I’ve been to eleven NBA games, six NFL games, two MLB games, two NHL Games, thirteen college basketball games including the 1st round, 2nd round, and Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and the Orange Bowl. I’ve been extremely fortunate that there are people who share with me a passion for sports, and for the most part pay for my tickets to these events. It’s now been two months since Paul Clark and I went to WrestleMania. Maybe this is an unfair comparison, but to my surprise, WrestleMania surpassed all of the aforementioned sporting events. After all, Wrestling isn’t technically a sport. It’s a show with incredibly athletic entertainers. It is their job to put on the most entertaining show possible for their audience, especially at WrestleMania, which is the biggest WWE event of the year. The purpose of collegiate and professional team sports is to win. It has nothing to do with putting on a great show. If a team wins a boring game, it doesn’t matter, they won. That’s what makes sports so great. You know you are going to get maximum effort from both sides to win the game. At the same time, that’s what makes wrestling great. You know you are going to get maximum effort from all performers to give you the best possible show.
Since 2002 I have forked over the cash to pay for the pay-per-view, recorded it on a blank tape and tucked it away to be watched later on. I spent 35 dollars in 2002, 50 dollars in 2011, and this year, I had to drive 15 minutes to Wal-Mart and spend 20 dollars on the DVD after my Aunt Mary spent a couple hundred dollars on the tickets, and my parents spent a couple hundred dollars on a hotel. It was definitely money well spent all around. In the past I’ve taped WrestleMania and every other WWE pay-per-view event I bought so I wouldn’t forget the results. WrestleMania 28 is different. I didn’t need to buy the 3 disc DVD set to remember it. I will never forget who won every match at WrestleMania 28. And I will never forget what it was like to be there in person.
The anticipation to WrestleMania 28 before the actual event. It started in a hotel room in Miami at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when Pauley and I were killing time. It was almost like we were two little kids waiting anxiously on December 24th to see what presents would be awaiting them the next morning. We each showered, put on our respective WWE t-shirts and waited some more. Finally, at around 4:30 we left the hotel and took the 15 minute drive to Sun Life Stadium, where my parents dropped us off outside of the parking lot. They could’ve told me that they were going back home to Fort Myers and we had to walk through Little Haiti to get back to our hotel, and then hitchhike home in the morning. I wasn’t really listening. As soon as I saw the stadium I zoned out and remembered the feeling of walking into an empty Sun Life Stadium 15 months earlier for the Orange Bowl. It was almost surreal. I had definitely never felt that before, and even though WrestleMania was entirely different, it was a very similar feeling in that you knew you were about to be a part of something monumental. As we walked through the gates of the parking lot, the atmosphere was similar to any big time sporting event you could imagine. People were drinking beers, grilling burgers and hot dogs and listening to music just like you’d see at a typical NFL game. Neither of us expected that. We kept walking through the mass of people and entered the stadium. Just as we did 15 months earlier, we eagerly approached our seats to check out our view. One thing that never changes when you go to a sporting event is the unbelievable anticipation of seeing the playing field, court, rink, or in WrestleMania’s case, stage and ring for the first time. Maybe it’s just me, but I purposely try to avoid looking out there until I get to my section. The same went for WrestleMania. Section 122, row 30, seat 21. Just like at the Orange Bowl, when we came to our seats for the first time, it was an unforgettable moment. Looking across the stadium at the always unique WrestleMania entrance way was something I had played out in my head for weeks. I admired the creativity of the columns around the ring being dressed as palm trees. And as the stadium filled with thousands of fans, I again got that unique feeling that this was going to be really special. It couldn’t have been more perfect… Actually, that’s a lie.
The good thing about getting to WrestleMania two hours early was we didn’t have to rush anything at all. Just like with the Orange Bowl we got to go in to Sun Life Stadium, find our seats, catch our breath, get souvenirs and soak everything in before the action started. Unfortunately, it was 158 degrees out in Miami on April 1st. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The truth is it was 92 degrees out, but when you are sitting in a mix of a few thousand people with the sun beating down on your head with nothing but a WrestleMania program to cover yourself, it definitely feels like it’s 158 degrees out. For the next hour or so Pauley and I sat there sweating profusely, agreeing that it was the most we’d ever perspired without engaging in any sort of physical activity. Even though the next two hours were incredibly damp and filled with plenty of back sweat and swamp ass, they set the tone for the rest of the night. Dueling “Let’s Go Cena!” and “Cena Sucks” chants continued getting louder and louder as more people entered the stadium. Truthfully, calling them dueling is unfair. It was a very anti-Cena/pro-Rock crowd, so the cheers were definitely skewed. Out-doing both Cena-themed chants however were the Daniel Bryan fueled “YES!” chants, which were perfectly acceptable in any situation. After a “Daniel Bryan” chant would fizzle out, it was followed by a “YES!” chant. After a “CM Punk” chant would fizzle out, it was followed by a “YES!” chant. After a crowd-wide Ric Flair “WOOOOOOO!” would break out, it was followed by a “YES!” chant. When we were standing in line for souvenirs, a guy dressed like the Undertaker decided a “YES!” chant was necessary. Whenever the sun went down, the crowd participated in an overwhelming “YES!” chant. When there was a lull in chanting and there was nothing else to scream about, people just chanted “YES! YES! YES!” You get the idea. And keep in mind this was before the show even started. Once WrestleMania came close to starting, the crowd lost their collective shit. Even though those first two hours were spent largely sitting and sweating, it flew by. At 6:30, a WrestleMania pre-show began and we were treated to a pretty entertaining Tag Team Title triple threat match. No one paid much attention though. By that time, the crowd had run out of reasons to chant “YES!” and we were all ready for the real show to start. When ring announcer Justin Roberts came on the microphone and told us we were 30 seconds away from show time, there was a tangible feel of excitement amongst every one of the 78,363 people there.
“You ready?” Pauley asked me with a huge smile on his face. I thought I was. But it turns out I wasn’t. As soon as the intro that opens every WWE show hit the screen, a collective hysteria took over Sun Life Stadium. Just imagine 78,363 people screaming “RRRRRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” at the same time. That’s powerful stuff. Instant goose bumps. Then Lillian Garcia sang America the Beautiful, which is an underrated live sporting event moment. The jets flew overhead and the crowd went nuts. Then we were hit with the always entertaining WrestleMania promo video, this year highlighting the Once in a Lifetime and End of an Era matches. As it neared its finish and Flo-Rida’s “Good Feeling” started playing, the crowd again went nuts. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard an arena or stadium in my life. At this point I had goose bumps on top of goose bumps on top of goose bumps. We hadn’t even seen a single match on the pay-per-view card yet. I knew this was going to be really good.
Four hours later, Pauley and I sauntered out of Sun Life Stadium. After what seemed to be an 8 mile trek to Denny’s we sat down and had a late night meal with my parents. We told them about the 18 second catastrophe to start the show. We told them about the all-time great war between Undertaker and Triple H inside Hell in a Cell, and partaking in the “This is Awesome!” chants. We told them about the Savage/Steamboat style wrestling clinic that CM Punk and Chris Jericho put on. We told them about the incredible excitement that John Cena and The Rock elicited from the crowd. But my biggest take-away from WrestleMania didn’t have anything to with the months of storyline building or terrific matches or overwhelming pyro or anything like that. The best part about WrestleMania is the fact that I will always have the memories of my best friend and I waiting anxiously at the hotel. I will remember walking in to Sun Life Stadium and sitting in a pool of my own sweat. I will remember the YES! chants. I will remember the WWE opening and America the Beautiful, and the goose bumps on top of goose bumps. I will remember sitting back and enjoying an all-time great wrestling event. I will never forget WrestleMania 28.