WM Top 25: #5 – The celebrities of WrestleMania

I'm cheating this week and this entry isn't just a "moment," but rather a collection of "moments" talking about the importance of celebrities of WrestleMania culture. So click over to Examiner.com and help me out and leave some comments flaming my choice here if you so choose.

I am going to cheat a little bit and not just highlight one “moment” but rather a collaboration of moments to create a concept. WrestleMania has always been considered THE event in the North American pro wrestling calendar year and it’s not just because of the wrestlers and the matches involved.

World Wrestling Entertainment has always thrived on making WrestleMania something bigger than a regular wrestling card. They’ve always wanted it to be a mainstream attraction where celebrities and musicians and pop culture icons flocked to.

That become obvious right off the bat when at WrestleMania I the card was littered with people like Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, Liberace and others. It was right then and there that Vince McMahon and company told the wrestling and entertainment worlds that this wouldn’t be your typical pro wrestling card.

Celebrities being a part of WrestleMania have become an institution. Many traditionalist wrestling fans dislike the celebrity aspect of the show, feeling it takes away from the hard-working professionals who don’t make the card because of someone who is more famous than them. Myself, I don’t have any problem with it because I feel that celebrity involvement is what makes WrestleMania stand apart from any other wrestling card during the year.

At WrestleMania XI in 1995 retired NFL star linebacker Lawrence Taylor stepped into the main event of show to battle perennial mid-card talent Bam Bam Bigelow. It is obvious that any celebrity who steps in the ring at WrestleMania is going to come out a winner, and this was no different. The match got the main event slot over the WWF Championship match that typically closed WrestleMania. The surprising thing of the whole debacle was that Taylor and Bigelow put on the best “celebrity match” in WrestleMania history, which I guess shouldn’t come as a big shock knowing the consummate athlete that the original LT was at that point.

Donald Trump is no stranger to WrestleMania. His Trump Plaza in Atlantic City hosted WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V with The Donald himself in attendance. He had since made appearances over the years at the live event including WrestleMania VII in LA and WrestleMania XX in New York City. So it wasn’t a surprise when Trump and Vince McMahon struck a deal for WrestleMania 23 in 2007 where Trump would appear in the corner of a “hand-picked wrestler” to battle a hand-picked wrestler of McMahon’s choosing. It was billed as the “Battle of the Billionaires” where the losing “billionaire” would get his head shaved. Raise your hand if you remember Donald Trump getting his head shaved in the past couple of years. Yeah that’s what I thought. So as expected McMahon’s guy took the fall and the WWF honcho got his pompadour shaved clean.

Then last year at WrestleMania XXIV, the company went back to the celebrity sports figure route once against and enlisted the services of welterweight boxing star Floyd “Money” Mayweather, all 150 pounds of him. But being this is pro wrestling it needed to be a spectacle so they paired Mayweather against one of the largest athletes/entertainers in the world, the 400 lbs, 7’0 “Big Show” Paul Wight. The match was billed as “no disqualifications” with the only ways to win as pinfall, submission or knock out. The match was based on pure spectacle and size rather than any technical merit, as anyone old enough to know better could see that Mayweather was winning. I mean was the company really going to pay a supposed $20 million for Mayweather just to have him lose? As expected Big Show took the loss after a brass-knuckle covered fist from “Money.”

These celebrity matches aren’t on the card for the athletic competition; they are there for the spectacle and grandeur. The hope is that attaching a celebrity name to a WrestleMania card will draw in the mainstream audience and the causal fans in order to draw a bigger buyrate for the pay per view and bring a bigger audience to the arena.

WrestlreMania has been built up as something more than a wrestling event. It is the one night a year where it is considered okay to be a wrestling fan. It has become a destination spot for fans from all over the world. Every year WrestleMania puts over 50,000 people in a football stadium somewhere around the country. What was once an afternoon wrestling card has now turned into a near-week long parade of events that pumps millions of dollars into that city’s local economy. It’s a cultural institution unlike anything else in the wrestling industry and frankly celebrity involvement is just one part of the mix that makes it so successful and unique.

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