With WrestleMania coming up soon, I wanted to write about the entire aspect of what it means to the fans, and why it is really considered the biggest show of the year. In addition, as part of this, I would also like to cover the build for the matches at this year’s show. Because there is so much to be said about WrestleMania, I figured I would break this into two different columns just as a flow of consciousness about how I feel about “The Showcase of the Immortals.” So, here is part one of what WrestleMania means to a fan, and the reason many people, including the talent, consider it the “Granddaddy Of Them All” and the “Super Bowl Of Wrestling.”
WrestleMania time is always one of the best times to be a wrestling fan. Things always pick up, WWE makes its biggest efforts toward building a good show, and the fans seem genuinely interested in what is going on. It is the one time of the year, where as a fan, even if a long list of other things are annoying you or upsetting you about the state of wrestling, you can put that all behind you and attempt to enjoy a show you can only see once a year. For that reason, WrestleMania really is can’t miss. If you miss it, you are missing out on the culmination of a year’s worth of build. Despite better PPV cards on paper, and despite the fact that sometimes other PPVs from the year end up being better than ’Mania, it is the one show that wrestling fans will be talking about. It is the one show where you should be up to date on as a fan. It is a talking point amongst fans, and it is a time when even casual fans come back around in a bigger force to see what is going on with wrestling. I always thought to myself that even if were to ever stop watching wrestling, I would at least tune in once a year to watch WrestleMania to see where the company is at. WrestleMania is always a good barometer of what is going on in WWE.
Not every WrestleMania is great, some have been on the lower end of the PPVs for their respective year, but then again, every few years there is a defining show that has an amazing card, but also changes the landscape of wrestling forever, like WrestleMania X-Seven. You can’t get that type of thing at Fully Loaded. I realize Fully Loaded hasn’t been around in a while, but I like living in the past. Just like Honkey Tonk Man. WM is the one PPV of the year that big things are bound to happen. Angles culminate, ideas hit a crescendo. The show becomes the end all, be all for everything that it means to be creative in WWE. Writing is all built towards the point of ‘Mania. Big feuds begin and end, stars debut and retire, careers are made and angles are ended. It is the one show where the most noteworthy things happen.
At times, things don’t always seem too noteworthy or history changing at the time. But, when one looks at the history of wrestling, the biggest show of the year is where a lot of historical things take place. Austin turning heel, the beginning of Hulk Hogan’s face run in WWE, Austin’s last match, Shawn Michaels last (at the time) match, Ric Flair retiring, Mick Foley being retired. OK, I won’t get into the entire retirement angle thing because in wrestling, retiring seems to be as serious as a Sheamus WWE title run.
In the new age of WrestleMania where they try to hold the shows at larger venues and well known arenas in an attempt to break attendance records, fans can expect at least one really good match every year. Marquee matches are given more time to develop and become something special. So, even if the show as a whole isn’t the best of the year, you will most likely see a match of the year contender. That is what happens when the wrestlers put it all in the ring for one night of the year. Every year that WrestleMania gets a year older, it is another year of wrestling standards to live up to and another year of matches to attempt to be better than. That creates a lot of want and necessity in the minds of the wrestlers to outdo not only what they have done in previous years, but what others have done. WrestleMania creates a high standard of wrestling quality for the wrestlers involved. That is why Nathan Jones was taken off the card at XIX. I’m not sure of the logic in that decision, however, since they left both A-Train and Big Show in the ring. WrestleMania standards for wrestling? I didn’t say in every match.
The pageantry and spectacle of WM is something that WWE doesn’t take light heartedly, and it shows. No expense seems to be spared for the one special night of WrestleMania. WWE brings out the best in the firework displays, production quality, and set design. Turn on WrestleMania, and nowadays, you instantly know it is a bigger deal compared to the other shows of the year just by the look. The lighting is always better, including ground spotlights that go deep into the arena that you won’t see on any other Pay-Per-View. The set is always more massive and in depth than usual, including a longer ramp to the ring. Seeing the wrestlers walk down that ramp from a high above shot makes the show as a whole seem more special than the average Raw, Smackdown, or PPV. Where would the world be without Ultimate Warrior sprinting down that long WrestleMania VI ramp? Or, without The Undertaker taking off on high speed on his motorcycle at X-Seven. The firework displays are always even better than they are on TV and PPV. I mean, the fireworks are so good, at WrestleMania XIV people nearly got killed over them. Now, that is a good fireworks show. Seriously, if you ever can’t make it outside on the fourth of July, pop in any of the latest WrestleMania shows and watch the explosives. The display is probably better than what you will see in your lame backwoods town anyway. I must say this though, please WWE, don’t burn the Undertaker. He’s had enough of that this year already.
Pageantry can also include celebrity guests. WWE likes to bring out celebrities to perform on the show, be in the audience, or make a special guest appearance. What other PPV can you hear someone sing “America the Beautiful?” When else would WWE ever even bother? Seriously, the more I write about it, the more I realize just how much WWE puts into the idea behind WrestleMania. From celebrities showing up to do guest commentary, to special guest referees like Mike Tyson, and including Pete Rose dressed up like the San Diego chicken, one can truly never know what to expect from celebrities at WrestleMania. I mean, Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy have been at WM. Need I say more, gentlemen? Then again, Lawrence Taylor did main event at 13, and Floyd Mayweather seemed to be the biggest selling point behind XIV, but we all have our faults. I really don’t even want to mention the terrible appearance by Mickey Rourke last year, but I had to. It was like the Big Show in the living room if I hadn’t said anything.
I will get to more on WrestleMania in my next column, but I want to mention the build for this year’s show. Here is my take on The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels:
The build for this match actually started last year after they had such a good match. As soon as one sees an amazing match between two of the best at the biggest show of the year, of course, as fans, we want to see it again. I’m sure minutes after that match happened last year, many fans were thinking, “I can’t wait to see them go again.” So, WWE did amazing job building this match for the next year. Of course, it wasn’t in the minds of fans all year, but when Michaels took the Slammy for match of the year, he mentioned how he wanted Taker at ‘Mania again to prove he could beat him. And, with Taker as his sole purpose for the following months, it has made a strong build for a match that really doesn’t even need it. I mean, these two could have a match of the year yet again without a storyline. This could be the storyline, right here…ready… “Listen, folks, it’s Michaels and Taker at WrestleMania, need we do more?”
No, WWE doesn’t need to do more, but they are really building this feud nicely. They didn’t half ass their way through the feud because it would be easy. They put a storyline in place months in advance and booked it well. With Taker not agreeing to wrestle again at first, it just built the tension. It built the hype. I know I personally wasn’t sure if they would actually get together again at Mania. That intrigue was nice.
With the edition of the streak vs. career, this match should be epic. Even if it doesn’t top last year’s match in the ring, it might actually be even more important because it could mean the end of an era in that of Shawn Michaels career either being over, or at least him taking some time off. And, if Michaels wins, Taker finally loses his WrestleMania streak. Things just won’t be the same for UT or HBK anymore once this WM is over, and that is just one more of the reasons that WrestleMania is seen as the biggest shows of the year. What other PPV would it matter if you had an undefeated streak at? Did you know that Triple H is undefeated at the Breakdown PPV? Did you know that I just made that up? Did you know that he didn’t even compete at it? Did you know that no one cares? My point here is about Michaels and Taker and that is this; where else is the best place to go out than on top at WrestleMania? This match is going to be nothing short of amazing, just like last year.
(Stay Tuned for Wrestlemania Part II, where I discuss more of the biggest event in professional wrestling.)