Mac Engel

After the long wait, WrestleMania 32 is a guilty pleasure blast

Shaquille O’Neal and Big Show are tossed from the ring during WrestleMania 32 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Shaquille O’Neal and Big Show are tossed from the ring during WrestleMania 32 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium. rrodriguez@star-telegram.com

Signs your big event is not going according to plan: You are issuing a press release halfway through the event apologizing.

Not long after the pride of North Texas football — Stone Cold Steve Austin — made a surprise appearance in the ring and shotgunned six cans of beer after a “big win,” the WWE and AT&T Stadium released a joint statement to explain the long-line fiasco that acted like a pile driver on WrestleMania 32.

In continuing the AT&T Tradition of humiliating snafus for major events like the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game, not even Vince McMahon’s scripted World Wrestling Entertainment can avoid a fumble during kickoff at Jerry World.

Hours before the scheduled start of WrestleMania 32, irate wrestling fans waited in long and deep lines to the point where it looked uncomfortable to the eye.

We are talking lines that were at least eight people wide and as long as city blocks. We are talking roughly 20,000 people impatiently waiting for doors to open at the scheduled time of 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Had there been a few folding chairs and a six-pack of beer, a real wrestling match could have broken out. Only the participants would not have been acting. At one point a fan screamed: “Tell Jerry Jones this sucks!”

Dude, you have no idea. This is the off-season — just wait ’til the season starts.

The lines that seemingly snaked all the way to the Red River were the only smudge of makeup on an evening of otherwise brilliantly stupid and silly sports-ish entertainment that had everything a WWE fan wants.

You don’t have to like wrestling to respect the impact it’s made on conventional sports, but in the same breath you would have to be a fool to think the Great Line Of Arlington was just a small mishap.

AT&T Stadium is a cavernous place, but the lines were so big and the mass of people so dense it made the inner concourses and the sidewalks outside the venue small.

This is what happened: The WWE wanted a roughly five-minute delay on the doors opening to squeeze in the completion of a rehearsal (but it’s not fake). Then the AT&T Stadium WiFi went down, which prevented the ticket scanners from working (of course, the title sponsor of the venue is a wireless provider). Then there was a wrist band flap about seats on the floor.

So people were left standing in line for about 20 to 25 extra minutes, during which the AT&T Stadium Line Crisis went viral to provide more bad publicity for our ability to hold a massive event without a glitch.

The delay was bad enough, but it was compounded by the fact fans had been lining up for more than a hour to be first inside.

Do not believe the viral reports and unsightly online pictures that fans could not get to their seats by the time the early matches began — they could but they preferred to walk around, buy food, drink and merchandise.

But the images and the complaints that flooded the Internet about #WrestleMania32 were so plentiful, and negative, joint press release was issued halfway through the event.

The statement read: “To ensure the safety of WWE fans, increased security measures were put in place tonight. We apologize that it may have taken some fans longer than usual to get into AT&T Stadium.”

Now for the good news: The weather was not a problem, nobody was shot, nobody died, everybody who had a ticket actually had a seat and every fan inside the place had a ball.

All of those things have happened at previous events at AT&T Stadium, so by comparison WrestleMania 32 went as well as the Taylor Swift concert.

The long, crowded delay was apparently not an attempt by the WWE and AT&T Stadium to sell a few more tickets in order to cram in a few more bodies to ensure a indoor stadium record.

Per The Rock, who made a surprise appearance near the end of the night, there was a record but not the record.

“Dallas, Texas — I don’t think you heard me — records are made to be broken,” The Rock told the audience.

C’mon, it’s not Dallas. It’s Arlington.

“You have officially broken the record for WrestleMania,” he said.

Sunday’s event drew 101,763, a WrestleMania record. The big boy record for indoor attendance remains the 2010 NBA All-Star game at Jerry World, 108,731. It’s the fifth largest attendance figure for AT&T Stadium.

If the WWE wanted to sell more seats all it needed to do was sell suite tickets. Although every single seat was occupied by patrons from all 50 states and more than 30 different countries, nearly all of the high-dollar exclusive suites were empty.

Wrestling is not for the wine and cheesers of the suites. Wrestling is for Jack ‘n’ Coke and a can of beer, the latter of which flowed freely on Sunday.

What the WWE should do for WrestleMania is what Jerry and the Cowboys do before games and flood the immediate surrounding areas with a couple of bands, maybe a kids area and other areas to buy food and drink and souvenirs. Everything at WrestleMania was inside the stadium, when there should be a few activities outside of the venue to give fans a reason not to rush the entrance.

Once the fans found their seats, Vince and WWE delivered another memorable rehearsed product that gives their fans what they want — a series of memorable acts, feats and scenes that are worth the price of admission.

It was hard not to be sucked in by the energy of this organized mess. You would have to be dead not to be smitten when The Rock came out at the end and walked down the massive stage and into the ring.

Watching Shaquille O’Neal “wrestle” the equally massive The Big Show was fun.

Fans watching Stone Cold come out to do his thing, or witnessing Ms. Charlotte celebrate a WWE title with her famous father, Ric Flair, or Shane McMahon complete a 20-foot jump from the top of the cage down to a table in his match against The Undertaker were all more than content.

WrestleMania 32 delivered a blast of adrenaline, fun and guilty pleasure thrills. It was just a nightmare to get in.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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