Guest Post: Wrestlemania Memories

As it’s both our blog birthday week and Wrestlemania week, we’re trying to lavish as many posts upon you as possible. Luckily for us, our favourite guest blogger Adam offered to write us a Wrestlemania themed post. How could we refuse? We defy you not to read it and get loads more excited for Wrestlemania. Whether you were there in person or watching on TV, why not tell us your own Wrestlemania memories in the comments box? We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy! – Ray

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My love of pro wrestling really knows no bounds.  I’m at a point in my life that I don’t even hide it anymore.  Granted, I don’t yell “Suck it!” or wear old NWO berets (nor any wrestling merch other than a “Death Rey” shirt), but I don’t shy away from admitting that I usually watch Raw live, Smackdown on DVR, and will always buy the Rumble and Wrestlemania.  However, for my life long love of wrestling, I really haven’t seen too much live.  I remember going to a WCW house show with a friend in my hometown of Asbury Park, NJ, when I was 4 or 5, but it wasn’t my idea and I really didn’t know what was going on.  What I do remember though, is that we sat ringside, my friend loved Sting and looking up the time frame, I probably saw a Sting/Flair classic but I honestly can’t tell you. I remember I went to a WWF house show in 1995 at the Meadowlands and thought it was cool that a character that hadn’t debuted yet was working the house show (in this case it was Louis Spicoli’s “Rad Radford” character.  Owen and Yokozuna lost to Shawn and Diesel in the main event).  In college I went to the Smackdown after the 2004 Royal Rumble where Eddie Guerrero was named #1 contender for the WWE title and I went to Summerslam 2005 where Eddie Guerrero lost a ladder match for custody of Rey Mysterio’s son.  Oh, and this happened.  I went a taping of Raw at Madison Square Garden where Kofi jumped on Orton, Piper was awesome, but overall I hated it, as exhibited in this poorly written argument.  Finally, I just went to my first CHIKARA show, and well, that ruled.

Of course, I’m forgetting one live event.  The second live wrestling I ever attended and first I actually was aware of.  I attended Wrestlemania XI, live from the Hartford Civic Center.

Allow me to educate those who are not up on their Mania history.  Wrestlemania XI is on the short list of “Shitty Wrestlemanias.”  The main event involved former New York Giants Linebacker/NFL Hall of Fame/Crack addict/current registered sex offender Lawrence Taylor taking on Asbury Park, NJ native/current cadaver Bam Bam Bigelow. In addition to this bad idea, this Mania also should be held accountable for the crime of getting Steve “Mongo” McMichael interested in professional wrestling, as he was in LT’s  corner.

The setting is important as well.  The Hartford Civic Center, although the former home of one of my great loves, The Hartford Whalers, is a decrepit arena in a shopping mall.  It was also about a three hour drive from where I grew up.  Keep in mind that Wrestlemania X, in addition to being one of the better Manias, was only a 90 minute train ride from my house.  But who cares!?  I was 11 and this was Wrestlemania!  Surely my innocence and general wonder would make this a memorable trip!  Right?

Well, not exactly.  For starters, this trip was a weekend alone with my dad.  Now, I’m not going to get too deep into how I was raised, and rest assured I don’t have any specific issues with my father now, but it should be stated that even at that young age I was conditioned to know that one-on-one time with my dad was stressful.  We also don’t have any common interests and he has a habit of making us leave early whenever we go to sporting events/movies/school plays because he gets bored.  So here’s an entire weekend, in an awful city, dedicated strictly to professional wrestling.  The possibility for a problem was high.  And I remember a few.  Most occurred at the Fan Fest (screw AXXESS, it will always be WWF Fan Fest to me).  My dad admonished me for talking to a stranger randomly, even though it was in actuality Jim Cornette just walking the floor.  I also was frequently (all my adolescence actually) told to “fix my jacket” because I had an oversized New York Knicks Starter jacket that would hang off me because we were indoors and I was overheating.  And by “told” I mean “forcibly yanked at the collar and yelled at” because I looked like “(I) was in a gang.”  Keep in mind, 11 year old Adam looked like this.

But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The earliest memory of Wrestlemania XI weekend was when we checked into our hotel and my dad made his first of many observations that adult actress Traci Lords (most famous for lying about her age to start her career early) was on our floor of the hotel.  My dad speculated that she may have been a celebrity guest of the event, but I’d counter that with it was far more likely that she was there to score some coke off Shawn Michaels.  I mean we weren’t at an ECW show, amIright?  After we checked in we went for lunch at some local spot and Captain Lou Albano walked in, which even my dad recognized from the Cyndi Lauper days.  After walking around for a bit we decided to retire for the night where it was stressed upon me to keep my voice down because we were in a hotel and people are sleeping.  Plus, we had to wake up at 7 am to for the Fan Fest!

Ok, here’s the thing about Fan Fest.  It gets packed and quickly.  It’s also huge.  So if you want autographs, you have to pick your target early and go in that line.  I learned that one the hard way on Day 1.  So basically I just walked around a bunch with my dad and took in all the sights.  From what I hear, AXXESS serves as a defacto WWE museum with some autograph sessions and games and such.  Fan fest did not have that.  It had an Undertaker set with the hearse, a ring you could jump around in (which I did, and that ruled), some kids games (one was a dunk tank that I was totally at when Todd Pentigal ran over during a taping of WWF Mania and dunked on Doink, so I was totes on TV!), and LOTS of merchandise booths.   I left with the following loot:

Shawn Michaels Tee Shirt- It was kind of sparkly and had his picture on it.  I wore it to the Fan Fest the next day and was one of the first people in line for his autograph.  He remarked “Nice shirt” to which I replied “Thank you.”  Later that summer some kid at camp called me gay for wearing a shirt with a man on it, and although I told him to shut up, I can’t recall wearing the shirt much after that.

WWF Pogs- I won these at a Pog Station.

Undertaker Pendent- It was a heavy, die cast metal pendent shaped like the Undertaker.  That became my bling for the remainder of 5th grade.

Lawrence Taylor Hat- My dad just bought this for me, despite how my feelings on the main event were conflicted.  Hey, gotta stick up for the hometown, right?  The hat did come in handy the next morning though, when bright and early we saw LT in our hotel lobby and he signed my program for me.  My dad was actual proud of how I let him finish a previous conversation and politely asked Mr. Taylor for a signature without any prompting. This encounter swung my favor to Mr. Taylor.  Seven years later I waited on Bam Bam Bigelow at the Applebees I was working at and told him the same anecdote.  He told me I made the right decision.

Various Autographs- I really don’t remember who I got except for Shawn and LT.

Something Tatanka related.

Foam Title Belt- This requires a bit of explanation.

Regardless of time period, I am fairly new to the internet.  My father was a computer programmer, but it also stressed him out enough that it made him sick.  As such, our home wasn’t wired for the internet until about 2001.  So there was no way I’d of been a smart, internet wrestling fan then.  I didn’t read the Apter mags or dirt sheets.  Christ, I didn’t even know WCW existed at the time.  I remember being in the hotel on Saturday night, my dad put on TBS because wrestling was on his channel surf, and I had NO IDEA who anyone was (yet oddly enough, I now remember it was a Four Horsemen promo I saw.  There must have been one of those green screen logo promos.)  Hell, I thought the Undertaker had some reality to him, even though I knew it was all scripted.  So yea, 11 year old Adam was not the discerning wrestling fan that I am today.  However, which foam title belt did I insist on buying?  Do I even have to say it?

Yes, I had a play Intercontinental title.  The “worker’s” belt.  Why root for Big Daddy Cool and The Undertaker when I can watch Jeff Jarrett and the 1-2-3 Kid?  And yet, I hate TNA now…

Oh, and I loved that foam belt.  It was probably my favorite thing ever for years after the fact.  But the smarkiness didn’t stop there.

For starters, I was a huge Owen Hart fan.  Always have been, going back to his days teaming with Koko B. Ware to form High Energy.  And I also found his heel turn in 1994 to be well reasoned, and needless to say, popped huge when he beat Bret at Wrestlemania X.  I also popped huge when he won the tag titles with a mystery partner (who I correctly guessed was Yokozuna.  I thought I was so smart, but looking back on it, they were practically slapping you in the face with the answer when they ran a bunch of Leslie Nielsen “Where’s Yoko?” spots.) So fine, that’s not unusual.  But I pretty much rooted for ALL heels.  We’ve already established I bought a Shawn Michaels shirt.  He was the heel in the world title match against Diesel.  Let’s look at the whole card and I’ll tell you my preferences.  Winners are listed first.

1) The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & the British Bulldog) vs Jakob and Eli Blue- Who cares?  I guess I liked Matilda, Davey Boy’s pet bulldog, so let’s give my pick to the faces.

2) Razor Ramon vs Jeff Jarrett (IC title)- I liked Double J’s country song “With My Baby Tonight”, and the woman next to me was a big Razor fan.  Since I have to be a combative little shit, my pick was J-E Double F, J- A- Double R- E- Double T.

3) Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy- My swag picked the Undertaker, but I did have an affinity for the Million Dollar Corporation (Dibiase is another favorite).

4) Owen/Yokozuna vs the Smoking Gunns (Tag Titles)- This match involved my favorite wrestler taking on Billy Gunn.  ‘Nuff said

5)    Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund (special guest referee Roddy Piper)(I Quit Match)- Not only did I root for Mr. Backlund in this, I brought a sign that said “BRET HART QUIT.”  Let me repeat that: I WAS 11 YEARS OLD AND ACTIVLY ROOTING FOR BRET HART TO QUIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING.  An adult actually gave me a snide comment before the show when he read the sign.  I remember being pissed that Backlund lost even though I never actually heard “I quit” out of the mic.  One of the few times I have questioned Roddy Piper’s judgment.

6) Diesel (with Pamela Anderson) vs Shawn Michaels (with Jenny McCarthy) (WWF Championship)- Well my pick is obvious, but to further elucidate what a little shit I was, I had some beef over the booking of this.  The prize for winning the 1995 Royal Rumble (in addition to the title match) was that Pamela Anderson would accompany you to the ring.  I don’t care how Cool Bid Daddy was, or how many Hearts the Kid Broke, Anderson was a prize fairly won by Mr. Michaels.  She should have accompanied him!  It’s in her contract!  Even if Jenny McCarthy is hotter!

7) Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow- I was bribed into rooting for the face.

Final count: 4-3 heels (with bribery involved, so who’s really the heel in the main event?  Plus, he’s a sex offender!)

My love of the law didn’t stop there either.  R&B group Salt-N-Pepa were brought in to sing “Whatta Man” to LT on his way to the ring.  The band Fishbone was advertised to perform the “America the Beautiful” before hand.  I know this is true because there is no way I’d imagine that, especially at 11.  For whatever reason, they were replaced by Salt-N-Pepa.  In retrospect, this is the superior choice.  But I remember thinking that was bullshit.

Needless to say, the combination of wrestling and my insufferableness made my dad get bored and he went for a walk around the arena.  He returned about 20 minutes later.  But not empty handed.  No, he returned with a WWF Ice Cream bar.  I don’t think I need to explain that this is the most delicious food ever created.  I was perturbed I couldn’t find one all weekend.  I guess my dad walked around until he found the one stand that had it, which may be one of the nicest gestures anyone has ever done for me.

The night didn’t stop after the last bell either.  Walking back to our hotel there was one final prize.  Loitering in front of our hotel were some punk teens.  In the street was a private limo.  One of the teens took a pebble from a potted plant and threw it at the limo.  The limo stops short, two GIANT bodyguards come out, beat the crap out of one of the kids (smooshing his face in the plant), and then go back in the limo.  This took place over 20 seconds.  Probably the best action of the night.  My dad still tells that story.

I don’t have too many good memories of growing up.  That’s not to say I have all bad memories, but the memories of pure, unbridled happiness are few.  Maybe I was always just a contrarian little turd (read: BRET HART QUIT) or maybe it was something else.  That’s not for here or now.   Wrestlemania XI is a good memory.  I guess that’s the moral here; that even the worst Wrestlemanias are a pretty great time.  It’s corny to say, but Wrestlemania is special.  And not because the marketing machine says it is, or its four hours now, or the Hall of Fame.  It’s special because we want it to be.  Everyone wants it to be special, so we work hard to make it memorable.  I want more Wrestlemania memories, even if I never watch another day of professional wrestling again in my life.

The author tweets about dinosaurs and hockey over @adamrjones24.  Please pity him.