It was Sunday April 7th, 2013 at Metlife Stadium and we were in the audience before the Greatest Stage of Them All—Wrestlemania. I, your colluding Corporate Executive Officer, Brandon Melendez, along with co-founders Shawn Abraham and Matt Thomas has been plotting this trip for some time. Finally….finally….FINALLY the day had come after many a pay-per-view, Monday Night Raw, Smackdown!, and video game melee I had found myself at my very first live WWE event and it was a doozy. I could certainly sit here and offer you a bit-by-bit review of the event…but instead I will give you more of a reflection on the experience.
Firstly, there are people who don’t, and probably never will, understand the phenomenon of professional wrestling…and especially so for adults. These are the people who complain of choreography, scripting, and acting (oddly enough these people don’t often complain about the same elements in films, television, or theater). Then, there are the polar opposite…grown people far too invested in professional wrestling to the extent that they can spoil the experience for the wide-eyed children in the crowd who have yet to discover the fiction, or fail to understand the complicated backstage politics that truly make a champion. Both ends of this spectrum are integral parts of the success of wrestling, and the WWE in general. The nay-sayers are the ones who act as the truest marks for crossover potential, and the die-hards sustain the profession through occasional dry spells. In my time, as a late-age fan (discovering pro-wrestling as a highly entertaining product in my late teens) I have been both which is why I had never been to a live WWE show until now.
I am fond of saying the Wrestlemania, Ghostbusters, and me are inexorably linked because we are all the same age so I was pleased that at Wrestlemania 29, which I attended, there was a giant Statue of Liberty present for me to offer references to Ghostbusters II (along with Planet of the Apes, and Judge Dredd, #nerdlife). All that said, I was curious to see what the live event side of things was like—without the transitions, the color commentary, and the wipe away from the ring. I wanted to see the stage hands, I wanted to see under the ring skirt…I wanted to see the nuts and bolts of the show. In that, I only received some of my wish. The WWE is very good at dimming the house lights, setting things up during a match, and using video to distract you from their set-up. But there was a magic to the show that is not present…does not translate…to television. To hear a man, even in a crowd of over 80,000 people receive a Ric Flair chop from the hand of the Big Show, or feel a 50 foot pillar of fire from the Undertaker’s entrance from clear across a football stadium is a testament to the work, preparation, and dedication of the wrestlers and production crews as well as the larger than life reality of the whole affair.
Sitting in a crowd that large…a large town of people…all assembled and to be told that the house record for attendance has been broken by people who all share a common appreciation for this athletic fiction is also quieting; though quiet is by no means an apt descriptor for an assembly of even two wrestling fans let alone thousands (or MILLIONS and MILLIONS). There were moments—especially in the main event of John Cena vs. The Rock—that some of the crowd’s more Steve-wiser fuelled fans had forgotten, or not cared, that part of the spectacle of the affair is to instill awe in the children; so while conflicted parents gave helpless stares to fans shouting…less than proven disputes as to whom Cena and the Rock prefer to share their beds with…the children managed to roll off chants for their champions in tiny, convicted voices. For me, this was the most powerful part of sitting in the arena while these physical geniuses improvised and tangoed their ways across the canvas of the squared circle—the power of the jaded fan focused by the doe eyed fan…and myself in between, enjoying the show.
Though it was fun to shout all you flakes out, and try and get you to search the crowd for our Eat Your Serial box (it was there, there’s pics so we can prove it), it was more important for me to scratch this experience off of my bucketlist—for me it was like going to the Super Bowl. It was a way for me to connect with my fellow fans and place it in contrast. The fact that the Rock was in the main event, that I got to witness the Undertaker’s streak continue, and the Living Colour performed CM Punk’s entrance music live was all just icing on the cake…and P. Diddy’s performance? Well. That did happen, but not every magic trick is a winner.
Written by Brandon Melendez