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Wrestlemania Week 2024

Wrestlemania came to Philadelphia for the first time in 25 years for the 40th edition of the sports entertainment spectacular. From the moment it was announced, I kept warning Sarah that I would be spending a fair amount of money on wrestling come the spring of 2024. And, despite having no one to attend events with, I did just that.

As of April 3, 2024, I had been to six wrestling shows. Two WWF house shows in 1992 (January and March), the much-maligned 1995 King of the Ring, NXT's Takeover: Philadelphia and Chikara's Beware the Snowman over one weekend in 2018, and an AEW TV taping that included Dynamite, Rampage, and Dark: Elevation in 2021. By April 6, that tally would reach eleven (most blokes only go up to ten).

Labor of Love: WrestleJawn

I kicked off Wrestlemania week with a local Philly independent wrestling organization, Labor of Love. I found out about this group through the best barber in the city, Vinnie of Vinnie's Barbershop. Vinnie trained as a wrestler at Chikara, and Vinnie's Barbershop sponsors Labor of Love. Going into WrestleJawn, I knew nothing about the organization or most of the wrestlers. I was excited to see Paul London, the one wrestler I was familiar with, square off against "Speedball" Mike Bailey, who I had heard a lot about. The ring was set up under a tent in the beer garden of Attic Brewing Company in Germantown, where strong winds and heavy rain seemed ready to literally tear the house down. But the tent held up, and so did the talent. The matches were all entertaining, particularly London and Bailey's wrestling match/karaoke competition hybrid, and the show ended with a feel-good moment of former Ring of Honor star Cheeseburger winning a tournament to be crowned the first-ever Citywide Champion. All told, I would definitely go to another Labor of Love show in the future and this was a great way to start the week.

WWE World at Wrestlemania

For years, I have seen photos and videos from Axxess, the fan convention that WWE runs in town before each Wrestlemania, There would be museum-quality exhibits, interactive experiences, memorabilia, wrestling matches, meet and greets, and a superstore. This year, the event was branded as WWE World, returning after a few years off due to the pandemic. I had seen a few complaints here and there online about Fanatics running the event, but I didn't see why that was anything worth complaining about. Then I got there.

This was a colossal disappointment. Upon entering the convention center, I was ushered into a line that turned out to be for picking up your coat from coat check. Once I realized that I didn't need to be there, I headed upstairs to find an even longer line. There was no signage indicating what the line was for or where the entrance was. After a few minutes of seeing people walk into an empty hall, I risked losing my place in line to chance the empty hall, which ended up being the right call. For some reason, the entrance to the event was through a massive convention hall with almost no lights on. Once inside there, once again there were no signs or staff telling you where to go, but I ended up getting my wristband and making my way to the actual event, chalking all of these negatives up to the venue.

Fans entered WWE World through a video tunnel showing a variety of major Wrestlemania moments, which was cool, and emerged into a dimly lit convention hall with an over-eager smoke machine. Once inside, I found that not only were there no matches but every experience had a line. The exhibits, the main thing I was excited about, looked like they were thrown together that morning, featuring some ring-worn gear tossed on mannequins in a small space surrounded by stanchions and a long line to get in. I circled the entire event three times looking for any semblance of what I had been expecting and came up empty. I eventually gave up and decided to salvage the experience by heading to the superstore.

On the plus side, during my 45+ minute wait to get into the store, I struck up a conversation with the couple in front of me who turned out to be the parents of NXT star Eddy Thorpe. On the down side, the superstore was another disappointment. My goal of snagging a Bayley shirt, a commemorative Wrestlemania XL pin, a toy version of the classic Intercontinental title, and maybe some legends gear came up empty. Bayley, who won the Royal Rumble and was challenging for the WWE Women's title, had a whopping four tee shirts. Not four designs, four total shirts in the entire store, all size medium. There wasn't much in the way of the legends I was looking for, nor the title belt. I did manage to find a cool looking Wrestlemania XL shirt in my size and, after a few rounds through the store, I decided to give up the search. After another line, I was on my way out when I saw someone restocking the pin I was looking for, but at that point, I was over the whole experience and not interested in getting back in line.

If I should make it to another WrestleMania in the future, I would definitely not spend money on this experience.

Ring of Honor: Supercard of Honor

After the letdown of WWE World, I made my way up to Temple University for Ring of Honor's annual Supercard of Honor PPV. I was looking forward to seeing some of the joshi talent from Stardom and seeing Eddie Kingston defend the ROH World title against Mark Briscoe. I was a little bummed that the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions, Bullet Club Gold, weren't on the card, but held out hope that they might be a surprise addition.

Being a Temple alum, as soon as I stepped off the subway I went straight to Eddie's Pizza, my favorite spot on campus. On steak sandwich later, I strolled over to the Liacouras Center to find that I had the time wrong and was an hour early. Classic. So I went over to the Student Center, found a chair, and relaxed for an hour before heading back over.

Once inside, I was happy with my seat that afforded a great view of the action, and enjoyed the opening contests that aired on Zero Hour before the PPV. The event then kicked off with a fantastic Television Championship match that set the tone for great matches all night. The joshi match was great, we did end up with a surprise match for the six-man titles that included Minoru Suzuki, Dalton Castle was hilarious, and I got to see Athena retain her Women's World Championship in a match that I expected her to lose, much like I did back at Takeover in 2018.

The main event between ROH World Champion and ROH lifer Mark Briscoe was fantastic. Kingston is a favorite of mine and rooting for the super entertaining Briscoe, especially in the wake of his brother Jay's tragic death, has been easy. The two friends held nothing back in the bloody battle for the belt and, in the end, Briscoe used his big brother's finisher to win his first ever World title, eleven years to the day after Jay won the very same championship. Fans filled the ring with streamers as ROH wrestlers and Briscoe's family came in to celebrate the feel-good moment.

Despite living in ROH's hometown and grabbing one of their first-ever DVDs back in the day, this was my first ROH show. I had a blast and would certainly go back. I wish Tony Khan, the owner of both AEW and ROH, would hand off ROH creative to someone else and hold the TV tapings for the weekly show here in Philly. I'd certainly make it a point to get to a few of those.

Suplex Vintage Wrestling: Block Party

I had been meaning to checkout Suplex Vintage Wrestling, a store on South Street, since it opened but had yet to make it there. And although I attended their free Block Party event on Wrestlemania Saturday, I still have yet to check out the store. But I'll get there soon.

Unlike the other shows, no promotion big or small was behind this one. This event was promoted by the store, and the ring was set up smack in the middle of South Street. Because it was free, I added it to my to-do list and stood in the street to see another group of independent wrestlers I was largely unfamiliar with.

There was a familiar face in the opening bout, Nick Wayne, who is a part of Christian Cage's Patriarchy faction in AEW. He squared off with local wrestler Marcus Mathers, whose vintage Phillies gear made him an instant winner in my book. The main event also featured a few familiar faces, Joey Janela who I first saw in AEW and Jimmy Lloyd, who I had seen earlier in the week at Labor of Love.

This show was super entertaining, and a great warm-up for the very cold WrestleMania evening ahead. In particular, I was impressed by Zayda Steel and Jordan Oliver, two heels whose mannerisms and facial expressions gave their matches a little extra.

As soon as the final bell sounded, I headed back to the car and made my way south to the sports complex to attend my very first WrestleMania.

WWE: WrestleMania XL - Night One

The first Wrestlemania I remember watching was WrestleMania VI, where I rooted for the Ultimate Warrior to end Hulk Hogan's WWF World Heavyweight Championship reign. After that, I'd make frequent trips to First Run Video to rent all of the Wrestlemanias, SummerSlams, Survivor Series, Royal Rumbles, and other Coliseum Home Video offerings. For a small, independent video rental store, it was a goldmine of WWF content. I watched whatever wrestling I could, catching WWF's All American Wrestling, Superstars, and Wrestling Challenge and WCW's Worldwide, Saturday Night, and on those special occasions, Clash of the Champions. I also watched GWF's Major League Wrestling on ESPN after school, which quickly became one of my favorite shows. Local channel 48 also had a ton of wrestling where, over the years, I'd catch IWCCW, NWA Wildside, and ECW. We never ordered the PPVs in our house, but our neighbors sometimes did, and I remember being enthralled watching Wrestlemania VIII live.

Attending Wrestlemania always felt out of reach. My dad had taken me to two house shows in early 1992 at the Spectrum where we witnessed the early battles between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. A few years later, he somehow scored pretty good tickets across from the hard camera for the 1995 King of the Ring - I was going to see a PPV live and in person! Of course, that particular event is frequently named on fans' worst of all time lists, and I wouldn't go to another wrestling event for 23 years. Needless to say, when Wrestlemania XV was held in Philly, tickets were not on the table.

I had spent the weeks and months leading up to WrestleMania XL first asking around to see if any friends were interested in attending, then waffling over whether or not I should go alone. Just over a week before the event, I told Sarah that I was thinking about going to both nights, including the cost. Knowing it was a rare occasion for this event to be in our backyard, she encouraged me to go for it, so I bit the bullet and got tickets behind the stage for both nights.

Walking through the parking lot to the Linc was pretty fantastic. Everywhere I looked there were replica title belts, people cosplaying as wrestlers, cars blasting entrance music, and hordes of fans making their way to the stadium. On my way to my seats, I ducked into the lower level to get a view of the set, where a security guard was kind enough to snap a photo of me. From there, I headed up to my seat, where I struck up a conversation with a fan from South Dakota who had attended several Manias, and a guy from Germantown who, like me, couldn't pass up the opportunity and came to the show solo.

The event kicked off with Rhea Ripley's successful World Championship retention over megastar Becky Lynch. A fun and chaotic ladder match that FINALLY separated the two sets of tag team titles followed where neither of my preferred teams came out with the gold, but hopefully we will see DIY and New Catch Republic challenge for the titles soon. The lucha libre tag team match was a blast, in particular to the burly luchadores who ran in at the end of the match. It took awhile for us to figure out that it was Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson from where we were sitting, but the pop from the folks on the floor was a pretty good hint. The battle of the Usos was another awesome chapter in the story of the Bloodline and the women's trios match was a great coming out party for former AEW star Jade Cargill.

The penultimate bout was for my favorite title, the Intercontinental Championship. Champion Gunther had shattered the record of the longest title reign in his astounding 666 day run as champ going into this match with former champion Sami Zayn. Zayn is the ultimate underdog, somehow combining elements of Terry Funk and Mick Foley with a Rocky Balboa spirit, making him the perfect counterpart to the dominating Gunther. Sami rallying to soundly defeat the unstoppable force that is Gunther in the middle of the ring told a great story and gave the fans a feel-good moment. I only wish the belt Sami hoisted in the air after the match looked like the one pictured.

The main event was a tag team match of epic proportions, pitting World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and the overwhelmingly popular Cody Rhodes against one of the biggest stars in the world, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, making his return to the ring after nearly a decade away, and his cousin, the formidable Roman Reigns, whose 1,315 days as WWE Universal Champion seemed poised to continue until Roman elected to hang up his boots for good. This match would determine who would have the advantage in the following night's main event. Would Seth and Cody triumph, thus banning the Bloodline from ringside during Sunday's title bout or would the Anoa'i Bloodline prevail yet again, forcing the championship match to be fought under their rules?

After nearly 45 minutes of action, the Rock pinned Rhodes with the People's Elbow, one of the lamest moves in professional wrestling, to set the tone for the following evening (and, perhaps, the year to come). During the course of the match, Rollins reinjured his knee, calling into question his ability to defend his championship in the opening bout of Sunday's event, less than 24 hours later. The stage was set for night two.

WWE: WrestleMania XL - Night Two

For the second night of WrestleMania, I was about 15 rows back from where I sat on night one. This actually ended up working in my favor, as I was able to see a lot more of the wrestlers' entrances, which are usually pretty spectacular at WrestleMania. Being so high up also gave me a great view of Philly when looking in the other direction.

The action kicked off with the World title bout between Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre. The World Heavyweight Champion made what may be my favorite entrance of all time, in full Mummer regalia flanked by the Mummers String Band Association. McIntyre took full advantage of his weakened opponent who had been injured in the prior evening's main event, and ended up scoring the pinfall and winning the title. This was a pretty cool moment, because his prior runs with a World title occurred during the pandemic, making this his first major title victory in front of fans. McIntyre celebrated by rubbing his win in the face of the incredibly thin-skinned and frequently injured CM Punk, who was sitting in on commentary. Punk attacked him, allowing Damien Priest, an imposing powerhouse with impressive speed who had wrestled on the indies for years before finally getting signed to WWE, to cash in his Money in the Bank World title contract and defeat McIntyre in short order to become World Heavyweight Champion to a huge pop.

Around this time, it started to get darker and, for some reason, a handful of super bright lights above the ring were aimed directly at the upper decks of the stadium. Because of that, I largely missed the six-man Philadelphia street fight and the match between LA Knight and AJ Styles. Finally, after over half an hour of chants from the crowd begging for the lights to be dimmed were finally answered, and we were able to enjoy the rest of the show.

Unfortunately, that meant we got to see Logan Paul, who is apparently famous for being an asshole on YouTube, retain the United States Championship against two phenomenal wrestlers in Kevin Owens and Randy Orton. But that sour taste was quickly pushed aside as Royal Rumble winner Bayley, one of my favorites, was set to challenge former stablemate Io Shirai for Shirai's WWE Women's Championship. When I was considering going to just one night of WrestleMania, this match was going to be the one that determined which night I went to. In the end, Bayley triumphed and our section went nuts as she celebrated a world title victory on the biggest stage possible.

The it was main event time. In a rematch from last year's main event, Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes challenged the unstoppable Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship, which consists of both the Universal and WWE championships. At this point, Regins had been Universal champion for 1,316 days and WWE champion for 735 days. The two men battled back and forth for over twenty minutes before the shenanigans came into play, and me-oh-my what shenanigans they were. Roman's cousin Solo Sikoa was the first to interfere, which drew the ire of John Cena, who came down to take care of Sikoa before the Rock came out to confront Cena, echoing back to the two main events the two had battled in over a decade ago. Seth Rollins, decked out in his old Shield attire, tried to help but was taken out by Reigns. As Rock was poised to finish Cody for his cousin, a bell tolled and the lights went out. When they came back on, the Undertaker was in the ring, taking the Rock out of the picture with a chokeslam. From there, Cody hit his finisher, a rolling cutter called the Cross Rhodes, three times in a row and covered Reigns to end the most dominant championship reign I had ever seen in my 35 years as a wrestling fan. The crowd went absolutely wild, and I was jumping up and down, hugging and high-fiving strangers in a way I hadn't since the Eagles won the Superbowl.


I had a fantastic week of enjoying professional wrestling and seeing fans from around the world all over the city of Philadelphia. With the exception of WWE World, I enjoyed every event and had a great time. While it would have been fun to enjoy these shows with a friend, I had a great time flying solo and I don't think I'll wait another six years before going to another show. I will say, however, that as I attend more shows, particularly independent shows, I hope to see fewer springboard cutters. That move has seemingly become like the superkick or DDT in that it used to be a finisher, and now pops up several times in multiple matches. This short highlight reel from the Nick Wayne and Marcus Mathers match has three, and this was far from the only match in which that move was busted out more than once.

For the non-wrestling fan out there who is wondering what all of the fuss is about, there are five matches I'd recommend checking out:

  1. "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat for the WWF Intercontinental Championship from WrestleMania III

  2. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart from WrestleMania X

  3. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn - make sure to watch the hype video before the match

  4. Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn for the Undisputed WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship from Elimination Chamber 2023 - make sure to watch the hype video before the match

  5. FTR vs. Bullet Club Gold in a 2 out of 3 falls match for the AEW World Tag Team Championship on the 7/15/23 episode of AEW Collision


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Verb. 1) Pertaining to the behavior of being a Wittwer. 2) Doing odd things that only Wittwers would do. 3) Catchall phrase for the thoughts and actions of Patrick Wittwer.

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