The Granddaddy of them all. Wrestlemania.
I’ll start this off by stating how special this year’s ‘Mania was for me, mainly because my favorite wrestler ever, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, had such a huge imprint on the event.
Wrestlemania IV in 1988 took place in Atlantic City, NJ, not even 90 minutes from my childhood home in Philadelphia. We had plans to attend, but tickets were sold out, so the Spectrum — the local basketball stadium — had decided to open the stadium up and broadcast Wrestlemania on the JumboTron for a small fee. I was so excited, I had to go. My mother agreed and took my cousin Howie and me to South Philly for my first Wrestlemania moment. I bought a Macho Man poster, a foam finger, and a program.
At that event, my guy, The Macho Man, came out victorious, the winner of a 14-man tournament to capture his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Hoarse from all the yelling, I came home and looked at that Macho Man poster and foam finger, like I did every day of his 371-day reign as champ shouting his trademark phrase “OOOH YEAH!”
This year, almost four years after his death, The Macho Man was inducted into the Hall of Fame after many years of personal beefs and feuds, by his brother. I wasn’t able to make the HOF Induction Ceremony, but just watching it on the Network got me emotional. It was a great moment for wrestling fans worldwide.
So when my good friend, WWE Superstar and NPC Collective member Xavier Woods (Austin Watson) hit me up and said “Hey I know this is last minute, but do you wanna go to Mania this weekend?,” I had to break out the classic growl and respond like Macho would have…
I arrived in San Jose the morning of Sunday March 29, and it looked like any other day… it truly was the calm before the storm. A few fans with AUSTIN 3:16 and YOU CAN’T SEE ME shirts walked around downtown, but things were pretty chill for the most part. I got a call from Xavier’s fam, stating they’d pick me up to come to the hotel. The Superstars hotel. This is when it got wild.
The Baymont Hotel in San Jose was locked down like Fort Knox. No one got in or out without being cleared. A gathering of fans outside were behind a guardrail, some with signs. It was madness.
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a lifes ize chocolate WWE Championship belt. Not to eat, just there. Pretty awesome. As we walked to the elevator, I saw a few of my childhood heroes, and I knew this was for real. Ron Simmons, Ted DiBiase, Roddy Piper, Jake “The Snake” Roberts.. just walking by, drinking, talking, chillin’. It was getting real.
WWE staff handed us a blue “friends and family” wristband that would enable us to get onto a special charter bus that was escorted by the San Jose Police to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Insane. Out seats were pretty kick-ass, but more so was the action. You guys know the results of the matches, and I’m not here to give up trade secrets, but I want to mention a few cool things I noticed during the action.
Right before The New Day (Xavier’s faction)’s match, and the Battle Royal, a WWE employee came to our section and said, “are you guys Austin’s guests?” She then invited two of us to go ringside for the match. SICK. Austin’s girl Jess got some AMAZING pics:
A few in-show notes:
- We sat next to a HUGE Samoan contingent, including the Wild Samoans and what seemed like 1,000 of their closest family members, all either rocking Roman Reigns or R.I.P. Yokozuna shirts. The Samoan Dynasty was in effect, believe that.
- I literally jumped out of my seat 4 times: the powerbomb onto the ladder by Luke Harper to Dean Ambrose. the RKO on Seth Rollins, the NWO vs DX showdown, and when Rollins came down to cash in his Money in the Bank.
- It got pretty cold by the end, and I’d forgotten my jacket, so I sat inside the lounge and watched the main event, so the live crowd missed Brock saying “Suplex City b*tch,” so that was worth watching the replay for, ha.
- You probably knew this, but these dudes are BIG. I mean, even the “small guys.” Big.
But the true party started AFTER the event. We returned to the hotel to get fancy and picked up white wristbands that said “Wrestlemania After-Party.”
At the banquet hall, I probably got jitters for the first time in my life, outside of a stage performance. I felt like an 11 year old at the Spectrum all over again… except these guys weren’t on the JumboTron, they were right in front of me. As soon as we walked in, I saw Booker T. Then Mark Henry, then Paige, then Ric Flair. The only way I could loosen up was with an adult beverage, so I did that. My goodness.
After a few more drinks, I was finally calm enough to interact with folks, and I did it the best way I knew how, through music. I went to the DJ booth and noticed it was Peter Rosenberg, Hot 97 DJ and wrestling enthusiast. I talked to him a bit about the music and the vibe in there, and later he threw on some classic party jams that got the whole place going.
There’s one party dance I can work with, and that’s the Cha Cha Slide. So once that hit, about 100 people packed the dance floor, myself included. By the time it was over, I looked on the floor and spotted guys like Randy Orton, Jerry Lawler, Sasha Banks, and even Norman Smiley, getting down and having a blast. It was beyond surreal to see these larger-than-life figures just having fun and unwinding, like regular folks. Insanity.
Eventually Austin introduced me to some of his friends from NXT, and we had some great talks, and a few more drinks. I saw a camera flash behind me and it was Lilian Garcia, the ring announcer, taking a gentleman around by the hand and taking photos with him and every Superstar she spotted. She eventually tapped me and had me take a pic of her with a few Superstars, and I had to ask myself, “Is this my life?”
But Lilian’s enthusiasm and photo flashes gave me the guts to try to take some photos myself. I didn’t want to be “that guy” but I figured everyone was appropriately loose, and what are the odds that I’d be in this situation again in my life? So, I decided to ask for some photos. Everyone (except one guy who refused, I won’t say who, but it wasn’t much of a shocker) was extremely happy to take a photo and chat with some unknown dude with funny hair. It was insane. Scott Hall, DDP, Roman Reigns, Roddy Piper, Rusev… even Bret the Hitman Hart. All out of character and in the moment.
DDP told me a brief story about his experiences with Chicken and Waffles (hint: none), then plugged DDP Yoga, of course. He told me “put your left hand up, kid,” as we joined forces for a Diamond Cutter hand gesture on camera.
And that’s truly what I was at that moment. I was a kid. An 11 year old watching my heroes, and people who do things I could only dream of. People tell me I’m inspiring sometimes, so it’s great to be able to see other inspirations, and right in front of you, living and being.
I watched Bret Hart talk to Roman Reigns for at least 20 minutes… I just sat and watched it… man I would’ve loved to know what that conversation was about, but it was enough just being in the room. Big E told me about him, Kofi, and Austin’s weird interactions with some of my favorite rappers… I mean, this was the most outrageous thing I’ve ever experienced.
Austin and the NXT guys gave me the best advice in there. I asked if they ever get nervous around these mega-stars, and they said “all the time.” But the secret is to never show it. You’re one of the guys, you act like it. They said you learn really early in the business how to channel emotion. My friend and WWE/NXT referee Jason Ayers said:
“Butterflies are normal, nothing wrong with them, you just gotta figure out how to get them all to fly in the same direction.”
I have to thank Xavier Woods and his family for inviting me into their world… it was such an experience. I think it truly was the best day of my life, outside of any show I’ve performed. It was cool being the 7,000th most important person in a room… No pressure. I was able to enjoy this as a fan. This was the greatest thing I’ve ever gotten to experience. The wrestling action was amazing. Their feats make me believe they’re superhuman… But seeing these men and women as human beings was something that I’ll never forget, and gives me such a better perspective on life, love, fame, and business that I think will make me a better person and musician.
Might be time to get a new Macho Man poster. “OOOOH YEAH.”