Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Mania Moments

Ringside (for the pic) at Wrestlemania 22
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the My 1-2-3 Cents Podcast here

I have had the good fortune of attending eight of the last nine Wrestlemanias.  My buddy Chad and I went to Wrestlemania 22 in Chicago back in 2006.  It was the first one for both of us.  The annual trip has become our version of a bromance getaway.  This year, due to some unforeseen circumstance$, I decided not to make the trip to Levi's Stadium.  But instead of bellyaching and complaining about not being there, I'm remaining grateful for the shows I've seen and gearing up for Wrestlemania 32, where I hope to be front and center again.

There have been title changes, retirements and a very special streak ended at the Wrestlemanias we've attended.  I'm going to start with the whole experience of Wrestlemania 22. Looking back on it, there's nothing in particular that night that stands out to me, but it was my very first Wrestlemania in person and as they say you never forget your first.   The atmosphere was electric at the Allstate Arena.  Attendance was just over 17,000.

We've got spirit....
We dressed like the Spirit Squad and some fans actually thought we were members of the infamous group of cheerleaders.  We had also purchased the package deal which included lots of WWE swag, including the chair from the event (I still have it) as well as autograph sessions and meet and greets with different Superstars and Divas.  It was on that trip that I felt like my life as a wrestling fan was complete.  I had no idea I'd return seven more times.

Flair's last WWE match
Two years later Wrestlemania 24 invaded Orlando.  It was a much warmer climate and the event was held outdoors.  I worried it would rain, but lucky for us it didn't.  The special part of that night for me was getting to see Ric Flair's final (WWE) match.  He lost to Shawn Michaels and per the prematch stipulation he had to retire.  I grew up idolizing Flair so it was important to see this match.  We stuck around and went to Raw the next night for what was the greatest tribute to a living professional wrestler I've ever witnessed.  It was an amazing weekend.

Undertaker after the Streak ended

I've talked before about the length of the Undertaker's streak.  It started my senior year in high school.  I'd watched it grow each year on pay per view and finally in person. Through college, marriage and my kids hitting their teen years. I never thought it would end, so you can imagine my shock when Brock Lesnar pinned the Deadman at Wrestlemania XXX.  It was the first time in two decades that the Undertaker had lost at the biggest event of the year.  The ending of the Streak even netted main stream media coverage.  It was a big deal and I'm fortunate enough to have been in the SuperDome for it.

Farewell, HBK

Shawn Michaels has a long legacy with Wrestlemania as well. He and Marty Jannetty wrestled as the Rockers at Wrestlemania V.  Despite a few years away recuperating, HBK came back and competed in several more Manias before the Undertaker ended his career.  I believe Shawn had 17 actual Wrestlemania matches under his belt and getting to see his last one in Phoenix meant a lot.  As did watching Edge wrestle for the last time.  But I don't think anyone in Atlanta expected his title defense at Wrestlemania 28 to be his swan song.  

The Rock's return
Before going to Wrestlemania 22 in 2006, I hadn't attended a live WWE event since 1997's Badd Blood: In Your House. Rocky Maivia wasn't quite The Rock yet, but was working with the Nation of Domination at that event.  Fast forward to 2012 when The Rock signs on wrestle John Cena at Wrestlemania 28.  It was the first time I'd seen The Rock as the megastar step into the ring.  Even though I was critical (at that time) of a part timer coming back, it was awesome getting a chance to see him wrestle in person.

These are just a few of the magical moments for me at Wrestlemania.  It's been a wild and memorable ride.

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