The View From Down Here – What Does Wrestlemania Mean?

Wrestlemania season. That time of the year when members of the IWC go all squeeny about every single tidbit concerning every minutia of every single wrestler ever born ever.


That time of the year when non-wrestling fans become vaguely aware that wrestling still exists, despite thinking that wrestling stopped sometime during the early 1990s. Most people in the real world had an idea of wrestling when Hulkamania first exploded onto the scene, and MTV was all over it. You couldn’t turn on the TV without Hulk Hogan or Roddy Piper or Randy Savage appearing on the TV screens doing something.


Sometime around the late 1980s wrestling dropped off the map. People did what people always do – they went on to the next pop culture thing. And in 1989 it was the Nintendo Game Boy and the advent of personal gaming systems which subsequently screwed up everything else.


But, some diehard fans will claim, what about Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock and, over on WCW, the nWo? Well… what about them? Sure, they made appearances and stuff, and there were a few t-shirts sold to wrestling fans, but that great crossover into all aspects of pop culture just didn’t happen. The 1990s were not dominated by wrestling personalities. There were several reasons for this – the world of the media had changed and there were so many other things that took people’s attentions away. The Internet was born and suddenly there were 1000 channels on TV and personal computer gaming was still everywhere. How about Cena and the Rock making movies? Well, Cena’s movies are surely Hulk Hogan-like in their scope. (Seriously; Ted DiBiase Jr’s acting in The Marine 2 was better than Cena’s in The Marine.) And you just have to look at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson on his current round of media blitzing to show where movies and wrestling git into his priorities.


However, having said all that, even non-fans get interested in this juggernaut called Wrestlemania. This is something that wrestling fans tend to forget. Wrestlemania is not for wrestling fans. The Royal Rumble is for wrestling fans. Wrestlemania is for the world of pop culture at large. Cities are vying for the right to host it. Behind the scenes, cities are trying to get the Wrestlemania franchise to their city almost as much as they try to get the Superbowl. It’s not at Olympics level… yet. But it is pushing Superbowl levels of hosting prestige.


This is why many recent Wrestlemanias have a music concert as part of the package. Wrestlemania is not about the wrestling. It is about the celebrity. Celebrities are as important to what Wrestlemania means in this day and age as having actual wrestling on the show. Singing, hosting, performing in the ring, backstage, various appearances. It is what the whole Wrestlemania thing is all about.


The Rock is more important to Wrestlemania than any of the wrestlers. He is a legitimate movie star, he has a following, he is a celebrity. He will attract to the Wrestlemania product those people who liked him in whatever the last film he was in. He will bring in people who are the Rock’s fans.


Brock Lesnar is at least as important to Wrestlemania as any of the so-called full-time wrestlers. He is not that far removed from a very successful UFC career, cut short by illness. He will bring in those fans who want to see what he’s doing now, how he’s doing now, and to see if they think there’s a chance he’ll go back.


Even Chris Jericho is more important than many of the other wrestlers on the roster. He has a following outside of wrestling. In Australia his band Fozzy was very well received, his TV appearances have been well-received, and he has also done a lot of non-wrestling PR stuff. His non-wrestling fans may just come along to see him.


But here’s the rub – these non-wrestling fans, these fans of wrestling celebrities, will only watch their favourites at Wrestlemania. This is because Wrestlemania is the only wrestling event that people even know about who are not fans.


As much as we wrestling fans hate it, Wrestlemania is not designed for us. And the sooner we can accept this and just take Wrestlemania as it is and enjoy it as an example of modern pop culture, not a wrestling event, the sooner we may actually enjoy what is on offer.


And then we can wait for the Royal Rumble in 2014, which is the one designed for us.



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