It was my first time ever in Arizona in the USA and my first ever experience of the Wrestlemania. I asked the PR what it was all about. “They are not wrestlers, they are superstars,” she said. “And the women wrestlers are divas,” she corrected me. “It’s not wrestling, it’s entertainment,” she explained. “There are story lines. It’s like a soap opera.”
The following day at a press conference, one of these divas called Eve arrived, dressed in a tight black dress, fully-made up with her hair in ringlets. She was stunning and looked more like a model than a wrestler.Eve answered a question as to what made Wrestlemania so special. “It’s truly about the fan experience. We have people coming from all over the world and we have set up Fan Axxess for them where they can engage and have one-on-ones with the stars. It’s the largest sports entertainment event of the year,” she said.
“It used to be only Japanese and Americans who could afford tickets, but now you see people from India and China snapping them up as their economies are on the rise,” Antonio Inoki, a Japanese retired wrestler, who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, said. Evan Bourne, a spunky good-looking, confident guy, who looked nothing like the rolly polly wrestler I was expecting, said, “It gives us a chance to pay tribute to all the legends that have come before us.”We reached Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium shortly before the match started at around 3.30 pm.
There were large TV screens above the ring, useful since the ring appeared tiny from where I was sitting. The stadium was slowly filling up with men, women, children of all shapes and sizes, holding placards, some kids dressed in masks, that I later discovered were of superstar Rey Mysterio.
There was an air of excitement. A screen broadcast that 72,219 fans were packed inside the stadium. Many had come from overseas and had spent between US $800 (Rs 35,000) and US $40 (Rs 1,800) on tickets.
An American patriotic song was sung, then hip hop music started playing and R-Truth walked in. “What’s Up!” all the kids around me
shouted. A retired man next to me said he got his ticket at the last minute off ticketmaster.com. “I drove 100 miles to bring my son here, so I thought I might as well watch it,” he said. Randy Orton walked on to lots of cheers, as did Kane. Some wrestlers like Triple H were highly popular, others such as Sheamus and CM Punk were not. Sheamus was booed. “He’s not American and he’s a cheat,” said a man.
No rules applied
It became clear this wasn’t traditional wrestling but zany wrestling — with no rules. People used ladders and chairs. Most of the fighting took place outside the ring. The referee was a joker in a striped shirt, more like a satire, since he couldn’t control anything. It was, I guess, glamourous wrestling and unlike traditional wrestling, this had characters in it who were heroes or villains in bizarre costumes.
There were fireworks, Slim Jim Ads, hot women in sequin outfits, strobe lights and pop music. It was more like a circus or a rock concert than a wrestling match.
I found out from my neighbours that every match was the buildup of a big story plot, drawn out on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) TV shows, Raw and SmackDown. So, for example, Rey Mysterio, had a grudge against CM Punk because Punk had ridiculed Mysterio when he attempted to celebrate his
daughter’s birthday on SmackDown.
Meanwhile the Undertaker had only agreed to fight Shawn Michaels if he agreed that he would end his career if he lost the match. Bret Hart had held a grudge against Vince McMahon since 1997 when McMahon had fixed a match on the Survivor series meaning he lost the WWE title. He had not been in the ring for 12 years owing to that cycling accident.
“Real wrestling is boring but this isn’t, that’s why people like it. Of course it is all rehearsed,” my neighbour explains. “If this was real wrestling, none of these people would come. It sells, it’s entertainment. When I was young, our entertainment was watching cowboys save damsels in distress but now things have changed,” he confessed and watched on.
‘I can feel the pressure’
Name: Evan Bourne
Height: 5 foot 9
Weight: 183 pounds
From: St Louis
This is your first Wrestlemania?
Yes, I can feel the pressure already. I’m in the Money in the Bank Ladder contest. It’s my first Wrestlemania and I can feel the pressure already. For this there are 10 guys and one briefcase hung in the ring and it’s all about the first to get on the ladder and unlock the briefcase and bring it down and that gives the winner an opportunity to wrestle the Wrestlemania champion.
Which match are you most excited about?
I want to see Rey Mysterio versus CM Punk. It’s never been shown on Wrestlemania before and the way the story is written, it’s going to be a good match.
And your training?
It’s a whole foods diet as much as is possible. I’m in the gym for 40 to 45 minutes for four days a week, that’s just weight training as the ring is my cardio.
Do you have any plans to visit India?
Where I grew up, there were lots of Indian Americans. Lot of them are my friends, so I would love to visit India. I know that if I go, there will be a lot of support for me.
‘I am a Bollywood fan’
From: Los Angeles
Tell me about the 5-a-side Divas Tag Team Match you are in at Wrestlemania.
It’s always an entertaining match. There are two
champions on the other side but then my side has Beth Phoenix. I have got some tricks up my sleeve. With these women you have to.
Which match are you looking
forward to the most?
The best match is going to be the Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels. It was an incredible match last year. The Money in the Bank Ladder match is the most nerve wrecking.
I hear you have interacted rather intimately with The Great Khali?
I’ve kissed him twice. He was a great kisser (laughs). Once was Xmas 08 on Smack Down when there was a little mistletoe I just happened to be under and the second time was on the Jerry Springer Show and we were playing a joke on Jerry that I was cheating on Chris. That was a big kiss, he even slipped his tongue in.
How do you like being a woman wrestler?
I love it. We get to travel all over the world. Of course there is a lot of bitchiness and attitude, but we all respect eachother. The thing about being a diva is that we have hair, nails and outfits and so we have to keep our appearance and wrestle. It’s a
miracle how we manage.
What’s your diet like?
I avoid carbs late at night. I train for half an hour to two hours per day. At home I do jujitsu, dancing and running.
Do you have a message for your Indian fans?
I would love to go to India. I am a huge Bollywood fan. I love the dancing in the movies.