. Either way, he was a really cool cat.

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By this time, it’s 11:45 AM. ROH starts at 2, and since I have GA tickets, I want to be there early for autographs, to eat lunch, etc before belltime. So we’re off to the Downtown Hyatt Regency, which is about a 15 minute walk on a very nice Dallas day.

Day 2 – Saturday, 1:00 PM

Autograph line for ROH.

Up first, Adam Cole, bay-bay! The first thing I do is apologize for my Kyle O’Reilly shirt, which he scowls at playfully. He’s nice as hell, and I chat with him for a minute or so about seeing him and Jay at Supercard in New Orleans, which causes him to smile. We talk briefly about PWG and ROH, and I tell him that I hope that he’s going to move on someday, but I appreciate everything he’s done. He thanks me and says that he loves working for ROH, but you never know. A class act in every way.

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Up next, the Briscoes, who are EASILY the nicest wrestlers I meet all weekend. They take the time to actually ask me questions about where I’m from, how long I’ve been watching ROH, etc. They came off was completely genuine, nice dudes, especially Jay.

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The Motor City Machine Guns are next, and they’re a little quieter but no less nice. Shelley is a little more talkative than Sabin, but Chris thanks me when I tell him that I’m happy to see him wrestling again after his injury. The guy in front of me made a crack about the X-Division, which caused both of them to kind of shake their heads about TNA these days. I got the feeling that it’s kind of an in-joke amongst the wrestlers in some ways.

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Finally, Dalton Castle, who is my wife’s favorite ROH wrestler. He was his character in every way, especially with the Boys right there.

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I go to look at the merch booth, and Steve Corino wanders out; I ask for a pic and he obliges.

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With that, we hop into the line to go in to the show. I notice that the setup lends itself to having the best view on the aisles, so we get seats in the first row of GA on the end, which gives Steph a straight-on shot at the ring for her camera, which makes her much happier than she was at NXT.

As usual, the ROH crowd is raucous from the get-go. Show starts with Shaheem Ali & Ken Phoenix against some local guys, Shane Taylor and Keith Lee for the dark match. Taylor and Lee are two huge dudes that move quick as hell, and the match was fun. Proper beginning is with Jay Lethal coming out to the ring to cut a promo. He runs down Colt coming back from last night, and says that Cabana doesn’t deserve an ROH title shot….but a guy like Cheeseburger does. ‘Burger comes out and Jay wins a short squash. Afterwards, Cabana comes out and challenges Jay right now, intimating that Jay doesn’t have the stones without Truth around.

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Lethal gets goaded into it and gets rolled up in a counter to the Lethal Injection to give Colt the win.

Up next, it was ANX vs Matt Sydal and ACH. Typically good ROH tag match, Sydal and ACH win with the Shooting Star Press followed by the Midnight Star. Steph was really impressed with the SSP by Sydal.

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Next up, it’s Donovan Dijak against Will Ferrara. First only okay match of the day, but they put on a decent enough show. Dijak damn near killed himself off a springboard, but he gets the win over Will.

Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish are out next, for a 2 out of 3 Falls match. As you’d probably expect, this one was pretty good – Strong got the first fall, Bobby got the next one, and Fish won the whole thing with a kneebar to get the tapout for the last fall. Very, very good match.

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Time for intermission! I head out to go to the bathroom first, and ACH is now behind the merch booth. I ask for a pic, and he’s more than happy to oblige.

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After that, I decide to smoke before I go back in, and shoot the shit with a few guys from California outside. Right before I finish, Cary Silkin comes out with a big cigar; I figured I was on a roll and might as well ask, and he’s happy to snap a quick one.

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Time for the show to resume! As I’m heading back in, Mike Posey and his ‘posse’ are in the ring, and they call out Moose to start the second half of the show. That goes about as well as one might expect as Moose clears out the ring pretty quickly.

War Machine comes out next to face Silas Young and the Beer City Bruiser. Young works the mic to start, goading War Machine into putting the belts on the line, which they do. The Bruiser did some great work in this match, as I’m consistently amazed at how well he moves for a guy his size. War Machine keeps the belts after a decent tag match.

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My wife perks up because Dalton Castle is out next, full entrance. He’s facing BJ Whitmer, and BJ channels Jerry Lawler by stalling for about 9 years or so; luckily, he’s in there with Dalton, who stomps around the ring and generally tries to be entertaining to keep the crowd going. Castle picks up the win with a Bangarang in a middling match. After the match, Adam Page gets in the ring from commentary and tells BJ that they’re going to face off in a street fight in San Antonio.

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Time for spotfest city, as up next is a #1 Contender’s match for the tag belts – The Briscoes vs the Addiction vs the Motor City Machine Guns vs the Young Bucks. The Bucks get the biggest pop of the night, no real question. The match is a crazy trainwreck as you might expect considering the teams involved. There’s some neat spots, including a quad superkick and an 8 man suplex spot. Briscoes pick up the win after a bunch of craziness. Fun stuff in every way.

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Stokely Hathaway comes back out and announces that Moose is going to team with Okada at Best in the World.

And finally for the day, the match I came to see: Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole, no holds barred. Cole attacks from behind during Kyle’s entrance, and I manage to elbow my way close enough to see most of the match from close to ringside. And boy, it was awesome. They let it ALL hang out here and destroyed most of the ringside area; Cole missed O’Reilly with a kick and took out Mandy Leon at ringside. Chairs got involved, including Kyle getting a sideslam onto two of them back to back spine first. Tables were broken, there were a bunch of Japanese strong style spots incorporated into the match near the end, and Kyle got the win by finding a chain underneath the ring, tying it to the top rope, and wrapping it around Cole’s arm and neck; he applied an armbar into a guillotine to cause Adam to pass out and giving Kyle the win. CRAZY AWESOME MATCH. 2nd best match I saw all weekend, and it more than lived up to the hype. Completely worth it; seek it out.

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After the match, Kyle gets a mic and gives a very nice speech to all of us, thanking us for supporting ROH, and that ‘we all know why we’re here this weekend’ but it’s great that we came to support Ring of Honor, and that we all have one thing in common, and that’s that we love professional wrestling. He thanked us again and went around ringside to slap hands and do poses for quick pics, and I wasn’t missing my chance; my favorite pic of the weekend, ladies and gents.

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While you can’t see it very well because of the light, Kyle’s other eye is almost completely closed from the shots Cole was dishing out. As we leave the hotel, we run into a dude who was at the Evolve show, and he tells us that Chris Hero and Fred Yehi tore the house down at Evolve today, as did Ricochet and Will Ospreay; I later confirm this to be an accurate statement from the folks in our room who where there.

Day 2 – Saturday, 6:00 PM

I take my wife out to dinner. We skip the WWN Supershow and all wrestling for the rest of the evening, which means that I’m going to miss all the Evolve guys this weekend.

My wife smiles at me. That’s more than enough to make me okay with it.

Day 2 – Saturday, 11:00 PM

We make it back to the hotel and crash out. It’s been a long day and we’ve got two more days to go; Wrestlemania is tomorrow! I can barely sleep.

Up next: Days 3 & 4!

Thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter