This week I interviewed former X Division Champion Chris Bey and Ring of Honor founder Rob Feinstein for my book about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. Both were excellent discussions that covered a wide range of topics.Continue reading
Last weekend I was in New Orleans for my first WrestleMania, WrestleMania XXX. It was a blast and I took a ton of photos and shot multiple videos. Below is a day-by-day breakdown of the fun and festivities that took place. Enjoy!
Friday, April 4
To save money, I decided to fly to Dallas and then to New Orleans. This worked in my favor because I ran into WCW legend Bill Goldberg at the airport. It turns out that we were on the same flight, so I politely asked him for a photo and he agreed.
My plane landed in New Orleans on Friday and I checked into the Marriott on Canal Street shortly thereafter. While walking through the French Quarter to grab dinner, I bumped into Hulk Hogan’s manager, Jimmy Hart. I said hello to him and asked if he’d be at WrestleMania Axxess, an annual festival where fans can meet WWE legends and modern-day superstars, and he said he would. It was a surreal experience to see a larger-than-life personality walking through the streets but he was as nice as could be.
After dinner I headed to the Ring of Honor show in Westwego, just outside New Orleans. The show, Supercard of Honor VIII, was my first Ring of Honor event and it was awesome. Ring of Honor is an independent promotion that has some national television exposure but it isn’t as well-known as WWE or the second most popular wrestling promotion, TNA. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to attend another Ring of Honor event. They go above and beyond to entertain the fans.
Saturday, April 5
On Saturday morning I was up early because I had an 8 a.m. meet and greet with the immortal Hulk Hogan. This was easily the most exciting part of my trip since I grew up watching Hogan as a child and also enjoyed his reality show Hogan Knows Best. After waiting for approximately 45 minutes, I made it to the front of the line and got to meet Hulk Hogan. I went up, shook his hand and told him that he was my childhood hero and that I have great respect for what he’s accomplished. He thanked me, autographed by WWE 50 book and we posed for a photo.
After meeting Hulk Hogan, I got in line to meet other WWE personalities, including Christian, Howard Finkel and Pat Patterson.
I also visited an exhibit at Axxess called the Undertaker’s Graveyard. For the uninitiated, the Undertaker is a WWE superstar that, up until this year, was undefeated at WrestleMania for the past 21 years. So, they created a graveyard with tombstones for each of the opponents he beat. This graveyard also includes caskets and other props the Undertaker has used in his matches. Speaking of which, I had a photo taken of myself in one of these caskets, only to find out shortly afterward that this wasn’t permitted. Thankfully, I got this morbid shot before being reprimanded.
They also had a burial plot symbolizing the Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania XXX, Brock Lesnar. As you can see, I eagerly took part in this photo opp.
Before grabbing some food, I stopped by the Legends’ House booth and met Jimmy Hart. He let me pose with his famous megaphone, which was surprisingly heavy.
At 6 p.m. I had a meet and greet with the greatest wrestler of all time, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Meeting him was a wonderful honor and after doing so, I was off to the Hall of Fame.
I had a great seat at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame, just a few rows off the floor where the wrestlers and their families were sitting. And the class of wrestlers being inducted was excellent. In addition to seeing my all-time favorite wrestler, the Ultimate Warrior, I saw Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Razor Ramon (i.e., Scott Hall) recognized by WWE for their prolific and influential careers. But perhaps the best part was the surprise appearance by the Undertaker to pay tribute to his deceased manager, Paul Bearer, who was also part of this year’s class of inductees.
Sunday, April 6
After not getting much sleep, I woke up early, yet again, to visit WrestleMania Axxess on Sunday morning. This time around I met Howard Finkel (for the second time – and he remembered me!) and Roddy Pipper, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and, lastly, William Regal and several NXT wrestlers.
Before leaving WrestleMania Axxess, I took part in an open casting call for an upcoming WWE Studios movie. All I had to do was read lines off a teleprompter. I have no idea what the film is and I highly doubt that I’ll get called back, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I also went through the museum of WrestleMania memorabilia. Check out the video below to see what was inside.
Then, I headed across the street to WrestleCon, a non-WWE event where legendary wrestlers met and took photos with fans. My main reason for going to this event was to meet the WCW and TNA legend, Sting. It’s rumored that Sting will be appearing in WWE very soon so he can end his career with the company and be inducted into the Hall of Fame, so I wanted to meet him before this historic event takes place. He was as pleasant as could be and I’m glad I took the time to meet him.
After meeting Sting I got an early dinner and headed to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for WrestleMania XXX. My seat for the show was great, and I shot a video of the opening fireworks.
By the time WrestleMania XXX came to a close, I was still in shock over the fact that the Undertaker’s streak of being undefeated at WrestleMania came to an end. The entire arena was in shock and many people were legitimately upset. For non-wrestling fans, I know this is hard to understand. But most fans wanted the Undertaker to retire with the streak intact. While this won’t happen, I’m glad to say I witnessed a historic event, and that I saw Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
Monday, April 7
On the last day of my long WrestleMania weekend, I was able to sleep late and take my time. That night I headed to the Smoothie King Center (talk about a stupid name for an arena) for WWE Raw, the company’s flagship television show. The show was awesome and I was only two rows off the floor, giving me a perfect view of the entrance ramp and the ring.
In hindsight, what made this edition of Raw so special is it was the last public appearance of the Ultimate Warrior. Tragically, the following evening he passed away at the age of 54, after collapsing in front of his car with his wife beside him. It’s hard for me to fathom how such a young and seemingly healthy person could die out of the blue, especially since he just made peace with WWE’s CEO, Vince McMahon, and was finally recognized for his tremendous in-ring accomplishments. In a way, it’s poetic that he passed away after receiving the adulation he so rightly deserved and I’m glad I was there to witness it. However, I’m sad for his family, including his two young daughters, because they lost someone important to them. To make things even eerier, the Ultimate Warrior’s promo (i.e., speech while in character) on Raw was about a man’s memory and accomplishments living on long after his death. Thankfully, I filmed the whole thing. It was a bizarre case of foreshadowing.
My WrestleMania XXX weekend was excellent. I met fans from around the world, spent time with legendary wrestlers and saw amazing feats of athleticism and entertainment. While I may have witnessed the end of the Undertaker’s streak and the Ultimate Warrior’s last public appearances, I also saw the stars of tomorrow and enjoyed visiting a new city. This trip exceeded my expectations and I will gladly go to WrestleMania again in the future.