People throw the word “best” around a lot. “I had the best time last night.” “I had the best vacation.” “I’ve came up with the best marketing idea.”
“Best” is a word that has been used so often, it’s lost its effectiveness. When you describe something as the “best”, you’re stating that everything else pales in comparison. That this really is better than anything you’ve ever experienced before. That it’s the ultimate – the best, and something you don’t expect to be topped in your lifetime.
With that, I hope you enjoy my Wrestlemania Trip Report – The Best Weekend Of My Life.
For those who don’t know, I actually got my start in internet marketing thanks to WWE wrestling. If it wasn’t for wrestling, it’s doubtful I would have followed this career path. I became a wrestling fan at Wrestlemania 7, and during the WWE “Attitude Era” wrestling basically consumed my life. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast last Tuesday. I don’t know how many years I’ve been married to my wife. But I can tell you where I was when Mike Tyson knocked out Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania. I can tell you who I was hanging out with when Sean Waltman debuted on RAW as X-Pac. And I can tell you what meal I had the night that Mae Young gave birth to……you know what? There’s non-wrestling fans reading this, and I’m not going to turn them off this article this early!
The “Attitude Era” began around the same time I got the internet at home. I took an interest in websites, and spent a lot of time hanging around wrestling chats. These two combined were what got me into internet marketing: I created websites like Pro Wrestling World and the Pro Wrestling News Wire. I ran my own e-mail newsletter, The Kilt Report. I learned so much about internet marketing during this period that still holds true today.
I also met Vin.
Vin was a guy I met over the wrestling chat room WBS, and later we’d go to IRC. We’d discuss everything about wrestling and life together, and become extremely close friends, despite ever meeting. Over the years, we’ve communicated through every medium possible. From internet chats to message boards, IRC to ICQ, MSN to e-mail, and now currently Facebook and Twitter.
Vin is the sole reason that this article exists. He sent me a tweet one day, letting me know that Mick Foley was running a Wrestlemania raffle. All proceeds would go to the charity RAINN(Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), and the winner would win a trip to Wrestlemania. It wasn’t just any old trip however – you’d get airfare and hotel paid for, $500 spending money, lunch with Mick Foley, lunch with the Divas, lunch with David Otunga, and tickets for RAW, Hall of Fame, Axxess and the grand daddy of them all, Wrestlemania.
Vin suggested we make a pact. We both enter, and if one of us wins we take the other. I agreed immediately and bought a couple hundred tickets because hey, even if we don’t win it goes to an amazing cause.
I’m a big believer of the phrase:
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“If you can imagine it, you can be it.”
So just entering the raffle wasn’t enough. I’d talk to Vin over e-mail and Twitter as if we had already won. We’d talk about what t-shirts we’d wear. We’d talk about what music we’d wake up to. In our minds, we had already won. We were dreaming it, and we were imagining it.
That confidence didn’t help AT ALL when RAINN called me to let me know that yes – I had in fact won. Hell it’s 3 weeks after the call, 6 days after Wrestlemania and I STILL can’t believe I won. I remember them asking me for my most basic details like my age – AND I DIDN’T KNOW! “I’m 30…no wait 31….wait um, 30? 31? Uh….”
I dreamt it. I did it. It was off to Wrestlemania.
Day 1: Thursday March 29th
I stayed up the night before, for a 5am flight from Kingston via Toronto to Miami. I was tired, and wasn’t looking forward to the 5-10 minute interrogation US customs were giving everyone. However the security guy saw my Hulkamania t-shirt, yelled “WRESTLEMANIA!” and let me right through. Thanks Hulk, for that one.
I met up with Vin, and we went straight to the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami and checked in. RAINN had even booked a car service to take us from the airport to the hotel which was awesome and saved any hassle. We went up to the hotel room which was just SICK:
It also had two bathrooms which was great, and after a brief argument over which toilet should be reserved for a Vince Russo, we decided to head out for lunch.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
I’m going to be using a meme throughout this article – And Then The Trip Got Better. You see – this wasn’t just any old trip. This was the trip that just kept giving and giving. Just when you think “This is it – this is the best moment of the trip”…it’d get better! In hindsight, I’m regretting not betting the lottery that weekend.
So, how did the trip get better? Well, we’d heard rumours on the internet that this was the same hotel that a couple of the wrestlers were staying at. We kept an eye out for them as we went down the elevator, but didn’t see any.
Then we went outside, and saw The Undertaker pulling up in a car literally 3 feet from us.
Now over the course of the weekend, I met many wrestlers. Some I had a conversation with, others were just a quick sentence back and forth as we walked by each other. However at no time did I feel intimidated, or “in awe”. I dined privately with Mick Foley and the Divas, I shared elevator rides with current and past wrestlers, and at no point did I feel starstruck at all over the weekend.
Except this time.
Smoke didn’t appear when he stepped out. No druids were there to help him with his baggage. Hell it was just a big guy in a hoodie and jeans.
I just about wet myself.
That dude has a presence that you just can’t explain. There’s an aura around him. Standing about 3 feet away from the Undertaker, I suddenly understood the reaction girls give to Justin Bieber. It was all I could do not to just SCREAM in the highest pitched voice I could muster. Thankfully I didn’t do that. Instead we just stood there frozen, waited until he had entered the hotel, and took a deep breath and walked on.
No big deal, just THE UNDERTAKER.
It ended up that this was the hotel ALL the wrestlers were staying at. To say this added to the experience would be an understatement. I don’t think I can go to a Mania ever again without staying at the same hotel as the wrestlers – it just adds to the experience in ways I can’t even describe. Sharing elevator rides with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Vader. Eating breakfast while Mil Mascaras, complete with mask, also dines at the next table. Going out for a smoke and having Jim Ross bum a smoke off you. It was these little things, that just made this trip that much more amazing.
It also helped that outside the hotel, behind big security gates, were tons of wrestling fans looking on. It felt great knowing that we were living the same thing they were dreaming about.
We ended up at a place called Pizza Bar for lunch, a few blocks away from the hotel. This was a great place and we pounded back a few beers while eating some delicious pizza:
After that we picked up some beer at the local liquor store to take back to the hotel room.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
We had a voicemail on the hotel messaging system. I thought it’d be my wife or something – turned out it was MICK FOLEY. Mick wanted to make sure we had got in okay, and gave me his cell phone # so I could text him to confirm the details for the next day. Over the course of the weekend me and Mick texted back and forth – and again, that was just one of those little things that made the trip better.
As we were getting in the elevator at one point, we saw John Laurenitis walk by. We looked at each other in awe, before Vin yelled “Hey!”. Laurenitis then yelled “Hey!” back. In the words of Chris Farley: “That…..was AWESOME!”
We pounded back some beers, and then headed out to the Heat vs Mavs game.
See all these empty seats?
It was sadly similar to that until the 2nd half. Oh Miami…
After a great game, we went back to the hotel and went to the bar to drink. The bar was just PACKED with wrestlers. Past, present and future wrestlers were all there. Jim Ross, Vader, Dean Malenko, Santino Marella, the Usos, FCW guys, Dory Funk Jr. Just amazing to be in the presence of all these guys.
There was also one wrestler who we couldn’t recognize. Vin, who knew most FCW wrestlers, couldn’t even figure out who it was and checked the FCW website on his phone. We racked our brains as he looked vagulely familiar but couldn’t figure it out.
So we asked him.
Tip: Don’t ask a wrestler “who they are”. It’s up there with “My name is Chris too” as one of the worst opening lines to a conversation ever. Thankfully this wrestler took it in stride, and gave us clues until we finally figured it out.
Sorry Michael McGillicutty. We’ll always remember you from here on out!
We ended up hanging out and chatting with Tony Atlas for awhile:
Atlas was busy eating wings as we talked to him, and afterwards we felt we had to buy his meal for him. I still don’t know why.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
Two of my favourite wrestlers from back in the day were Sgt Slaughter and the Big Boss Man. As we’re chilling and drinking, we see Sgt Slaughter walk in. I am just marking out hard. Now over the course of the trip we had decided not to harass the wrestlers for pictures or anything like that – just being in their presence was enough.
I wanted to break that rule for Sgt Slaughter, but he was busy talking with a bunch of people so we didn’t want to interrupt. Now you see in the above picture that I’m wearing my GI Joe t-shirt? Well suddenly we heard Sgt Slaughter loudly exclaim: “Hold on a second, I’ve got to meet GI Joe”.
Sgt Slaughter wanted to meet ME!
Unreal. We chatted for a bit, talked to a few more WWE people, and after that the night was complete and me and Vin headed back to the hotel room.
Vins Facebook status update from the next morning basically sums up this night:
“Woke up on the floor of my five star hotel room. Also with the WWE CFO’s business card in my pocket.”
Day 2: Friday, March 30th
Vin woke up early and went to work out in the gym. Ted Dibiase was there working out as well.
Then we went for lunch with Mick Foley.
One thing that really surprised me about Mick is just how TALL he is. I’ve watched so many of his matches from Japan, WCW, ECW, WWE(and proudly, NOT TNA), and I was stunned at just how tall he was. He was another larger than life person. And as you can imagine – the lunch was amazing. Mick is one of the easiest guys in the world to talk with, and the lunch just flew by. We could have chatted for hours without a break – he really is someone that has seen and done it all.
WWE.com wrote an article about the lunch. Mick also presented me with the one-off half Rock/half Cena t-shirt that he wore on a RAW last year. Pictures below:
What’s great is all weekend Vin was making these weird, over the top facial expressions in pictures – and he chooses the one picture where Foley is choking him to death to play it cool.
After lunch, Mick introduced us to DDP and we chatted DDP Yoga a bit. Definitely something I’m going to be trying out this week – you can tell it isn’t just a “business idea” that DDP has – he’s so incredibly passionate about it. He also seems to have his hands in the Diamond Cutter position all the time, just in case some unruly fan pisses him off.
Based on the size of him, I’d recommend not being that unruly fan.
Our plans for later this day were to go to the Ring of Honor show. Unfortunately the concierge gave us the worst directions possible. Instead of telling us that we could catch a bus outside the hotel that would take us practically straight to the arena, he instead told us to go via tram to a bus station where we’d end up taking like 3 different buses just to get there. It ended up a mess, as we ended up in the wrong side of town where the bus we needed didn’t even go.
Not fun. Thankfully this picture of Vin with John Laurenitis just after we left the hotel made up for it:
After walking the Mean Streets of Miami without the likes of Joey Abs and Pete Gas to back us up, getting harassed for money every block, and figuring out that the show would be half over by the time we got to the arena, we ended up just heading back to the hotel and spending the night drinking beer in the hotel room. We tried to hit up the bar but MAN – this place was packed. I remember hearing that cities just don’t “get” how big Wrestlemania was and nothing could be truer than that hotel – there were 2 staff members plus the manager trying to serve drinks to about 200 people that night, and it just wasn’t worth it.
Day 3: Saturday, March 31st:
How do you start off YOUR Saturdays? Because we started off ours with COFFEE WITH DAVID OTUNGA:
I even gave him a can of Tim Hortons coffee! Otunga is someone that takes his coffee seriously – it’s not just a gimmick, believe me. It took him about 10 whole minutes to prepare his coffee, and was strangely fascinating to watch. We chatted a bit about basketball – honestly this was the “sleeper” hit of the weekend. Otunga is just the nicest guy, and you could tell he was the happiest man in the world at being a part of Wrestlemania. He was an absolute pleasure to chat to, and I won’t be surprised to see him headlining Manias in years to come.
A few of my friends from Edmonton were in town for Wrestlemania – Manners, Grizz, Drago and Eamon. We decided to meet up with them at a place called Damn Good Burger, a few blocks from the hotel. Now the plan initially was just a few beers and then leave. Hall of Fame was that night and we didn’t want to get too drunk.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
The world exploded as this INSANE storm came in, with literally buckets of water flowing down from the sky. It was crazy, and a “few beers” turned into this:
As we were too scared to brave the storm.
Finally we left, sobered up and went to the Hall of Fame. Now during most of the events of the weekend we’d be popping out for beer(or a smoke in my case) but the Hall of Fame was one of those events where you just don’t do that. Oh you can – you have the option – but it just didn’t seem “right”. Listening to the speeches by the wrestlers and the introductions were just amazing – and we became transfixed – just glued to our seats and soaking up the amazing atmosphere.
I’ve watched every Hall of Fame on TV but I’ll tell you – it’s a completely different ball game when you are there. If you’re ever at Wrestlemania, you owe it to yourself to go to the Hall of Fame. Just an incredible experience. Of all the speeches I actually thought JBLs was the best – the man showed raw emotion, and you could really appreciate how strong his friendship with Ron Simmons was.
Tysons was a close second though.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
We rode the elevator at the hotel back up with Sheamus. Sheamus hugged some Irish girls and said goodbye to them. Vin asked Sheamus “Is that your relatives?” to which Sheamus replied “What? I’ve never seen them before in my life”.
Poor Vin. He pulled a verbal Daniel Bryan, and lost our sidebet of “Who would say something stupid to a wrestler first?”.
Day 4: Sunday, April 1:
As mentioned, Mick had hooked us up with tickets to WWE Axxess. Axxess is like a fan fest where there’s old memorabilia, autograph sessions, live matches and so many more interactive events involved. Hell, you could even audition for The Marine 3!
So we headed to Axxess, where we had pictures taking like this:
That last one was me reliving Mike Tyson when separating HBK & Austin, with his back to the camera.
The best part about Axxess was the Undertakers Graveyard. They just went to TOWN on this thing – smoke everywhere, lightning strikes, and graves for every wrestler he has beaten at Wrestlemania. I had to do this of course:
Axxess also had a memorabilia section. There was the costumes Undertaker and Triple H wore for certain Wrestlemanias, Mr Ts gloves, Roddy Pipers outfit, a suit Andre the Giant wore, old school posters, and the bag from The Rundown.
Yep, in The Rocks memorabilia section, there was this:
A bag. In a directors chair.
Clearly, the highlight of the weekend.
Oh yeah – interactivity. Did you know there’s an entrance ramp set up where you can pick a wrestlers theme music and then do their entrance? Because there was, and Vin talked me into doing it.
Despite being a big Cena fan, I just didn’t have the energy to do his. So I opted for the Big Show:
And Then The Trip Got Better:
MATCHING WRESTLEMANIA TATTOOS:
Yeah. We’re cool.
With that, it was onto WRESTLEMANIA itself. And my god – what a night.
We actually had the option of going to a suite that my friend Mike offered me, but we decided to stay in our seats as we wanted to be a part of the crowd. This was just an unreal atmosphere, and we were going absolutely nuts for every match. I won’t bore you with my thoughts on Mania except to say I loved pretty much everything about it. I especially loved Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus because of what would take place the very next night. The crowd for Rock/Cena and Undertaker/HHH was just unreal, and the noise level when Undertaker kicked out after the Superkick/Pedigree combo was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard in my life. And I’ve attended two live births!
Also props to Vin. There were two 8 year olds sitting in front of us, one of whom was a Rock fan. He kept looking back at us when we’d cheer on Cena like crazy. When Cena won the test of strength over the Rock, Vin yelled at the kid who turned around, and Vin did the “You Can’t See Me” to the kid. Yes, this really was a special night.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
Because immediately after Wrestlemania, Mick Foley texted me to say he hoped I was having fun. Immediately after Wrestlemania, Mick Foley texted me!
A magical moment just got…uh, magicaller?
The bus trip back to the hotel was entertaining too. We had one guy behind us who was all mad because apparently the “plan” was for Brock Lesnar and Batista to show up, and then tag team against The Rock and John Cena. And this guy was MAD it didn’t happen.
Wrestling fans never fail to amaze me.
We went back to the hotel, and Drew McIntyre was standing in front of us. He’s a Glasgow Rangers fan and I was wearing my Rangers top, so I clapped him on the shoulder rather hard and told him to “check out the top”. He didn’t look too impressed…and I’d later find out he hurt his shoulder at Wrestlemania. The very same shoulder I was slapping like a mad man. Ooops.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
We couldn’t sleep after Mania. We were up for about 3 hours in the hotel room just marking out like crazy. At one point I went down for a smoke. In the elevator was Jim Duggan and a few other people. Hacksaw was telling a story to the FCW guys, and I was listening intently. So intently, I didn’t realize who was standing next to me. As the elevator stopped, the guy beside me slapped me on the shoulder, said “Nice Shirt” and got out the elavator.
That guy? Oh just ROWDY RODDY PIPER.
Life = Complete.
Monday, April 3rd:
As you can tell – this has already been the dream vacation. Yet it’s about to get better – because we were going to lunch with 4 Divas in Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, and the Bella Twins.
Now I’ll be honest – this was the one part of the weekend I was nervous about. I wasn’t sure how the lunch would go, if there would be lots of awkward silences or anything like that – but I have to say, man – one of the best parts of the weekend, if not the best. It was amazing just how down to earth the Divas were. These weren’t just 4 beautiful women who happened to be Divas – these were 4 wrestling fans who happened to be Divas.
I did feel a bit bad though. The Divas were dressed up and looked BEAUTIFUL – hell even Vin threw on a dress shirt. Me? Inspector Gadget t-shirt and combat shorts:
And yeah, I’m totally hover handing in that last picture. Hey, you try having Brie Bella touch your nipple and not make a complete fool of yourself! It was all I could do to stand up.
Thankfully, I was actually TIED for the Slammy winner for worst dressed, when Mick Foley joined us at lunch wearing a tye die shirt, and a tan suit jacket over it. Thanks for taking one for the team Mick
Now Vin had already put his foot in it with Sheamus, and I knew I was going to do the exact same thing too – it was destiny. Sure enough: when Mick Foley came in and sat down, he asked how things were going. Beth said that the Divas were busy giving us all the scoops. Mick asked what secrets they were telling us, and I suavely replied: “Don’t worry Mick – I’m sending everything they tell us to Dave Meltzer.”
Most Awkward Silence in the World.
It was a fantastic lunch though, and as I said the Divas were so down to earth. We chatted about so many things – we showed each other our tattoos, we talked about Mania – the whole experience was just unreal.
After lunch with the Divas(I love just casually saying that), we went out and met up with the Edmonton team for some pre-RAW beers. Then we went to RAW which was just the most amazing night ever. Due to Daniel Bryan losing to Sheamus in 18 seconds this crowd was LIVID. Every few seconds the crowd would just be chanting “YES! YES! YES!” like crazy. Even better was that they worked it into the show. During a CM Punk vs Mark Henry match, it was “YES!” every time CM Punk was on offense, and “NO!” every time Henry was on offense. When Alberto Del Rio came out, the chant changed to “SI! SI! SI!”.
RAW itself was just….wow. Best RAW I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to some amazing RAWs. The crowd were absolutely unreal and totally made RAW. I remember once hearing Al Snow talk about how he “literally” wanted the fans to bust a nut during a show. I always thought he meant figuratevely. Then Brock Lesnar came out, and I knew exactly what he meant.
I really can’t think of enough superlatives to describe that moment.
And Then The Trip Got Better:
Yes, one more time the Trip would get better. Post-RAW we met up with the Edmonton Team and decided to hit up a bar. Any thoughts of the night going smoothly went out the window when our beers took 10 minutes, so they brought us a round of free shots.
But it’s not the free shots that made it better – it was the fact that there was 5 of us in that bar, and about 100 other people who we doubt were wrestling fans – and numerous times we managed to get the WHOLE BAR to chant “YES! YES! YES!” with us.
It was the Perfect end to the Perfect weekend.
Final Wrestlemania Trip Report Thoughts:
This really was the best weekend of my life. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget as long as I live. I would to thank Mick Foley not just for making it happen, but just how damn good he made it! People run these types of contests just for the sake of earning money for their charity – which isn’t a bad thing – but you could tell that Mick didn’t just want to earn money for RAINN, he wanted to give the winners the best time of their lives. You can relax now Mick – you accomplished your goal
I also want to give the biggest shoutout to RAINN. Specifically, I want to mention Chelsea and Alyssa. These two did such a phenomenal job at taking care of everything. The organization of the trip was amazing, and they were practically there at my beck and call to make sure nothing could go wrong. These are two people who love their jobs, and I want to thank them so much for making everything run smoothly.
Thanks to everyone else for participating in the best time of my life. David Otunga, Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Manners, Grizz, Eamon, Drago, Sgt Slaughter, that McGillicutty guy, and all the other wrestlers who, just being in their presence, made the experience that more amazing.
Last but certainly not least – thanks to my wife, Janise. I know some guys wives who won’t even let them go out for a couple of beers on a Saturday night. Janise came home from University, I said “In 14 days I’m flying to Miami with Vin for Wrestlemania and we’re going to have lunch with 4 Divas!” and she was totally cool with it. Respect.
I’m sure this won’t be the last Wrestlemania I attend, but it will ALWAYS be the best. Now I just need to convince my son to become a wrestling fan and use that as an excuse to attend the future shows and I’ll be set. This John Cena t-shirt I bought him should be a good start:
Although his opinion of “John Cena sucks more than Justin Bieber” will have to change before I bring him along.
Now if you excuse me, I’m off to delete Mick Foleys cellphone # from my phone before I drunk text him…
(Note: If you enjoyed reading this article please take a second to make a contribution to RAINN. Every donation helps no matter how small, and this is a charity that truly deserves it.)