JG's Retro Column: The Magic of WrestleMania
By James Guttman
Originally published: February 27, 2003
"As a kid, I was a huge World Wrestling Federation fan. It was always my dream to perform in a WrestleMania, and that was my debut."
- Christian Cage on JG's 2/24/06 Radio Free Insanity (Available on ClubWWI.com)
It's a been a long year. Since WrestleMania 18 we've been disenchanted, cynical, and downright bored at times by the product that World Wrestling Entertainment has produced. It seemed that nothing could change things. For a while we all had to accept that perhaps WWE would never give us something fun to watch again.
But a funny thing happened on the way to No Way Out. Things just started to "click." For the first time in a long time the general consensus was that Monday Night Raw was a good show. There were reasons for everything we saw. The matches had meaning and the characters had direction. Could it be magic? Could we have all finally gotten our wishes?
Could it be that we're just over a month away from WrestleMania?
WrestleMania has forever been the centerpiece for the McMahon family business. Each one that has been produced has left us with a memory. When we think of the snapshots that make up our history as wrestling fans, most of them come from the "Showcase of the Immortals."
I'll never forget sitting in my living room and watching Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania 3, having just pinned Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title, sitting up in the ring with Dave Hebner raising his hand. The fans standing in the crowd and cheering blocked the bottom of the screen. The applause was so thunderous that even Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, known for their booming voices, had to strain to be heard on commentary. The crowd was electric. The moment was magical. I saw it when I was nine years old and I've never seen anything like it since. That moment was what makes WrestleMania so special.
Even the installments that were less than spectacular left us with memories that we will never forget. WrestleMania 13 presented us with a main event of the Undertaker versus Sid Vicious. It was one of the less than stellar feature matches presented at the annual tradition. But that night we received our first look at Steve Austin playing the role of "never say die" competitor. The image of Stone Cold's head gushing with blood while he attempts to reverse Bret Hart's Sharpshooter has been marketed on everything from videos to T-shirts. It was an important chapter in our industry's rich past and it happened at WrestleMania.
You see, we're told constantly how Professional Wrestling isn't really a sport. I agree to a point. There is no Superbowl or World Series for us to gather around the TV to witness. It's not even "entertainment" either. There are no Academy Awards in wrestling. Those that give their all to achieve greatness never get to walk down the proverbial red carpet and thank their agents for all the success they've seen. No, we don't have any of those things. What we do have is a tradition that was started in 1985 at Madison Square Garden. We have the show that everyone aspires to be a part of.
For one night every independent wrestler, wrestling journalist, and disgruntled ring veteran join the legions of fans to bare witness to the images that will be forever ingrained in our minds. It's the one event that all competitors say they strive to perform at. It's the one show that the entire planet knows about.
I remember when I was younger every adult in my life knew the word "WrestleMania." For many it was synonymous with the word "wrestling." We would get tickets to a house show at Nassau Coliseum and hear teachers ask "Oh, you're going to WrestleMania?" Nothing that this business has ever done garnered as much long-lasting mainstream attention as the new "Granddaddy of Them All."
The one thing about the show that makes it different than any others is that management can't ruin it. Forget the gripes we all have with the writing team. Forget the backstage politics. When two men step into the ring to perform at the Big One it's all about them. It's that moment where they can show us whether they're worthy of our support or just another performer out to pick up a paycheck. Think back to some of the moments that make up the tradition. Great performers real students of the game brought their performance up a notch and made more of a name for themselves in one night than they could have done in years. That's the magic of WrestleMania.
I guess the thing that makes the event so special is that it keeps the overall promotion grounded. All the stories and events within the year lead up to this event. WM 19 is the final destination from all the shows you've seen since we left Toronto last March. It gives you a reason to continue viewing. Once the event is over, we start fresh. We get on the Road to WrestleMania 20.
I always look forward to the Raw after Mania. It's always a huge show that starts the ball rolling until the next year. Remember the day after Shawn Michaels wrestled his heart out against Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14 (another memory made at the Spring Tradition)? Sean "X-Pac" Waltman showed up on the USA Network and side by side with Triple H he began the yearlong ride of the new DeGeneration X. Even last year's post-WM Raw gave us the debut of the "Next Big Thing" Brock Lesnar. I don't need to tell you what he's done since then.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that for one night it's ok for even the most cynical observers of this business to allow themselves to be "marks." We all are. We love this business. That's why you're reading this column right now. You may be unhappy with some business decisions that have been made, you may be angry about the current crop of main eventers, you may even be totally fed up with the direction of the entire business but you still follow it. Why? Because wrestling is all about making us dream. It's about watching those that give all they have to an industry that is often times looked down upon by elitists. You know the reaction that you get when you tell people you follow wrestling? The whole "Oh that fake stuff" reaction? Well these performers go through it everyday on a larger scale. They make far less than most "real sport stars." They live their lives from a suitcase, spending countless days away from their homes and families. Why do they stick with it? Because they too love the magic that it offers. They all dream of making it to WrestleMania. I guess you could say that we're all "marks."
Maybe it's about time we lost that label "Mark." So many of us are too worried about being saddled with this terrible stereotype to allow ourselves to get lost in the spectacle that brought us along to begin with. No one knew all the "insider news" before watching his or her first match. All they knew was that there was something special about what they were witnessing. WrestleMania is the embodiment of that magic. WrestleMania is our chance to remember what made us love this business to begin with.
I may not have much faith in those who are in charge of WWE's creative direction lately, but I have the utmost faith in the athletes that are on the payroll. I think that once the camera goes on and the show starts, the performers will have an opportunity to turn themselves from Superstars to Legends. If they don't have what it takes to reach the next level we'll see that too. It's the one night when there's nothing left to blame. It's the one night that all of us who follow, work in, review, analyze, defend, and aspire to be in the business have in common. It certainly is the showcase of the immortals.
The entire year has been leading to March 30th in Seattle. This is why you got into wrestling to begin with. So put all the bad feelings behind you if for just one night.
From one mark to another you'll be glad you did.
|© 2005-2007 All content contained here Copyright 2006 by James Guttman *** World Wrestling Insanity and ClubWWI are not affiliated with any wrestling promotion.|