By Arnez Richmond
“Showcase of the immortals”, “the Grandaddy of them all”, “the grandest stage of them all”, “show of shows”, “the ultimate thrill ride” (eye roll to that last one)
These are just some of the taglines used to describe the biggest annual wrestling event in the world which will have its 33rd edition this Sunday in Orlando. Fans every single year save their money, put in their request off forms at their jobs, make all the necessary lodging arrangements, rent cars and book flights every single year to converge on the city lucky enough to host the biggest annual 1 day sporting event in North America behind the Super Bowl.
WrestleMania in the beginning didn’t look like a big show but as the years and decades progressed the show itself especially the production and look of the show would even put the Super Bowl to shame (my opinion). Celebrities would mix it up with wrestlers and in several cases have matches on the card. Mr. T – who was best known as BA Baracus of TVs The A-Team- main evented the first WrestleMania alongside Hulk Hogan and NY Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor also main evented a WrestleMania in the 90s.
As the years went on WrestleMania not only became a one day event, but now it’s nearly an entire week of WWE wrestlers and personalities converging across the city doing several signings and appearances. From Be A Star anti bullying rallies and reading challenges at local schools to visiting hospitals, WWE Fan Axxess, the NY Stock Exchange and countless appearances in the media from ESPN to radio even CRICKET wireless is in on the action.
The WWE Hall of Fame is also huge part of WrestleMania week. It’s by far the most formal of all the events in which wrestlers old and young can pay homage to the superstars of the past from all of wrestling not just those who spent most of their careers in a WWE ring. This year has one of the most star studded classes in recent memory. The headliner is former 6 time World Champion Kurt Angle making his return to WWE for the first time in 11 yrs. Also the Rock N Roll Express who got their start here in the bluff city are being inducted this year by another Memphis wrestling legend Jim Cornette. Teddy Long, Beth Phoenix, the late Rick Rude and Diamond Dallas Page round out a very impressive hall of fame class for this year.
WrestleMania 33 will be a 6 hour long show (2 hours for the pre-show, 4 for the main card). The buildup to this year’s big show has been a rollercoaster ride figuratively and literally both on & off camera (a rollercoaster is literally the stage concept this year, not kidding). One of the top matches between former World Champion Seth Rollins & COO of WWE Triple H almost didn’t happen due to Rollins suffering a legit knee injury at the hands of HHH’s hired gun Samoa Joe. John Cena was at one point rumored to face either the Undertaker (who will be making his 25th appearance at Mania facing Roman Reigns) and Samoa Joe before his role became clear teaming with real-life girlfriend Nikki Bella (who is rumored to be retiring after this Sunday) to take on the real-life married couple of The Miz & Maryse. Big Show was campaigning ALL LAST YEAR on social media for a WrestleMania match with NBA legend Shaq even going as far as to losing an impressive amount of weight to get ready for this match. Rumor has it Shaq asked WWE for more money than they felt he was worth, WWE felt like Shaq wasn’t serious about the match and didn’t train, Shaq wasn’t informed in time, etc. Either way the match isn’t happening and Big Show is an entrant in the Andre The Giant memorial battle royal which must suck for him to put in all that training and hard work & went from a potential feature match on the main card to the pre-show. Xavier Woods……um you know what we don’t need to get into that.
Unlike in recent years several of the top title matches took several months of build to get to this point. US title matches between Chris Jericho (c) & Kevin Owens (7 months), WWE Championship match between Bray Wyatt (c) & Randy Orton (8 months), WWE Universal title matches between Goldberg (c) and Brock Lesnar (4 months). It refreshing to see these feuds drawn out instead of the 4 week insta-feud were used to getting at this point but they’re not being left out of the show. 2 matches that scream insta-feud: Intercontinental Championship match between Dean Ambrose (c) & Baron Corbin as well as Smackdown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles (Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s 2016 Wrestler of the Year) seems like they were rushed but still something a lot of people look forward to.
17 different wrestlers will be walking down that LOOOONGGG (it’s long, like really, really, really long) WrestleMania ramp for the very first time in their careers. Current RAW Women’s Champion and lifelong WWE fan Bayley as well as former longtime mainstay of New Japan Pro Wrestling & current co holder of the RAW tag team titles Karl Anderson are among the 17 marking this illustrious milestone in their careers. Also some wrestlers are rumored to be making an appearance such as former multiple time tag team champions BROKEN Matt Hardy ™ and Brother Nero (Jeff).
As a lifelong fan of wrestling I legit look forward to WrestleMania more than any other sporting event all year. Growing up as a kid I couldn’t get invested in the Super Bowl nor the NBA Finals it didn’t do anything for me (now it’s a different story) but to me WrestleMania is like waking up on Christmas morning. I never ask for much out of wrestling but 2 things: memorable moments & memorable matches and I have gotten both from WrestleMania of years past I’m hoping that this Sunday is no different and hopefully next year I can scratch one off the bucket list and attend next year’s WrestleMania in New Orleans. Until then I’m going to enjoy the show with people I love & care about at home, stuff my fat face and keep alcohol on stand-by.