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MAGIC, MEMORIES, AND MANIA: Behind the Scenes at WrestleMania 32
It has now been a week since WrestleMania 32, and I am just getting over the excitement of the event. After all, WrestleMania is not just a one-night spectacular, but it has now become a week of activities that is like a Twilight Zone for wrestling fans. It is like living in an alternative universe where wrestling rules all. For many of us, it is a chance to see friends from all over the world that converge for the festivities. It is exceptionally surreal for us because we stay at the WWE hotel, which is quite simply a dream-like experience for any fan. Here is a look behind the scenes of Mania in Dallas.
WEDNESDAY (MARCH 30)
My friend and fellow wrestling journalist Rich Twilling and I arrived in Dallas and checked in at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas, which was where the WWE was staying. Be sure to listen to us on Pat McNeill’s “All-Star Panel” PWTorch Livecast from last Wednesday with our recap on the week’s events.
I knew it would be an exciting week because the first thing I saw upon entering the hotel was Steve Austin talking to a WWE staff member. I wish I had approached him because in my bag was his Broken Skull Ranch IPA, an amazing choice for fans of craft beer. If you live in California, grab a draft at El Segundo Brewery or get a bottle at Whole Foods or Total Wine.
It was only mid-day, but Ric Flair was already at the bar. We also saw Roman Reigns hanging out with Sasha Banks nearby. It would be a big week for both of them so it was cool seeing two of the top stars of the next generation together. Many wrestlers were coming in and out of the Green Room, which is the area of the hotel WWE dedicates towards doing media and meetings. It is restricted to personnel because there are numerous rings set up for wrestlers to practice their matches.
By night, the Fairmont bar was rocking, and it was party time for wrestlers and fans. Flair, of course, had his own table, and one of the highlights was when he yelled at one of the fans that dared bother him. It was cool to see the Nature Boy cut a promo on an annoying “mark.” Many of the fans that gathered in the hotel live and breathe wrestling, and it leads to some interesting and often hilarious conversations. I joked with one of the more unorthodox fans that the King of the Mountain was going to interfere during the main event setting up a Jeff Jarrett versus Reigns match. He said, “That’s cool man. Guitar versus spear man.”
It was still early in the week so most of the wrestlers were up and out until the bar closed. Twilling was sitting in the corner of the bar brooding over a beer next to Dean Ambrose, and they looked like they were doing their best James Dean imitations. Nothing too crazy happened, which led me to imagine what the hotels were like back in the eighties and nineties with all the outlaw personalities.
THURSDAY (MARCH 31)
I spent most of the day hanging out at the hotel bar doing work on my computer as WWE Superstars walked by. Flair was at the bar from about noon having drinks with his Wooooo Nation co-host Conrad Thompson. If you are a fan of wrestling radio, then that show is a must-listen, especially for the old-school party stories. Unfortunately, by late Thursday, the hotel was closed off for rooms to anybody but WWE employees, showcasing Vince McMahon’s wealth and status to be able to rent out an entire luxury hotel. Last year, we were in the room next to Rusev and Lana all week, and they complained about our late night partying, so it is understandable why they want a closed hotel.
We drove around the city to check out the general atmosphere, and I must say compared to previous years it was quite disappointing. There were no WrestleMania-themed signs at the Dallas airport unlike previous years when the airports were decorated with WWE banners welcoming fans. There were also far fewer signs and posters around the city compared to years past. One of the highlights of WrestleMania week is seeing a city plastered in wrestlers’s images that helps build the buzz towards the big event, and this year, that was not as prominent.
We returned to the WWE hotel at night, and the atmosphere was raucous. As soon as I arrived, Conrad Thompson was nice enough to hand me a bottle of wine, and he told me that it was “courtesy of Ric Flair,” which was a cool moment. After all, to truly appreciate this atmosphere, a couple of alcoholic beverages really help. Arguably the most awe-inspiring sight of all the talent up close was Braun Strowman, an enormous, frightening presence that looked he had been transported from an ’80s UWF show. He looked like a cross between One Man Gang and Uncle Elmer. Braun would have been the monster running main events with Hulk Hogan for a few months back in the day. Speaking of the Hulkster, he was nowhere to be found all week. I would not be surprised to see him show up at WrestleMania 33 in front of his home state of Florida.
The funniest moment of the night may have been when I drunkenly approached Smackdown announcer Mauro Ranallo and told him how thankful I was that he was hired by WWE. He was very nice and really appreciated it…until I told him that I couldn’t wait until he took “that awful Michael Cole” off the air and replaced him as the voice of Raw. Mauro obviously felt awkward and nicely brushed off the remark. Hopefully, we see a new “A Team” in the commentary booth next year because they are really hurting the product.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT (APRIL 1 & 2)
We spent the daytimes Friday and Saturday doing some non-wrestling local activities like Texas BBQ and the like before returning to the Fairmont at night. NXT was obviously a spectacular show as most of you already know. It had the hottest live crowd of the week, and it is a must-watch for fans who love great pure wrestling. The atmosphere in the hotel was electric on Friday night as everyone was obviously thrilled at how the show came together.
I met Samoa Joe and Asuka and congratulated them on their incredible performances. I also ran into Shane McMahon and wished him good luck on Sunday knowing he would be doing something insane, which obviously came into fruition.
This year, I decided to skip the Hall of Fame because there were no stars that really interested me. This is the first year where the two main acts in the ceremony were from other companies, Sting and the Freebirds. We were at the hotel after the Hall of Fame, and that is always a fascinating sight seeing all the wrestlers and hotels dressed in formal wear. I saw Ted DiBiase and his son hanging out with Kevin Von Erich for a long time.
The Stinger was also accepting congratulations from everyone on his major accomplishment. I saw the show after getting home on the Network, and I do not regret missing it, but it was cool to see some of the winners after. The wrestlers were obviously going to sleep earlier on Saturday night because the next day was WrestleMania, and I wonder if they even know what an epic length show it would be.
SUNDAY (APRIL 3)
My live review of WrestleMania is available HERE on the website, but Sunday started off early for me as I attended the Fan Axxess Convention. I generally go to Axxess every year so it was cool to return to this mammoth setup celebrating WWE past and present. My favorite part this year was seeing the Elimination Chamber structure up close. It is my favorite of all the cages that WWE uses so that was really cool.
The Axxess Superstore is quite simply the biggest wrestling store on earth, and the merchandise available is pretty amazing. They had plenty of WWE shirts merged with Dallas Cowboys designs. The best of all was a WrestleMania jersey that resembled the football attire. We were told the hottest seller was the Austin 3:16 shirt proving once again how timeless it was. If you are in town for WrestleMania week, Fan Axxess is something you must do at least once.
After Wrestlemania was the exclusive after-party. Everybody was exhausted after that lengthy show so I was surprised that anybody was even in the mood to party. Sasha Banks was even practicing moves in one of the Green Room rings late at night. Most of the major stars attended the annual celebration and the mood was one of excitement and accomplishment, as it should be after a record-breaking night. I could not even enjoy it because I was so tired from the week’s festivities. I felt like I had just wrestled an Iron Man Match.
It was an epic week that featured larger-than-life spectacles, Superstars up close, waves of nostalgia, and an annual reunion of friends and fans, all fueled by way too many beers and beverages. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, and this was a huge week none of us who experienced it will ever forget.
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