Eight reasons why WrestleMania is the greatest show on earth
Bone crunching physical feats, a sense of theatre that's better than the West End's, and celebs who aren't afraid to muck in: what isn't there to like about WrestleMania, asks Tom Fordy
WrestleMania: a show like no other on EarthPhoto: 2014 WWE, Inc
By Tom Fordy
7:00AM GMT 28 Mar 2015
Wrestling fans are used to being written off as a subnormal minority, but WrestleMania – World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest annual show – is less easy to write off. It’s WWE’s true crossover mainstream success, famous for its marquee matches, celebrity appearances, and increasingly grand scale.
WrestleMania 31, which takes place in Santa Carla’s Levi Stadium this Sunday, will see over 70,000 fans travelling to the venue from more than 30 countries. It’s big enough to rival any major sports event – and has the showmanship to outdo them all.
Here’s why it’s the greatest sports event in the world ...
Hulk Hogan: yes, he's still around
1. It’s The ‘Show of Shows’
WWE rarely uses the term “wrestling”, instead preferring to label itself “sports-entertainment” (emphasis very much on the entertainment). With its pyrotechnics displays, set design, barmy ring entrances and the odd mini concert, WrestleMania is a true spectacle. Think the Super Bowl, only without having to endure commercial breaks every five minutes (mercifully, WWE exists to promote only itself).
While most wrestling shows last for around three hours, WrestleMania has grown into a weeklong grappling extravaganza, filled with fan events, a Hall of Fame ceremony, and thousands of excitable adult men refusing to grow out of watching other men pretend to fight.
2. Proper Drama
Unlike other big sports events – which might pass without noteworthy incident due to the unfortunate business of being, well, real – drama is absolutely guaranteed at WrestleMania. In many ways, WWE has more in common with a TV serial than legitimate sporting contest, and when it’s on top form there’s no entertainment like it. Heart stopping near falls, grudges put to rest, friendships destroyed with one swing of a steel chair – WrestleMania is the event where months’ worth of storyline feuds culminate and new ones begin.
Essentially, it's WWE’s version of the EastEnders Christmas episode.
3. No Pain, No Gain
Contrary to the popular opinion, wrestling fans over the age of eight know wrestling isn’t real. What they also know is that it isn’t fake. Predetermined, yes. Choreographed, perhaps. But fake, no. Night after night, pro wrestlers put their bodies through levels of punishment that would make most real sportsmen weep into their designer suits. Yes, those bumps, body slams, and top rope splashes really happen.
For longtime fans, knowing what pain wrestlers endure for the love of the game is part of the big appeal. Seeing a wrestler have their “WrestleMania moment” – such as Daniel Bryan’s emotion-fuelled championship win last year – is the payoff for years of pain and graft, like success for any other athlete on the big stage.
4. Theatre, Darling
It’s not just the bumps wrestlers deserve credit for, but their talents as physical storytellers and dramatic performers too. After all, this is a sport where convincingly feigning injury improves the game, not ruins it.
More often than not, it’s the expert timing and theatrical in-ring skills that make a truly brilliant WrestleMania match – demonstrated in two classic fights between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in 2009-10 – rather than inhuman feats of strength or death-defying dives off 15-foot ladders (though you’ll probably get those too, if you want your money’s worth).
The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar stare off
5. Celebs Up For A Rumble
Every sports event has its “celebrity in the stands” moment (Bradley Cooper at Wimbledon, Rihanna pretending to like football at the World Cup) but at least some of the celebrities at WrestleMania have the decency to get involved with the in-ring action. Mr T, Mickey Rourke, Snoop Dogg, and even Donald Trump have all got tasty at WrestleMania.
It’s the equivalent of Rihanna storming the pitch, taking possession of the ball, and sticking it between the keeper’s legs for the winner. It just wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
6. The Crowd’s Gone Wild
Due to the nature of professional wrestling, the crowd plays a huge part in the show. A white-hot wrestling crowd – and at WrestleMania, where the fans are at their most rabid, vociferous and beered-up, the crowd usually is white-hot – have the power to create an atmosphere that can turn an average match into an electric one (see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s showdown with Hulk Hogan back in 2002).
Compare that to the last few World Cup finals, where over 70,000 singing fans couldn’t stop the games from being about as interesting as watching paint dry in a defensive 5-2-2-1 formation.
7. It’s History In The Making
WWE sees its premier show as the “Showcase of the Immortals”, where legends are born. OK, the sell is a trifle OTT – but WWE’s on-screen history is vast, ridiculous, and undeniably immersive. Just look at the “history-making” events of WrestleManias past, from the glory days of Hulk Hogan to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Undertaker’s 23-year WrestleMania undefeated streak.
Each year’s show is like a new, must-see chapter. How many other events retain such historical significance for their respective sport? The FA Cup lost meaning years ago, the Cricket World Cup continues with barely a whimper, and I couldn’t honestly name the rugby world champions without Google. Perhaps if more team-mates turned on each other mid-match with a devastating elbow-drop, it might feel like something of value was happening.
8. Everyone’s A Winner
As the English know all too well, sport fandom can be a stressful business. At WrestleMania, however, everybody wins. There are no sides, no rivalries, no punch-ups with opposing supporters. Ultimately, all wrestling fans really want is a great show – action, storytelling, and disbelief suspended in quite spectacular, bone-crunching fashion. They’re not interested in whether it’s really a sport or not; because when it’s at its best, WrestleMania can’t be beaten.
WrestleMania 31 is on Sky Sports Box Office this Sunday at midnight. For past shows visit WWEDVD.co.uk