Anticipation is a hell of a feeling. Sometimes, the feeling of anticipation itself is more memorable and fun than the event itself. Other times, the event supersedes the anticipation. It could go along with the whole “It’s the journey, not the destination” logic, but that is not necessarily accurate here. See, there are some events that are concrete in regard to how long they have been a part of the 33 years that have been spent on earth (excluding family): the love of reading, writing, basketball, football, and wrestling. There are friends of mine who have their passions as well, with one shared being professional wrestling or, as it is called now, sports entertainment. Well, one of those events took place this weekend, an event known around the world as WrestleMania.
Wrestling is one of those things where it is really simple: A person likes it or doesn’t like it. Well, since WrestleMania annually has its event in football stadiums with audiences of over 60,000 people since 2007 when it was held at Ford Field in Detroit (1) it is safe to say there are people who like it. People from all walks of life, from all over the world invade the host city of WrestleMania each year and have a damn blast. But even as enjoyable as WrestleMania is, there are often scheduling conflicts, with one in particular seeming like it happens every other year.
There are times when WrestleMania and the NCAA Final Four are on the same weekend, and as someone who enjoys both, a decision has to be made. This year’s WrestleMania was in Dallas, and the Final Four was in Houston. As hard as the decision was, it was a quick one. WrestleMania was in Dallas. WrestleMania has never been in Dallas. Therefore, missing WrestleMania in my hometown was out of the question, and it was out of the question for some of my friends who live here as well. There was a brief thought of pulling double duty and doing an 8-hour round trip drive to see the Final Four games in Houston Saturday afternoon and come back to Dallas for Mania Sunday morning, but it was fleeting thought. Tickets went on sale for Mania late last year, and an insane amount of money for tickets was spent to be in Cowboys Stadium for WrestleMania 32.
The WrestleMania group consisted of 5, with two coming from Florida. Anytime an out-of-towner visits, they get a trip to Rudy’s Chicken. Rudy’s Chicken is, simply, the best chicken on Earth, so when one of my boys came from Florida with one of his boys for WrestleMania, they were adamant that we all go to Rudy’s merely because they have seen years of Facebook status messages anytime a trip to Rudy’s was made. They wanted to see what the fuss was about, so we made the trip to get some chicken, as well as engage in the Rudy’s experience. The Rudy’s experience consists of long lines in the drive-thru, long lines at the walk-up window, talking trash with some of the other customers in the line while waiting to order and get food, and generally having a good time. There was the dude in his full chef outfit selling cakes, pies, and banana pudding out of the back of his truck which made it even more of a memorable first-time experience for the out-of-towners. A lady in line told us she drove from Plano which is about 30 minutes away from Rudy’s. People drive for what they like, and yeah, there were likely plenty of places she could have gotten some chicken, but she chose Rudy’s. Once everyone got their chicken, it was time for everyone to go their separate ways before WrestleMania the following day.
Around 3 P.M., the pilgrimage was made to AT&T Stadium to take part in the day’s festivities and, upon arrival, the atmosphere outside the stadium was incredible. For football fans, imagine going to the Super Bowl and seeing the sea of jerseys, team colors, and other events which contribute to tailgates galore, times ten. It would be similar for baseball fans at The World Series, basketball fans at the NBA Finals. There was just about every representation of a wrestler, dead or alive, outside of the stadium well before it was time to go in. The barbeque grills were fired up, music was playing, the alcohol was flowing from all directions, the smell of ribs, burgers, Earl Campbell links, and chicken permeated the atmosphere. It was really an amazing scene, and if a person wasn’t so inclined, the tailgates at WrestleMania could have been treated like a tailgate at the previously mentioned sporting events which is to simply tailgate and not go inside the stadium for the event. The temperature outside was in the mid-70s, few clouds in the sky, and the sun was shining bright. It was a picture-perfect day.
Getting inside the stadium was a pain in the ass, and for a place that has hosted All-Star games, concerts, boxing matches, soccer games, and the Dallas Cowboys eight times a season, the lack of organization from simply getting people in the building to their seats was mind-blowing. 4 out of 5 of us were sitting in pairs, and one person was solo, so we quickly split up and got to our respective seats.
The experience of being at WrestleMania is singular to each person and truly depends on how they view wrestling. For someone who has been a fan since 4 years old, WrestleMania is an event that seemed impossible to attend as a youngster growing up. The event would come on TV and it always came off as something larger-than-life, a fantasy place for wrestling fans where everyone hung out, cheered on their favorites, booed the bad guys and simply had a great time, but it never came off as a real place. It was just so massive, so overwhelming that I didn’t think the event was something I could ever attend. Being able to be there as an adult, and to have floor seats at that, was something that will last a lifetime. From 5 P.M. to around 11 P.M., over 100,000 people were entertained by everyone from Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks to Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and The Rock. Bray Wyatt, someone who didn’t even have a match on the card, got his shine on in front of a record-breaking crowd (2) merely serving as a reminder of how unpredictable and priceless WrestleMania can be. Next year, the event is going to be in Orlando, and even though WrestleMania 32 ended less than 12 hours ago, the road to WrestleMania 33 has already begun.