WrestleMania 39 takes place on Saturday and Sunday, and it’s possible that you’ve heard some of your friends talking about it, or seen a bunch of your sports fan pals tweeting about it. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes and wondering what the big deal is.
Well, you’re in the right place.
Even if you don’t like pro wrestling, you know the name “WrestleMania.” It’s the Super Bowl of the profession, the biggest wrestling show of the year bar none, and possibly the single biggest spectacle in all of entertainment. Even the most jaded wrestling fan (which is to say, any wrestling fan who regularly uses the internet) can find something about WrestleMania Week to get excited about.
And make no mistake: WrestleMania is more than a show, it’s an entire week of activities, events, and revelry. For wrestling fans, WrestleMania Week is like Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl at the same time. Only with slightly less public nudity.
But there’s no reason that only wrestling fans should enjoy WrestleMania. Every year, more and more casuals seem to flock to the event, and I’ve certainly personally brought more than a few non-fans to different WrestlesMania over the past 15 years. Almost universally, they come away having a good time. Very few of them become active fans as a result of attending, but they always manage to get something out of the experience.
At this point, I’m convinced that if you like live entertainment or sports in any way, you should make it a point to try to attend at least one WrestleMania in your lifetime.*
Hear me out.
Do you like pageantry? Do you like fireworks? Do you like laser light shows? Do you like something ridiculous happening while loud music is playing and someone is walking down an extremely long ramp? WrestleMania has you covered.
Every year, you know you’re going to get a big, loud, bright show with all sorts of bells and whistles and extremely random celebrity cameos. But more than the sheer spectacle of the event is the fact that the format allows WWE’s “three ring circus” approach to shine through.
Much has always been made of WrestleMania being the “Super Bowl” of fake fighting, but it’s much more than that. Imagine if, at the Super Bowl, every fifteen minutes or so you had two entirely different teams coming out to play each other, with really exciting entrances, and also before all of those teams played each other, you got to watch a video package recapping why these teams hate each other and are desperate to do bodily harm to each other to prove a point.
Imagine if those teams were playing the Super Bowl with the interest (theoretically) of telling the best possible story en route to determining a winner. And imagine if sometimes, during the course of telling that story, one of the biggest pop stars in the world gave someone a front-flip piledriver.
(The only time I wavered on the “everyone should go to a WrestleMania” talking point was from the years 2015 to 2019, when WrestleMania kept getting more and more bloated each year, and the live show was up past eight hours long, then 10 hours, but thankfully the new, permanent two-day format has brought each day down to a manageable length to watch or to sit through. I guess … thanks, COVID?)
Just a couple of years ago, WrestleMania had the added nostalgia appeal of people that non-wrestling fans have heard of being involved: The Undertaker, The Rock, Triple H. Household names. But even this year, John Cena, Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar are all participating in matches.
So you’ve got spectacle, variety, star power, and athleticism. You’ve got entertainment and feats of strength all crossed off the list. But this year’s WrestleMania also features a huge amount of heart and emotion. An underdog story (or a pair of them) that everyone should be able to get behind.
You see, for the past two years, WWE has been dominated by The Bloodline. This is the faction headed up by Roman Reigns, who holds both world championships in the company and hasn’t been pinned since 2019. He is the “tribal chief” of the Bloodline, and is joined by his advocate Paul Heyman and his cousins, Jimmy and Jey Uso (who hold both tag team championships) and Solo Sikoa.
But for half of last year, and up until January’s Royal Rumble, they were joined by Sami Zayn, who viewed himself as an aspiring Uso. He had been floundering in WWE in recent years, and believed he could be a huge asset to the Bloodline. And to that end, he went to impossible lengths to prove himself to Reigns and his cousins. And time after time, no matter what depths he sunk to or betrayals of his own soul he committed, Reigns told him that he just had to go one step further.
And when Zayn was told to grievously wound his lifelong best friend Kevin Owens, who was handcuffed and indefensible, that was finally a bridge too far.
For weeks after the Bloodline and Zayn ditched one another, Zayn had to prove to Owens that he was still worthy of friendship — of love. And now they’re finally back together, and will face the Usos for the Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania. It’s the most emotional pro wrestling storyline in recent memory, and some (myself included) count the Bloodline saga as the best long-running wrestling storyline ever.
Oh yeah, and do you know what Sami Zayn was doing at last year’s WrestleMania? He lost a match to Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew after being pinned by a human-sized mousetrap.
And as for Reigns? Well, he’s facing another underdog at WrestleMania 39 on Sunday: Cody Rhodes.
Rhodes, the son of the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes (and the brother of Goldust), quit WWE in 2016 after longtime frustration with his role in the company. He set out to prove he was worthy of being one of the biggest wrestling stars in the world, so he traveled the globe, winning world championships, headlining cards and eventually co-founding All Elite Wrestling, which is WWE’s first major pro wrestling competition since WCW folded.
Rhodes returned at last year’s WrestleMania, but soon after suffered a torn pectoral muscle and missed the remainder of the year. He returned from that injury to win this year’s Royal Rumble, and now he’s challenging the unbeatable Roman Reigns in hopes of capturing his first WWE world title.
Do you like drama? Do you like passion? There’ll be no shortage of it this weekend.
Oh yeah, and if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, there will essentially be wrestling-adjacent entertainment 24 hours a day from now until the end of WWE Raw on Monday night. Beginning with WrestleMania 23 in Detroit, other wrestling companies have taken advantage of wrestling fans from around the world flocking to the WrestleMania host city. It started with indie promotion Ring Of Honor (which was recently bought by AEW) running WrestleMania weekend shows in the same area, but other companies and promotions soon caught on. Now there are comedy shows, concerts, live podcast tapings, a wrestling convention, personal appearances, parties … and upwards of 50 distinct wrestling shows in the host city every year. Obviously, that’s way too much wrestling-related content for any one fan to enjoy, but you can pick and choose exactly what you want to see.
And if you’ve never experienced any of WrestleMania Week in person before, I insist that you pick at least one day of WrestleMania to attend live. It’s hard to believe that you’ll regret it.
And if you miss it this time around, it’s in a different city each year. Keep it in mind for next April.
* If you have moral objections to the art of pro wrestling, or to WWE’s ongoing partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I absolutely understand that. You’re off the hook and don’t have to attend a WrestleMania. I’m talking to everyone else. Thanks for reading, though!