In 2016 I visited Dallas and experienced my first full WrestleMania week, the conventions, the shows and of course the huge WWE events! With WrestleMania once again emanating from Dallas, I found myself reminiscing about my experiences.
There is quite simply nothing like going to the host city during Mania week. Millions and millions – well tens of thousands – of people from around the world, who have the same interest as you, all converge in the same location. Until a few years ago, I was always reluctant to wear a wrestling t-shirt in public, but never so during Mania week. Everywhere you went you would see wrestling apparel and it naturally let to an immediate bond with a complete stranger.
WrestleMania was of course the big attraction, headlined by Roman Reigns and Triple H with a rumoured appearance by The Rock, but there was so much else to see and do. Meet and greets, wrestling shows, music nights, live interviews, it really is a wrestling fans dream.
I stayed at the Hyatt Regency which was also the site of WrestleCon that year. Sharing a hotel with so many current wrestlers and legends was a wild time. On my first day, I got into the elevator to go down for breakfast only to be joined by a member of La Resistance. It seems strange to say this now, but at the time I was speechless.
After a couple of days I was acclimatised to seeing wrestlers everywhere in the hotel. A visit to the on-site shop, the hotel bar or the Italian restaurant would guarantee you seeing someone involved in the wrestling industry. Unfortunately, not all of the memories were happy. After the news of the passing of British standout Kris Travis, I saw a couple of top British wrestlers outside the hotel in tears.
The most renowned incident that took place at the hotel involved one of my favourite wrestlers from my early fandom. An inebriated Marty Jannetty walked through the hotel fountain and it went viral. The following day the hotel took action due to this (and a number of other incidents) and signs were posted throughout the hotel saying that if guests behaved inappropriately then action would be taken. Who knew that wrestlers, wrestling fans, the biggest wrestling event of the year and alcohol could be a recipe for disaster?
WrestleCon itself was a smaller version of what it became in the following years, but not in a bad way. More space and fewer queues made for a better experience and more time to speak to the stars. I was a fan of Lucha Underground at the time and particularly remember a great conversation with Catrina (Karlee Perez) about the show. A number of live podcasts (hey Colt Cabana!) and interviews were held during the day with shows during the evening. The WrestleCon SuperShow is always the highlight with Will Ospreay, The Hardys, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, and Zack Sabre Jr amongst those performing that year.
Out and about, Dallas was a lovely city to explore, with great bars and restaurants, an Aquarium and the fascinating Sixth Floor Museum – the site of the JFK assassination. It was in one of the restaurants that another memory took place. I was reading a book and I saw two men get seated at the table next to me, soon joined by a third man. My head was engrossed in the book so I didn’t notice who the third man was. As the men spoke about ECW, showing an amazing level of knowledge and inside detail, my interest was piqued and I glanced over. This man certainly didn’t need to get his own table on this occasion; It was WWE Superstar D Von Dudley.
The Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center was home to the first NXT TakeOver during a Mania weekend, and the smaller venue made for an incredible atmosphere. Finn Balor vs Samoe Joe, Asuka vs Bailey, and an incredible tag team match between The Revival and American Alpha all delivered. Kota Ibushi was even in the crowd and was shown on in the live feed, everyone in attendance wondering if he could be the next NXT signee. The highlight was the much hyped debut of Shinsuke Nakamura as he faced Sami Zayn in what I thought was a five star match of the year.
Mania itself was in the impressive AT&T stadium, which was very difficult to get to with the lack of public transport and frustrating to get into to due to the lengthy queues. It was not one of the best Manias, but like them all it had its moments. The kick off match between Ryback and Kalisto was fun as was the Intercontinental title ladder match and the triple threat between Sasha, Becky, and Charlotte.
The moment that is most etched in my brain was from the Hell in a Cell match between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. I’ve seen clips of Shane’s elbow drop from the top of the cage many times since, but they really don’t do it justice. The height of the cage, the gasps of anticipation from the crowd and Shane making the sign of a cross – I was genuinely nervous as he took the leap and the velocity he achieved as he crashed through the table was frightening.
Mania wasn’t the end of the wrestling action as there was the RAW after Mania to go. Back in 2016 it was still a much anticipated highlight, with NXT (how you doin’) call ups and Zack Ryder losing the Intercontinental title he emotionally won 24 hours earlier.
There is so much to look forward to over the coming days. The most stupendous two night WrestleMania ever (I didn’t name it!), the Ring of Honor Supershow, and both GCW and WrestleCon running a number of exciting events. If you are lucky enough to be in Dallas this year, and whether it is your first Mania or not, drink it in (or should that be drink it inn?). You’ll remember those little moments forever!