For some, their first WrestleMania was when they were six years old, even ten years old. Those people are lucky. I didn’t get into wrestling until I was sixteen, and it truly was a lifesaver at the time, but I didn’t even truly begin to appreciate it until I was about 20. The more I matured, the more I could appreciate the women and the storylines on top of the talent.
For something a little different this WrestleMania week I wanted to look back at my first ever WrestleMania. I usually don’t do this watch back thing, after WrestleMania is over, it’s over, there’s no need to watch it again. But a lot has changed in nine years.
My first ever WrestleMania was WrestleMania 26. I have only been watching a few months beforehand, and I truly had no idea what I was getting into. My brother had wrestling on one night, and I walked past his room, and I couldn’t tell you who was on the screen, all I know is that things changed. I went from watching a few segments to watching whole episodes of Raw and Smackdown. I had zero ideas how this pro wrestling thing worked. That would be why CMPunk singing happy birthday to Rey Mysterio’s daughter like only his creepy straight edge self could lite me up. I was enraged. I’ll never forget thinking who the hell does this creep think he is tormenting this adorable little girl on her birthday?! I was that fan. It took a bit before I started to realize this was storytelling and not real life. Once I realized it though I was even more enthralled with what I was witnessing. John Cena and Randy Orton were my favorites. I loved Rey Mysterio and Edge, and CMPunk was the guy I loved to hate. I quickly became a forever undertaker fan and seeing Beth Phoenix was mind-blowing. I was such a new fan when WrestleMania 26 came into view and still when Shawn Michaels lost to the Undertaker and retired; I was crying my eyes out, I could not imagine the emotion of life long fans.
But I swear that was the match that made me fall in love with wrestling.
So anyway, as WrestleMania 35 gets closer, I thought I’d go back and re-watch my first ever WrestleMania and give my thoughts on it, nine years later.
Here we go.
Picture it, Phoenix Stadium, over 70,000 WWE fans. Fantasia sang America the beautiful, Justin Roberts was the main ring announcer, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker made up your announce team, the roof was wide open, and jets flew over the top to kick us off.
We kicked off the show with the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship. R-Truth and John Morrison were teamed up vs. current champions Miz and The Big Show. I forgot how badass the entrance music was for ShowMiz and how weird yet incredible they were as a team. I was quickly reminded of how much better Morrison deserved while working for WWE; I was reminded that R-Truth has always had IT in the ring, that Big Show is fantastic and that Miz was at the top of his game, even back then.
Next up was a triple threat between Ted Dibiase, Cody Rhodes, and Randy Orton. I remember hearing all this talk about legacy that I would go back and try to find videos of them on youtube, you know before we had the WWE Network, and they were one kick-ass team, so this match was very intriguing to me. Even then, I could see that Rhodes had the potential to be a leader. I loved the way the crowd sprung to life when Orton would hit his signatures, and how he’d have the crowd in the palm of his hands without saying a word.
The next match was the MITB match, which honestly, as much as it’s cool that it has it’s own PPV now, it was awesome having this a WrestleMania specialty match. Kofi Kingston, MVP, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Kane, Christian and Drew McIntyre (who was the IC Champion at the time) were the participants. Kofi was using the ladder that Kane broke in two as stilts as only Kofi can, and while everyone else was throwing each other around in the ring, Jack Swagger managed to swoop in and steal the win and become Mr. Money in the Bank. I was quickly reminded that McIntyre always had IT and Dolph Zigglers old music was the BEST.
Match number four was a very young Sheamus vs. Triple H. It’s almost too easy to forget where Sheamus started, how much of a hot start he had, but damn did he. And in this match, Sheamus brought EVERYTHING to HHH, and I was incredibly impressed re-watching it the second time.
Next up was one that I remember being very anxious to watch. CMPunk vs. Rey Mysterio. I was looking forward to this because this feud was one of the first ones I ever really saw and got into. I was also such a young minded fan that I really wanted Rey to kick Punk’s ass for well… being an ass. As I re-watched it a second time I was able to appreciate the storytelling more and how much the crowd hated Punk for his beliefs, and how Rey was fighting for his family.
Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon was up next. I definitely appreciated the whole screw over on Vince where he thinks he’s bought the Hart Family but really he just gave them money, and they stuck to family. That’s always a treat. I imagine I’d have an even bigger appreciation for the match if I had been around to watch the screwjob in real time and not just watch it on DVD’s and youtube, but nonetheless it must have felt pretty good to Hart to nail McMahon with those chair shots after all those years.
Edge vs. Chris Jericho for the World Championship. Oh man. I had no idea the star power I was watching when I first watched this. As I watched it back, I was eyes glued. Thanks to my terrible memory I didn’t remember who won or what occurred during this match, so I was able to enjoy it all over again, which was nice. The reversals were very fun to watch, and I loved how into the match the crowd was. Very, very fun to watch again.
Match Eight. The Women’s match. This one was hard to watch over again. It was Vickie, Michelle McCool (The women’s champion), Layla, Maryse (The Divas Champion), Alicia Fox vs. Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, Beth, Eve, and Mickie James. There was so much star power in this match they could have really thrown down if given a chance, but instead, it was a lot of Vickie screaming, and everyone getting one chance to hit their finishers.
Match Nine: Batista vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship was an incredibly fast-paced match. I loved the fluid movements between them as the match went on. They really worked well together.
The final match up was, of course, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. Career vs. Streak. When I said that I could credit this match as being the one that made me first fall in love with wrestling, that is not an exaggeration; I’m serious. Even nine years later re-watching that match had all kinds of emotions attached to it. I know what happens, I know Shawn loses but when he kicked out of that tombstone the first time at the last second, I was all hyped up as I’d never seen it before. It was also a fantastic way to end the PPV, sometimes these days the PPV’s always ended a little weird. The purpose is probably to get you tuning into Raw the next night, but it’s not always necessary. For this match, ending it the way they did, was exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
All in all, I really liked re-watching this PPV. I loved how there was no nonsense mixed in. I loved how it was all focus on the matches, no backstage segments, the announcers were simply calling the action. There wasn’t any outside talk or bullshit conversations happening; it was just a play by play of what was occurring in the ring. I was a fluid motion of entertainment. A lot of the time now with PPV’s there’s commercials for the network, or backstage moments, or look backs on Raw, and even with how great a video package is, the weeks leading up to mania should have been enough to hype you up where those packages aren’t necessary. Obviously, things evolve, new ideas are shed like the Kick off show and post shows, but sometimes you can have a grand event with the mindset that less is more and still put on one hell of a show. I love how the crowd was very much into every single match, and they weren’t just into themselves, or their phones, or just being annoying, you know the ones I’m talking about. There was definitely a more personal intimate feel to the show as I was watching it that I don’t really think happens anymore. While I love that Money in the bank has it’s own PPV now, I do miss that being a WrestleMania match. I’m so glad that the women get actual stories and matches leading into the show of shows, and everyone loves the spectacle of entrances and ring gear we now can get away with. Some things were better then, some things are better now, that’s just how it works. Either way, this was a fun little switch up for the week of WrestleMania and maybe next year I’ll pick another Mania to watch, perhaps even one that occurred before I was a fan. We’ll have to see.
Wrestlemania 35 is in THREE days; it’s crazy. And as long as they predict the show of shows will go on for, and how much I’m thinking about how I’ll ever stay into it for hours and hours and hours, I know I will because it’s wrestle freakin mania man. I can’t wait.