The World Wrestling Federation staged the first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The main event was a tag-team match between the WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, accompanied by Jimmy Snuka against the team of Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, who were accompanied by Cowboy Bob Orton.
The financial and critical success of the event secured the company’s status as the most successful promotion in the United States, rising above competitors such as the National Wrestling Alliance and American Wrestling Association. And when McMahon decided to cross-pollenate his product across three areas of the country for WrestleMania II, there was no stopping the then 38-year old man with the fertile mind of a scientist with a new polymer to play with.
But WrestleMania today is not the same event it was 30 years ago or even 15 years ago. So much emphasis is played on the Royal Rumble to get to WrestleMania and the lost art of entertain incorporation has led to the product we will see Sunday night. Although there is great potential in the idea of Daniel Bryan making this his night to shine above all others, the purpose of WrestleMania was for this to be more of a Hollywood, star-studded festival and red carpet event. And somewhere along the way, the company and that 38-year-old man forgot what got him to this point.
Although it pains me to say it, WrestleMania of the past is much better than WrestleMania of the present and the potential WrestleMania of the future. While the NFL went through almost a decade of awful Super Bowl games where the NFC beat the crap out of the AFC, the league found its way back to balance. McMahon must follow that path.
The WWE gained its biggest notoriety from the beginning of the “Attitude Era” which some credit WrestleMania XIV for starting the concept. Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to become the new WWF Champion in a match that featured Mike Tyson serving as the special enforcer. Although Tyson had been aligned with Michaels and his stable D-Generation X, Tyson revealed to have been aligned with Austin all along as he personally counted the pin fall and declared Austin the winner. The Undertaker and Kane fought for first time at this event where The Undertaker won. The following year at WrestleMania XV, Austin defeated The Rock to regain the WWF Championship. The event featured the first of many encounters at WrestleMania between Steve Austin and The Rock in the rivalry of the two most prominent and popular stars of period.
We as wrestling fans and the company itself needs another era like that to help the WWE and wrestling gain its life back. Such an event like Sunday night may be able to take that step forward. This is an event we need to remember for its longevity and its importance. And like in years past, it needs to be the one show we look forward to – knowing it will wow us instead of leaving us guessing if we will stomach what we see.
Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71
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