Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh. Wrestling. "Who the hell watches that fake stuff?" First of all, it's choreographed -- not 100 percent fake. Second of all, you know your favorite TV show? There's a good chance yours is one that's "fake" too.
Anyways, on Sunday night, WWE put on the 33rd edition of its WrestleMania event. For those who don't know, WrestleMania is essentially the biggest show the WWE puts on every year. It's their season finale, their Super Bowl, their grandest stage of them all.
And it has come a long way since the first one in 1985. It drags in many fans from all over the world -- both live and on TV. It rakes in a lot of revenue at the gate, as Mania has gone from normal arenas like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center to stadiums such as the Superdome and Citrus Bowl. Hell, cities now bid on hosting WrestleMania just like the Super Bowl, World Cup and Olympics.
It's not just one event, it's a multitude of events. There's rallies with several youth organizations and schools. There's a WrestleMania reading challenge. There's Axxess -- where fans can have meet-and-greets with the superstars and see cool memorabilia and fun activities like impersonating a superstar's entrance. There's the Hall of Fame ceremony. And there's NXT Takeover, a big event for the minor league system of WWE.
All that time, WrestleMania has come with the same promises year after year. It's where rivalries can be settled and new ones started. It's where new stars can be made. It's where some of the best in-ring action can happen. And celebrity involvement is always a must-have.
WrestleMania is for the casual fan, too, not just the hardcore one that watches over five hours of WWE programming a week. To quote WWE chairman Vince McMahon in the WWE Network's WWE 24: WrestleMania Dallas mini-documentary: "WrestleMania is the single-greatest live event in the world today. Part-theatre, part-rock concert, soap opera, pyrotechnic extravaganza and, most importantly, world-class athleticism."
And for those of us, a legion of wrestling fans, who watched WrestleMania 33 last night, it proved to be quite the show to look back on -- especially if you grew up watching wrestling in the 1990s and/or 2000s.
First of all, from a designer's standpoint, just look at that beautiful set. WrestleMania is the time of the year where the WWE goes all-out and all-different than their normal sets for weekly shows Raw, Smackdown, NXT and 205 Live. With Mania in the Citrus Bowl this year, they went for a Universal-parody display, complete with a roller coaster in the background to add to this year's slogan: "The ultimate thrill ride."
The stars came out to play right away before the main card even kicked off. During the Andre the Giant memorial battle royal that aired on the pre-show, Mojo Rawley was given a win with assistance from an old football teammate, and good friend of his. That friend? Rob Gronkowski, only one of the best tight ends in the NFL today with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
From there, we saw hellacious action from the likes of Shane McMahon -- Vince's son -- as well as AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho and the women of Raw.
Then came Raw's tag title match, and something else Mania always tends to have -- a shocking return. This year, it came in the form of the Hardys, who are one of the most famous tag teams, known for their death-defying stunts and, since last year, quite the persona that follows the tandem out of the ring.
Then came out the names more people are familiar with. John Cena and girlfriend Nikki Bella won their match (ring announced by Al Roker of all people), and Cena finally proposed in the middle of the ring. Hooray, something else to use for Total Divas and Total Bellas.
Triple H lost his anything goes brawl, the two world title matches saw a Mania with two world titles have two new champions for the first time since 2005 (one match featuring the ring with creepy lighting and graphics through the match, while the other had Brock Lesnar and Goldberg).
Then came the main event. Roman Reigns defeated The Undertaker, and following the bout, Undertaker left his hat, coat and gloves in the ring, and he walked away. The Dead Man finally hung them up.
For any fan who grew up in the eras I said previously, this one may sting. Yeah, he was an older wrestler -- much older -- but The Undertaker was always one of the most loved superstars in the WWE by fans and peers alike. His look was so badass, his entrance gave you the chills and he just had this great aura over him. And to know we won't have that anymore in the WWE, it is a sad goodbye to a legend.
Thanks for the memories, Deadman.
So, yeah, maybe WrestleMania may not mean much to you if you want to mock the sports-entertainment industry. To me, I respect the industry, and I respect the evolution that has come over it. Maybe the WWE isn't what it was because when I was seven -- 15 years ago. But the WWE and WrestleMania has always been a part of me. I've always treated Mania like a holiday, and days like yesterday when it coincides with MLB's Opening Day is even better.
So, I love WrestleMania. I hope you've gained a respect for it, too.