WWE WrestleMania 32 Trip Diary

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Medieval Times is a lot like pro wrestling. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a “dinner and a show” event with a medieval theme. There are knights and kings and princesses and horses and jousting and sword fights and they serve all your food on pewter plates and cups and you eat whole chickens with your hands. It’s the best.

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Caleb got his picture taken with the King of the Castle. He was an alright dude; a bit too Shakespearean.

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I bought each of the boys a foam sword and shield…the cost of which was as much as a ticket to the Hall of Fame later that night (yes I will be talking about the Hall of Fame shortly).

But yeah, it’s a lot like pro wrestling…er…”sports entertainment.” Everything is scripted with heroes and villains and fake fighting and cheering and expensive merchandise you will never wear unless you go back to another Medieval Times show. You are assigned a color-coded section of the arena and you cheer a specific knight who matches your area’s color. Ours was the blue knight. He was our babyface. According to the squire, the blue knight’s mortal enemy—his heel—was the yellow knight. Immediately I began booing this yellow knight. I thought about starting up a “let’s go blue knight / yellow knight sucks” chant, but I was afraid my wife would stab me.

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You can just see the glimmer of yellow on the upper right side of the picture. There sat our enemies. The Kevin Owens’ to our Sami Zayn’s.

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A babyface worth cheering, but we’ll get to Roman Reigns later on.

So anyway you sit in your section and watch the show. There’s horse tricks and javelin throwing and if you pay extra they’ll bring out birthday cake…

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And then…they joust.

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And then…they fight.

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I skipped going to Axxess this year because I wasn’t keen on spending my Saturday waiting in line to be denied a picture with Sami Zayn again. Little did I know they were taping episodes of NXT at Axxess this year. Oh well, we spent our Saturday cheering heroes and villains and by the end of the show our Blue Knight won the tournament and was crowned champion. Suck it yellow knight.

Now to the Hall of Fame.

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Your tastes may vary but, to me, this is the most “take it or leave it” event of the whole weekend. I appreciate the purpose behind it and unlike in past years I can’t think of any wrestler who was inducted that didn’t deserve to go in (so no Koko B. Ware’s to be seen), but other than Sting there weren’t any speeches I was necessarily excited to hear. Nevertheless I bought the tickets and loaded up Caleb.

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He was excited at first but quickly grew tired. I can’t blame him; this is the one event that is most certainly not for a child’s short attention span.

Godfather started things off right with a short and sweet speech (which, with one exception, was a trend-setter for the evening) that highlighted how appreciative he was that, as Godfather, he was allowed to just be himself and have so much fun every night. Actually his whole career was very short-changed, by both his inductors and by Godfather himself. No mention of Papa Shango, his WrestleMania VIII debut, his years as Kama (an MMA-inspired character), his time in the Nation of Domination or his heel run as “the Goodfather.” I suppose it’s because “Godfather” was inducted and not Charles Wright, but still he had a long career before he found fan-favorite success in the Attitude Era. Nevertheless, his speech was gracious and you could tell he as genuinely happy to have been given one last moment in the spotlight.

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Vader was the perfect man to induct Stan Hansen and thankfully we heard “the eyeball story.” Hansen’s speech was also very well done as he focused on all the talents that helped him along the way. He mentioned Terry Funk, Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino, Bruiser Brody and others. Unlike with Godfather, Hansen took the audience on a verbal tour of his long career, and though his speech was not short, he held everyone’s attention with southern charm and a sweet, grandfatherly aura (unlike his wrestling persona from back in the day). Good speech.

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Jackie was the Hall of Fame’s annual “female” inductee but that doesn’t make her any less deserving of the honor. While Godfather was thankful for the opportunity and Hansen was thankful for those older folks who guided him, Jackie offered gratitude for her peers that she worked with in her career. Trish and Lita and even Sable were given a shout out as Jackie mentioned as many women and men that she could think of that helped her achieve what she called a dream of being a Hall of Famer. Three speeches in and all three were solid and two were short and sweet.

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And then came the Freebirds.

Sorry but the Freebirds to me are like The Big Lebowski and the Eagles. I understand their appeal and I appreciate their place in wrestling history (regional wrestling history, let’s be honest) but they never did it for me. Michael Hayes in particular is not a guy I’m a big fan of. I did think it was delicious irony (or was it an intentional rib?) that The New Day was selected to be their inductors. Sure New Day is the most popular three-man tag group since the Freebirds, but they’re also very black. So again, irony or rib? I have no idea. Either way their induction was a delight and made me giddy with anticipation for the WrestleMania moment I knew they were going to have.

As for the Freebirds’ acceptance speech, what can be said? It was a 45 minute celebration of excess. It was overly long, self-important, and even when it was clear the audience had moved beyond thinking “that was a good story” to thinking “oh geez, another story?” still the stories continued. It all ended with Hayes strutting around the arena singing “Badstreet USA” and I just wanted to hang myself. If you’re a fan of the Freebirds well then man, congratulations. If you’re not, I’m so so sorry if you were there or watching at home.

Oh and Kevin Von Erich totally called New Day “the New Gay boys.” So yeah, your mileage may vary on how well you enjoyed this hour of the night.

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Big Bossman was posthumously inducted and I’m sad it wasn’t done by Big Show. They did touch on the most Vince Russo thing ever done in WWF, when Bossman interrupted Big Show’s father’s funeral (they were feuding over the WWF Championship at the time), hooked the casket to his police car and dragged it out of the cemetery as Big Show chased after it…you know what? Just watch this

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And now he’s immortalized in WWE history. Well done Bossman. Slick inducted him with a short and sweet speech, his family received the honor on his behalf and that was that. Take away the Freebirds and this would have been the smoothest and breeziest Hall of Fame ceremony ever.

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Snoop Dog was your annual celebrity inductee and even though some fans dislike it when a non-wrestler is honored at the pretend Hall of Fame awards, it doesn’t bother me. All I ask from celebrity inductees is that they at least be fans of the product. Snoop is clearly a fan. He touched on some of his favorite wrestlers, gave a shout out to Sasha Banks (his cousin), expressed how happy he was to have been accepted by the WWE Universe (who usually trash celebrity appearances) and closed with a nice little rap (because that’s what he does in his spare time). As far as celebrity inductions go, this was probably the best speech any of them have ever given.

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What is now a new tradition with the Hall of Fame is the “Warrior Award” and even though Ultimate Warrior originally wanted a special award to be given to the nameless workers who break their backs working behind the scenes in WWE, the Award has instead become an opportunity to highlight charitable causes. You can be cynical about it if you want, and question the company’s motives, or you can just be thankful that they are using their very large bully pulpit to put a spotlight on various types of cancer research. Last year honored Conner the Crusher, fittingly, and there was never going to be a better recipient. So WWE didn’t even try to top that. They just gave it to Joan Lunden and put the spotlight on breast cancer awareness. Dana Warrior will apparently be the permanent MC of this award, and that’s alright with me. Lunden was clearly appreciative of the honor, didn’t look down on the WWE or its fans and gave a short but impassioned speech about fighting cancer. No complaints here.

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The main event of the night, and really the only speech I cared about, was Sting. Ric Flair was probably the only logical guy to induct him and when you give Flair a live mic you know what you’re getting. True to form he rambled, lost his place, talked too much about himself, went off on a tangent about how great Charlotte is (I suppose as a reaction to Snoop’s very sweet moment about Sasha…poor Becky is left out again), and at the end of it shouted “thank you everyone!” and almost forgot to actually introduce Sting. Thankfully he did at the last second and finally the man came out.

The Icon touched on his beginnings with wrestling, his early days traveling with the future-Ultimate Warrior, living out of a 1983 T-Bird. He thanked Flair for giving him his initial main event run, and talked about winning the world title on numerous occasions (he actually said he didn’t even remember how many times he won the belt, which to me was a great moment of humility as I’m sure there were a LOT of guys in the front row that could tell you exactly how many times they won, where, and against whom). He touched on some of his more embarrassing moments (like the Robocop angle) and gave a shout out to his various Sting personas (even mentioning Joker Sting, which I’m sure Vince just assumed was a WCW thing). Finally he expressed gratitude that the fans never forgot about him and that they made his WrestleMania moment last year so special. With that, and despite talking earlier that weekend about wanting a match with Undertaker, he announced his retirement to a standing ovation from the audience. He closed with a wonderful “this isn’t goodbye, it’s just see you later” and bowed out as the show ended.

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Your opinion on this year’s Hall of Fame will depend on whether you enjoyed the hour long celebration of The Freebirds. If you did, you probably rank this as one of the best ever. Personally I thought last year’s was a notch better but other than the Freebirds this year had mostly short and sweet speeches, some funny inductions and a good variety of characters getting the nod.

8/10. Not a fan of the Freebirds, but everything else was very good.

Two days left…

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