By Will Pruett
Once again, Will Pruett finds himself live at WrestleMania weekend. Once again, he is processing this by writing about it.
You know the feeling when you hit up a buffet and bring back way more food on your plate than you really needed, then try to eat it to avoid food waste? Yeah. This was me yesterday. A couple weeks ago, three wrestling-oriented shows in a day seemed like a great idea. I hadn’t been to a wrestling show in a couple months and I wanted to get all I could out of ‘Mania weekend. Yesterday, after waking up from a delightful evening of wrestling, dread began to set in. How could I accomplish all of this?
Our day began at Evolve 59, which featured a sleepy crowd quietly buzzing about Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn from NXT, which is the right way to be. The tag match to start the show was decent, with Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano losing the Evolve Tag Titles to Drew Gulak and the inexplicably nicknamed “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams. A Galloway heel turn followed which included a pretty decent promo. Chris Hero’s match with Fred Yehi was impressive. The show started to wear us down early though. I don’t even remember Ethan Page vs. Darby Allen.
The final four matches were a part of Evolve’s “U.S. vs. The world” series. Tommy End picked up a win again T.J. Perkins. Matt Riddle surprised many of us by defeating Zack Sabre Jr. Marty Scrull was able to beat Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher (who sold his arm injury from the night before), and Ricochet beat Will Osprey in what was surely the flippiest match of the weekend. Ospreay and Ricochet both tend towards showing off and cute spots in their matches. They matched each other and broke out some truly innovative flying offense and flying spots. It was fun to see.
I left Evolve feeling optimistic about my day. This optimism did not last long. My brother, Jake, and I didn’t fully anticipate how a five hour break between shows would potentially crash our day. We had energy, but it was quickly sucked away. This is life during WrestleMania weekend. We ventured to Dealey Plaza to see the site of the JFK assassination. Here, folks with wrestling shirts and many holding replica championship belts posed in the street in the exact spot JFK was on when he was shot, backing up traffic and being generally strange. Wrestling fans, man.
On another “wrestling fans are weird” note, the most entertaining non-show moment of the day was outside of WrestleMania Axxess and Superstore. You know those Westboro Baptist style protestors who show up at events and tell folks they’re going to hell? A small group of them were outside Axxess and I’m not sure they knew what they were getting into. Wrestling fans gathered around them, looking for something fun to do.
They began chanting. Wrestling fans have an uncanny ability to synchronize chants. These protestors got the “What?” treatment as they repeated over and over “TO HELL”! They were showered with Bray Wyatt’s rendition of “He’s got the whole world” when a man dressed as Wyatt ran in front of them. Undertaker’s name was thrown around quite a bit. Even Presbyterians got some love when they were described as going to hell. You haven’t lived until you’ve chanted “Presbyterians clap-clap-clap-clap-clap”. It was great fun and, to give these weird counter-productive protestors a shout out, they kept going for hours on end.
We wandered away to find some decent non-McNugget food (Wade Keller has questioned every life choice I have ever made leading to McNuggets) and stumbled into a little Italian place with small pizzas by The Omni Hotel. Thank goodness for this establishment. I had my first decent meal of the weekend and I felt like I could conquer the world.
Prior to the WWN Supershow, we drank bourbon out of plastic hotel cups around our car, because we are classy humans. We went into the show and were greeted with a great Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr. match to kick it off. This was a fantastic opener, even from ten non-raised rows back with tired eyes. It has to be in the running for second best match of the weekend.
Sadly, the momentum from Sabre Jr. vs. Hero could not be followed up on. Drew Gulak was out next and there is something major missing from him. He lulled the crowd to sleep during his match with Fred Yehi. Gulak should be better, but every time I’ve watched him, I haven’t seen much. He lacks charisma. He’s lacking fire. He doesn’t connect. With an exhausted and distracted crowd (some were watching the Hall of Fame on their phones), he was a poor choice. Matt Riddle almost brought the crowd back with his match with “Hot Sauce”, but not quite. A No Disqualification match between Ethan Page and Tony Nese followed, but it also didn’t quite connect. The show was truly dragging.
A ceremony honoring Terry Funk featuring Sabu followed and woke some folks up. Mick Foley even appeared about halfway through, running in and almost shoving Jake and I as he made his surprise path to the ring. The show seemed to excite people in this moment, then deflate them with an intermission. Intermissions are dumb.
During intermission, we checked the clock and realized there was no way to catch the end of this show and Jim Ross. In desperate need of some levity instead of stiff face kicks, we made the tough decision to leave. The Supershow was too super for its own good. Gabe’s two and a half hour Evolve shows were far more delightful than his bloated Supershow. Less is more, even with every possible wrestling human in town.
Our final adventure of the long day was Jim Ross’ one man show. Ross was very entertaining during his opening monologue/story session on the show. If you know J.R., you know what to expect here. He was delightfully inappropriate in moments and told stories from his past with some great legends in wrestling. It was cool.
Ross then brought out Rob Van Dam as his special guest. The show became a question and answer session with fans in the crowd. Many folks bought Ross and Van Dam shots, which kept them drinking and having fun. It was a very relaxed and delightful session. Randomly, Jeff Hardy and Gregory Helms joined Ross and Van Dam onstage, which the crowd was super psyched for. They continued to answer questions and Van Dam had been over served at this point (he knocked over Helms’ red solo cup). It was great fun and a nice ending to a very long day.
A huge thanks to Jim Ross, Gabe Sapolsky, and the whole WWN and Evolve crew for a massively entertaining day.
As we returned to the hotel, the clock ticked past 2:00am, and I was ready to sleep. My brother and I discussed the day we had and WrestleMania coming up. We sat up for another 30 minutes talking about possibilities for the coming day. It’s WrestleMania Sunday and I’m sitting at Roots Coffeehouse in North Richland Hills writing. I am tired. The staff thinks I’m hungover. I am still excited. This is one of the best weekends of the year.
Want to follow more of my adventures in real time? Hit me up on the Twitter @itswilltime!
The Best of The Boom features Eric Bischoff joining Jason Powell in this March 20, 2019 discussion on whether there are similarities between Verne Gagne's booking during the AWA's dying days and Vince McMahon's WWE booking today, AEW, a Turner network shakeup, and more...