By early 2005, I’d been to two WrestleMania events and my bank balance was not looking great. The sensible option would have been to pay off some debt and aim to attend the big show again in 2006. But when WWE announced WrestleMania was going Hollywood, I just had to go. So I dragged my mate Kenny along with me (who had no interest in pro wrestling) and off to LAX we went. After waking up RIDICULOUSLY EARLY at 4:45am, we got on the plane and we were off to Los Angeles. As you’ll see from my travel diaries, I’ve been to various cities across the US and I have to say, LA was the most disappointing place I’ve been to. Areas of the city such as Hollywood and Beverly Hills are so far apart and the public transport is pretty awful. Luckily, I knew a buddy out in LA so I went to hang out with her. She had said she was bringing along her brother. When he ended up being a drag queen, the look of shock on my face was priceless. We then went to a trendy LA club and I fitted in as much as Alundra Blayze would at a McMahon family reunion.
It got to the weekend and the wrestling portion of the trip started with the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Universal Amphitheatre at Universal Studios. In a slight back story, my favourite wrestler of all time is Hulk Hogan. I know he wasn’t a technician in the ring, but nobody has entertainer or got me more excited in wrestling than The Hulkster. When he was announced as the first inductee to the Hall of Fame in LA, I was over the moon. To see your childhood hero get that recognition was amazing. Top that off with Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Hart, Paul Orndorff and others, you have yourself in my eyes, the best Hall of Fame class of all time. As the time approached for the ceremony, I realised I hadn’t packed my suit. With 20 minutes until the ceremony started, we got a cab to stop at a $99 suit store where I bought a suit that looked like it was very popular in 1979, but in 2005 was f***ing awful. We got to the theatre and Bob Orton was sitting down after being inducted. Truth be told, If I had to miss one induction that night, that would have been the one to miss. The ceremony was just a tremendous experience. The Mania 21 DVD is worth it just for the ceremony alone. From The Iron Sheik refusing to leave the stage after his speech, to Ric Flair and Roddy Piper’s great stories, it was a fantastic night where 2,000 fans got to intimately see the cast of WrestleMania 1 get inducted. For Hogan’s induction, WWE went all out and brought out Hulk’s Rocky III co-star Sylvester Stallone to do the honours. The fans in that theatre showed Hogan the respect, cheers and adulation that he deserves for where he helped take the sport of wrestling.
The best part of a WrestleMania trip is waking up on the Sunday morning knowing that you’re going to the biggest show of the year and could witness a match or a moment that could be remembered for years or even decades. My friend Kenny had been suitably educated on who the characters were so he knew what was going on when we got to the show. Outside, fans were rabid, looking forward to a packed card of matches. The set was excellent. From a red curtain covering the titantron to the red carpet leading to the ring, there was an authentic feeling to the show. After a few great matches, Muhammad Hassan came out to interrupt Eugene. In the arena, you immediately knew Hogan would come out. I warned Kenny to put down his Burrito because fans would go insane. He didn’t listen and ended up with burrito over his t-shirt (literally) Watching Hogan beat up some villains and pose to his ‘Real American’ theme was probably my favourite live moment I’ve been a part of. I’ll never forget it. The Undertaker proved he still had it in a great match with Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle had a fantastic match that was like a clinic. The Piper’s Pit with Stone Cold was a lot of fun and the adults in the audience really enjoyed the segment. Batista and Cena won their first World Titles which topped off one of the best WrestleMania’s I’ve experienced. It had everything you could want. Drama, great action, nostalgia, young stars going over and memorable moments. We left the Staples Center buzzing from an amazing show.
The next day we were staying at my buddy’s house chilling by their pool hanging out and talking about RAW at the Staple Center that night. At around 4pm, I was playing around with the Tivo when I saw USA Network and realised we’d forgotten RAW starts early on the west coast. We had 30 mins to make it to the show and we were 50 minutes away. We got a ride and ran to our seats while the 30 second countdown to RAW was happening. The show itself was a lot of fun. We got to see Shawn Michaels start his feud with Hassan/Daivari, Austin stun Simon Dean/Maven, Triple H cut a good promo on Batista and Batista in a singles match with Orton. It was a great show that capped off an unbelievable weekend of wrestling in LA.
While I don’t fondly remember LA generally, due to my disappointment, I look back on WrestleMania 21 and it fills me with great memories and smiles. There was a great mix of old and new. There was something for everyone and importantly it felt like a BIG show. That’s all for this edition of the WrestleMania travel diary. I’m gonna post WrestleMania 23 Travel Diary on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy it.