“WrestleMania IX” is for the birds, but at least it left us that catchy theme song. I’ve been pumping it up all week as “WrestleMania XXX” arrives this Sunday from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
But before I cram my three amigos into my dented 2003 Chevy Cavalier for the Snapchat-filled road trip, let me reminisce on my favorite “Mania” memories since I’ve been following this piledriving melodrama.
Flipping through the channels on my grandparents’ bedroom TV, I stumbled across the “Sunday Night Heat” before “Royal Rumble 2000.” The commentators stressed the importance of winning the battle royal and main eventing the greatest spectacle in sports-entertainment: “WrestleMania.”
Ah, such a magical word. My 8-year-old mind envisioned Disney World, Christmas and “Celebrity Deathmatch” all blended into one celebration.
I had to watch it.
Convincing my dad to splurge $50 for pay-per-view wasn’t difficult since he was an old-school wrasslin’ fan himself. But my mom, well, she could rattle off plenty of ways to spend that money and T&A vs. Head Cheese wasn’t one of them. We compromised that I could order “WrestleMania 2000,” but I would go to bed by 10 p.m. and tape the rest of the show.
Within five minutes of Ice-T serenading The Godfather and D’Lo Brown down the aisle for the opener – because contrary to popular belief, pimpin’ ain’t easy – I realized “WrestleMania’s” hype was not hyperbole.
The “Showcase of the Immortals” attracts mainstream media, celebrities and plebeians outside the WWE Universe, inviting them to sip professional wrestling’s cocktail of athleticism, theatrics and passion. If they get addicted, that’s wonderful. If they cringe at the taste, we’ve got two words for them.
When I woke up the next day, I barged into the bathroom asking dad who won the fatal four-way between Big Show, Mick Foley, The Rock and WWE Champion Triple H. Dad claimed Vince McMahon swung a chair at Rocky, leaving The Game to retain the title. But that didn’t make sense because Vince was in The Rock’s corner. So I kept pestering him, “Do you mean Shane McMahon, Vince’s son? It couldn’t have been Vince – he loves The People’s Champ!”
I didn’t have time to watch the match before school, so I chuckled all day about my dad’s confusion, finally settling on the theory that Father Time and Budweiser double teamed his vision.
When I finally got home and viewed the footage, my jaw dropped.
Dad was right.
The WWE chairman screwed The Rock, and now I was the laughingstock – another naïve boy hooked to the never-ending saga of pro wrestling.
One year later, I was hanging from the proverbial rafters in my basement as Stone Cold challenged The Rock for the WWE Championship. With the two biggest heroes of the Attitude Era clashing in the main event of “WrestleMania X7,” I figured there was “no chance in hell” of McMahon interference souring the outcome.
After 13 years, I still get goosebumps hearing Jim Ross segue “and the time is upon us, Paul” to Heyman, his broadcast partner for the universally recognized best “Mania” ever.
Go YouTube the pre-match video package set to Limp Bizkit’s “My Way.” You know you want to.
Although the legends tore down the Houston Astrodome with an epic encounter, the appalling conclusion lingers over the bout’s quality.
Somehow, someway, Vinnie Mac emerged and aided his arch nemesis as Austin pounded The Rock unconscious with a blood-stained steel chair. While the story of Stone Cold craving the gold to the point of selling his soul to the devil made sense, fans simply didn’t want to root against his character.
And since Austin never truly catered to the crowd like Hulk Hogan or John Cena, the people had no reason to feel betrayed. We knowingly rallied behind the Texas Rattlesnake at our own risk.
But I was only 9 years old at the time of the handshake and by God, McMahon duped me again.
Over the next several years I clung to the screen as Hulkamania ran wild once more in Toronto, Brock Lesnar defied gravity with a Shooting Star Press, Edge speared Foley through a flaming table, Donald Trump ate a Stunner, and Trish Stratus triggered my blast into puberty with a slap to Chris Jericho and subsequent makeout sesh with his best friend Christian.
And the tears will always trickle as Shawn Michaels mouths, “I’m sorry, I love you” before superkicking Ric Flair into WWE retirement.
The night after “WrestleMania XXVII” compelled me to make every wrestling fan’s dream come true. As John Cena and now Hollywood superstar The Rock agreed to battle in one year’s time at “WrestleMania XXVIII,” something stirred inside my soul as I watched from the small monitor in KYW NewsRadio’s Business Center. I had been earning enough money to afford weekly random keggers, and I had never seen my childhood hero compete live.
And even though my friends couldn’t coordinate for spring break, I bucked conventional wisdom and spearheaded a trip to Miami to lose our “WrestleMania” virginity.
It was the greatest time of my life.
We witnessed The Undertaker’s streak reach 20-0, unabashedly pranced in the stands to “Sexy Boy” and drunkenly scolded the Iron Sheik to “humble” Brian Blair up the Killer Beehive.
Oh yeah, and The Rock finally won.
Luckily, I won free tickets to last year’s “WrestleMania” at the Meadowlands and was able to bring my family.
While I’m glad my little brothers experienced the “Granddady of Em All” at such a young age, I was more proud to take my dad to see his childhood hero, Bruno Sammartino, in person.
After all, I wouldn’t be packing for New Orleans right now if it wasn’t for him making that $50 investment 14 years ago.
You all have the “Heartbreak Kid,” but to me, “Mr. WrestleMania” will always be my dad.
John Corrigan can be reached at