Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Wrestlemania

This is how it all started...
By Kevin Hunsperger

Twenty-six years ago today sports and entertainment had a baby. A huge bouncing baby named Wrestlemania.  It was an event that changed the course of wrestling.

Even though the NWA had come up with the closed circuit concept first with Starrcade, I think it's safe to say that Vince McMahon took the idea to a whole other level.  Wrestlemania mixed the world of wrestling with entertainment.  Celebrities like Cyndia Lauper and Mr. T were major players in the event which led to a ton of main stream media coverage.  That's exactly what Vince wanted.  People were talking about wrestling and it wasn't so taboo anymore.

For me, Wrestlemania is a huge deal.  And it all goes back to that first event held on March 31, 1985.  Six days earlier, one of my best friends was killed in an ATV accident.  I was 12 years old at the time.  That whole week was filled with grief and sadness and a lot of confusion.  By Sunday of that week I had cried so much and ridden an emotional roller coaster I was ready for a distraction.  That distraction came in the form of Wrestlemania.

A friend of the family invited us over to his house to watch the big event.  I had been following wrestling for about a year and a half at that point and was up to speed on all the story lines leading into Mania.  I had watched "The War to Settle the Score" and wanted so badly for Roddy Piper to get his comeuppance.   Back then I was a mark for the baby faces and cheered when Hulk Hogan and Mr. T emerged the victors.  I booed when Iron Sheik and Nikolia Volkoff beat Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham in what I considered the biggest upset of the night.  I was also aggravated by the cheating Greg Valentine, until Tito Santana came out to the ring and convinced the ref the "Hammer" had cheated to beat the Junkyard Dog.

I believe Wrestlemania helped me through the grieving process.  That probably sounds weird to some, but really I was able to focus on something other than my sadness and get lost in the action on TV.  In the years that followed I made every attempt to either watch Wrestlemania on pay per view or find someone who had recorded the event and borrow it.

All through high school and college I dreamed of the day I'd attend a Wrestlemania.  Finally, I had it figured out.  My goal was to drink a beer at Wrestlemania X, which was days after my 21st birthday.  But alas, this was before the internet and I had no idea how to really get tickets.  So instead, I drank a beer and watched the show on a VHS tape that a friend of my dad's had recorded.

We've got spirit...
Fast forward a decade and I met someone who was just as nuts about wrestling as I was.  Chad and I started discussing going to Wrestlemania at some point.  In the summer of 2005, the WWE announced those package deals for Wrestlemania 22 in Chicago.  Since we both lived in Illinois at the time, it seemed logical we should go.  We secured the tickets and went and had a blast.  We dressed like the Spirit Squad that year with another friend.

After that, I was content and told my friends and family I could die a happy man.  But it also gave me a taste of the excitement and I wanted more.  We took a break and didn't go to Wrestlemania 23, but were back in the thick of things for Mania 24 in Orlando.  Then we made it a tradition (a bromance as my wife calls it) and have been back every year.

This year however we had planned to skip the event.  My wife actually convinced us to go, although it didn't take a lot of arm twisting.  Since we're doing the blog and the YouTube channel, it only makes sense.  So while the Wrestlemania cards have been less than thrilling in recent years, it's more about the atmosphere and hanging out with other fans.  This year, we're joined by our friend Travis, so we've added a geek to the squad.  

If you're going to be in Atlanta, look for us.  We won't be hard to find.  Trust me on that.   

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