Welcome to Days 3 & 4. Sorry this was delayed by life and circumstance. Hope you enjoy.
Day 3 – Sunday, 3:00 AM
I haven’t had cable for a few years now, but there’s one truism that still holds; if you can’t sleep, Law and Order is on somewhere. Mothership Law and Order no less, with some Hang-em High Jack McCoy! I watch until 5 AM.
Day 3 – Sunday, 12:30 PM
I woke up and showered and am waiting for the rest of the crew in the lobby. My wife comes downstairs and looks at the TV I’m watching.
Steph: “Did you come down here just to watch baseball?”
Me: “It’s opening day.”
Steph: “Are we winning?”
Me: “No, Cardinals are down 2-0.”
Steph: “Sorry, honey.”
Me: “Oh well. I bet Danimal’s happy.”
Steph: “Who is Danimal?”
Me: “Guy from the blog, hates the Cardinals.”
Steph: “Why does he hate the Cardinals?”
Me: “Lots of people hate the Cardinals.”
Steph: “Who? Your family all loves them and they’re nice.”
Me: “Look, let’s not go down this road. I’d rather stay married.” (Pause) “And a double play. Great.”
We’re joined by everyone else. The plan is to go grab some lunch at a sports bar across the street from the stadium, and then head over into the venue. Myself, Steph and Bryce pile into my car, while Rhianna and Lucas are taking the Uber with Nick and Corey.
1 day earlier, Stephanie asks what time I think we should get there. I tell her that with 2 hours of pre-show, I’m thinking 3 or so. She laughs in my face, and tells me that we’re better off leaving much earlier than that, probably 1 at the latest.
I hate it when my wife is right. And it happens so often.
We get to the stadium at about 1:15 or so. First off, AT&T Stadium is the Big Show of stadiums; it’s so big, pictures don’t do it justice. And there are a lot of businesses across the street. So, we’ve chosen to meet at a sports bar. Let’s see how that goes.
Day 3 – Sunday, 1:30 PM
Me: “What does that sign say it costs for parking?”
Me: “It says who in the what now?”
Me: “Say that again, please.”
Steph: “Honey, you’re not being funny. It actually says $80.”
Yes, I’m not making that up. If you wanted to park in one of the lots across the street from the stadium, the lot owners were charging EIGHTY bucks.
Bryce: “Hey, that guy only wants $75!”
I drop the two of them off in front of the sports bar and resolve to park a mile away if I have to, but I’m sure as shit not paying $80 to park the car. However, I notice that 5 blocks away, there’s a suburb.
I park the car on the street, along with everyone else who wasn’t dumb. Unless everyone in that neighborhood wears wrestling shirts, I’m pretty sure that most of us were heading to the stadium. In the back of my mind, I’m assuming that the car will be stripped and left for dead by the time I get out of the show.
I walk back to the bar. As I’m doing so, I notice that they have a signing set up in their parking lot, with Ric Flair and the Nasty Boys, amongst others. The line is insane-o long. I pass through to the bar, which is absolutely packed with lines out the door. I don’t see anyone and look down at my phone, and see a text from Bryce telling me that they went to the CiCi’s a few doors down. Fair enough.
CiCi’s is no better, with a line out the door as well. And let me give that staff their props, because it was a neverending parade of people who looked completely at home at a pizza buffet. Those employees were damn near heroes.
We hang out in the Cici’s for awhile. It’s hot outside and they have air conditioning. I eat a lot of brownies.
Day 3 – Sunday, 2:30 PM
Myself and Steph walk back to the car to get her sign and a few other things. Along the way, we meet these guys:
We cross the street to the stadium. People are EVERYWHERE. There are lines and crowds all over. The merch truck is at least 20 people deep through 8 lines. We settle by a tree to figure out our next move. We figure that they have to start letting people in soon; how naïve we truly were.
Day 3 – Sunday, 3:00 PM
We get in a line. We don’t move.
Day 3 – Sunday, 3:30 PM
Still not moving. I go over to one of the tailgaters and buy a beer from him. Bud Light has never tasted that good in my life, as I shotgun the shit out of it. We stand there and sweat. Ric Flair comes by in a golf cart, causing half the crowd to ‘Woo!’ as they usher him through the security gate.
Day 3 – Sunday, 3:50 PM
No movement in the line. Word has filtered back that there’s a problem with the Wi-Fi, and they can’t scan tickets; also, they aren’t letting people in unless they’re at the correct gate. I’m sweating balls, as is my nephew who is already hot and tired. I walk up to the security gate and have the following delightful conversation with one of the guards:
Me: “Hey, are we at the right gate?”
Guard: “No, you’re not. You need to be on the other side of the stadium.”
Me: “The what now?”
It turns out that each entrance had a letter assigned to it. You go to the entrance you were assigned, and you were good. Simple, right? Except that none of those letters were visible from the back of the lines, so if you just followed the sea of humanity, there was a good chance you were in the wrong place and didn’t even know it! I grab everyone and tell them that we gotta go now. We have to walk all the way around the stadium to the front, which is actually quite a hike.
Day 3 – Sunday, 4:00 PM
There is a line that stretches around another gate in a curving shape. There’s also a gate that has several security guards that are seemingly ready to take tickets as soon as people show up. I walk up to one of them.
Me: “Hey, can I come in here?”
Guard: (Looks at my ticket) “You’re in the right place.”
I would have made sweet, sweet love to him if he had requested it after hearing those words. Steph and I get the rest of our guys and we head inside as the lines continue to wind around with little to no direction from anyone at the stadium.
Day 3 – Sunday, 4:10 PM
So, if you watched the pre-show and wondered where everybody was, they were STILL OUTSIDE. One of the worst experiences I’ve been through at a stadium show. But no matter. We’re at our seats, and we have some good ones; here’s our view of the ring:
I volunteer to go get drinks for everyone. My final orders are:
4 bottled waters
Myself and Bryce go to wait in the line, talk about home ownership and other such nonsense. We’re in line for awhile, but there’s air conditioning; the pre-show starts with Kalisto and Ryback, which I watch over the shoulder of a dude who has the WWE Network on the phone. I get up there and order my 8 drinks, the guy nods.
I guess I know how Jerry’s gonna pay that stadium off now, huh?
I was going to get a cheeseburger, but that would have been another $9.50, so FUCK that.
We head back to our seats and Lucas is thrilled, as Kalisto has retained. The Lucha Dragons are his favorite wrestlers.
The 8 Diva tag is up next, then Lita with the new Woman’s title. It goes by quicker than I anticipated, and it’s time for this thing to begin!
Day 3 – Sunday, 6:00 PM
First off, the crowd was jacked to start. They were ready to go nuts. And I’ll give the WWE all the credit in the world for starting with the Ladder match to keep them that way. Ryder got a huge pop for winning, and it was a nice moment with his dad.
Styles/Jericho. The crowd was silent for a lot of AJ’s stuff, and that’s not exactly the best sign. Styles was still the face to be sure.
They brought the box of Booty-O’s out while the Styles/Jericho match was still going on. Steph got a pic of the guys pushing the box over.
My wife grabbed my arm when Shawn’s music hit. Almost every one of the pictures that she has from that segment have Shawn in them.
Time for Ambrose/Lesnar, and I think this is where they started to lose my section and large parts of the crowd. We were READY to cheer for a face winning, but instead we got what we got, which was Ambrose doing a clean job after 1 F-5. You may have heard from Metzler that they were putting the numbers of Lesnar’s suplexes up on the screen; I can confirm this as correct. It was one step away from telling us to cheer or boo. After Ambrose went down for the 3-count, Rhianna turned to me and said “Was that it? Because it was pretty anti-climactic.” No kidding.
Hall of Famers are up next. No one cared outside of polite applause. The crowd around me was rapidly losing patience at this point. A face hadn’t won a match in over an hour, and that legends segment wasn’t gonna do it.
And the women are up next. And let me say this; Match of the Night. Seriously. I enjoyed this match more than I did anything else on ‘Mania. In further WWE crowd reaction experiment theater, the graphic tell us when to Whoo. And Charlotte wins, thereby continuing the heel dominance.
I should note that pictures will stop here, as we lost some in the transition from the SD card. Shane McMahon and ‘Taker were next, and the crowd in my section was ready for this match to rule, and it certainly was a match. Anyway, I’ll say that everytime I see an Undertaker entrance live, I enjoy the hell out of it. Most of the crowd was waiting for Shane to do his big stunt, and he did. I still don’t know what the point of this match was.
The Andre Battle Royale happened. Corbin won, and we didn’t even figure out he was in the match until halfway through, as he came out in the giant cluster of wrestlers in the beginning. Let’s all move on.
They do the Rock’s segment next, and it’s a testament to how strong the Bray Wyatt character is that he’s still over despite what they’ve done to him over the last few years. People around me were excited to see him. At this point, I was confused, because I checked my phone before Rock even came out, and I’m thinking to myself that there’s no WAY that HHH is going to have a ten minute main at Wrestlemania. About halfway through the Rock’s stuff, we figured out that we were going pretty long. Cena comes back, (his pop was HUGE in my section) Rock and he do their exit, and it’s main event time.
HHH’s entrance was truly spectacular, I’ll say that. Reigns got booed like nuts, except for some of the kids in my section. We had one that was in the row in front of us, full-on Reigns gear, who seemed bewildered that Reigns was getting booed. He was REALLY happy when Roman won. The crowd was really happy when Reigns speared Stephanie.
After the match was over, Reigns went to the back and HHH got a standing ovation from the crowd. And I mean a STANDING ovation. To recap, the new babyface champ booked it out of dodge while the dastardly heel got cheered. It was surreal.
I’m feeling sick as a dog at this point, as the cold from the room has made its way to me. We hit the streets at the same time as 98,000 people, and let me say this:
I don’t know how much of the wrestling population is smart marks, or the like. But I can say that there was very little joy or energy from the crowd as we were leaving. I’d say that the reaction was pretty negative from the conversations I overheard walking to the car.
Luckily, the car is still there when we reach it, as I half-expected it to be on cement blocks or something considering that I was parked on the street with a Nebraska license plate. Bryce proves to be an excellent navigator and gets us back on the interstate quickly.
At this point, it’s 20 after 11. I had held out hope to make the midnight Texas Mania show that I had gotten a flyer for the previous day, but my body wasn’t having ANY of that shit. I make a stop at a 7-11 and get smokes and some knockoff 7-11 Dayquil, which is a real thing that exists. I’m hungry, though, and while everyone else crashes, myself and Rhianna go next door to the Whataburger.
Day 4 – 12:30 AM
The line for Whataburger is ridiculous, but we have no energy to go anywhere else. There are at least 40 people in the restaurant; it takes an HOUR to get food. At a Whataburger after midnight. Nick and Corey join us and there’s no happy faces here. And by here, I mean the entire restaurant, which is filled with wrestling fans. We talk it all over, and we’ve gotta get either Joe or Balor tomorrow on Raw, right?
We stagger back to the hotel, and I’m REALLY feeling it now, as I’m just absolutely beat to shit. I take three shots of 7-11 Dayquil and knock off at about 4 AM after checking out the blog comments.
Day 4 – 1:00 PM
I feel better when I wake up for the final day. Still sick, but better. Everyone knocks around the hotel most of the day before Raw, with Nick and Corey going to the grassy knoll museum. I whine like a bitch about my head hurting and drink a ton of water. I’m going to finish this weekend on a high note, damnit.
Day 4 – 5:30 PM
Myself, Steph, Lucas and Rhianna pile into the car to head to the American Airlines arena for the last show of the weekend. Monday Night Raw, aka Smarkamania. We miss our exit and have to take an ‘interesting’ route to get to the arena. Have I mentioned how much driving in Dallas blows donkeys? Because it truly, truly does.
I get a few souvenirs for the kids; Lucas gets a New Day Unicorn Horn, which he wears when they come out and seems happy to have. Watching the kids enjoy the show all weekend makes me wish I had brought my daughter in some ways. So I buy her some Sasha Banks knucks; for ten bucks, I assumed they were plastic. They were not. Hard metal that clinked together. (And, in an absolutely true story, she has already lost them by taking them to school after being told explicitly by myself and her mother not to do so. The school thought they were a weapon and actually considered expulsion for a brief minute before pulling their heads out of their asses.)
We settle into our seats as they’re beginning the tapings for Superstars, or Main Event, I can hardly remember. This crowd was in the mood to give absolutely ZERO fucks tonight. Roman Reigns was literally booed in every video package put on the screen; they even booed him during the Make-A-Wish parts!
From the tapings, I can say that the Social Outcasts got the loudest reaction near me, with the ‘Bo Train’ being massively over. I don’t hold out much hope for Axel or Adam Rose, but there’s enough perverse entertainment value in Bo Dallas and Heath Slater that I wonder if they can get this thing over someday for a real audience. Those dudes were having the time of their life out there.
Day 4 – 7:00 PM
Monday Night Raw, baby! My single favorite live wrestling experience was the Raw the night after Bryan won the belt at ‘Mania 30, so I hope that this can come close. Crowd was ready to rumble.
They do the Vince/Shane setup at the beginning of the show. Fine.
Sending New Day out there next was good to keep the crowd hot, as was continuing the Wyatt face turn at the end of the match. Hey, the crowd wanted to like those guys, why not give them the launching pad here and see what happens?
The Apollo Crews thing was weird, as a graphic just randomly appeared on the Tron and then he was talking to Shane. There wasn’t any announcement beyond that, but the crowd seemed pleased.
And now, Roman Reigns. I gotta give the dude credit. He was clearly prepared for this, and handled the crowd really, really well; the whole ‘not a bad guy, not a good guy, THE guy’ thing was exactly what he should have done on this night. And then he basically disappeared. They knew that this crowd wasn’t giving him anything; why send him out there to die? He came out, did his thing, and left. The escalating pops from Styles to Owens to Zayn were something else.
Okay, so during the Baron Corbin match, someone in the upper deck got out a beach ball and started batting it around. They managed to keep it going for awhile, but it finally fell into one of the larger entrances and security grabbed it and refused to give it back. But these dudes came prepped, and out came the second beach ball! That got tossed around for awhile as well, with half the crowd merrily ignoring the match and wanting the ball. Security made their way up to the top this time and nabbed the ringleaders and eventually the ball. The crowd could not have given two shits about Corbin or Ziggler.
Ryder came out. Ryder got beat. It’s the circle of life.
The women were next. And while I know that the crowd has a smarky rep, I kind of wish that we hadn’t hammered home the Bayley chants until Charlotte got through the part of her speech where she started insulting the other women, because I think she got a little flustered. She recovered well, though. Lynch’s shiner was impressive; call me, Becky!
I think that the Dudleyz and the Usos were next, and no one cared. Sami got powerbombed in the back through the table, and the Duds kept stalling outside the ring, insulting random members of the audience, until Enzo and Cass came out, and that got the crowd GOING. I mean, it was like everyone just woke up right at once. I heard later that the commentary team was burying them, but let me tell you that in my section, they were JUST what was needed to get the energy going again.
Main event time. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, around me (hell, including me) was sure that Cena was coming out as Zayn’s replacement after he was on ‘Mania last night. Cesaro was a pleasant surprise, and the match ruled the earth. It was better than almost everything the previous night, and the crowd adored every second of it. Right guy went over, too.
I have no idea where the show ended on TV, but AJ stayed out there for a LONG time, slapping hands with fans up and down the entire ringside and aisle area. He took multiple laps and seemed to be relatively emotional about it all.
He finally went to the back and ring crew came out. A few members of the crowd yelled ‘Lil Naitch’ at Charles Robinson, who gave them some acknowledgement.
And that was it. A nice way to end the weekend. We made our way back to the hotel, stopping at Denny’s for a quick bite, and it was goodbye to Nick and Corey for probably another two years, as Orlando is probably not going to happen for me next year.
Day 5 – 11:00 AM
Myself and Steph start our drive home. There are more wacky misadventures on that trip, including stopping to see her grandmother in Kansas and getting lost on the way back that meant we didn’t get back to Omaha until 1:30 AM, but I bought Star Wars on the way home and fell asleep to that, so I was cool with it.
I’m going to say something now, and it’s drenched in saccharine and sincerity. Skip it or read it and make fun of me.
It wasn’t the best Wrestlemania. It wasn’t even top 10, to be honest.
But I loved every second of it all. I adored it, I wanted to rewind to the beginning to do it all over again.
It’s not ‘acceptable’ to enjoy pro wrestling, at least not to the great majority of society. 90% of people who view wrestling see it as trash, as something to be scraped off the underside of the shoe of the arts. And to those people most of the time, I say ‘fuck off’ and enjoy what I want to enjoy. I only have so many years on this planet and I really don’t give a good damn what people think of my enjoyment.
But it can be lonely to love pro wrestling on some levels. It can be difficult to explain why you’re disappearing from work for 5 days and hear the snorts of laughter from people.
And for five days in Dallas, that didn’t matter. Because I was surrounded by people who love this art form as much as I do in so many different ways. For those days, wrestling shirts became the norm on the streets and in restaurants; friendships were forged between people who had never met before and would never meet again over this silly, beautiful thing called pro wrestling.
And when I look back at Dallas, I won’t remember being disappointed by the match results on one card. I’ll remember the trip down with my wife, singing along to the Muppets on the radio. I’ll remember the Honky Tonk Man charming the pants off some dude in another line just to get a pic. I’ll remember the guys from California that I got to swap stories with about Ring of Honor, and I’ll remember the dude from Colorado who was so damned excited about his first Wrestlemania. The crowd doing its sing-a-long chants at NXT, ROH, Raw, and me able to chant with them.
I’ll always be able to say that I saw Zayn/Nakamura live, that I got to experience that rush with a huge group of strangers that only had that one common bond amongst them, and that made it all the more amazing. Or seeing O’Reilly and Cole tear each other apart and Kyle giving his speech at the end of it that made us all feel like we were part of something special.
I’ll remember my nephew getting his Kalisto mask and being so happy, or the kid in front of us at ‘Mania who had on his Roman Reigns gear being thrilled that his hero won.
And I thought about the people on this blog that I enjoy reading and writing for so much. Kenny Reigns, Ioan Morris, Dock, Mears, Charlie Owens, Cult, Bayless, Hoss, Andy, Art, Marv, Robert Davis, Matthew Adams, Glenn, everyone else, hell, even Danimal. I thought about how after a good show I love coming here to talk about it, and even after a bad show, I love coming here to talk about it. The respect that I have for your opinions, even the ones I disagree with, is real.
We’re not some oblique ‘universe’; we’re just PEOPLE. People who maybe love something that we’re not ‘supposed to’ as much as we do, but we DO. And that love was in full force all weekend for me.
Go to Wrestlemania weekend some day if you can. Experience it. Feel it.
I love pro wrestling.
Thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
*Bonus story* So as not to leave us on a completely sincere note, my wife read the first part of this and noted that I, ahem, left one story out from Day 1. So Steph, here it is:
I did have one other target at Wrestlecon, and that was Ted Dibiase, as I had waited in his line at Axxess in New Orleans but didn’t make it in time before the signers switched out. I ended up with Jim Ross and the Godfather (future Hall of Famer!) instead, and that was cool enough. But I really wanted to meet Ted. So we got over to his line, and it was long. Too long. We were so tired from the drive down that we didn’t want to wait. But I notice that the person he’s signing for and talking to is Izzy, the little superfan from NXT. And I think that kid’s hilarious, and so does my daughter, who calls her the ‘little Bayley girl’ when she sees her on screen. So I nudge my wife.
Me: “Look. Is that Izzy from NXT?”
Steph: “Yeah, it looks like her.”
Me: “We should meet her.”
Steph: “Are you out of your mind?”
Me: “What? She’s cool. We can tell Dianne that we met Izzy!”
Steph: “Honey. You are a 37 year old man. You’re talking about approaching a small child and telling her that you think she’s cool. Don’t you see something wrong with that?”
Steph: “It’s creepy! Leave her alone!”
Me: “It’s not creepy. Her parents are here.”
At this point, my wife rolled her eyes and walked away from me, shaking her head. And then, instead of being with my pleasant looking wife, I was just a 37 year old man wanting to meet a small child. And I decided that my wife was right; that was creepy.
So I didn’t meet Izzy.
And the moral of the story is this:
Get married, because sometimes it will stop you from doing something creepy.
Love you, Steph.