Epic Week For WWE! MTV News Relives Wrestlemania 30!
A legend passes, a new era begins and old records are broken...
Last Sunday (April 6), the good times certainly rolled in New Orleans as Sports Entertainment juggernaut WWE celebrated the 30th birthday of their pop-culture phenomenon, WrestleMania. Guests at the party, held in the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome, included 75,167 fans who had travelled from all 50 US states and 37 countries for the event; a truly international affair befitting the company's biggest ever show.
Broadcast live on pay-per-view around the globe and on the brand new WWE Network in the US and Canada, WrestleMania XXX had something for everyone, young, old, fanatical or otherwise, for WWE is truly something to behold when experienced live. This slamming soap opera mixes awe-inspiring athleticism and story lines of personal grudges and championship chases, set to a backdrop of TV and live event production values unrivalled by any other entertainment group.
So big is the WWE in fact, that this year's 'Mania, hosted by WWE Legend Hulk Hogan, became the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome's biggest selling entertainment event of all time, beating the likes of Beyoncé in concert and grossing an incredible $10.9 million in ticket sales. But this seems to be standard practice for WWE; the past five WrestleMania’s have broken attendance and box office records at their respective host venues. Unlike a concert, stand-up show or any other big-scale live event, each year WWE takes over the host city for a week long stretch of community-interest activities in the build up to the 'show of shows'. From charity auctions and anti-bullying rallies in local schools to kid's reading competitions and building new playgrounds, this is WWE's way of "giving back to communities" during their biggest, most publicised week of the year. Increased tourist trade means an excess of $100 million of revenue flooding into the host city, the only kind of flood a location like New Orleans welcomes after such a turbulent decade. City mayors from around the US annually head to WWE's headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut aggressively pitching for the business because as WWE likes to remind us, WrestleMania is their Super Bowl, it's very hard to argue the point.
Pre-WrestleMania, fans from all corners of the globe are treated to a 4-day long event called Axxess, a fan convention site featuring memorabilia from WWE's storied 50 year history, autograph sessions, live matches with WWE's up and coming stars, interactive games and activities and even the chance to re-create your favourite star's big entrance towards a specially set up ring.
MTV highlights of WrestleMania Axxess:
On the Saturday night WWE holds their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a night of honouring and paying tribute to the stars of yesterday who paved the way for performers taking to the grand stage just 24 hours later. With another sold out arena - this year, the Smoothie King Centre in New Orleans - an Oscar worthy set, the obligatory red carpet and WWE Superstars and Divas (and even journalists) dressed in their finest, WWE's 2014 Hall of Fame was a glamorous affair that offered the well travelled fans a rare opportunity to hear their childhood heroes regale stories of their careers and how they journeyed to the top of their game. It's an oft-emotional night as these larger than life performers let the barriers down allowing the spotlight to shine upon the real people behind the superheroes; a daunting prospect for some, a joyful release for others, and an absolute thrill for the devoted fans who aren't afraid to chant and cheer their appreciation throughout.
The star inductee this year was 80's and 90's WWE icon The Ultimate Warrior, who, as fate would have it, would pass away unexpectedly just 2 days later. Warrior, 54, was dressed in a tuxedo for the occasion. The face paint, bright trunks, tassels and graffitied coat giving way for something far more refined as he delivered what now feels eerily like a eulogy for the character he portrayed, the one he struggled so much to let go of and differentiate from. After an 18 year absence from WWE television, Warrior (his real name) stated that he was proud of his OTT ring persona and the impact it had on so many wide-eyed children watching but said he's proud of nothing more than being a devoted father to his two young daughters. His wife Dana and two girls were sat on the front row with tears in their eyes. Recalling this image makes the news of Warrior's sudden death all the more tragic. The Hall of Fame and his memorable appearance on WWE Raw last Monday night was a fitting celebration of his life and the character The Ultimate Warrior, a giant of the ring who meant so much to so many growing up.
MTV on the red carpet at WWE Hall of Fame 2014:
Which brings us to the main event, the reason that NOLA's famous Bourbon Street was heaving with giddy, fancy-dressed revellers for four days straight, WrestleMania XXX. If Saturday's Hall of Fame was about remembering yesterday, Sunday's extravaganza was about ushering in the stars of tomorrow, giving the young blood of the industry a worldwide platform to prove their worth. And, in front of WWE's biggest TV and live event audience of the year, prove themselves they certainly did. The four-hour show played host to a catalogue of 'moments' and matches that will long be held in the minds of fans, the WWE Universe. The main story heading in was the rise of Daniel Bryan, a bearded warrior with a staunch, rabid army of fans behind him, as he took on WWE's former champion and COO of the business Triple H.
As the story goes, Triple H and his wife Stephanie (daughter of WWE owner Vince McMahon) have been holding Daniel Bryan down, trying to derail his journey to the top of the card because he "doesn't fit the mould of what a company face should look like." Not exactly The Ultimate Warrior, Bryan is a shorter, hairier, less muscly performer but immensely popular with a diehard fan base who appreciate his incredible ring skills and dogged hard graft. It's been a compelling tale that has caught the imagination of millions; a fearless underdog biting at the heels of The Authority to obtain the main event status he rightly deserves. At WrestleMania, after months of build, Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H in a classic opener to the show, earning himself a World Heavyweight Championship opportunity later in the night. The crammed, sold out stadium were on their feet vigorously yelling Bryan's now legendary 'YES' chant as he defeated both Batista and Randy Orton in a brutal triple threat main event to lift the gold; the perfect happy ending to send punters home with smiles on their faces. To witness the pyros, the ticker tape and 75,000+ throwing their hands in the air and screaming 'YES' in unison is an image that won't easily be scraped from memory.
MTV meets Daniel Bryan and Triple H on the red carpet:
In another unforgettable moment from the show, and perhaps the most transparent indication that WWE is indeed entering a new era, Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker, ending his much-lauded 21-year WrestleMania winning streak. An Undertaker victory at ‘Mania has been all but guaranteed in previous years, a nod to the locker room leader's illustrious career and above all, what fans wish to see on the main stage. It's been a huge selling point for previous WrestleMania's and, as that number of wins grows, so does The Undertaker's fan base. But this year, when audiences least expected it, Brock Lesnar, a former UFC Champion and part time WWE star, pinned 'The Dead Man' 1, 2, 3, clean, in the centre of the ring, bringing to a crashing halt a two decade long undefeated reign. As far as WWE 'moments' go, this will go down as the biggest in memory. When the referee's hand slapped the canvas for the third time, the sold out stadium fell silent. Nobody could believe what they’d just witnessed. Was it a mistake? Did something go wrong? 75,000+ people had their heads in the hands in utter disbelief.
The atmosphere in that building was unlike anything we'd ever witnessed, and this was all for a pre-determined wrestling show. Make no mistake, the emotion from fans and The Undertaker himself was extremely real, for this was more than just an upset victory, this was perhaps the final curtain for one of the biggest names in Sports Entertainment. People knew what this moment meant. #StreakEnded began trending worldwide immediately and countless images of fans with eyes bulging and hands on head appeared on the big screens as they looked up at the unimaginable graphic above the ring that simply read, '21-1'. No Brock Lesnar music played, the commentators said nothing. WWE purposely created an awkward, unnerving atmosphere but boy, what a WrestleMania moment.
Brock Lesner’s manager, Paul Heyman, makes the bold prediction to MTV:
And that is what WrestleMania and WWE represents; an opportunity for people to get lost in a world of grandeur, spectacle and, when they do things correctly, brilliant storytelling. It's your favourite movie or TV box set with a live, raucous crowd and mind-boggling athleticism thrown in for good measure. Many may label it 'fake' but that's the true art of it; the theatre of WWE tells stories like nobody else.
It's just been announced that the most famous Sports Entertainment star on the planet Hulk Hogan is coming to the UK with WWE in May. Whether you're an established fan or a curious outsider, experiencing WWE Live is a night out you won't forget in a hurry.