Random Musings of a Journo

Where journalism meets blogging meets insanity. Enjoy, folks.

cyoung13:

This brief was published in the May 19, 1869, edition of Raftsman’s Journal, a newspaper in Clearfield, Pa.

Diary: WrestleMania 30 Weekend was crazy

I’ve waited longer than I should have to do this blog, but all things considered, I figured a bit of separation and emotions check was in order.

As a member of the media, I jokingly admit that perks are rare and complaints are a dime a dozen.

So being credentialed for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and WrestleMania 30 alone were double perk enough for me.

Everything else was icing on the cake.

Even the $130, give or take, in hotel rooms was worth it, and I rarely think $130 of anything is worth it.

So, excuse me for a little while I applaud the WWE taking care of the media.

If you cater and have coffee, I’m going to applaud you wholeheartedly. If give out SWAG (stuff we all get, not the Swaggy P kind of swag), I’m going to sing your praises more.

In other words, all the applause and all the praise singing.

So if it was all cotton candy wishes and sugar plum dreams, why did this blog take so long?

Because I prolonged my WrestleMania experience Tuesday night with Main Event and a Smackdown taping. It was the sprinkles on an ice cream sundae and as I’m driving home, the alert came of Warrior’s passing.

I never really saw The Ultimate Warrior in the ring. I knew there were issues, but didn’t know to what degree.

But I do know eerie. This was it. The epitome of it, really.

Less than 24 hours after appearing on RAW and going full on Ultimate Warrior, he was gone.

It has made things a bit odd from that weekend. On Monday and Tuesday, things were great and I couldn’t wait to tell every story I could. Wednesday? It was kind of all just odd.

As I sit here putting up my WrestleMania hoodie (Among the free stuff and considering it was cold just last week for no reason, perfect timing.) three weeks later, things have cleared.

Now those stories are begging to come out again and even after watching the documentary on the WWE Network: “Warrior: The Ultimate Legend,” perspective still remains.

What happened was sad and down right crazy, but life is full of both good and bad surprises.

So without further ado, my weekend of memories.

—-

Saturday, April 5

I hate driving. I hate packing. Somehow though, staring down a nearly 3 hour drive to get to a hotel to leave and go to the WWE Hall of Fame and drive in New Orleans for the first time seems okay, fun even.

It’s mid-morning and I’m double- and triple-checking to see if I have everything I’ll need for the weekend. Debating on whether packing a second night and third day of clothes. It’s me, there’s no way I’m going to drive home Sunday night.

Nah, I can do it.

I’m on my way to Hammond first. It was the cheapest hotel I could find within reasonable driving distance. I could have booked a room in New Orleans, but that would have been roughly $140, $68 sounds so much better.

After hours of driving, checking in and grabbing a bite to eat with a friend it’s back on the road; this time New Orleans and the WWE Hall of Fame in my business attire.

I take a stop to see some of those NOLA peeps, who knew fans were willing to take that business attire event thing to heart, because not everyone is and none of them have to. In fact as I walked in I crossed Cena shirts, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk (they do know he’s on leave or whatever right?) and, of course, the night’s main attraction Ultimate Warrior.

Since the announcement of his induction, the WWE had reissued Warrior shirts for purchase, making sure his fans could be properly outfitted for the weekend.

There is no press box in the Smoothie King Center, or as the New Orleans internet peeps call it and so I have adopted calling it, “The Blender.” But, they’ve given the press the first two rows by the stage in the upper sections.

It was a great view of the land and I was wearing my first ever laminated, real deal press credentials.

It’s taking everything I have not to take a million selfies (though my phone is not up for the dark-room challenge) or just stare and admire the damn thing. But, I am here to at least quasi work so I take out my notepad and a pen.

On the floor, a “red carpet” (which considering the on and off rain outside, brilliant move) awaits entering WWE superstars and divas and legends and families.

The Hall of Fame has become the show before the show with as much spectacle as its follow-up but with more heart and less storyline.

I think that’s why I really wanted to go. It’s the one night that people are real.

If you were expecting WrestleMania 30 to be the big show, it makes sense that the Hall of Fame class be stacked. As a video airs showcasing all the entrants into the Hall, everyone is cheered with Mr. T probably receiving the least amount, though still cheered. But really are the celebrity entrants ever popular? It’s its own wing, people, let it go.

—-

The night begins with the induction of Amy “Lita” Dumas by Trish Stratus. Two of the biggest reasons I started watching wrestling in 2001.

Stratus talks how the two’s careers were parallels to one another and how Dumas was doing something no one had seen before.

As the microphone was turned over to Dumas, “Thank you, Lita” chants filled The Blender. Dumas soaked the moment in before flashing back to her journey to becoming a wrestler.

The lengthy speech reflected on traveling to Mexico to become a wrestler, meeting people like Arn Anderson and Rey Mysterio as the years went on and as she made her way up the ranks in wrestling organizations.

She also talked about the “bubble” WWE wrestlers live in, like when she injured herself seriously on the set of Dark Angel and the doctor told her she would never wrestle again, so she called Stone Cold Steve Austin for his advice. Not a neurologist, Austin.

It’s funny, part of that shocked me, but then it didn’t.

—-

We follow Lita with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, introduced by Diamond Dallas Page.

“I can’t tell you how proud and honored I am to be here tonight,” DDP exclaimed. The night that saw “two of his guys” (via DDP Yoga, Roberts and Scott Hall) enter the Hall and just so happened to be his 58th birthday.

I didn’t know before that Saturday night, but DDP loves telling stories and is fantastic at it. For his introduction of Roberts, he tells a story of when Roberts lived with him and his then wife in 1994 as DDP was really just getting into the business. The hilarious story centered around Roberts losing his snake inside DDP’s home.

Still, the time that DDP and Roberts lived together, for DDP, was invaluable.

“It’s a debt I’ve been working on paying back ever since.”

Speaking about Roberts in the ring, DDP complimented The Snake’s ring philosophy most, talking about how each and everything he did in and out of the ring had purpose.

Where DDP was jovial, energetic and full of excitement, Roberts’ speech was more subdued, dark even.

Roberts wishes he would have allocated his time better while wrestling but he did not regret his love of wrestling.

“I’ve always loved pro wrestling. I’ve always loved the men that did pro wrestling. They were a breed of their own.”

It was a dark speech with Roberts tearing up. He credited DDP for saving his life and the WWE fans for helping him get a second chance.

—-

As if things were planned (in the WWE, NOOO) perfectly, Mr. T’s induction followed the Roberts.

Mean Gene Okerlund is out first to introduce Mr. T’s son, T Jr. (yes, that’s his name apparently), who will be introducing Mr. T to the Hall of Fame.

(Everybody follow that?)

Mean Gene talked about the WrestleMania I main event and his son explained his pride in his dad, but that was nothing compared to what was coming down the pipe.

Mr. T was grateful and very proud to be going into the Hall of Fame and then went on an unintentionally hilarious mom-loving tangent.

Seriously, Mr. T really really really loves the Bible and his mother, so much so that I have questioned my love for my mother.

Kane comes out and cuts Mr. T off, which is understandable, but it is also sad.

Press row has been dying of laughter.

—-

Kane comes back out, this time to introduce “his dad,”the late  Paul Bearer, into the Hall of Fame.

“I hated to cut Mr. T off but all that talk about his mama was cutting into my time to talk about my daddy.”

As Kane reflected on Paul Bearer’s time in wrestling, particularly the WWE, and the help he gave many superstars, Kane openly admits that he is the one who owes the most to Paul Bearer, real name, William Moody.

Moody’s sons Daniel and Michael have little time to thank the WWE for the honor, but they quickly do so and then offer the perfect impression of Paul Bearer’s “Oh Yes!”

The music of the Undertaker, a method actor that could make Joaquin Phoenix would be jealous of, hits, smoke fills the stage and The Undertaker poses with THE urn.

The perfect ending.

—-

How do you follow that? You bring out Kevin Nash to introduce “The Bad Guy” to the Hall of Fame.

Nash is never one to really show his emotions, but this one is emotional for him, he says, as he reflects on how great Scott Hall was in the ring. He talks about about partnering with him and having the joy of watching him go from ringside on a nightly basis.

Then, Hall, as Razor Ramon, is inducted, opening with his famous “Hey, yo” and a toothpick.

Hall is also brief, but drops a doozy of a line: “I’ve learned that hard work pays off, dreams come true, bad times don’t last but bad guys do.”

We also get a curtain call with Nash, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Sean “X-Pac” Waltman, because that’s what The Kliq does (lol).

—-

Carlos Colon is next and introducing him are Carlito and Primo and Epico (you now know them as Los Matadores, because somehow Puerto Rico = Spanish character).

Carlito starts off by making comments related to his time in the WWE, but he says it’s all about his dad.

Right…

Epico talks up his father, how he sold out Puerto Rico and expanded his territory.

When Colon took the stage, he graciously stated that never in his wildest dreams could he see this (his Hall of Fame induction) occurring.

His former competitors are also a “Who’s Who” list of sorts.

—-

It’s getting late, we’re nearing 11 p.m. CDT, and Ultimate Warrior’s induction is what remains.

Warrior is introduced by Linda McMahon (yeah, no one can figure out why that really is either).

She was highly flattered and considers the Hall of Fame her favorite event.

McMahon calls Warrior a unique individual and says she understood his passion.

She introduced Warrior and his two daughters, who escorted their father to the podium.

Warrior takes the microphone and jokes about this being the “most anticipated sports in sports entertainment.” All things considered, he’s probably not far off.

Fans cat call for one more match, they did the same with Roberts. Both disagreed with the fans, Warrior says they’re being too kind.

The speech is a bit all over the place, but he addresses the elephant in the room, the 2005 DVD. Warrior says it broke his heart.

He goes onto thank the people in the back (i.e. the ring crew), some are lifers, he notices as he realizes that he recognizes some from his WWE time before. Warrior calls for the recognition of these guys in the Hall of Fame, offering to call it the Jimmy Miranda Award, hoping to see it next year.

Warrior says that The Ultimate Warrior is a legend, The Ultimate Warrior fans are legendary. If we weren’t well past half-an-hour into the speech, it would have probably been met with even more of a cheer, but still the fans love that idea. He goes on to thank them for the life he has.

But, to Warrior, it isn’t the greatest thing he has done. No, he says that is being the dad to his two “Warrior girls.”

Even in my growing tire and dread of driving an hour back to a hotel in pitch blackness. It makes me smile.

—-

Sunday, April 6

The good thing about sleeping in a city like Hammond: Starbucks is readily available. First off, it’s awesome energy wise; secondly, Starbucks has that skinny mocha (hello less calories!).

Breakfast was less than desirable so the Starbucks is welcomed. Plus I remembered to pack a book, so I can easily kill an hour or so.

(Note to self: Find my book.)

After a relaxing morning, it’s a lunch stop at Dot’s Diner in Metairie. Okay, time for a diatribe about Dot’s. The prices rock,  so does the food. For less than $12, I got a 6 oz. grilled chicken breast, two sides and garlic bread. I couldn’t eat half of the rest of the stuff, but that chicken was beyond delicious.

Anyway, after going around in circles a bit in New Orleans (miss one turn in heavy traffic, you’re doomed). Finally parked in Garage 6 and with about 15 minutes to spare. Considering my near anxiety attack in traffic, at least 5 of those are accounted for easily.

We’re let in late, but it wasn’t as if they were going to start a press conference without, yanno, the press. So it was only a matter of standing and waiting.

After being checked-in, and given a copy of the press box’s seating chart (yep, THAT many credentialed, I think there was about 150 media credentials issued).

—-

It was off to the press conference room after some time, we are graced by Hulk Hogan, the host of WrestleMania 30.

Here’s what I didn’t realize, when you put a superstar in front of me, I want to mark. When you put Hogan in front of me, I want to mark big time.

Hulk Hogan opens by talking about WrestleMania I, about Vince McMahon’s vision and how no one really realized at the time how Mr. T’s involvement was going to build things, how he turned the nose of the ship from wrestling to sports entertainment.

Hogan promised us a show that would be like nothing we have seen and openly admits he never thought he’d be back in the WWE.

Someone asks him about Andre the Giant, the statue and the memorial battle royale. Hulk Hogan gets a little emotional, comes off genuine.

On New Orleans, Hulk Hogan talks about how he hasn’t really had time to see the sights as he’s been working hard promoting WrestleMania, but he’s complimentative of the city that still treats him like he’s the champ. He can’t believe how pumped up this city is.

After fielding a couple of more questions, Hulk Hogan leaves.

—-

Now joining the stage is Stephanie McMahon, on air member of The Authority and real life chief branding officer for the WWE.

“I wish I could put into words the pride I have standing here today,” she starts off.

She talks about how she feels like a kid again.

Stephanie McMahon is a storyteller, not in the liar-liar sense but as someone who likes to convey events. She has a story about helping build a playground, with help of Kaboom!, in the city and has an Andre the Giant story.

On the New Orleans front, she also has compliments for the city that she says has been so welcoming to the company. She has little doubt the WWE will be back to New Orleans — so long as they bid to host again — she is only really unsure when.

No shocker to anyone, Stephanie McMahon thinks it’s fun to be the heel (Luckily, she may be doing her best work as a heel as is Triple H right now).

—-

Finally, John Cena is up and he skips the opening statement and wants to field questions. So let’s treat that right with bullet points and commentary:

  • Apparently, in July, the Never Give Up shoe is coming to a store near you. (How did it take so long for this to happen?)

  • He loves big matches. (Wouldn’t be much of a top guy if he didn’t.)

  • Cena says there is a locker room full of young, hungry superstars. He mentions The Shield and the Wyatts, Bryan, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville and Bo Dallas. He looks forward to the road to the top going through him with those guys. (Love that not only the top guys and rising star Cesaro are garnering attention, but so are Zayn, Neville and Dallas. I wonder if Cena is a BO-liever…)

  • Someone asked if Cena wanted a crack at The Steak. He says he has learned two things while being at the WWE: Show up to work on time and don’t mess with The Undertaker around WrestleMania. Until The Streak is nonexistent, he doesn’t want any part of The Undertaker. (Smart, because if he would be the one to break The Streak, the internet would explode and die. Well, it’s not like The Streak will actually end, oh wait…)

  • New Orleans was built to host Wrestlemania. Cena likes that he walks out of a place and there’s life happening, it is not like go to location, be shuttled back to hotel. It’s all right by each other. He hoped that the WWE was doing the city justice as it has been good to them. (Okay, that’s three and reports surfaced within 48 hours that New Orleans was going to make a play for WrestleMania again, perhaps as early as WrestleMania 35. Where do I sign up for a press pass again?)

  • On his legacy, the centerpoint of the Bray Wyatt vs. Cena storyline, he talks about what he has built in the WWE and sticking to his guns, always. Cena says Wyatt has made this personal (It really is kinda fun to see how easily most of these guys, and gals, switch in and out of kayfabe with no problem.).

  • Somebody brings up the Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mysteries movie (RedBox, seriously, get it so I can see this thing). Cena talks about how films tell stories just like the WWE superstars do. The question stems from someone asking him about his favorite movie. Someone else yells out “The Marine.” “That is certainly on the list of movies made.” (We laughed wholeheartedly.)

  • There’s a jorts reference (How can there not be, right?)

  • On the Hall of Fame and Warrior, Cena says it was obvious Warrior had so much he wanted to say; he just hopes that Warrior understands that everyone came out to see The Ultimate Warrior inducted.

  • Cena is asked if he had any trepidation doing Total Divas. He says yes, but he loves Nicole so he was going to do it. But here’s where things get interesting. Cena says that to him Total Divas was a chance to show a different side of himself, of the Cena character, something he can’t do perhaps within the WWE creative confines (About the only reason to do a scripted reality show. It’s why I keep screaming for the WWE to use it for Natty’s heel turn.).

  • Cena says we are in for an awesome show, from nose to tail.

  • On the Hall of Fame and Paul Bearer, Cena says Paul Bearer was a great person and the wrestling community lost a great one in him. He wishes his sons would have had more time to tell stories (Can’t lie, I wish they would have too.).

—-

We’re being brought up to the press box in sevens, roughly. Once we’re up it’s time to find a seat.

Ooh, next to catering, that’s helpful, it is supper time after all. And now, let’s talk about that SWAG. Our seats are labeled with cards, a pen, a notepad and notes of the #Hashtag of the night. Yes, I took the card. It’s now laminated and sitting by my desk at work.

Then on our seats are  WrestleMania 30 drawstring bags filled with the program, a T-shirt and hoodie. I end up wearing the hoodie for two-thirds of the night because the press box gets a bit chilly. Seriously, you give me free stuff, it’s like you know I’m gonna love you.

We also get to our seats JUST in time for the pre-show match: A four-team elimination tag team matchup for the titles featuring RybAxel vs. The Real Americans (with Zeb Colter) vs. Los Matadores (with El Torito) vs. the WWE Tag Team Champions, The Usos.

The match is stellar and we get down to The Usos vs. The Real Americans. As the four realize they are all that’s left, Cesaro and Jack Swagger call for a “We The People” call from the fans, they oblige. The Usos counter with their “U-Sos” call, the fans also oblige here. The show hasn’t even really started yet, and the crowd is electric and the matches are great. Perhaps everyone was right, this is going to be a great show.

The Usos retain and the penultimate break-up moment happens between Cesaro and Swagger as Cesaro swings Swagger out of his life.

With that it is time for the show, which starts with our host Hulk Hogan. He forgets where he is (Superdome, not Silverdome, Hogan), and goes from a huge pop to a see of boos. Fans don’t have much time to stay mad though because *glass breaks* here comes Stone Cold Steve Austin. He’s counting WrestleManias, the crowd’s going wild. I mean, nothing could make this moment better right?

*If you smell*, wait, seriously? All three? Rock pokes fun at Hogan’s arena name botching too. He starts up-talking the card.

Finally the three shout out their catchphrases and share beers and leave.

I do not envy the match following that hot start.

Oh, Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan? Well, that will do it.

After a great coming-of-age Daniel Bryan promo video to Imagine Dragons’ Monster (which, as always was fantastic), Stephanie McMahon is out first to introduce Triple H and our first “mega entrance of the night. Chainmail and skull mask, crazy throne, dry ice (that didn’t work so well last time, Hunter) and girls that look suspiciously like NXT girls. It was well done, down to the lifting of the mask and close-up.

Bryan doesn’t need the flash though, he’s got over 70,000 Yes’s to greet him.

The match is hot with great spots and, surprise surprise, Triple H can actually “wrassle.” Who knew? The added gem of the match? Stephanie McMahon being the perfect heel valet, taunting the opponent openly.

Bryan picks up the victory clean. That’s right Triple H, King of Shovels (according to the internets), did the job at the biggest showcase of the immortals yet. You doth protest too much leading into this match. The Leader of the YES! Movement is on his way to WrestleMania 30’s main event.

After the match, Triple H beats on Bryan. This can’t be made too easy for Bryan, now can it?

—-

OK, now what can follow THAT? New Age Outlaws and Kane and The Shield, perfect. The only problem: If you decided to run to the bathroom, you missed it.

The Shield is obviously being built as one of the strongest face factions of all time, so besides a chokeslam attempt, the heels got really NO offense in. The match was beyond quick and The Shield look dominant.

It served as the perfect building block moving forward for The Shield as faces.

—-

If we’re building to a crescendo, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal made sense as the next step. All but two were given commercial-break entrances. We hear Sheamus’ music then Big Show’s, the two “favorites” to win.

Show’s attire was even appeared to be an homage to Andre the Giant. How can he lose?

Cut to the match which gave us our token Kofi is not eliminated and has to get into the ring magically moment.

But the ending featured a crazy feat of strength with Cesaro throwing Big Show over the top rope. Really, it may have been the best memorialization of Andre the Giant possible, because that’s the iconic moment – Hogan bodyslamming Andre the Giant.

We also, of course, got our obligatory Kofi Kingston is almost eliminated but now must get back into the ring creatively spot.

My favorite spot, however, was Fandango dancing on the apron as the crowd brought back Fandango’ing about a year after the craze began.

P.S., the bread pudding in catering was awesome and they had coffee. I bring this up now, because as Fandango was dancing, I was getting coffee and bread pudding.

—-

I make it no secret that I am a Bray Wyatt fan. We also get The Wyatt Family entrance played live. Who knew the band would basically look like more followers of The Wyatt Family cult?

I also will tell you that I don’t think John Cena is as bad as people perceive him to be, especially in the ring.

I can personally do without goofy “poop jokes” and photoshop promos from Cena, but Cena in the ring not carrying a match, just going, is entertaining.

But back to Wyatt, I think he’s the best ring psychologist we have today. He doesn’t even leave character for a second in that ring.

He’s supposed to be a monster of sorts, so he wrestles that way. He’s supposed to be off the wall, well, have you seen that spider walk (Cena’s scared straight sell there was fantastic)?

Cena winning clean was about the only thing I questioned in that match. (Big entrances 0-2 on the night.)

I actually missed a few minutes of this match because Sgt. Slaughter came up to meet the press and we were all marks and took photos with him.

(Post-Mania Note: I think Wyatt has to win the Extreme Rules match, otherwise, what are you doing with him, WWE?)

—-

Fink is out to help honor the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which is always a lovely moment.

The Ultimate Warrior is out last and appears to be soaking the moment in with a giant smile on his face.

He may have had a lot to say last night, but tonight there is only happiness. It’s nice to see.

—-

Guys, I have some bad news (no, not that bad news), The Undertaker is visually getting older and older each year. This match was hard to watch.

An entrance that took just over 7 minutes featured 22 caskets. The 22nd one features Brock Lesnar’s name. You gotta give the production crew credit, the value is even nice live, on TV it was a thing of beauty.

Press row went quiet, so did the crowd. The only cheers come when The Undertaker do things like Old School.

As Lesnar goes for his third F5, I know I wasn’t the only one thinking can Taker just kick out, scare Brock and hit a tombstone and get this thing over with.

One.

Sigh.

Two.

Ugh, how much longer?

Three.

Three? Wait, WHAT?

The crowd is now in shock and boos are growing. The press box has no idea what they’ve just seen.

We look around in disbelief. Even Paul Heyman is in shock. (Well, give that man an Oscar, that was fantastic.)

Lesnar’s music hits, the graphic 21-1 is shown, Taker just lies there.

Michael Cole: “The Undertaker is mortal.”

Boos are now pouring in from the top to the bottom, the press box is discussing as to whether Lesnar was the right guy. Both sides have points. Lesnar, a part-timer ending the streak seems inconceivable, but I would argue it is the first time since his return that the monster Lesnar has been booked as a force. Plus it gives itself perfectly if Bryan wins for Lesnar v. Bryan being a monster match.

—-

Poor divas.

The match was actually better than its predecessor, though shorter, but 18 divas in a match simultaneously begs for botches and nope, solid match, nice little spots and AJ Lee retains literally making Naomi tap herself (That’s actually brilliant.).

This match had no prayer though.

After the previous match AND the way it ended, that crowd was done.

—-

If you were wondering why Bryan was necessary in this match, it was this.

Remember that dead crowd? Bryan brought them roaring back. I am now convinced that the actual remedy for comas is a Daniel Bryan match.

Batista gets no pyro but he gets his spotlight entrance. I love me some heel Batista with spotlight. Deal with it.

Randy Orton gets Rev Theory to play him out, and cocky, swaggy Orton is upon us. This is also my favorite Orton. I know he actually HAS an O in his name, but can we start calling Orton Swaggy O?

It probably helped Batista most that this is a triple threat match. He doesn’t have to be the focus, he can catch his breath and we don’t catch him doing so. But, it also helps Orton and Bryan. Orton doesn’t have to carry the match like he was going to have to initially and neither does Bryan, who has to actually be a little tired after that strong first match and post-match spots.

Speaking of, holy Batista Bomb-RKO through the announce table spot, Batman!

Not only does Bryan sell it perfectly, poor Orton gets an inadvertent monitor to the back. Hello, “Holy Shit” chant.

As Batista and Orton go at it, Bryan is being worked on and being rolled out.

Of course, Bryan stops them, however. I mean, really, you can’t lose Bryan storyline wise, can you? Nope.

After the three go back and forth, Batista hits Orton with the Batista Bomb, Bryan comes back and hits Batista with a flying knee and puts him into a Yes Lock.

Batista taps and your NEW WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Daniel Bryan.

Let the confetti fall (purple and gold, nice.), let the hugs and Yes celebrations commence.

The slow build has crescendoed to a beautiful end.

—-

The show with “no build” was a thing of beauty and among the best of all-time.

Well done, WWE. Well done..