Monday, 8 April, 2013
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Elliot and I separated for the first part of the American leg of our trip – he was keen to see New York, while I had somehow managed to blag myself a WrestleMania ticket in New Jersey.
As a kid, I would watch wrestling religiously and then perform all the moves on my sister when I was bored. We even had a belt – my title match record was 93-1. My dad interfered once, pinned me down, and Harriet took home the victory. I’m still not fully over that betrayal and the death of my immaculate winning streak.
However, as humans we grow and learn through our experiences – the lesson there being, never under any circumstance should you trust your parents!
In the wrestling world, WrestleMania is the biggest event of the year – producing the best matches and showcasing WWE’s first-rate talent, in theory. Therefore, by finding a ticket to this event I had hit the jackpot.
The slight kicker being that a bus journey from Toronto (our base city for the entire trip) to New Jersey was over twelve hours and travelled through the night. I arrived at my hotel with only three hours to go until the show.
I was extremely tired, but incredibly hyper – I hit the bellboy with a DDT, clotheslined the receptionist, grabbed my key and then headed to my room.
While in the shower, I started subconsciously singing wrestler’s theme songs. It was clear that I couldn’t contain my excitement, even with shampoo trickling into my eyes. So, CM Punk if you read my stories, which I’m pretty sure you do, you now know that I was singing away to your entrance music while soaping my arse. Try not to be weird about it, if we ever meet.
I jumped out of the shower, downed a couple of energy drinks and then I was ready to flag down a taxi. The boyhood dream was now just hours away.
Unsurprisingly, the taxi couldn’t park too closely. Therefore, I had a short walk to the stadium – this only offered the opportunity to nicely soak up the atmosphere though. My heart was beating like a kid in a toy shop as I walked through the tunnel of giant WWE flags which were creating a walkway to the event. This was Disneyland for a wrestling nerd.
Talking of wrestling nerds, they were out in full force. Before I even got into the stadium I must have seen at least a hundred adult men dressed as their favourite characters from the 80s or 90s – some of the wrestlers that they were impersonating wear very little other than wrestling trunks, too. I commend their effort, but the silly sods were going to catch a cold!
After admiring everything and everyone on the outside, I enter the stadium and took my seat. I couldn’t believe my luck – I was closer than I expected, and here is the real win, the two people in the chairs directly in front were a young boy and his short mother.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended an event, and can only see the singer from their eyebrows up because I’m standing behind Lanky Larry and Lofty Laura. Sure, Larry and Laura may get the best concert view, but can they fit into the cheap clothes from a shop’s kids section? Minnie Michael is laughing all the way to the bank.
While the event was in New Jersey, WWE were really pushing the New York vibe – there were huge cardboard cut-outs of the Statute of Liberty and the Empire State Building towering over the ring. Not that I really cared, they were merely the baubles on the Christmas tree – it just seemed a bit geographically insane.
I’ve tried my best to keep the content of this piece from spilling into full wrestling geek mode up until this point, because I’d completely lose most of you. However, from this stage on, it’s going to be pretty tough. I mean, I got to frigging see The Undertaker delivering a tombstone piledriver in the flesh for goodness sake!!
By the way, seconds before The Undertaker tore the roof off by planting his famous piledriver on his victim, he gave a little glance towards my section of the crowd. Now, I may be reading too much into this, but was that sample of wrestling art dedicated to me? Did ‘The Phenom’ and I share our own WrestleMania moment? It’s impossible to be certain either way, so I am going to lean towards yes.
The headline match was between The Rock (one of my favourites as a little boy) and John Cena (every little boy’s favourite now) – it was billed as an era versus era match.
It’s hard to believe that somebody whose prime came in a previous decade and has spent the last ten years making films, would be able to compete with a man that’s currently being dubbed the best in the company – but, it’s wrestling and anything is possible.
I’m pretty sure Hulk Hogan was WWE Champion when he was almost fifty. So, you can pretty much remove realism from the equation when picking a winner.
The main event was actually set to be a rematch from last year’s WrestleMania, in which The Rock won. Therefore, it was highly likely that John Cena would get the victory this time – allowing the company’s two (arguably) biggest stars, past and present, to both maintain their reputation and ego. Wrestling can sometimes be as predictable as an agitated dog’s reaction to the postman’s footsteps.
Even so, it was about the show – and I had not been this excited in years.
In truth, The Rock and John Cena were not the two best wrestlers on the card, but rather, the two most marketable characters. Therefore, there were more entertaining matches prior to the main event, but this was the one that created the most emotionally charged crowd responses – myself included.
If I was watching at home, I would be smugly mocking the predictability of this match. However, yesterday I got truly lost in the occasion. I was cheering The Rock, obviously, he was representing my era of wrestling – if Tommy Pickle (of Rugrats fame) and SpongeBob (of SpongeBob fame) ever squared off, I’d obviously be backing Tommy. Loyalty is everything.
At one point, The Rock hit his finisher move, the rock bottom, and pinned Cena. I almost jumped out of my seat as the referee counted towards three; but big, bad John kicked out on two. Still, I was starting to believe. It was highly enthralling from start to finish.
After twenty minutes of near misses and great entertainment, Cena finally planted an attitude adjustment (all these moves have creative names, don’t they?) and picked up the victory.
Sure, a plot twist would have been nice, but the foreseen finish didn’t, in any way, detract from the experience. I lived out a childhood dream and it was superb!