This Sunday is Wrestlemania XXX and the once in a year event when it once again becomes cool to like wrestling.
Wrestling might not currently be at the height of its popularity. It may not quite cross over into the mainstream like it initially did in the 1980’s with the “Rock N’ Wrestling” era, or it did in the late 90’s with the Monday Night Wars, but mention Wrestlemania to someone and the chances are they it will still resonate with them.
There is something about Wrestlemania that still manages to capture the attention of the casual fans. You can go all year without seeing anyone of your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter timeline without anyone mentioning anything about wrestling, but come Wrestlemania season, it seems as if every other post is about it in some way. Some people only watch it once a year and have no real idea of the storylines that are going on, but even so, still make sure that they will be watching the “Showcase of the Immortals”.
Everyone has their own moment that they remember from their childhood. It could be watching Hulk Hogan slamming Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania 3. It could be watching the Mega Powers of Hogan and Randy Savage explode at Wrestlemania 5. It could be watching Shawn Michael’s boyhood dream come true at Wrestlemania 12, Stone Cold Steve Austin selling his soul to win the WWE title at Wrestlemania 17 or the Rock returning at Wrestlemania 27.
Ever since Wrestlemania 1, the WWE have tried to make Wrestlemania more than just a wrestling event and for the most part have succeeded in the aim of making it a cultural phenomenon. Mr T, at the height of his A-Team fame was involved in the main event of the first Wrestlemania with Muhammed Ali the referee for that match, with celebrity involvement since them becoming the norm.
At the height of their fame as well, Pamela Anderson, Mickey Rourke, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pete Rose, Cyndi Lauper, Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian and even Snooki have all had featured roles at Wrestlemania, allowing that cross-over appeal to the general public that would get them invested in the show. If their favourite celebrity is willing to endorse the product, then it must be worth watching.
Wrestlemania 23 has the highest buy rate of any wrestling PPV in history. One of the reasons for this was the featured role that Donald Trump played, being involved in a match with WWE owner Vince McMahon in which the loser of the match would get their head shaved. The involvement of a well-known name drew people into watch the show and people were willing to spend their money on the chance of watching a billionaire get their head shaved live.
Even now, wrestling still can cross-over into the public consciousness. Everyone knows who Hulk Hogan and the Rock are. But even the smaller and lesser known wrestlers can find themselves thrust into the public.
Fandango’s theme tune made its way into the UK top 10 iTunes chart last year. Total Divas on the E! gets some of the networks highest ratings. While Daniel Bryan’s “Yes Movement” has certainly crossed into sport arenas around the US with fans often chanting “yes” with the hands pointed in the air. John Cena’s “You can’t see me” gesture has become a favourite of footballers celebrating goals.
It might not necessarily be the case that it is cool to like wrestling, nor will many people admit to doing so, but the recognition value still exists.
Last year’s event in Miami generated $103 million for the local area. Similar predictions are forecast for this weekend’s event in New Orleans. Around one million people are likely to buy the event on PPV, with a significant number of them from the UK. Around 100,000 people watch WWE programming in the UK each week.If you see a steel chair lying around in any room, the first instinct of a lot of people is to pick it up and pretend to hit someone with it.
The criticism that wrestling gets is that it is fake. The terms that instead should be are staged, scripted and written for the entertainment of the viewer. Not for a long time has it tried to portray itself as real.
Wrestling is marketed as being Sports Entertainment. Wrestlemania is the ultimate version of that.
And when 70,000 plus people are all chanting “yes” when Daniel Bryan presumably overcomes the odds and wins the WWE World Heavyweight title, it will be a spectacle and a powerful moment.
But most of all, those in attendance and those watching at home, will have been entertained. And that is surely all you can ask for.