WrestleMania ranks as one of the most popular events going today, and it certainly is becoming the talk of the town with the 32nd annual event set for Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
For those who grew up watching professional wrestling, back in the glory days when fans had to choose between WCW Monday Nitro and WWF/WWE Monday Night Raw and in the early days of the “Attitude Era,” it’s got a nostalgic feel that takes many back to their childhood days.
From sayings such as The Rock’s “know your role and shut your mouth” to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s “and that’s the bottom line,” the wrestling shows never let you down.
And none were greater than WrestleMania.
Sure, it’s not technically a “sporting” event, but it’s got the nice blend of sports and pop culture that makes it must-see TV for millions.
This will mark the 10th consecutive year that WrestleMania draws more than 70,000 fans to the event, plus millions who will tune in around the world via pay-per-view. If someone is going to watch a wrestling event, this is going to be it.
It’s an event that yours truly still watches almost on a yearly basis despite watching wrestling minimally the rest of the year. There’s just something to WrestleMania that entices fans to come back at least once a year. Consider it like a soap opera, a show you can easily pick up on even if you haven’t watched in a while.
Growing up in the 1990s, WrestleMania always had a Super Bowl feel to it. A distinct memory centers on the 1992 event when “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Bret Hart had a match for the ages that hooked myself and my neighbors into the sport for years to come.
Then in 1994 the “Ladder Match” found its way to WrestleMania and gained prominence with a high-profile bout between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. Fast forward to this year and fans will be greeted with a 7-man “Ladder Match” for the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
And the list goes on from there.
Michaels and Hart had an unforgettable “Iron Man” match in 1996; The Undertaker and Sycho Sid had a memorable heavyweight match in 1997; Michaels and Austin, along with “special enforcer” Mike Tyson, had a controversial match that Austin shockingly won in 1998 — a match that went on to dominate middle school lunchroom talk for a few weeks.
Yes, everyone understands wrestling is scripted and is mostly for pure enjoyment. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
Here are five thoughts on Sunday’s spectacle:
1. Roman Reigns solidifies himself as superstar
The WWE has pushed Reigns to become a household name for a few years now, and gave him headliner status at last year’s WrestleMania. He didn’t exactly live up to the hype in a match against Brock Lesnar, and has his fair share of critics who dislike him because he’s been handpicked by WWE management as the next star. That makes him a love/hate wrestler to many fans. Despite that stigma, this is the year that Reigns should establish himself as a top-billed wrestler for years to come in a high-profile match against Triple H. After all, several superstars are sidelined with injuries such as John Cena, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and Cesaro.
2. John Cena is injured
Cena is the Hulk Hogan or Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin of this generation. His fan base is enormous, and it might have grown more if he gave Jerry Jones’ his trademark “Attitude Adjustment” finishing move. All kidding aside, an injury has sidelined Cena from this year’s event and he won’t compete for the first time since 2004. However, he is expected to attend and will surely make his presence felt in some capacity.
3. The Undertaker’s farewell?
There has been speculation that The Undertaker could be headed toward retirement, and this “Hell in a Cell” match against Shane McMahon could be his swan song. This has the makings of the match of the night, particularly after “Shane O Mac” showed he’s absolutely nuts by jumping off the top rope and onto a table The Undertaker was lying on in this week’s Monday Night Raw. The table, of course, didn’t survive. In the end, though, nobody has been a better headliner at WrestleMania than ’Taker, who had an undefeated streak from 1991-2014. His absence will be greatly missed, but all good things must end at some point, right?
4. Eyes on Brock Lesnar
Lesnar might be one of the most imposing personalities and dominant wrestlers in recent memory, and he has a look where nobody knows what he’s going to do. That makes his “No Holds Barred Street Fight” against Dean Ambrose one of the most anticipated matches at WrestleMania. Lesnar is the man who ended The Undertaker’s undefeated streak, and he rises to the moment every WrestleMania he competes in. This time should be no different.
5. Celebrity appearances
WrestleMania has long been known for its celebrity appeal. From Aretha Franklin to Muhammad Ali to Mr. T to, yes, even presidential hopeful Donald Trump, celebrities have long been a part of the extravaganza. It’ll be interesting to see which celebrities are on hand for WrestleMania 32. Surely the Dallas Cowboys will have some folks on hand. Jerry Jones has already said he’ll be there. Maybe quarterback Tony Romo or tight end Jason Witten will attend. And, hey, maybe we’ll get a Mark Cuban showing since Monday Night Raw is at American Airlines Center the following night.
5 p.m. Sunday, AT&T Stadium
Tickets: $42 to $2,360
Saturday and Sunday, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Dallas
Saturday: 8 a.m.-Noon;
1-5 p.m.; 6-10 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m.-Noon