WWE WrestleMania: What it’s like to be at the show of shows


We were never supposed to be there. That’s the thing that’s always been stuck in my mind. It’s funny how things just happen to work themselves out in life and you find yourself doing the things that you could dream of before then. This the story of my WrestleMania moment.

To understand this story, we have to go back in time. Way back to when I was 11 years old and I found pro wrestling. I grew up a big basketball and football fan. And I still am to this day. And I’m lucky to call the latter a major mart of my career today.

Wrestling was always something I knew about. I had wrestling action figures and I remember vividly watching Raw on TV with my Uncle Dave during the holidays. But I didn’t fall head over heels until an episode of Live Wire. That’s right, I said Live Wire. It was the first time I saw The Rock and the Nation of Domination. It was the first time I saw the People’s Eyebrow.

There was just something about that day. I just got hooked. And it was oddly just by an episode of Live Wire. Which was just essentially a clip show. My birthday was a short period later and my best friend Greg, who I’ve seen nearly every wrestling show I’ve ever been to with, got me WrestleMania 14 on VHS. My life changed that day.

I watched that tape nearly every day that winter. I’m not kidding. I watched it to the point that I could begin to quote the show while it was on mute. I then started watching Raw, SmackDown, Metal, Jakked and Heat every week. Any way I could get wrestling into my oculars, I as doing it. I even convinced my parents to let me get the big three pay per views every year. I had to do a lot of housework, but I made it happen.

The one thing that always eluded me was going to a live WWE event. It took 10 years to finally make it happen. And it didn’t happen with Greg. It happened with my then-girlfriend Melissa. She bought me SmackDown tickets for March 27th, 2007 show in Grand Rapids, Michigan just days before WrestleMania 23 came to Detroit.

That show was great for a first show. It was a star-studded event that had everyone you could imagine there. But the biggest part of the night was getting to see Stone Cold Steve Austin live and in person.

Photo by Mike Payton

When we got back that night, all I could talk about is how I wish we could go to Wrestlemania on Sunday. Somebody was listening. It was Melissa. Two days later Melissa called me and let me know that if I could get Sunday off, we were going top Wrestlemania. Little did I know she had dropped over $600 on these tickets just two days before the show. I nearly cried.

The day came and it was a hectic day. Not only did we have to get across state to see Mania, we also had to stop half way to go to a birthday party of a close friend.  So we spent nearly the entire day driving. When we finally arrived in Detroit, we saw the city in a way I’ve not seen the city since. Absolutely packed to the gills.

We waited in traffic for nearly two hours before we found a parking spot. We had to roll to get into the building before the show started. We cancelled our plans to get shirts at Ford Field and wound up buying knockoffs form a guy that was standing in the middle of the high way. That’ll give you an idea of what that traffic was like.

When we finally got inside Ford Field, that’s when I immediately became in awe of the set and the building.

Photo by Mike Payton

That picture is the arena before it started to really fill up. Before we knew it, we were in a sea of over 80,000 people. It was the only time I’ve ever been around that many people in my life. And I probably will never top that.

I won’t go through every match of the night with you. But I will talk about certain moments. The first was that I got to see Ric Flair wrestle in person. I mean it wasn’t part of the actual show that the rest of the world saw, but I still got to see it.

The match that opened the show was the Money In The Bank Ladder match. To this day, that match might still be the most stacked Money in the bank in history. Seven of the eight competitors would go on to win world titles either in the WWE or elsewhere. With the exception of Mr Kennedy, all of these guys are or will be WWE Hall Of Famer’s.

seeing a match like that live is fun. For me the funnest thing was watching my girlfriend actually get interested. She’s not a wrestling fan. But she still supported the things I love and was willing to join in with me on my nerdy adventures. But when this happened, she popped just as loud as I did, if not louder.

We once again got to see Stone Cold later that night. We also got to see Vince McMahon and some other guy, too. Seeing Vince in person was always something on my bucket list. Even Shane O’ Mac was there for a little bit too.

There were some bad matches too. Kane vs The Great Khali was horrible. Melina vs Ashley Massaro makes me super happy about today’s women’s division. There was this one good match for the US Title. MVP lost it to some guy named Benoit.  The ECW match was a snoozer too. The best part of that was to say I got to see guys like Rob Van Dam and Sabu live.

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Now on to one of the biggest things of the night. The Undertaker vs Batista. Let me first start here. It’s incredibly awesome to me to say I got to see one of the streak matches live. To me that makes me a tiny part of it all. It’s like saying you saw one of Hank Aaron’s home runs on the way to his record-breaking 715th one.

Secondly, if you’ve never seen an Undertake entrance live, there is just nothing like it. The man just controls the entire building at that point. Everyone just shuts up and becomes a part of the moment. The lights went out and the fog and flames began shooting in the arena. Then the door opened and you could see Taker’s silhouette in frenzy of it all. It was just amazing.

The match lived up to the hype. It wasn’t the best match on the streak. We all know that. But it was a fun fast and slow-paced match that ended with a great finish. Again, it makes me feel like a little kid when I think that I got to see The Undertaker win the World Title live.

The match of the night, though, still awaited us.

(A quick sidebar. I got to see Slick!!! It was on the tron, but the Slickster was in the same building as me that night. And you could feel the electricity.)

Then the main event came. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship. I oddly remember being somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to hear HBK’s theme live because he came out to the DX theme. But I would get my chance later on so it worked out.

John’s entrance in the Mustang looked better on TV. It was too loud in the arena to really notice what was going on before a car crashed through a giant piece of glass. He got the classic John Cena response. I cheered because I don’t have a problem with Cena.

You can’t see it on The Network and you probably couldn’t see it on pay per view. But right before the bell rang, a guy in a trench coat and a thong jumped into the ring and did a Bret Hart pose before he was promptly tackled by security. Good for him, though. He actually made it to the center of the ring before he got taken out of the building.

The match was no Dave Meltzer five-star bout. (Then again, nothing ever is.) But the match was fun. There were a lot of great high spots in it and they did a great job of telling a story that made you believe The Showstopper was gonna get one last run with the belt. Everyone in attendance wanted that.

When it was all said and done, Cena retained the championship and nobody wanted to leave the building. But eventually everyone did. Imagine that same 80,000 people crammed into a downtown area. We didn’t get home till around 5AM. I slept in that WrestleMania shirt and pretty much wore it all day the next day. I didn’t want it to end.

I still think about that day. I went back and watched it for the first time since seeing it live recently. It’s still a ton of fun and it still brings me back to that day. Now eleven years later, Melissa and I are happily married, and we recently got to go see our first show together since that day. I still own that T-Shirt. It’s too big on me now, but I’ll never get rid of it. I still have the ticket stubs in pristine condition.

Next: Revisiting The Original Lesnar vs. Reigns Match

I highly recommend that if you have never been to a WrestleMania and you aren’t going this year, start saving that money. It can be expensive, especially if you have to go out-of-state. But it is completely worth it.