This was my first live WWE experience, and for a guy who was
born the year of the first Wrestlemania, it was kind of a big deal. It's more
like a three-day festival than a wrestling pay-per-view event. It's a larger
than like carnival-like celebration of what we used to refer to as a sport, but
now commonly call sports entertainment. Whatever your definition, I think that
the physical ability of professional wrestlers is phenomenal. Traveling 320
days a year, making your own way to and from the airport, the venue, and the
gym is difficult. Yet many appear as big as bodybuilders and take bumps that
are impossible to fake. You don't fake falling down on your back. You don't
fake getting hit in the head with a chair. You don't fake jumping face first
through a table. They tell you a weird, twisted morality-laced male soap opera,
staffed with heroes and villains of various degrees. Up close, it is both
gruesome and beautiful, and left me feeling completely satisfied.

The Wrestlemania experience has grown so much over
the years
that it's moved beyond the one-day extravaganza that it had been in
years past.
More than 72,000 bought tickets to the event. Yesterday, the WWE had
100 million clicks on it's website, Yes, the product is a
different than I remember it as a kid, and yes, it even appears
different than
it used to be five months ago. But people wrapped around the stadium in
three and a half hours before the doors even opened up, and they
starting letting people in a good two hours or so before the show
started. A
full weekend of festivities fueled a hype machine that steadily built
up our
collective anticipation. I was practically frothing at the mouth for
the show
when I woke up on Sunday.

This year's hall of famers included, amongst others, "Stone
Cold" Steve Austin and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Backstage, we had some
access to a few WWE personalities, and one of the highlights of Saturday was
grabbing former ECW announcer Joey Styles for a half hour or so. Styles, who is
most famous for the way he used to exclaim, "Oh, my God!" after particularly
gruesome stunts in the old ECW, was happy to talk about the business at length.
He mentioned that Steamboat might surprise some people in the 3-on-1
elimination match, which pitted Chris Jericho against three Legends, Ricky "The
Dragon" Steamboat, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. And he was
right. Steamboat was the only legend that was in good enough shape to warrant
him wrestling without a shirt, traditionally a sign that your physique is
approved by WWE management. He was able to pull off a ton of great bumps,
including several top-rope maneuvers, and one big splash to the outside of the
ring. Even though Jericho
won the match, Steamboat certainly made the old-timers feel a lot better about
the business that they'd help to build. Like most of us were saying the whole
weekend, Steamboat could really go.

More odds and ends:

John Cena's got a crazy amount of leg and core strength to
get both Big Show and Edge up on his shoulders like he did.

Good for the Miz. Do you remember Mike, "The Miz," the dude
from the Real World? He was one half of the tag-team champions, until he and
Morrison lost to Carlito and Primo to unify the belts in a dark match before
the event. But he's been able to go from Real Worlder, to Tough Enough
competitor, to WWE wrestler, to tag-team champion. Helluva' job to make your
dreams come true, Miz.

The Divas are all much, much hotter in person. And they're
in better shape than you are.

Seeing "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart in person is sort
of like seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time. Yes, he still wears that
costume, and yes, his voice still sounds like that.

Loudest pop of the night? "Stone Cold' Steve Austin, driving
a four-wheeler down to the ring, with his glass-breaking and all that.

Man, that pyro is brighter and louder in person than it is
on TV.

I can't tell you how much I wanted to drop nearly $400 for a
real championship belt. I'm so glad I didn't.

Props to THQ for finally making the WWE Legends game
everyone has asked for forever, called, appropriately, Legends of Wrestlemania.