I attended the WrestleMania weekend events from WWE, TNA and ROH. I just got back from Orlando and though it’s have been a few days since the events I figured I’d pass along some of my live thoughts.
Friday I arrived at the Doubletree with my cousin Steph and friend Jon. Since Steph and I were part of the WWE travel packages we went and registered downstairs to get our tickets etc. Along with our tickets to Mania and the Hall of Fame we were each given a ticket for an autograph session Saturday morning at the hotel along with a 2-day 2 park pass to Universal theme parks which were across the street from the hotel. In addition, we were each given the ugly Mania beanie bear, an outdated program featuring Eugene, Davari and others long gone from the company, a nice Mania 24 picture frame and
equably nice leather Mania 24 picture holder for smaller pictures.
Our tickets were great at the first level in line with the ring for Mania and close to the stage for the Hall of Fame. I thought WWE had done a great job aside from the severely outdated program they gave us. Then I noticed the Hotel’s shuttle only went to Universal across the street. So, I called the desk and asked about whether there would be a shuttle to Amway Arena and the Citrus Bowl. They weren’t sure but said I should check with WWE as they would be responsible for anything like that. I checked and WWE told me to drive or take a cab! Since parking was a nightmare and cab fare was $50 or so one way, it seemed like WWE should have considered a way to shuttle over people who’d already given them hundreds of dollars.
Friday night I went with Steph to ROH Dragon’s Gate Challenge 2. I hadn’t watched ROH since their first year, but figured it would be a great show. We had second row tickets and Tammy Sytch, who I’ve always liked was going to appear along with some great Japanese talent along with ROH regulars, so what could go wrong? I enjoyed the first couple of matches, especially the McGuinness vs. Delirious match and the segment with Tammy Sytch. Going to intermission I was liking what I was seeing. After intermission I was able to see less and less of the show as more mat work came into play. Why couldn’t I see? The ROH camera men were standing in the way and refused to crouch down or move no matter how many fans with expensive tickets yelled they couldn’t see. The Japanese crew from Dragon’s Gate crouched to film and were professional. I see a huge problem when the guest company has a better crew than the host company. To add to my unhappiness, Roderick Strong went to mist ala Triple H using spit instead of water. I got spit on. So, for a $50 ticket I got to have a camera guy block my view and got spit on. This is the alternative?
I saw Cary Silken talking to fans on the way out but I was so mad I figured I’d just cuss, so I didn’t bother. According to a fan I talked to while in line the next day for TNA, the ROH camera crew are just their wrestling students. I don’t know if that’s true, but it would explain a lot. Anyway, it seems to me a bit of training and some construction worker grade knee pads could fix the problem. I will probably attend another ROH show in the future but will only get a general admission ticket to avoid the bush league camera crew and spit guard privileges that go along with spending more money. At least I got to see Larry Sweeney if not the matches in the second half.
Saturday Jon and I got up early to hit Universal while Steph went to the autograph session WWE had set up in the hotel. As we headed to Universal, Jon and I saw the WWE tour bus arrive and got to watch Big Show crack jokes and Kennedy and some of the divas smoke before heading in.
After hitting the rides at Universal, Jon and I got in line for TNA. While we were in line we noticed a few things. There are 2 lines for VIP people like wrestler's friends and street team members and one line for people who aren’t. This may not be a problem most of the time, but with it being Mania weekend and the Impact Zone holding 950 people, it created a real problem. We stood in the hot sun with no drink vendors close by for 2 hours and got in, but others stood in line almost as long and didn’t. It seemed like a pretty easy problem to fix too. We got to the park right after it opened and figured they could’ve done wristbands on a first come first serve basis so park goers didn’t have to stand in line so long. At the very least, Universal or TNA could at least count the number of VIP people and the number of people in the regular line so there aren’t so many left in line with no chance of getting in.
After we got in, TNA was very well run. The show had a hot crowd and we were riled up further by their hype man who told us to boo and cheer who we wanted, then tried to guide our reactions. Jon was an old WCW fan and enjoyed the feel of the show. The matches were good and didn’t feature the myriad of ref bumps I’d seen last time I watched TNA a couple of months ago. We enjoyed the show and cheering for the heels. Jon started to yell, “Black Rain!” each time it got quiet and thanked Scott Steiner for putting us in our place. They kept the crowd going by giving away DVDs, shirts and backstage passes to loud fans between matches. After the show they offered a quick autograph signing from various TNA stars. I got Traci Brooks and the Motor City Machine Guns to sign my ticket to WWE’s signing I skipped from the morning. I later gave the ticket to my cousin.
After the TNA show, Jon and I left the park and went to the hotel so Steph and I could head to the Hall of Fame. We joked about how the crowd from the hotel were suddenly well dressed for “Wrestle-Prom”. We saw some people dressed in suits using things like Evolution shirts in place of button up shirts. Live, the crowd was hot and interactive for the Rock. They were largely respectful with only a few dirt bags in the crowd shouting inappropriate things out. This happened only a few times, but tarnished things such as the Solie family accepting the award for Gordon Solie. As many of you have already read, the show went almost 4 and a half hours, so the DVD should be great as long as they don’t edit it up.
Sunday, a company ran a shuttle to Mania for people in the hotel for $20 round trip. A much better deal than the $40 one way trips cabs were offering. After Jon and I hit Universal’s Islands of Adventure, we got
to the hotel and I caught the bus with Steph and 48 other people. We saw the TNA video truck on our way in and thought it was funny and smart. Upon entering the stadium we picked up a real WrestleMania program for $20 each. The show itself came across as an incredible spectacle live. I don’t know if anyone sent this along, but the girls didn’t seem to miss a beat, continuing to wrestle even during the brief time there was no light on the ring. The crowd was especially into the Money in the Bank and Flair vs Michaels matches, with the interest just a bit lower but also high for Mayweather vs. Show and the two big title matches. A much better show and experience than when I attended WrestleMania 15!
Monday, we switched to a Hilton by Disney which unfortunately also had no shuttle. I’ve worked at lots of hotels and all had shuttles, so I don’t know if we had bad luck or if this is common for Orlando. I went to Disney Hollywood studios with Jon and we ended up running short on time which made me consider eating the Raw ticket rather than using the cabs which were now $50 or more one way. My last Raw experience was in Richmond, VA and saw fallout from the exploding McMahon angle and was an awful show. Figuring they’d do something with Flair, I decided to bite the bullet and spend the cab fare, meeting Steph there. I was glad I did and ended up with great pictures and possibly the best live moment I’ve experienced in my years of many live shows with the Flair tribute.'
The lady sitting next to me was a fellow long term fan and we talked about how great it was and how they never do anything classy like this. We were both surprised by how good the show was. They canceled the announced dark match, but how could anyone really follow the Flair tribute? A perfect way to end a long weekend of wrestling.
Jon and I do a radio show called “…After Dark” and have started to post pics from Florida including the wrestling shows on our myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/wvcwafterdark. The TNA pics are up now and the WWE pics, which are better quality, should be up Friday afternoon.