WWE and pro-wrestling appears to be a guilty pleasure for many TV viewers these days despite its ever growing media exposure. Gone are the days where just about everyone I knew watched wrestling every week, always gathering to discuss it before the start of school. I never understood why there seemed to be a cut-off day, where everyone just turned away and pretended they never enjoyed wresting in the first place. Nowadays when I mention WWE (or even TNA wrestling) peoples’ responses come out almost unanimously negative, though I sometimes believe I see in their eyes a closet fandom they may not even want to admit to. Me, I never shied away from wrestling. I remember my dad telling me how we would watch matches and shows together, as I would leap off the couch and slam myself down onto him as if I was one of the wrestlers (excuse me, these days WWE prefer to refer to their wrestlers as “performers”). As I have gotten older though my fan/nerd obsession with wrestling never faltered; I would openly talk and defend pro-wrestling, though instead of interest I usually got eyes rolling at me.
But for some reason, there is one event which can still draw people back and bring in non-fans…..Wrestlemania.
About two years ago, my best friend (a once long-time fan) and I decided we wanted to order the event for old times’ sake. We invited a few friends over, ordered some pizzas and were ready for a good night. What I witnessed was an unexpected social experiment. Besides the two of us, the living room hosted a group of both fans and non-fans. From the very first match, the level of fun and enjoyment was already peaked. Though they cared little about the wrestling aspect (because hey, we all know it’s scripted by now), it did not stop them from cracking jokes on the action or the super fans in the crowd. But a crazy thing happened. By time of the show’s closing match, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker in a career-undefeated streak match, the joking had stopped and the party was tuned in. Every moment the match went on I noticed how everyone was enthralled in the match. But they were not just watching a match, they were watching a story unfold, told through action and not dialogue. By the match’s conclusion with The Undertaker named victor, a few of our friends began applauding. It was quite a sight to see. Even as they left, they expressed their gratitude for the invite and how much the enjoyed being there to watch and have a good time.
Flash forward to 2012, and we will be doing this again. With possibly a bigger crowd coming to watch. That night may not have brought everyone call themselves long-term wrestling enthusiasts, but for one night out of the year, they were watching like true fans.
It is WWE’s Superbowl, World Series and World Cup all in one and this Sunday (April 1st) brings pay-per-viewers its twenty-eighth installment. Much like the NFL’s, MLB’s and soccer’s big show, when Wrestlemania comes around it takes over. Tickets sell out within minutes, the host city gets transformed and media marketing blows up. Throughout that week or weekend all eyes turn towards Vince McMahon and his billion dollar empire. This year’s is built around headlining match John Cena vs. The Rock (actor/returning wrestler Dwayne Johnson), as well as music performances by some of music’s biggest names. But the grand nature of the event itself is worth tuning in to see.
Hyped and billed with tag lines as “The Show of Shows,” “The Showcase of the Immortals” or “the biggest spectacle of the year,” Wrestlemania is just that…..a spectacle. Love or hate professional wrestling there is no denying the allure of Wrestlemnia. Be it the huge budget, the media and celebrity involvement, or just the overall show; there’s something here for everyone.