"HASHTAG!" –CM Punk
I think it goes without saying that ever since the Swoggle Squad bought their tickets for WrestleMania XXVIII, we all were practically counting down the days until April 1st. I was unbelievably excited and anxious for what I would experience. Not only was WrestleMania XXVIII my first live WrestleMania, it was also my first time watching a WWE live event. Needless to say, it probably was not the best choice for my first live event because no other one will probably top it. But it’s WRESTLEMANIA! And you don’t turn that down.
However, even though WrestleMania XXVIII was unbelievable, to me, the whole entire weekend leading up to it was just as entertaining. And it was also mind-opening. From March 29th-April 1st, Miami was my classroom as I learned so much about wrestling. From watching guys smash fluorescent light tubes over each other to watching the Undertaker versus Triple H in Hell in Cell. From meeting Daniel Bryan (YES! YES! YES!) and him calling my beard awesome to meeting Freight Train in all of his glory, it was everything a wrestling fan like me could enjoy watching and learning and more. It was such an eye-opening experience that I thought I would share with you what I learned over WrestleMania XXVIII weekend. And hopefully, I can take what I learned and utilize it for WrestleMania XXIX weekend. My broke ass just needs to get a job first. Help a guy out, Vince McMahon?
Lesson #1: No matter how old you are, at WrestleMania, YOU CAN BE A KID AGAIN.
Before WresteMania weekend, I only thought that Walt Disney World was the only place where no matter how old you were, you had the full right to act like a kid. Man, was I wrong. With all of the breaking fluorescent light tubes, epic wrestling matches, and around a half a million dollars of pyro (supposedly), I lost track of how many times I giggled, yelped, and/or cheered. In fact, it’s not that hard to compare the wrestling shows that we watched to actual Walt Disney World rides. The Dragon Gate/CZW show was like Thunder Mountain. There were a couple of rough spots, but it was overall enjoyable, especially near the end. Both of the Ring of Honor shows were like Space Mountain. They were fast-paced with unexpected twists and turns with a lot of, “Oohs,” and, “Aahs,” during it. Well, instead, it was more like a lot of, “Man up,” and, “Kill Steen kill!” And WrestleMania was like Splash Mountain. It was known for the big ending (Cena versus Rock) but was overall very enjoyable and kept your attention the whole time. However, instead of your attention being kept by a childhood story acted out by mechanical characters, our attention was kept by Hell in a Cell, Punk versus Jericho, and Maria Menounos. In fact, if you wanted to go deeper, $5 Wrestling Live was like the spinning tea cup ride. Very enjoyable and the harder you went, the more of a chance you got dizzy and/or sick. And instead of meeting characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, we met Daniel Bryan, Colt Cabana, and Santino. Overall, throughout the whole weekend, I was wide-eyed in amazement of what I was seeing and the big ass smile on my face never left. I had a sore throat from all my cheering (as you can hear on our podcasts), and I would not have had it any other way. I may be 25 years old, but during WrestleMania weekend, I was back to being a little kid when I watched and enjoyed wrestling with my brother. It made me remember why I loved wrestling and I started watching it in the first place. I am in touch with that part of me again, and I never want to let it go. If you are a withering wrestling fan or you are losing the love for it, go to WrestleMania and I guarantee you’ll gain your love for it back again.
Lesson #2: If you absolutely must get a WrestleMania collector cup, for the love of everything that is holy, FORGET ABOUT IT!
If you have no idea what I am talking about, just listen to our WrestleMania recap podcast, Podswoggle 62: Sleepless in Miami. It’ll prove to you just how difficult it was. And due to trying to get one, I missed Big Show’s WrestleMania moment (hardly), the Divas match (which would of made me hard, so that pissed me off), and almost the beginning of Hell in a Cell. I had to go to four different concession stands and wait over 20 minutes before I just forgot about it. Who knows? Maybe I couldn’t get one due to the imbeciles that work at Sun Life Stadium, but needless to say, I passed. I ended up buying a $4 dollar of water which, after all the hassle I went through, tasted like I was drinking the most expensive bottle of water there is after being stranded in a desert for a month with the horrible taste of Chyna in the back of my mouth. So yeah, fuck the cups. At least I got the collector program. Which is much better than a stupid cup.
Lesson #3: WrestleMania is not just a big deal for the fans. IT’S A BIG DEAL FOR THE WRESTLERS, TOO.
Daniel Bryan. Santino. Colt Cabana. Davey Richards. Kevin Steen. Freight Train. OK, that last one may not match up to the other ones but nevertheless. This is the list of wrestlers that at least one member of the Swoggle Squad met and shook hands with. We also saw a plethora of other wresters at other wrestling shows including Mickie James, El Generico, New Jack, Shane Helms, and David Hart Smith. Needless to say, no matter where we were, not only were wrestling fans enjoying the action, but some wrestlers were fans, as well, enjoying the action. And the weird thing about it is that they either acted in one of two ways. Either they acted very respectable about meeting a fan and thanked us for being a fan or they were wide-eyed and enjoying all of the excitement just like all of the fans were. And by seeing and/or meeting these other wrestlers, a very important thought entered my mind. WrestleMania weekend is a big deal for them, too. These wrestlers grew up watching all of the WrestleManias like we did and are fans, too, of everything that goes on. And in a way, it brought fans and wrestlers on the same level enjoying everything. It’s amazing because as fans, we look up to these wrestlers and everything that they do in the ring. Their athleticism. Their drive. Their passion. And for us fans to be enjoying the same things that they were with the same big-ass smiles on our faces, it made them appear more human. More like a fan. More like us. It’s strengthens the special bond that we have with these wrestlers and adds more respect and admiration. I told Daniel Bryan that I grew my beard out to look like his and he said, “That’s awesome.” I told Colt Cabana how much of a big fan I was of his and his comedy background, and he appreciated it very much. We may look up to them, but sometimes, they like being on the same level as us. And true wrestling fans appreciate that.
Lesson #4: A MORE EXPENSIVE TICKET DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN BETTER WRESTLING.
I am not ashamed to admit that my WrestleMania ticket was $150. $150! If you combined the prices of my Dragon Gate/CZW ticket ($25), both Ring of Honor tickets ($62), and even $5 Wrestling Live (come on now), they would barely reach more than halfway the cost of my WrestleMania ticket. However, throughout the whole weekend, combining all the shows together, I probably saw the best wrestling I have ever seen in my life (minus the $5 Wrestling Live show because that is all about the worst wrestling matches). At the Dragon Gate/CZW show, I saw wrestlers fly and attempt so many high risk moves for the enjoyment of the audience. And I also saw so many wrestlers perform moves that wrestlers their size wouldn’t usually attempt (like Uhaa Nation, for example). And plus, wrestlers hitting each other with fluorescent light tubes never gets old. At both Ring of Honor shows, I saw wrestlers attempt moves I have never seen before. Plus, I didn’t keep official time, but I’m pretty sure no match was less than five minutes. The big matches were not even less than ten minutes. Watching all these wrestlers give everything that they have made me respect them even more. In fact, the main event of Saturday’s Ring of Honor show between Michael Elgin and Davey Richards for the ROH World Heavyweight Title went for more than 26 minutes and was rated 5 stars! Forget the edge of the seat. It kept the audience standing and jumping up and down at all the excitement. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. You know what the Hell in a Cell match between the Undertaker and Triple H was rated? 4.75 stars. Yes, you read that right. The main event of a Ring of Honor show was rated higher than a fucking Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and the Undertaker! But you know what? I agree 100%. It just goes to show you that no matter what wrestling show and promotion you go to, whether it is a big one like WWE or a small one like Dragon Gate, chances are you are going to see something amazing. And that keeps wrestling fans like me coming back for more. And that’s what I love.
Lesson #5: You may be the only one in your circle of family/friends that is a wrestling fan. But at WrestleMania, YOU ARE NEVER THE ONLY ONE.
78,363. That’s how many people were at WrestleMania. They came from all 50 states, 36 countries, and included all ages of people from all walks of life. Besides the actual matches, my favorite part of WrestleMania was going around and talking to people while the Swoggle Squad was handing out flyers for the website and getting post-WrestleMania reactions for Podswoggle 63: The People's Podswoggle. Just talking with people who share the same love that I do was completely incredible. We met a group of people who went to WrestleMania every year and called their trip “SausageMania.” Tope and another fan each put on luchador masks and pretended to have a match in the parking lot. We even met four guys who dressed up as Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, and the Legion of Doom. I even ran into an old friend that I had not seen in years! I did not know he was going nor did he know I was going. However, thanks to a Podswoggle flyer, he knew I was here and was able to find me. In fact, here is a prime example of what I am talking about. Our whole group of the Swoggle Squad and friends (a total of 11 people) took two cars to Sun Life Stadium to park and tailgate. Due to the unexplainable driving of one person (*cough* our buddy RJ *cough*) we ended up with a car parked between our two cars in the parking lot. Well, we decided to be friendly and invited the sole person in this middle car to join us in our tailgating fun. Even though he declined at first, later on, he did join us and had a bunch of fun with us. Another example is when we were waiting in line for $5 Wrestling Live. It was being held in a formal ballroom of a South Beach hotel. Well, while we were waiting in line, other people in a nearby formal ballroom were leaving. And they were dressed all in tuxedos and formal dresses because they were leaving an actual formal event. Well, wouldn’t it surprise you that some of those people were cheering, high-fiving us wrestling fans, and enjoying all the action? It was such a great moment. It’s amazing how big events like these can bring together so many people from so many walks of life. And all of us were brought together through our love of wrestling. Needless to say, it was special.
Lesson #6: For the love of God, do not try so hard. YOU MIGHT GET INDY-NITIS (AKA THE SMARKS).
With all of the fun that we had over the weekend, I think each person in our group has different favorite parts to it. However, I can honestly say that we all had the same worst part. At the first Ring of Honor show on Friday night, we had one fan sitting in the row in front of us. And even though he had our admiration at first thanks to the Tim Tebow jersey he was wearing, our admiration for him went away faster than Paul London and Brian Kendrick's WWE tag team entrance when he opened his mouth. I mean, you generally want to go with the flow at a wrestling show as far as chants and yelling goes, but if you try too hard to stand out and be the only one so that you want people to think you are a genius, well, you have a case of Indy-itis. And you never want to have this at a wrestling show. Symptoms of Indy-itis include chanting against the majority of the crowd, trying to be the loudest person there (because you think that the louder you are, the more important you must be), not even rooting or booing any wrestler because you don’t want to pander to the crowd, and not having anything positive to say at all. A person suffering from Indy-itis can lead to having beer poured on them, being verbally abused, and the possibility of being beaten up by numerous people who are all bigger than you are. Even though we had one or two cases of this at the $5 Wrestling Live show, it was nowhere near the degree to our friend on Friday night. So the moral of the story is when all else fails, just go with the crowd. You can try to start a chant or two, but if it reaches the point that your OWN FRIENDS have to tell you that it is probably time for you to stop, you have certainly gone too far. So just use common sense and don’t get the Smarks. Or else you’ll get beaten senseless.
Lesson #7: Attending a WrestleMania live is like a bag of Lays potato chips. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE JUST ONE.
Lesson #8: If you are lucky enough to experience multiple WrestleMania weekends, DON’T COMPARE ONE TO THE OTHER.
Before, during, and after WrestleMania, I would hear Rich and Mullet talk about WrestleMania 24 and compare it to WrestleMania 28. And while it would be natural to compare one to the other, in my mind, you have to have certain limits when comparing. You can’t compare what you did for fun during one WrestleMania weekend to the other. I mean, I’m sure that there would be more to do and fun to have in Miami compared to Seattle as in WrestleMania XIX or Detroit as in WrestleMania 23 or even freaking Rosemont, Illinois for WrestleMania 22. Quite simply, the bigger town that you are in, the more that you would be able to do. And the more that you would be able to do, the more fun you would be able to have. You also have to be careful when critiquing and comparing the actual WrestleMania events. You can’t nitpick and be stingy about each one. They are all going to have their high points and low points. I mean, are you really going to be that guy that compares Lawrence Taylor versus Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI to this year’s Rock versus John Cena? Now you are just being ridiculous. You can compare them as whole (in which WrestleMania XXVIII was leaps and bounds better than WrestleMania XI) but you have to leave it as that. In the end, when it all comes down to it, you need to realize that you are at WRESTLEMANIA. You are at the biggest wrestling event that there will be for that year. Even though it is put on by one wrestling promotion, all the other wrestling promotions show up there because they understand and respect how big it is and want to be a part of it. That’s like while enjoying Super Bowl weekend, you can also take in an Arena Football League game, a Lingerie Football League game, and even a Blitz football game if it existed (Lawrence Taylor would tear everybody the fuck up in that, as well). In the end, you can critique long after you have left. But while you are there, enjoy the moment. Because you may only get it once. For the love of God, cherish it!
To commemorate all that the Swoggle Squad did during WrestleMania weekend, we decided to make a compilation video of our photos, videos, and tweets. It truly gives you our point of view to all the fun and excitement that we had. And with that being said, only 356 days until WrestleMania XXIX!