Broken record

Woke up at 0630 on Sunday. Ooh 'eck, it's Wrestlemania day. FINALLY, etc. It's way too early to be awake but since I'm not hungover, and have a ton of photos to edit and blogging to do I'm not that offended. Also gives me a chance to listen to Ric Flair's podcast from Friday since I'm not consuming enough wrestling media and experience as it is.

It also gives me the chance to chat with Helen who is enjoying apparently lovely weather back home. We have cracking weather too, cloudless sunshine and that again. At 0915 or so Ian stirs and claims to have been awake for an hour, which I dispute having heard him snore. We go down for the same plastic and styrofoam breakfast in a room full of other wrestling fans and then come back up.

On TV, I request we put on ESPN because I think there's some Wrestlemania previews on. What actually happens is that choosing ESPN doesn't actually put ESPN on but offers to show us some on-demand wrestling from 1986, which we of course do. Shawn Michaels, rookie of the year, is full of pudgy faced youth and beats Buddakhan (who?). Then Seargent Slaughter seems to have a smaller chin than in later years while fighting The Barbarian, with interference from Bruiser Brody. Lastly a 20 minute match between Jerry 'the King' Lawler vs a pre-Mr Perfect Curt Hennig, who was really pissed off at winning the match through disqualificaton and thereby not taking the championship. Keep up, people.

Online, the BBC site serves me adverts for toilet reviews. Excuse me?

During all this the Sheraton duo tell us they're in the bar at their hotel, so we go and join them. The cab is quick and quiet, and we're there by 1205 or so. It takes until 1230 to get served a drink. Apparently service was great until we turned up. Beers eventually come, and we manage a second round which includes some extravagant non-beers for Ian and Wooj.

Wouldn't be proud of the taste of that beer meself.

The coaches to Wrestlemania leave from nearby, and in fact we can see them kerbside through the bar window. So we settle up and go join a queue, because queueing is awesome.

This moves pretty fast and the four of us board and take what seem to be the last two sets of 2 free seats. Outside we'd seen a couple of fellas fancy dressed up as Macho Man Randy Savage and Sting, which has set me off singing he's the man called Sting, the man called Sting, the man called Sting, the man called Sting over and over and over. He's the man called Sting, see.

The bus ride is quiet. I'd been expecting raucous chanting 'n that but mostly it's just people have quiet chats. I manage to lose my phone when it drops out of my pocket unnoticed, thankfully to be retrieved by the people sat behind us. I ask ARE WE THERE YET and, oh, apparently we nearly are because through the windscreen we can see a hoofing great stadium.

AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is one motherfucker of a structure. It looks seriously impressive and has a whole town built around it, seemingly. But there don't seem to be any bars or anything. We were expecting a whole bunch of pop-up booze and barbecue places in the parking lots, but in actuality all there are are lots of parked cars and tens of thousands of people.

Like, properly tens of thousands of people. It's rammed. Our tickets don't obviously tell us what gate we need to use, but my email from WWE said "West plaza" in its subject - the body won't load right now. We don't know which way west is, so just wander past giant amorphous mobs of people not obviously in any well-formed queues. Up to one end, back round to the other side, both plazas we see are labelled with sponsors rather than compass directions. Eventually we see a member of staff and he points out the tickets have "Entry GHJ" written on them. Those gates are all the way back to where we started.

There are still no obvious queues, just lots of people standing still and a similar amount wandering as aimlessly as we are. At the end, near the gates, one seems to be opening and we kinda mill forwards. It's the Make A Wish foundation gang, so that's no good. We're also near the disabled entrance and keep getting shunted out of the way by golf buggies.

We join what appears to be a queue, and indeed it is. Sadly it's a queue of people working their way forwards to a barrier behind which is a man saying "this isn't a queue, you need to go that way". So, back out and away from the gates again. The barrier goes on forever and no-one on the other side is moving. Eventually between a couple of cars a woman says yeah, go in here, so we start to queue again.

By now it's about 3.15pm. People are suffering. There's no cover, no help from staff, no announcements - the tannoy is playing music, very quietly - no signs, no water or food. We'd already seen someone get help for their wife who had passed out, and someone else passes out right next to us. Some sections of the crowd start to chant LET US IN. At 3.30pm people start to chant the time - our tickets say the show starts at 5pm, and there's talk that at Cowboys games the doors open 90 minutes before kick-off so, y'know, let us the fuck in.

We move forward about 15 feet. Someone else passes out. There's still nothing of note happening. The atmosphere isn't exactly dangerous, but it's not wonderful. We're all burning up and pissed off. A guy near us gets on the phone, gets off and says apparently the ticket scanners aren't working. Oh dear. This, combined with the fact they are metal-detecting everyone on the way in seems to not be optimal organisation.

A little while later and suddenly there's movement. We're nearest the road rather than the wall, and our side seems to be faster moving than the rest. People on the other side of the barrier try to bumrush the crowd, a few people having success because way too few event staff are there to marshal things properly.

Eventually we reach the gate, at 4pm. We've been here 2 hours already with nothing to drink since 1pm and nothing to eat since breakfast. Everything has to come out of our pockets while we get scanned, then go back in and wow, thank fuck, someone to sell us beer. We're finally here at Wrestlemania!

Some tiny free samples of Mountain Dew satiate our immediate desperate need for liquid. Then, ooh, people are selling beer from ice buckets. 4 Miller Lite please. $9 each you say? Ouch.

There's a big crowd queueing up for floor area wrist bands. Damn you, VIP folk! We go inside and, wow, what a stadium. We're on level 2 and the view over the whole interior is spectacular.

There's surprisingly few people there already. I thought we'd taken ages to get in, yet appearances seem to imply that we're part of the early set. Mind you, there are shitloads of people at all the concession stands and/or wandering about trying to figure out exactly how to reach their seats. We do the latter. We know pretty much where we'll be, so walk anti-clockwise until reaching the "no-one but VIPs are allowed through here" bit. Oh.

So we ask someone. They tell us to go all the way back past where we came in and down the ramp. Said ramp has a big queue of people, of course, and says it's to the floor area. To our knowledge we're not strictly on the floor, but someone tells us that we basically are and yes, we need a wristband for it. Thankfully there are two queues - "need wristband" and "have wristband".

This moves pretty quickly and then we walk and walk and walk and walk through unadorned tunnels downwards and downwards and downwards before emerging on floor level. Fuck me, this place is massive. Now we get a proper view of the entire place and eeesh.

Oh, and our seats are fucking great. We're in the first section which rises up above the level floor seats, behind all the people who paid for commemorative chairs and ringside access and all the stuff that comes when you throw down multiple thousands of dollars per seat.

Also, there are roving beer and margarita and popcorn and etc vendors. Hurrah! We take a bunch of selfies, because fuck yeah Wrestlemania. I'm sure you all want to see photos of me, right? Discretion advised.

It's far from full when the first fight starts, Kalisto and Ryback kicking shit off with a US title match. Even with, I dunno, 40% of seats full it's loud. The roof is on, the sound is great, we can see well enough. The 5pm-6pm hour is the pre-show, featuring 4 matches. I am surprised by how many people cheer for the people I thought rarely got cheered. Honestly, I thought the Uso chants were piped in on Smackdown. For shame, Darren.

After the 5-on-5 Divas match Lita comes out and retires the term Diva. A revolution in this division has reached the point where everybody realises we'd rather watch wrestlers who can wrestle rather than stick figure swimsuit models slapping each other and accordingly they are introducing the WWE Women's Title, with a belt that isn't even pink or flowery with rounded edges and shit. Huzzah!

The view from 11R

We get another beer before everything is really crowded. This ends up proving to be our last one of the day. The show is relentless - very little mic work, small gaps between fights, no fucking about like on Raw.

For months I've been complaining that I wish WWE would treat their product a bit more like a real sport - we know it's scripted, but treat it like it isn't: give us fixtures and win/loss records and promote the importance of championships and etc - so at least today I get my wish partially granted, because just like real sport I am thoroughly disappointed with almost every result.


At 6pm, just as the main show starts, the people who are to occupy the two seats immediately to my left turn up. This is a bad thing. The first thing the bloke does is try and start a chant of "FUCKING BULLSHIT!" in a really aggressive way. The singers who come out to give America The Beautiful a rendition are booed by him, alone. There's really no reason at all to do this.

Throughout most matches he attempts to start stupid chants - like, really stupid nonsensical bullshit or passive aggression - and then complain about the crowd when they no-one joins in. He jeers the stadium each time it's shown on the big screen, and starts a chant for the Sheraton hotel when downtown Dallas comes up. Essentially he seems to want everything to be about him - he'll start chants, he'll be the most vocal, he'll try and orchestrate, and he'll double down his efforts each time he fails, rather than think perhaps he's way off the fucking mark and no-one thinks he's funny.

It's not just audibly annoying either. Most of the time when sat down, he manspreads like a champ. We are on small enough seats, all tied together with cable ties to give no room so I am permanently squashed. And When Shane O'Mac comes out for his Hell in a Cell match against the Undertaker a shitload of fake money is showered upon the crowd, and he spends about 15 minutes trying to grab some from the air including grabbing onto my shirt and nearly pulling me over as he tries to dive over the heads of the people ahead of us.

The worst comes at the end. During the main event he (and, sadly, about 50 or so other people near us) spend virtually the whole time chanting for wrestlers who aren't here. NXT wrestlers and the like. Or just chanting BULLSHIT a lot. Because apparently WWE's job is to write the script exactly as he wants it to be written. Don't get me wrong, I was pissed off by the result of the title match (and the manner in which it took place) but like I said - it's OK to be disappointed in results. But have some fucking respect for the rest of the crowd, and the performers themselves.

Also, the bloke in front kept holding up a sign that blocked my and lots of other people's views, so much so that lots of people kept shouting at him the put the fucking thing down. No-one gives a fuck about your website mate. You don't find me holding up BLOG.DARRENF.ORG signs do you?


Apart from him/them, though, Wrestlemania was fucking great. Seriously. The wrestling is often not as good as at NXT but that was entirely expected. The entertainment is off the charts. The spots are complete lunacy. Sin Cara displays the most ridiculous sense of balance and agility to somersault off a rope he lands on by falling off a ladder, and that's my spot of the night. - though Shane O'Mac jumping off the fucking top of the cell onto the announcer table is a close second. Madness I tells ye.

My photos aren't great because the focus is largely not on the tiny figures in the distance, but I took shitloads anyway. These are not in order, and may contain spoilers if you give a shit about 'mania but are yet to watch it.

There's loads of pyro, of course.

Sin Cara appears to have sprouted wings.

The ladder match is a spot-fest and fantastic.

The big Booty Os cereal box is entertaining, but comes out way too early and ruins the surprise.

Brock Lesnar is a fucking animal. Beast Incarnate is right.


I'm pretty sure Dean didn't hurt him.

The Undertaker's entrance takes 6 minutes.

Shane jumps off the top of the fucking cell. I mean, you what?

This fire is really fucking hot even from this distance.

FINALLY, the Rock has come back to Dallas!

Big ass light show for The Game, the Cerebral Assassin, the King of Kings, Triple H.

Bringing out Shaquille O'Neal to wrestle "the world's largest athlete", who he is obviously larger than, is fun.

Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!

Texas Rattlesnake shares some of his 6 beers with Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels. Stunning.

Did we see any big stars? Well, let's see: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, ... I mean, fucking hell. Stellar line-up. Not that everything was amazing and some stuff was genuinely disappointing. But no mid-show song break, no really daft comedy schtick (sadly, not even from the best comedy act on the roster), just a great spectacle in a huge crowd.

Yeah, the wrestlemania attendance record got broken. Over 101,000 people inside a stadium to watch this bullshit fake sport. I know most people reading this don't have the faintest interest in wrestling, but this is kinda a big deal if you are into it. Thanks for indulging me. We can get back to the minutiae of queueing and calorie intake now.

The show finishes at 11pm. That's 6 hours after it started. We've had no beers since that one we got at our seats - yeah, I had a duplicate Miller Lite; sue me. In fact we've had no liquids, or solids since breakfast. My throat is sore and I've already forgotten some of the matches. Since there had been no MC, there was no explicit ending, we just all started to file out once HHH left the ramp. There's loads of confusion down by the chairs, and people having them confiscated because they just had attempted to nick one without having the VIP wristband which allowed it.

The floor is stickier than a big stick and ewww. There's a looong trek to get back out of the stadium and walk up to the parking lot where the Sheraton buses are. Of course, there are numerous long queues. We join one but it seems obvious we won't fit on this bus, so we go to another where a woman with a clipboard tells everyone to piss off and go to another bus. We do so, at which point she lets loads of other people onto that bus and it leaves, before we've even boarded ours. Grr!

Eventually we get on, and take an age to leave. There's a convoy of coaches and cars heading out of the stadium and most people doze off on the coach, but some people are having a loud conversation. As we enter central Dallas someone at the back shouts SHUT THE FUCK UP so loud it wakes Del up, ha. Eventually we get back to the Sheraton, at 1am. It's 8 hours since any of us had anything to drink, and 15 hours since I ate anything. And to think I thought a trip to Dallas would be a fat festival of indulgence.

Del and Wooj head off and of course me and Ian have one step left, another Uber (no surge pricing!) to our hotel. The shop in the lot is closed, but the taco counter is open so we wait half hour, with a bunch of other wrestling fans, getting ropey 'special' tacos with chicken and flour tortillas. Honestly this food is shit but it's cheap and available.

There's a counter where we can buy liquid too, so being utterly exhausted at about 0200 I obviously decided a caffeinated drink is sensible. But it has no effect apart from rehydration; I hit the sack and am out like a fucking light.

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