WrestleMania Is The Super Bowl Of Wrestling

Basil Devito Jr.

WrestleMania 1: Madison Square Garden, New York City, March 31, 1985, attendance 19,121. Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace, and Wendi Richter.

They were the entertainment and stars.

A blond haired superhuman known as Hulk Hogan rose to fame with “Hulkamania.” And the innovation of Vince McMahon was a financial risk with closed circuit viewing at theaters.

McMahon believed this would become an annual April event of sports entertainment and always a highlight of the year for his World Wrestling Federation. WrestleMania became the McMahon and now WWE legacy. Many said this wouldn’t last and of course they were wrong.

This is the Super Bowl of wrestling, WrestleMania this weekend in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. Two nights over 160,000 rabid fans, the hottest ticket in town. McMahon is entirely out of the picture with WWE due to an ongoing Federal investigation of sexual allegations.

The pro wrestling mastermind who inherited a company from his father (Vince McMahon Sr.) will be remembered for convincing investors to take the risk. Shame, though, the legacy McMahon built is tarnished and those who said there would be one WrestleMania were wrong.

Because here we are WrestleMania XL 40, a concept that went from the indoor venues to outdoor stadiums. One night became two because this was more than an extravaganza. Indeed, McMahon wanted to make this different. The Roman Numeral was another concept identifying this Super Bowl of wrestling.

Every year more than one city in the United States and abroad put in their bids to host the next one. WWE plans a year and sometimes two in advance to stage the next one because WrestleMania is a revenue winner. Philadelphia local tourism officials report their city potentially raking in as much as $200 million. McMahon never envisioned that 40 years after and neither did a wrestling industry revived in 1985 with Hogan, superstars, and of course the celebrities.

But here we are 40 years later and WrestleMania is the most anticipated sports entertainment event on the calendar. Hogan will be there in a celebrity role and Cody Rhodes, son of Hall of Famer Dusty, is expected to become the new champion and official face of the company, now a part of the Endeavor TKO merger. Cody will finish his story after being denied the championship last year as part of the script.

This time, “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson, who made his fame when McMahon saw the potential years ago, is a part of the story and standing in the way with his family known as “The Bloodline.” It’s pure theater but it has always worked leading to WrestleMania. Johnson is also a member of the board of directors of TKO Group Holdings, the parent company of WWE and UFC, a real story and returns to the squared circle to assure that Rhodes does not finish his story.

However, fans won’t be denied, and never are. They say this is the “Grandest Stage of Them All.” “The Showcase of the Immortals.” “The Show of Shows,” and “The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment.” WWE officials of writers, content, and producers will go to work on the next one, a day after they leave Philadelphia as Minneapolis expected to be the host city for WrestleMania XLI.

You can reflect on that first one in 1984 as I often do. Hogan was the American Hero and McMahon had the conception of expanding an audience through a connection to younger fans. A way to do that was with a form of entertainment composed of music, exotic ring entrances, and outfits the talent wore.

It got bigger and more entertaining. Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome (March 28, 1987) an indoor arena attendance record of 93,173 witnessed Hogan overcome and defeat the late Andre the Giant. An event I worked, and the now demolished Silverdome site can still hear that roar of thousands. McMahon always said the next WrestleMania would be bigger and better.

He wasn’t wrong because years after the Silverdome there was that quest to do another outdoor stadium WrestleMania event. Over 101,763 in Arlington (April 3, 2016, Cowboys At&T Stadium), (80,876 at MetLife Stadium (April 7, 2019, East Rutherford NJ), and last year 161,892 for two nights at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The low point was the pandemic year of 2020, no fans at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida,

You ask the wrestlers over the years, as I have many times. They say their goal is to perform at the grandest stage of them all. To get there requires popularity from a loyal fan base known as “The WWE Universe” and of course the proper storyline that develops months before.

From closed circuit to pay-per-view and now streamed on the Peacock Network, all a part of the McMahon legacy. Again, a part of history and sadly no longer mentioned during an entire week of pre-WrestleMania events that also have become a revenue stream to the host city.

And WrestleMania, the predetermined and script spectacular has come a long way with legal bets on the outcomes with major players in that industry. Prior to the attitude era of Hogan and years later who would have envisioned WrestleMania as a premiere sporting event?

Vince McMahon had that vision in 1985. A financial risk with success that continued and now in the hands of others, a major sports entertainment event this time of year. It is the Super Bowl of pro wrestling.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter @Ring786) Facebook,com/Rich Mancuso

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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