My First WrestleMania
This is the most wonderful time of the year for wrestling fans-WrestleMania season. By now there is a good portion of the 2-night extravaganza taking shape, adding to the excitement for this longtime wrestling fan. Whenever this time of the year approaches, I reflect on the memories sharing in the enjoyment of the event with friends and family at my annual WrestleMania party. The get-together has always held special meaning for me. I am thankful that wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike attend the viewing party each year. It is my way of sharing my passion with those close to me, and I value my friends and family making time each year for this forever wrestling fan. With that in mind, I thought it would be a fun exercise to walk down memory lane to my very first WrestleMania party and the significance it held for me during a particularly tough period of my life. So, let’s hop into the DeLorean and go back to the year 2001.
April 1, 2001. I’m 14 and in 9th grade. In the months leading up to the event I recall the excitement my friends and I had for WrestleMania 17. It was compounded by the anticipation of having my friends over to watch “The Showcase of the Immortals” for the first time. I also prided my negotiating skills convincing my mom to allow people over on a school night, not to mention the hefty price tag of the biggest PPV of the year. The day of the party mom came through with signature pigs in a blanket, and the staple of every 90s kid-pizza rolls. When I wasn’t wondering which pizza roll would surprise me with its lava-heat-level contents, I was obsessed with the main event of this show. It was arguably the most anticipated main event to date (and since) as The Rock and Stone Cold faced off in the second of what would eventually be a trifecta of WrestleMania matches. I know I wasn’t alone as the only fan fully invested in this rivalry, but to me it was the focal point of my escapism. The second anniversary of my dad’s death was approaching and my family was recovering but still reeling from his sudden passing.
I lost myself in the world of pro-wrestling. It was my way to manage the emotions I couldn’t make sense of at the time. I was hyper-focused on every second of wrestling I could absorb. In particular, I was so drawn to The Rock. He was captivating on the mic, his resilience and “Just Bring It” attitude was inspiring for me. At a time when I felt out of control, had oscillating self-esteem, and trying to process my grief it was important to have a character like Rock to look up to. He was the hero I wished I could be, and I tried to mimic him in any way I could-ask my sisters, who were frequent victims of attempted Rock Bottoms. I could gush about how great he was at promos, his athleticism in the ring or the ability to hold a crowd in the palm of his hands and illicit a reaction by simply raising his eyebrow. However, as I reflect on this period I believe the main quality I clung to was an unrelenting resolve in the face of adversity. Regardless of the beat downs and losses he kept coming back and never skipped a beat. I so admired that in him. I wished I had that ability at a time when I doubted myself the most. I’ll confidently say without The Rock I don’t know if I could have recovered from the grief of my dad. Tonight, I was team Rock all the way. Now, we arrive at the inaugural WrestleMania party.
My friends and I engorged ourselves on pizza rolls and pigs in blankets. We even took part in a pre-Draft Kings pick 'em pool for the event created by yours truly; placing bets on the outcomes of each match. I was completely bought in to the stories presented and miss this innocent engagement in wrestling. This was a simpler time-no wrestling websites, no peeks behind the curtain, no reports about “booking” influencing my view of the product on TV. All of my opinions were solely based what I watched every week. The show itself was no different. This was one of the coolest stages I had seen at the time, and it makes me long for the days of specialized stages for each PPV theme. We marveled at the spectacle of the TLC match between the Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz and Edge and Christian. We were shocked at the story told by Undertaker and Triple H in the semi-main event match that would have easily stole the show if not for the gravity of the Rock/Stone Cold match. Everything about this main event oozed peak pro wrestling storytelling. The video package with Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” is still the best video package I’ve ever seen for a match. It tells the story beautifully. The match did not disappoint either. This was a match between two of the best, at their best. Although the result wasn’t what I wanted, this still stands the test of time as one of the top matches in WrestleMania history. I was disappointed that The Rock lost yet I was reminded of his motto-“Just Bring It.” I knew he would keep coming back. Keep fighting. I knew if I wanted to mimic anything from Rock it needed to be in his resolve and so I kept fighting. I left that night with a little more resolve than I had the day before; for that I’m forever grateful for pro-wrestling helping me when I needed it.
In the years that followed I’ve had the opportunity to continue this tradition to this day with few exceptions-like going to WrestleMania in 2013 and 2018. It’s my favorite time of the year and I hope you all enjoy your WrestleMania season and enjoy the magic of pro-wrestling.