March 23, 2008
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
With the exception of Wrestlemania 22 in Chicago in 2006, I have traveled to every Wrestlemania since number 18 in Toronto. However, this year, Orlando will be a place without Jason Clevett, for a variety of reasons. Although I decided a long time ago to not partake in the festivities, come this week, I am certainly missing it.
The funny thing is, it's not Wrestlemania itself that I am missing. Sure, when I watch it on pay-per-view part of me will wish I was there, but really this year's line up isnít doing a heck of a lot for me. Having attended five already, the name Wrestlemania doesnít hold the magic it did for me in the past.
Instead, what I miss is everything that goes into Wrestlemania week. With Wrestlemania frequently in touristy towns, Iíve taken advantage of the opportunity to visit zoos, aquariums, Broadway shows, and other tourist attractions while visiting cities. Orlando is one of the top tourism destinations in the world, and while my wallet certainly wouldnít be happy, I do regret missing out on Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Gatorland and various other attractions.
For a wrestling fan, Mania weekend is stacked. In addition to WWE related activities such as Fan Axxess and the Hall of Fame, Orlando will have TNA and Ring of Honor shows. Having the top three promotions in North America, all in one city, is unheard of. On my last three Wrestlemania trips, the Ring of Honor (and PWG in L.A.) events were actually more of a highlight than Mania itself, especially from a in-ring standpoint. It is amazing the difference between seeing wrestlers only feet away in a small intimate venue, and the same weekend being with 50,000-80,000 people. While the view of the mass of humanity at Toronto's SkyDome and Detroit's Ford Field certainly stands out in my mind, I love the intensity of being with a vocal, rabid crowd for a company like ROH. I encourage anyone in Orlando over Mania weekend to check out Ring of Honorís events.
TNA has the opportunity to attract fans that have never seen their show live, and that is probably one of my biggest regrets about not going this year. Seeing a live TNA event is a goal of mine, and the company should try and pull off something special for their first live IMPACT and subsequent tapings. Spending a day at Universal Studios and taking in TNA sounds like a good way to spend your time to me.
But what I miss most is the connection you form with fellow wrestling fans. I remember in Seattle, everywhere you looked people were sporting wrestling T-shirts. It was like we all had a bond and wrestling was a frequent topic of discussion. My first two trips were with one of my best friends Wes. We had both dreamed of attending a Wrestlemania together someday, and while Wrestlemania 18 wasnít great from an in-ring standpoint, it will long be special because two guys who had talked about going to Wrestlemania since they were 17 finally achieved that goal.
I have made friendships that last to this day, including my roommate at the hostel in New York City I stayed at for Wrestlemania 20. Clad in a Steve Austin t-shirt the first night I met him, I hit it off with Stefan Torngren of Sweden instantly. Last year we both were in Detroit and hung out again for the day prior to attending the ROH show. Wrestling-Onlineís editor Colin Vassalo and I met in person for the first time in Seattle, and again the next year in New York City, along with fellow W-O contributor Ian Hamilton. That New York City trip is probably my favorite among my Mania journeys, and they were a big reason why. It seems like since 2004 we have alternated -- I went to L.A. and Detroit while Colin skipped those years but went to Chicago and is heading to Orlando. As Colin is from Malta, and Ian from England, I donít get the chance to see them very often. Missing the chance to try and understand what the heck is coming out of their mouths when they talk is one of the things I am most sad about. You literally meet people from around the world.
And of course, I can not forget my fellow SLAM! Wrestling staff. In Detroit last year I met up with Ryan Nation, Mike Mastrandrea, Matt Mackinder and Bob Kapur. Seeing these guys who love wrestling enough to write about it, just like me, is something I donít get to do often again because of distances. Missing out on the chance to hang out with my mentor and friend Greg Oliver in Chicago is something I definitely regret. This year, Kapur and Mastrandrea again will be in Orlando along with Nick Tylwalk, and I wish I was joining them because they are all awesome people.
That is what makes Wrestlemania week special. The event itself seems insignificant when compared to the people you interact with, whether it be wrestlers at the hotel, at the shows, or your fellow fans. Those five trips remain some of my favorite times of my life. I am positive I havenít gone to my last Wrestlemania, and those memories are the reason why.
It just wonít be in Orlando this year.
So for those, friends and strangers, who are going to the Sunshine state this week, I wish you the best of times, and I hope you make as many great Wrestlemania week memories as I have.
Jason Clevett will be spending quality time with his bearded dragons rather than tanning in Orlando this year.