As luck would have it, Wrestlemania 29, held at the Metlife Stadium in New Jersey was happening at the same time as my trip to New York. I’m a lifelong wrestling fan, so the chance to go to Wrestlemania, frequently referred to as ‘the grandest stage of them all’, was one that had to be taken.
I lucked into getting a ticket via an Irish bar (long story) and the journey to the stadium from the bar via bus was pretty interesting, as dozens of wrestling fans, from all over the world took advantage of the free beers on board, to ensure that they were sufficiently fueled for the event.
The stadium looked pretty decent from the outside, but inside it looked absolutely wonderful, with a mock Statue of Liberty taking center-stage above the ring. As great as the set-up was, it caused ample difficulties for a lot of the 70,000 in attendance as spectators, many of whom had spent hundreds of dollars on tickets, ended up having their views obscured significantly by the pillars that were supporting ‘ol Liberty up. Personally, I was chilling in the heavens and didn’t expect to have a great view anyway, so it didn’t bother me too much, and to be honest, I haven’t really got a lot of respect for sad-acts who spend loads of money on tickets anyway.
In terms of the actual show, it was decent, if a little formulaic. Apart from Puff Duddy performing (which was met by complete apathy), and a brief round of applause for the Hall of Fame inductees, it was just one match after another. Despite the setting, and the aesthetics, there just seemed to lack a degree of pageantry and importance to the occasion. The majority of the matches were fine, with CM Punk v The Undertaker remarkably good, and Triple H v Brock Lesnar very disappointing. As great as it was to be there, there was a problem.
Part of the reason I do my podcast Interesting People Talking Wrestling is to try and get people to understand that wrestling isn’t just for children, and losers. Wrestling can be a joyous, emotional and thrilling roller-coaster, but the stigma attached to its fan-base has always seen it treated with disdain in the mainstream. Because I don’t go to shows that often, I have managed to avoid the bad side of the wrestling fan, but at Wrestlemania, and especially at the Hall of Fame ceremony at Madison Square Garden the night before, the pathetic aspect of the wrestling fan really came out.
I get that people want to have a good time, and in fact that’s the whole point of life, but the people around me in the stands were among some of the most unsavoury (and unwashed) folk I’ve ever come across. The gentleman in front of me legitmately commentated on at least four matches out loud, as if he had a microphone and a headset on. Four brash New Yawkers behind me, at least in their mid 30s/early 40s, spent at least three quarters of the show saying things like ‘this sucks’ or ‘this guy sucks’, or ‘it was better in my day’. Which sort of dimlows spend cash money to sit and moan about things?
When the fans make smart comments, or chant random things, everybody claps and labels them as a great crowd, just because they are making some noise. The crowd are ‘good’ because the shows aren’t very good. If it was entertaining, the only reason you’d notice the crowd would be because they were actually engrossed in the show. Instead, you’ve got a bunch of no marks trying to be somebodies chanting to try and get themselves over.
I don’t want this to come across as me being negative, because I know some people think I’m joyless. I had a great time at the show, I felt the electricity, and for the most part, the atmosphere was pretty good in the stadium, but watching it back on screen, it didn’t translate well onto TV at all – the big stadium,and cold weather etc causing an issue.
The Hall Of Fame ceremony was absolutely magnificent, to see people like Bob Backlund, Mick Foley and Bruno Sammartino giving speeches was superb, and I genuinely got teary-eyed when Stevie Ray was inducting Booker T, but there was still the same simpletons, a bunch of grown men walking around carrying replica belts booing a woman at a HALL OF FAME CEREMONY for having the audacity to introduce someone she clearly had a great deal of fondness for.
My theory is that the majority of the fans who do all these chants and give smart comments are actually really meek, dull and shy in real life, and they just feel at home with other losers, and thus feel comfortable to be a dickhead because they’re with their own breed. Fine, but one day the replica belts have got to come off the shoulders, the Austin 316 shirts will finally shrink in the wash, and maybe the truth will be set free.
All in all though, again to stress that I’m not being a negative Nancy or a miserable Martin, to fulfill a dream of being at the showcase of the immortals was fantastic, and a few gentlemen I met in the crowd were top guys. I probably wouldn’t go to a Wrestlemania again for a long time, but it’s certainly a tick off the bucket list, all I have to do now to complete it is to wrestle a bear, and to climb Mount Everest, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find a brash gentleman in a John Cena t-shirt shouting WHAT, WHAT, WHAT at me as I reached the summit.