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WrestleMania is something special. It’s the place where legends are made and some of the most unforgettable moments in WWE history occur. For over 15 years as a fan in Australia, it was always told to me over the TV that WrestleMania is the best fan experience you can ever do in your life.
It took until 2016, at the age of 23, that I finally took the plunge and booked a trip to my very first WrestleMania.

I’m going to go through some of my experiences, my initial observations as a ‘Mania virgin, the atmosphere of being in a rabid crowd and how I’d do things differently if given the opportunity.

Ticket Purchasing and Booking:

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Once I had decided that 2016 was the year to go, naturally the research begins. Well and truly before any announcement of ticket sales, travel packages or even venue location is announced, I began to delve into other people’s previous WrestleMania experiences.

If there was one thing that intimidated me about the booking process, it was the idea of purchasing every ticket separately. As a newbie, I made the decision that the travel package would be the easiest choice. I was correct.

If you’re planning to go to all the events WWE have up for offer, then the travel package is for you. I knew full well that there was a lot more to WrestleMania weekend than just WWE, but I figured if I was attending ‘Mania weekend for the first time I might as well do it properly and go to everything.

The only downside of booking it that way is that you have to pay for it all upfront. If you’re in the financial position to do so, then it’s just the best way to guarantee yourself a ticket to everything with comfortable accommodation.

Also, they sell out in an hour usually, get on them quick.

Axxess:

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Axxess is a mess. A confusing, frustrating mess. If you’re going into Axxess expecting to meet all your favourite people that you’ve watched on TV for years, throw that plan out the window because that isn’t happening.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. You may meet some people but you’re gonna have to work for it. But do you love queuing and paying $55 to do it? Then WrestleMania Axxess is for you.

The way it works is there are about 8 or so signing stages. Axxess runs in 4 hour sessions, superstars only sign for 2 hour shifts. So, once 2 hours is up they tag out and a new superstar starts. That’s all well and good, however it is never announced who is replacing who and which stage any superstar will be at. “Oh what’s that? You’ve been lining up for 2 hours for Sami Zayn? Well too bad, times up, you get Primo & Epico.” Luck of the draw folks!

I made the decision to attend 4 Axxess sessions. Mistake. My thought process was that I should go to everything and experience as much as I could, but in reality you don’t experience all that much standing in a queue for 80% of the time. That’s not to say all my experiences were bad, I managed to meet Becky Lynch, Molly Holly and a host of others. But 4 sessions again? I’d go to WrestleCon instead.

NXT Takeover Dallas:

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This was when I knew I chose the right year to attend ‘Mania, when it was announced that NXT would be holding one of their Takeover specials the Friday before and those who had Travel Packages would be getting tickets.
NXT had been absolutely on fire over the previous 2 years. Every special better than the last with outstanding matches, nonstop excitement and passionate crowds. What’s not to like?

As we got closer to the event, matches were announced. Balor/Joe II, wicked. Bayley/Asuka, wow! Sami Zayn/Shinsuke Nakamura, HOLY S***! And with that I was almost more excited for this than WrestleMania!

Takeover was held in the same building as Axxess, so after a relatively uneventful evening there (okay, I saw Kofi Kingston twerk like his life depended on it, I have footage, so it’s not all bad) we moved over to NXT. You could feel the anticipation levels rising in the people as they started to congregate around the doors and eventually let in.
This was a kind of crowd that I had never been a part of before. Australian WWE house show crowds are dead, they sit on their hands and react to nothing. I’m sorry fellow Aussies, but we suck. By proven track record, NXT crowds are loud. Add that with a WrestleMania weekend crowd and you’ve got some magic there.

My first NXT show turned out to be sensational, not that I ever expect led it to be bad. The debuting Shinsuke Nakamura got a reaction one can only dream of. If I had to make the choice of feeling the pain of being hit by a truck or a knee from Nakamura, I’m taking the bus!
Everyone around me were shocked, standing up with hands over mouths when Bayley lost the women’s championship. Also, the Balor/Joe match with constant referee stoppage due to a cut near Joe’s eye proved quite distracting. The crowd were not happy one bit at the constant pauses to the match. Chants such as “PG SUCKS!” and “F*** PG!” were super audible to the fans watching at home.

NXT proved once again that they are the hottest thing going in wresting today, and the people up at the main roster are simply playing catch up.

Hall of Fame:

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I love the Hall of Fame ceremonies. The stories told are entertaining and it’s always great to be able to pay respect to some legends. Some guys almost have an open mic for their speeches, which is always great to listen to.

The 2016 class had mixed reviews as to who WWE inducted this year. A lot of people either sold their Hall of Fame ticket or just simply didn’t go. I always have enjoyed the shows and still being my first time I definitely was going. I even went to the effort to get dressed up.

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Scrub up okay don’t I? Okay, don’t answer that.

Was it going to compare to previous all-star classes like 2013/14? No. But you could still expect a fun night out and it was. Speech of the night obviously went to The Freebirds. Although the whole building was a thoroughly confused by Kevin Von Erich’s unfortunate “New Gay Guys” stuff up. He didn’t mean any malice, so it’s all good.

Snoop Dogg was inducted into the celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame, and it was a controversial choice as the crowd were not on board whenever he was shown on screen. But props to the D-O-Double-G, he won the crowd over with an honest and a truly grateful speech.

Then of course Sting announcing his retirement to the live crowd was a sad moment. Everyone knew it was coming, but once people accepted it, they gave him a well deserved standing ovation. An enjoyable night out at the Hall of Fame and I would definitely go to another.

WrestleMania:

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This is the big guns. WrestleMania. Legitimately the largest one in history, and honestly was the deciding factor in choosing Dallas to be the ‘Mania I travel to. Simply so I could say I went and I was at the biggest one.

The day started off with an 8am Axxess session. I met Alundra Blayze and Tye Dillenger, but we left early to go get ready for the big day or ‘Mania ahead. With kick-off plus the main show, that’s like a 6-7 hour show! That’s a long day!

Shuttle busses picked us up at the Sheraton at 2pm. Now, when you purchased a travel package it included shuttle bus transportation as AT&T Stadium is about a 30 minute drive away. The way you get on the bus is you put on the band they give you in the package. When the package arrived to my house and I went through it all, I made the unfortunate decision to snap the bands together not knowing that you can’t unsnap them!
Ripping them apart and super glue followed and everything was fine. That was close.

So we arrived at the stadium by 2:45pm, but we had to wait over an hour to be let in. It was hot, uncomfortable, chants of “LET US IN!” started. Apparently many people had trouble getting into the stadium, I didn’t experience any of that thank goodness so I was able to find our seats about 30 minutes before the first match started.

I know for a fact I look far more favourably upon the show because I was there live for it. I’m not sure I would have if I was at home. But as far as being there in person? Well, sitting in a stadium with the better part of 100,000 people was certainly mind blowing. I can’t describe it other than it’s like seeing the wrestling Grand Canyon. You just can’t prepare yourself for it.

Experiencing entrances from The Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and especially Stone Cold in Texas was too cool for words. Yes the way the show ended was incredibly lacklustre and was quite formulaic. But I’ll be happy to watch back 90% of the show. It’s true what they say though, if you’re a wrestling fan you must attend a WrestleMania before you die.

Monday Night Raw:

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Another first for me, Monday Night Raw. As I was going through this weekend I kept thinking to myself “how have I not done any of these things before now!?”

If you’ve only attended house shows or PPV’s before never attended an edition of Raw, it’s very different. And when I say different I mainly just mean A LOT OF ADS. But I have to talk about one of the notorious parts of this show, that’s the crowd, obviously.

The Raw After Mania is almost of mythic proportions at this point. Everyone expects it to be the best show of the year. Debuts, returns, title changes, face/heel turns, they all go down on this show. And the crowd is always super hot from the night before and this time they were out for blood… Roman Reigns’ blood.

Every time Roman’s image came up on the screen, no matter how short, deafening boo’s. However the time came when Roman (and to be fair, WWE) had to face the music. Like a child coming out of their hiding spot to admit they’ve done the wrong thing and accept their punishment.

Poor Roman, it’s nothing personal honestly. He got it bad on Monday night. However to WWE’s credit they kept his mic time very short and managed to find a way to only have him out there for about 5 minutes, so to not over expose him and let the crowd ruin him… Because they would have.

This edition of Raw was odd. It started strong, slowed down to almost a complete stop in the 2nd hour and then in the 3rd hour it really picked up. Debuts of Enzo & Cass plus the return of Cesaro were insane. I get goosebumps looking back at the footage.
Quick note, when Cesaro’s music hit I screamed so loud I used up all the oxygen in my body and legitimately nearly passed out. That’s not one word of a lie, I really love Cesaro that much.

Final Thoughts:

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From start to finish my first ever WrestleMania weekend was an overwhelming success. Take away some of the disappointing results, I did everything that I expected to do. I saw and did all aspects of Axxess. NXT, WrestleMania and RAW all lived up to the expectations of having a rowdy crowd that would cause me to lose my voice. So I can’t really complain can I!?

If I were to go again (and I plan to at some stage) I would make some alterations. I would definitely diversify the things I do during the week. Make the effort to go see more independent shows and take one of the Axxess sessions and instead go to WrestleCon.

After almost a year of planning the trip, for the WrestleMania weekend to be over is heartbreaking. Post-WrestleMania Blues is absolutely real and it’s a serious thing. I’m not fully out of it yet.
Honestly the coolest thing about it was meeting and making friends with so many people from all over the world, all coming together to celebrate the one thing we all love so much. Wrestling. It doesn’t get better than that.

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