My WrestleMania 14 Moment
The world was much different in 1998. I will call these the golden years for any 90’s kid. Pro wrestling was shifting into a realm of global dominance with WWF and WCW hitting astronomical viewing numbers. I was about 12 years old when Wrestlemania 14 was announced to take place in my hometown of Boston inside the “Fleetcenter” (now the TD Garden). At that point in my life wrestling was an outlet to escape reality and enter a world with compelling stories told in the squared circle. My room walls were littered with posters, mostly of the WWF Divas, but there wasn’t a square inch that didn’t have a wrestling, sports hero or band posters taking up the wall real-estate. To say I was excited at the possibility of getting tickets to go to the pinnacle of all wrestling events was an understatement. Before I go any further, I want to point out, that the Fleetcenter capacity was extremely limited compared to the arena’s the WWE sells out each year now. Combine that fact with the intense popularity at that time, these tickets were going to be impossible to get your hands on. At 12 years old, I didn’t quite understand the gravity of this but the minute I saw the announcement my dad must have seen my excitement, because how he was able to obtain two tickets is still a mystery to this day.
I want to point out, that my dad never turned down an opportunity to go to a baseball game or sporting event. We always had a great time, but I think he knew this one was going to be a bit different. The day the tickets went on sale we did like anyone else would do at that time, we went to Filiene’s customer service. It’s true, you could go there to purchase tickets for events. There was no Ticketmaster or Stubhub. I think we were the 10th person inline. I was excited! After the first ticket was sold, the woman behind the counter came out and informed everyone the event was sold out. It sold out in 90 seconds! My heart sank. My dad looked at me and said, “Anthony, don’t worry, we will find a way to go”. I could see my dad was determined to get these tickets and looking back I am beyond thankful. A few weeks later, my dad told me to hop in the car, he thinks he got us tickets! We drove for a bit, to a gas station in the middle of nowhere. As we waited in the car, my dad explained that a limo was going to pull up and I was to stay in the car and not leave. Sure enough, a white limo slowly pulled into the lot. My dad took a big breath, got out of the car, and approached the limo. As he got close, the driver’s side back door opened, and he got in. After about 10 minutes, the door finally opened and he got out holding the tickets, smiling from ear to ear as the limo left. To foreshadow this experience, understand that my dad has mentioned plenty of times growing up that when he was a teenager, he used to have some sort of “Italian influence” connections. That is the extent to which he would give us information on this topic. To this day, I never saw the face of the guy my dad met that day, but in my head, I picture him as the Million Dollar Man, laughing as he drove away holding the money my dad gave him.
We were going to Wrestlemania 14 and you couldn’t keep the smile off my face. The matches announced to be on the show card only added to my excitement. Obviously, HBK vs Stone Cold was the main event with Mike Tyson as the enforcer. I remember waking up on the day of Wrestlemania 14. I barely slept a wink, but that didn’t stop my smile. As we entered the area that night, the energy was palpable. “AUSTIN” chants could be heard as we were getting our tickets checked. Our seats were up in the nose bleeds, but honestly, I couldn’t care less. The show opened with fireworks, the crowd erupting and signs littered across the arena. I won’t go through every moment, but there were quite a few that stuck out. Undertaker vs Kane was great from the start. Seeing the entrance with the druids live, was some spectacle. The match was even better, with undertaker giving Kane three tombstones. The tag match with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie vs The New Age Outlaws was also fantastic. I was always a fan of the hardcore match, and this one lived up to the hype! Then finally the main event came. At that time, I was a bigger fan of DX than Austin, but I was ready for my opinion to change. I remember when Austin’s music hit. To this very day, I have never heard a reaction quite like the crowd that night. When his music hit, I thought the roof was going to pop off the Fleetcenter! I am not sure we will ever see another wrestler as “over” as Stone Cold during this time and it was evident by the reaction from the crowd. HBK came out to a live performance of the DX theme song from a want-to-be Rage Against The Machine band that was poorly received from the crowd. It’s not like following up the Austin reaction was going to be easy, but it didn’t matter. The match was great! From a long time fan’s perspective, was it the best match of all time? No certainly not, but considering HBK’s physical and mental state, it was good enough. Honestly, the external factors and energy around the match more than made up for the little details. Austin won the match and the fans went home very happy, including myself!
As Wrestlemania 14 ended and we left the area, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was able to obtain MY Wrestlemania moment. No, it wasn’t body slamming Andre, but thanks to my dad, I was able to experience something incredible. For a few hours during that day, I was able to get lost in the wrestling event. I can only describe the feeling as a tunnel vision like experience, filled with excitement that allowed me to forget about anything else going on in my life. As I look back now, still a fan of wrestling at 34 years old, this moment is etched in my soul. This was the exact moment I realized that wrestling had the power to take me to another realm. I don’t read comic books, but I would have to imagine it elicits that same type of feeling. When you have a story of good vs evil, the comic book can make you feel true emotion from the story. When people ask me why I like wrestling, this is the exact reason why. I would rather watch athletes try and tell a compelling story in the ring than ever turn on CNN in the year 2021. The world is a much different place now. Anxiety, fear and depression are at elevated levels throughout the world. I think at this point in time, the whole world could benefit from finding this type of Wrestlemania moment.