The Magnificent Seven: Seven Things To Know Before Your First Live WrestleMania
It’s WrestleMania season, and in less than two weeks, tens of thousands of wrestling fan masses will descend upon Orlando.
I have gone to WrestleMania twice before—two years ago in Santa Clara and in 2009 in Houston. To explain a little more about myself, these were by no means my first wrestling shows—I had been to house shows, TV tapings, and a number of live PPVs. No live experience is quite like attending WrestleMania, though. I treasure my memories of those weekends, and pulled some good lessons from each experience.
This week’s column is targeted toward those fans who might be making their first trips to WrestleMania this year (or who might go in the future). Some of it may be obvious, but regardless, they’re points worth considering going into the big weekend.
#7. Plan Your Parking
For any given WrestleMania weekend event, parking can be a challenge, but it’s most important to think ahead for ‘Mania itself. 10,000-20,000 fans at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is substantial; 70,000-plus at a stadium can create some truly remarkable vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Unless you’re content to miss the pre-show and first match or two, you’ll want to arrive early to get your parking situated (or else lean into mass transit or a ride-sharing service) to afford yourself time to actually get into the stadium and to your seat. Moreover, unless you’re willing to miss the end of the main event, be prepared for it to take some time to get back to your car, and then to get out of any lot or the garage in the immediate vicinity of the venue. Patience is key, but all the more so, researching options and showing up early will give you your best shot at preventing parking from putting a damper on your experience.
#6. There’s Not a Bad Seat in the House
I attend WrestleMania 31 on a budget, and wound sitting within the backmost five rows of the entire Levi’s Stadium. While the ring was difficult to see from that distance, it was nonetheless still easier to observe than I would have expected. Moreover, the big screens above the ring do allow you to capture more nuance. I’ve always thought it was a little silly to go to a live event and spend the bulk of the show watching the screen, but in a setting this large and this packed, the screen is a perfect reasonable complement to the ring itself, and the energy of being surrounded by tens of thousands other fans remains palpable and keeps the live experience vital and well worth its while.
(Side note: there have been a handful of accounts of fans with badly obscured views, but WWE and stadium staff have reportedly been good about moving fans in those cases.)
#5. Prepare for Lines
I alluded to this in regards to traffic and making your way in and out of the stadium, but both of my WrestleMania experiences involved multiple long waits in long lines. In addition to arrival and departure for the actual event, there’s the prospect of attending Axxess session with autograph signings, and when I bought an official travel package for WrestleMania 25 it came bundled with access to some more exclusive signing events.
In my experience, nothing at WrestleMania is truly exclusive.
To get autographs from the likes of Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Nick Bockwinkel in Houston, I waited ninety minutes to two hours. For the more exclusive autograph session, featuring a half dozen big names, I waited for a little over an hour, only to recognize that I had barely made any progress at all, and that the enormous line I was waiting in was only a feeder to an even longer line to actually meet anyone.
I don’t say any of this to necessarily discourage anyone from pursuing WrestleMania extracurriculars—I still count meeting Roddy Piper at one of those sessions as an all-time highlight for years as a fan. Just the same, expect some waiting and bring a friend or at least something to read along the way.
#4. Explore the Indies
One of my biggest regrets about WrestleMania 25 weekend is that I stuck to WWE events only and didn’t branch out to any of the other events going on around town. Due the masses that WrestleMania draws, independent promotions big and small flock to the region and put on some pretty excellent shows in their own right.
While the emergence of NXT as a significant brand, WWE now has its own rock solid programming for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night of WrestleMania weekend. If you can find opportunities to squeeze in indies, though, or forego Friday or Saturday night’s WWE offering in favor of an independent show, you will likely not be disappointed. While ROH, for example, may only be playing to an audience of a couple thousand (or fewer), the event nonetheless marks a big audience and a high profile for them, and thus an excuse to break out big and well-executed matchups. Moreover, for autograph seekers, visiting an indy show can be a welcome difference to Axxess, with lines that you will rarely take more than fifteen minutes to get through, and stars that are all the more eager to meaningfully interact with fans given who they can reasonably spend a minute or two talking to each one of them without holding up the line.
#3. The Hall of Fame is Better on TV
As a self-proclaimed wrestling historian, attending the WWE Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was one of the pieces of WrestleMania weekend that I most looked forward to. That said, after two iterations, I have to express the potentially unpopular opinion: the show is actually better on TV.
Mind you, it’s cool to be in an arena full of legends, and some induction speeches are better than others. Just the same, for me, this ceremony is all about being able to listen carefully to the speeches and the stories at hand. A WWE arena filled with excited fans isn’t the ideal place to consume this kind of show, as there’s always a chant, always people talking, and the prospect of hushing someone at a WWE event just feels sort of silly. Moreover, for a more passive listening experience, arena tends not to be all that comfortable over a three-to-four hour program.
I was also disappointed, in 2009, with a big timer that was projected on a screen opposite inducteess, allotting many of them just five minutes or so to speak. The timer was gone in 2015, in part, I’m sure, because the WWE Network broadcasts require less vigilance about time than the old USA Network TV deal. Just the same, time constraints, particularly in person, simultaneously make the event feel a little rushed and also do feel necessary when the night starts to drag on some of those speechs. It’s a lose-lose situation that I didn’t really recognize until I attended live, and that has eliminated some of the magic from this annual aspect of the weekend.
#2. Choose a Costume Pragmatically
Lest anyone feel misled, by my informal estimation, the overwhelming majority of people do not come to WrestleMania in costume. I’m including this point because, when there are 70,000, 80,000, 90,000 people in one stadium, even a small percentage adds up to a significant number. Whether or not you choose to participate, you’ll certainly see people in costume.
And why not? WrestleMania is, perhaps above all other things, an opportunity to mark out with throngs of likeminded people and watch four hours (or more) of professional wrestling that will, in all likelihood, make history.
When it comes to costumes, though, it is important to think practically. Check the weather forecast. Bare arms might be fine while the sun is up, but what are the projected temperatures after the sun goes down? Similarly, shoulderpads with faux spikes to imitate the Road Warriors may seem like an awesome idea, but consider how little elbow room there tends to be in stadium seating, particularly if you’re in the upper decks.
Costumes that will leave you too hot or too cold, or that won’t be comfortable for you or the people around you might be fun to wear in the arena, but will very quickly lose their appeal once you find your seat. Plan ahead and think pragmatically.
On a not-quite costume but general attire and accessories note, also be sure to check out the rules for bags at the event, as a lot of stadiums don’t allow backpacks or even large purses. A number do allow approved clear plastic bags and are not too discriminating about what people carry in whith them (for example, we had no problem bringing in sealed bottles of water and snacks to Levi’s Staidum, and probably saved upwards of twenty dollars off of concession stand prices).
#1. Enjoy the Moment
OK, OK, this entry is a bit obvious and cliché, but it’s important just the same. WrestleMania means experiencing the biggest pro wrestling show of the year, surrounded by the energy of other fans geared up to chant, cheer, and have a good time.
Take pictures, get autographs, buy souvenirs, but amidst all of the hubbub and distractions, and amidst all of the inconveniences of over-priced merch, small seats, long lines, traffic, and having to make difficult choices about which events to attend Friday and Saturday night, don’t forget to enjoy the fact that you’re there.
Without exaggeration, my two trips to WrestleMania were two of the best weekends of my life. Whether you’re going this year, or reading this column with intentions of making it happen in the future, make sure you take at least a moment to put your phone away, soak it all in, and enjoy the moment.
What would you add to the list? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Read more from Mike Chin at his website and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.