Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wrestlemania Weekend! Part I

Some of you might know that Steve is a wrestling fanatic. Seriously. It is all my fault, of course. When he was a kid he watched wrestling like many kids of our generation, but he forgot all about it when he started chasing girls. He hadn't watched wrestling for years when we first got together. We couldn't afford cable at our first apartment in Glendale, but being in the middle of LA, we picked up at least 6 stations locally with the bunny ears. And one of the shows that we ended up watching was a Saturday morning wrestling show that was probably geared at kids. I thought it was campy and fun. I had never watched wrestling before and thought that the over-the-top personalities and soap opera story lines were fun if you didn't take it too seriously.

One year later, Steve begged my folks to let him order Wrestlemania on PPV and I joined him to watch the now infamous Shawn "Heartbreak Kid" Michaels vs. Brett "Hitman" Hart main event. OK, fair enough. When we finally got our own place in Campbell, Monday Night Raw became regular viewing. And I didn't mind--these were the "Attitude", "Raw is War" years when the Rock, Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Degeneration X, and most of all Vince McMahon would reliably deliver a humorous, entertaining Monday evening. But after a while it started to get a little boring. The story lines and performers evolve a bit with the times, but it is always the same thing. And I was tired of it, so I stopped watching. Steve did not.

And that is how 20 years later I found myself at Wrestlemania XXXI in good old San Jose. Not just for the actual event, but for an entire weekend of events.

Friday kicked off with a trip to the Fairmont for wrestler spotting. I think Steve nearly peed himself watching all the wrestlers arriving. Chari and Brad joined us and there was plenty of beveraging in preparation for a long night of wrestling, at least for Steve and me. Not much picture taking, though--Steve was chastised by Mark Henry right off the bat before he even got a shot, so we put the cameras away to avoid getting kicked out.

Then it was off to Fan Axxess for us! I thought this would be the best part of the weekend, but it turned out to be my least favorite part. If you like collecting autographs, Axxess is your event. If you don't, there's really no reason to go. There are a few matches and there is a small wrestling museum, but if you're not getting autographs (and springing for a program) then it's really not worth the price of admission. We did catch a couple NXT matches, which was my introduction to NXT, the WWE's developmental show that Steve has added to his 4+ hour a week wrestling viewing habit. This guy was quite good--Hideo Itami:

He was a smaller guy from Japan with a high flying style so I took an instant liking to him. I also was introduced to NXT's pretty boy Tyler Breeze:
Pretty boy is a definite "type" in wrestling (and he was really pretty), but to put his modern spin on it, Tyler's entrance to the ring involved him taking selfies. The crowd played along by chanting, "Tyler's gorgeous!" and then, "Not the face!" when he started grappling. These matches were decent, but watching wrestling is kind of like watching sausage making--you don't really want to be too close to the action. And we were right next to the ropes.

But it was a nice warmup for our next event: NXT! On to San Jose State Events Center where the show kept us out WAY past our bedtime on Friday night. But I'm happy to say it was really, really entertaining. The developmental performers haven't made it to the show yet, so they really put a lot of creativity into their characters and they put their bodies on the line during the matches.

My two faves from the matches at Axxess fought for a spot in the Battle Royal at Wrestlemania and Hideo won. He seemed fairly confident as he made fun of Tyler here:

Also, we can totally see your junk Hideo. NXT is HHH's baby, so he came out for some adoration too:

Possibly the best match of the entire weekend was the women's championship match. Women wrestlers are usually a second thought in WWE and actual physical skills are secondary to looking hot on the reality show. But these ladies were awesome pulling submission moves you never see anymore in such quick succession I don't think a quarter of the WWE would have had the stamina to pull of a match like this. And I should hope so--one of the competitors, Charlotte, is Rick Flair's daughter. Sasha Banks retained the title, and she worked for it too.

The main event was Finn Balor vs. Adrian Neville. This was a high flyer that got multiple "Holy Shit!" chants from the crowd. By this point, I had my wits about me and took some video! The finishing sequence says it all about this match, which was very fun to watch:

After this, we hobbled home at 1:00 in the morning. We both worked Saturday and hung low Saturday night. We had to recharge for a full day on Sunday.


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