Sunday, April 10, 2016

WrestleMania XXIV Weekend

This was originally posted in 2008 on a Facebook note, thought I would re-share it here.

UXW, HOF & WM 24: My Weekend in Orlando

April 7, 2008 at 9:46pm
My WrestleMania Weekend:

This year my buddies Jay, Rood, and myself made the journey to Orlando from Maine for WrestleMania XXIV. We bought packages back in June of 2007 based on the rumor that Ric Flair was going to retire at Mania and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. As we all know that indeed did happen. It was a bittersweet moment as I was glad to be there for Flair’s last match and Hall of Fame induction, however, deeply saddened that he has retired. I realize it was inevitable, but it’s still sad. More on that later.

We bought the silver packages at $641 each for triple occupancy which included 3 nights lodging at The Doubletree Hotel at the entrance to Universal Studios, Midday Madness Meet & Greet, Exclusive Souvenirs, 2 day pass to Universal Studios, ticket to the Hall of Fame, and ticket to WrestleMania XXIV. We bought an additional night’s lodging at $165 and flew in on Thursday instead. I’m glad we did because it was mad house on Friday with huge lines and long waits.

Thursday was all about getting down there and getting our room. Nice non-stop flight from Portland to Orlando on Jet Blue. Took just under 3 hours to get there. We rented a 2008 Toyota Highlander SUV, it had a sun roof. Driving down the highway to the Doubletree in 80 degree weather with the windows down and sunroof open was like heaven compared to the 40 degree weather we left in Maine.

The hotel was spectacular! Our room was nice, a corner room on the 4th floor with 2 queen beds and a pull out couch. When you check in they give you warmed cookies as a way to make you feel at home. The hotel had Direct TV and didn’t carry Spike TV so we couldn’t watch Impact Thursday. We did walk over to TGI Fridays for dinner, which was pretty good.

Friday started out good as Rood and I took an early morning trip to the grocery store to keep some soda in the room and buffet breakfast at Ponderosa. WWE was slated to start handing out the travel packages at noon, so we got inline just before 9am, they didn’t start until near 12:30. We figured better to wait before than to wait after: glad we did because by noon time the line was huge and we would have waited a hell of a lot longer on the other end.

Once we got our packages, all I cared about was where were my WrestleMania seats? We ended up with Section 109, Row A, seats 30, 31 &, 32. For Hall of Fame we got section 112, Row B seats 14, 15 &, 16. Both sets of tickets turned out to be spectacular seating. We also got our tickets to Midday Madness, Programs, and the Exclusive Souvenirs was a leather bound photo album with the WM 24 logo on the front that holds 36 photos, and a 5 X 7 black picture from with the WM 24 Logo on the top and date and location on the bottom. Both very nice. I was very unhappy with the program though. It wasn’t anything special and I could have purchased it at the Smackdown!/ECW house show in Bangor, ME the previous July. It was old and outdated, not to mention highlighted several wrestlers that were no longer in WWE. (While waiting inline I made friends with several blokes from the UK that I am still Facebook friends with to this day)

One of the blokes, Chris with Lillian Garcia, he was lucky enough to be in the other room, you'll read more about that later.
 We decided to go to Universal and check out Fan Axxess and possible get into the TNA taping which was advertised to be at 5pm. We had no problem using to passes from WWE included in the packages and got right into Universal. Fan Axxess was kind of lame. There was a trivia area, get your photo with a replica of the spinner belt; make your own entrance to a select list of WWE entrance music, and an autograph session. There was also some TV’s set up playing clips of matches with merchandise not for sale in glass cases underneath.

The signing line was huge and the people signing while we were there was Victoria, Jesse & Festus, and Armando. Festus stayed in character with a blank stare with his tongue sticking out.

I went over and stood inline for TNA, and let me just say it was an experience I could have done without. Eventually staff set up the waiting area in 3 sections, VIP, wheelchair accessible, and General Admission. I got inline around 2 and told my friends to come back for 3 and we would switch off. With a 5pm taping it was listed that doors would open at 4pm. There was no resemblance of a line, just a mob of people that squeezed in closer and closer to the front guardrails.

The crew at the front of the VIP line were clearly TNA regulars and went out of their way to verbally bash anyone wearing a WWE t-shirt including one guy that was extremely loud and overbearing getting in anyone face that was younger than him and screaming obnoxiously that "we like real wrestling, not entertainment!" Not to be outdone there were a few WWE faithfuls that compared TNA to WCW and were just as obnoxious. The combination of this childish behavior, heat, and the fact they pushed the start of TNA back to 7pm made me leave the mob and forget about going to Impact.

On a side note, Don West came out and signed autographs and took pictures with the fans as did Earl Hebner. Several others walked by but didn’t come down including; Brother D-Von, Frankie Kazarian, Christian, and David Penzer.

It was a beautiful day at Universal, extremely hot though. If you get a chance to go you need to check out Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue, it’s great! At the NASCAR Grill for supper they put Smackdown! On the big screens. Periodically an employee gets on the PA system and tells everyone what is on the TV’s. He kept calling Smackdown! WrestleMania.

Saturday we had Midday Madness, which started at 9am. We got inline at 7am and were close to the front. Good thing because words can’t describe the length of the line. It wrapped around the ballroom so much that at one point the end of the line was by the front of the line, until it curled back towards the other side of the ballroom again. (While waiting in line I made friends Meagan and Sandra from Quebec.  Meagan and I would go on to write emails talking about wrestling for several years and are facebook friends to this day.)

Sandra and Meagan, photo is from them at WWE Breaking Point 9/13/2009 Montreal
Once the event started the brought us down a hallway and funneled us into a room. In the room was The Coach walking down the line the and doing autographs and photos and talking to the fans, Big Show & Mark Henry were sitting in chairs at the front of the line where you got to pose for a very fancy Polaroid picture, then around to the other side of the room to Nunzio, Ashley, Melina, and Santino Morella. Everyone was real nice and talked took whatever time was available to talk to the fans. Especially Big Show, who didn’t stop talking the whole time, on the other hand Mark Henry didn’t say one word.

Rood with The Coach
We get out of that room and next door is Edge & Chavo doing Polaroid pictures, Lillian Garcia is working the crowd, and at the table signing is Snitsky, Victoria, William Regal and Kofi Kingston. We tried to go in there but we were stopped and told no, we went in the other room so we can’t go in this one. Come to find out there are three rooms all set up the same way, you can’t choose which room you go into it is randomly selected for you. I have no idea who was in the 3rd room, but I feel cheated. Edge & Chavo had their belts, and I’m a huge fan of Regal and would have loved to have meet him.

We left the hotel dejected and had brunch at Cracker Barrel, they have spectacular thick cut bacon. We then made our way to the Central Florida Fairgrounds for the UXW show. UXW has been around a few years, they’ve run shows in New York and Florida since 2001. Also at the Fairgrounds that day was a flea market, that opens at 4am!, a gem & mineral show, and a gun show.

The venue for the show was neat; it had a roof but sported and open air concept and was right next to a small lake so a nice breeze rolled through the building during the event. A nice looking spring steal ring sat in the middle on the venue on a dusty concrete floor surrounded by metal guard rails and wooden folding chairs. It was $30 for Front Row and $20 General Admission. Jake "The Snake" Roberts was out selling photos, signing autographs, and taking pictures. Also milling around was Big Vito or Skull Von Krush, Ralphus – former head of Jericho’s security in WCW, and eventually Abdullah the Butcher. Abbie would not personalize any autographs at all; his handler stated it was because of previously signed contracts he was not allowed to, whatever. The advertised talent that wasn’t there was Steve Corino, Disco Inferno and Demolition Ax & Smash.

Jake wasn’t in the best of shape and wrestled in Pink Floyd Pajama Pants. Health wise he looked good, and appeared to be sober. He cut a good promo and his match wasn’t a squash, it was actually competitive and ended with the DDT, Jake had a 10 foot python that he threw out scaring a few at ringside.

The semi-main event was AWA World Tag Team Champions: The Heartbreak Express: Sean & Phil Davis with Amy Vitale defeated Jon Davis & Bruce Santee in a wild and bloody 2 out of 3 falls match. Fall 1 HBX pinned Jon Davis. Fall 2 Santee & Jon Davis made Sean submit. The final fall last man standing, Jon Davis was unable to answer the 10 count after getting a fireball thrown into his eyes.

Jon Davis had the back of his head busted open and the blood gushed from the wound, rumor was he lost 4 pints of blood. Rumor or not, paramedics were called in to attend to him and he was transported to the hospital.  Later on I read on line in an interview he did that he had 13 staples to close the wound.

After returning to the room to freshen up we made out way to Amway Arena for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. We had to park nearby for $10 and walk a short distance to the building. We had great seats in the second row of section 112 diagonal from the stage.

The Rock came out first, and did a great job pumping the crowd up. His mother spoke from the heart when inducting her father, High Chief Peter Miavia, and the crowd became quite emotional.

Ric Flair spoke for close to an hour and a half, and would have gone on longer but was wrapped up by the production people. He had the crowd and all the wrestlers in tears as he spoke about his career and his thoughts on his peers in the wrestling business. He thanked everyone on the production crew by name and stated that Ricky Steamboat was his greatest opponent ever. I can’t do him justice you need to see the complete and unedited speech that will be on the WrestleMania XXIV DVD.

After the Hall of Fame we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Whataburger then retired for the evening. Whataburger is a small fast food chain located in the southeast that specializes in burgers. Their big thing is their mustard sauce, it’s pretty good.

On the way to Whataburger Jay asked us to drop him at the hotel because he wanted to go to the bar.  Now we were driving on a divided highway that had 4 lanes both ways.  To get to Whataburger we had to drive a short distance past the hotel, take a left at the traffic light, drive for 1/2 mile and we would be there, so we were less than 5 minutes away.  To drop Jay at the hotel an go to Whataburger would have been over 20 minutes.  So I told Jay no and he could wait.  Well he started acting like a child and I got annoyed so when we were in front of the hotel I slammed on the brakes and told him the get out.  Next thing Rood and I knew Jay was out of the Highlander, jumping the cement divided and dodging 4 lanes of 70 mph traffic!

Sunday was finally here, and WrestleMania XXIV was upon us. We got ready and stopped off at Hooters for lunch. Rood loves the Hot Chicken Wings. They have deep fried pickles, not spears but chip cut, and they are wicked addictive!

We got to the Citrus Bowl and are pre-paid parking area around 1:30pm. It was a very short jaunt across a playground to the stadium. There were vendors outside selling beer and food, including a foot long corn dog. Also official WWE Shop Zone stands, I ended up getting a WrestleMania XXIV T-shirt and program. Program is real nice, much better than last years left over’s they gave us in our package deal.  The cover was the WrestleMania XXIV logo and inside highlighted the matches taking place that day plus a Hall of Fame section.  A very nice souvenir of the day.

We got into the Fan Axxess they had set up, but it was nothing worth looking at. We brought our stuff back to the truck and relaxed in the air conditioning of the Toyota Highlander for a while.

Hung out with a few guys waiting to get into the Citrus Bowl and watch the goings on around us. Teddy Hart was standing around drinking a beer being filmed and filming fans for an unknown reason. Also a couple of other crews were their filming for various reasons. One person said they were making a documentary.  Jay was filmed in all his heavily buzzed glory doing his best Ric Flair impersonation.

I think one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend is meeting other wrestling fans, mostly while standing around waiting. For instance the guys we met waiting to get in to the Citrus Bowl were from the Carolina’s I believe, and were pretty cool. Waiting to pick up our Mania packages meet a Rick and Chris from the UK and a few their friends, one sporting a vampire like complexion. At midday madness hooked up with a few people from California, a guy from Australia on the Great American Vacation, and Meagan & Sandra from Montreal. Everyone was real nice and the one big thing we had in common is our love for wrestling and the spectacle that is WrestleMania!

The event itself was in a word; phenomenal! We got into the Citrus Bowl and after a stop at the head made out way to our seats. I cannot complain at all. We had the front row, aisle, in the first section off the field. Spectacular view of the ring, and unless someone put a sign up, had no problems seeing anything.

The set and entrance way was monstrous and the arena was decorated all over from top to bottom with WrestleMania banners and flags. Over the ring was a structure that would keep the ring dry if it really rained and eights "legs" came down to the ground with LED lights all down them. Having no roof on the stadium made for spectacular fireworks displays and the weather held off. Although cloudy with two passing sprinkles, it couldn’t have been more beautiful. Short and t-shirt weather and a constant breeze made it such a comfortable evening.

Show kicked off at 6:30 with a 24 Man Battle Royal that Kane won. He went on later to face Chavo Guerrero for the ECW Championship, more on that later. At 7pm the PPV telecast began with a fly over and then John Legend singing America the Beautiful.

Opening contest saw JBL defeat Finlay with Hornswoggle in a Belfast Brawl. CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Shelton Benjamin, & John Morrison in a Money in the Bank ladder match. Matt Hardy ran in and hit MVP with a twist of fate off the ladder. Batista pinned Umaga in a battle of brand supremacy. Kane pinned ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero in 8 seconds to win the title. Shawn Michaels pinned "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in a career threatening match forcing Flair to retire. Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix & Melina defeated Maria & Ashley in a BunnyMania lumberjack match. Snoop Dog was the master of ceremonies. WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated Triple H & John Cena to retain the title. Floyd Mayweather defeated The Big Show by knock out. Undertaker pinned World Champion Edge to win the title.

It was a great show from beginning to end with the crowd, and myself, getting very emotional when Ric Flair lost. I honestly don’t see how you couldn’t. Also it was a surreal moment after Michaels pinned Flair the crowd was silent. It’s almost as if everyone was in stunned silence while Michaels walked back to the dressing room. Once his music stopped and Flair got up the crowd started responding with a huge ovation for Flair. I can’t wait to see this on DVD to see how it came across on the PPV. I felt bad for the ladies match having to follow Flairs retirement. Emotionally I wasn’t into it, and I don’t think most of the crowd was either.

After the Flair match Jay said he was going go get a drink, when he didn't come back I checked my phone and found a text message stating that he had seen what he came to see and had taken a cab back to the hotel.  Rood and I couldn't believe that he didn't stay for the whole event!.

When the show was over we got to our rental pretty quick and managed to zip out onto main roads before the major flow. I avoided I-4 and took side roads everywhere during the weekend. I saw and heard about others being stuck in gridlock and am glad I know how to look at a map and have a good sense of direction.

Monday brought the end of our journey as our noon flight got us home in Maine by 3pm. I ’m sad that Ric Flair has retired, I realize at 59 years old it was inevitable, but I’m glad I got to be there for his final match.

Of course we all know that Flair returned to wrestling doing a tour in Australia jobbing to Hogan and then did a stint in TNA with his last match being September 12, 2011 in Orlando again this time at the impact zone losing to Sting via submission.

Also I, apparently, posted a blog about this on my non-wrestling blog back before I started The Wrestling Insomniac, you can read that here:

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Later Readers!

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