Sixty-one minutes ago, Shawn Michaels rode to the ring on a zip line from the top of the Arrowhead Pond to the floor of the Arrowhead pond. The scene is the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. The date is March 31, 1996. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have been wrestling for the last fifty-nine minutes and thirty seconds in the first ever Iron Man match. The crowd is going wild as Bret Hart has Shawn Michaels locked in The Sharpshooter, his finisher which should end the match. However, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels refuses to submit, to give up, and he doesn’t. The bell sounds, and there is no winner. Bret Hart grabs his championship belt, and begins his walk to the locker room. But wait, he match can not end in a draw. The boyhood of dream of Shawn Michaels is still alive, the boyhood dream to win the championship belt.
The match begins again, and Bret Hart is working the back he softened up using The Sharpshooter. Commentators Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler are not positive Shawn Michaels can recover from what he’s endured. But, he does. Michaels delivers his finisher, a kick to the chin known as The Sweet Chin Music, and covers Bret Hart for the win and the title. Vince McMahon enthusiastically yells, ‘The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels.’ Thus culminates a storyline which began months ago and to the satisfaction of millions of fans.
Pro wrestling is not different from your average television drama or comedy. There are various characters, plots and storylines, and there’s a weekly installment of the program. As much as someone gets involved in the weekly going-ons at Dundler-Mifflin, many are as equally involved in the storylines of John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Rey Mysterio Jr. After all, wrestling is considered sports entertainment.
In this world of sports entertainment, a storyline is created. This storyline leads to a feud, and this feud usually culminates in a wrestling match broadcasted on a pay-per-view event. The grand-daddy event of these pay-per-view events, and the WWE world, is an event known as “WrestleMania.” It is an event which saved the company in 1985.
In 1980, Vincent Kennedy McMahon founded Titan Sports Inc. Following that, he purchased the Capitol Wrestling Corporation with the mindset, and goal, to change the wrestling brand as a whole. McMahon began syndicating wrestling events on television. McMahon also began selling video tapes of his promotion, then known as the World Wrestling Federation.
But North America wasn’t enough for Vincent McMahon. McMahon wanted to expand his company to the international market. His father, Vincent J. McMahon, was worried that his son would wind up putting the company out of business. In order to expand internationally, a huge financial investment had to be made, and this financial investment placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse.
However, McMahon had a concept which would save the industry. The concept: “WrestleMania.” McMahon marketed “WrestleMania” as the Super Bowl of pro wrestling. It is a night in which the best wrestlers are facing the best competition. McMahon, though, differentiated the event from similar events showcasing a ‘supercard.’ McMahon invited celebrities such as Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper to the first “WrestleMania”. The event received significant coverage from MTV and was a huge success. Pro wrestling transcended to a whole new level.
In the years since, many celebrities have participated in “WrestleMania.” Some celebrities, such as Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor, Mr. T, and NFL players such as William Perry participated in matches. Celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Ozzy Osbourne, Cyndi Lauper and Alice Cooper have accompanied wrestlers to the ring. The all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, was tombstoned by WWE superstar Kane. Also, Muhammed Ali once participated in the role of special enforcer for the first “WrestleMania”. Donald Trump shaved the head of Vincent McMahon’s during “WrestleMania XXIII.”
“WrestleMania” has also featured various musicians and live performances. Musicians such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Robert Goulet, Willie Nelson, Little Richard and Boyz II Men have performed live during the event.
However, “WrestleMania” has more to offer than celebrity appearances. The event, after all, is about the best wrestlers in the business. Though the results are pre-determined, and though there are storylines that are borderline soap-operish, pro wrestling is a business consisting of wrestlers who have spent years to get where there are. In this sense, the WWE is closer to sports than McMahon’s failed football experiment (the XFL). Wrestlers face a brutal schedule. Though the results are pre-determined, wrestlers sacrifice their bodies and well-being for the sake of the entertainment of the fans.
One viewing of the documentary “Beyond The Mat,” or Darren Aronosfky’s “The Wrestler,” will provide critics with evidence of the actual art and technical side of wrestling.
“WrestleMania,” and pro wrestling as a product, has the ability to evoke the same feelings that ‘real’ sports evoke in fans. Fans have spent years watching their favorite wrestlers on a weekly basis, aware of that particular wrestler’s history, and when a “WrestleMania” culminates in Shawn Michaels winning a championship, a wrestler who has worked his hardest to achieve this, that moment is a genuinely emotional moment.
Late wrestlers Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit had been in the wrestling industry for over fifteen years and neither had won a title. At “WrestleMania” XX, both wrestlers won the championship belt, and embraced in the middle of the ring as confetti fell. It was a moment wrestling fans will never forget despite the circumstances around the death of Chris Benoit.
This Sunday, April 5, “WrestleMania” will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Pro Wrestling’s version of the New England Patriots, the undefeated-at-“WrestleMania” (16-0) Undertaker, will battle “The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels with the goal to improve to 17-0 at “WrestleMania.” Rey Mysterio Jr. will fight J.B.L. for the Intercontinetal championship, and Triple H will fight for the honor of his married-into family, the McMahon family, as he tries to avenge the various times his opponent, Randy Orton, punted his wife, his brother-in-law, and his father-in-law in the head.
The night will be a celebration which forever changed the pro wrestling industry, and the world of sports and entertainment as a whole. So, do not fear to give Vince McMahon fifty of your hard-earned dollars for the pay-per-view event. It will absolutely be worth it.
Chris Monigle is a fourth-year student majoring in Literature. He can be reached at CM660983@wcupa.edu.