The Spotlight On The Sights and Sounds Of Wrestlemania Week

The Sights and Sounds of Wrestlemania! 

Nothing like seeing a Wrestlemania Banner at Baggage Claim!

This is the first time over the past three years in which I’ve been flying to Wrestlemania that I was able to get down to Wrestlemania on a Thursday and I can honestly say that this is the day to come down if you’re going to do it.  For one, most fans arrive on Thursday and so you really feel like you’re all heading to Wrestling Haven together.  Everywhere you look fans are wearing wrestling t shirts and carrying memorabilia for the show.  My girlfriend made me a really cool Chad Gable towel that I carried around with me at the airport and was a big hit with the other fans attending the show.  Unfortunately, the security checkpoint was horrendous at Laguardia Airport.  Seriously people need to learn how to take off their shoes, belts and have their laptops ready for stowing prior to getting up to the checkpoint.  I realise that when you travel as much as I do you become Geroge Clooney (In Up in the air) esque in being able to fly through the airport but really some people really slowed us down.  We were so delayed that we almost ended up missing our flight altogether and had to jet to our gate once we finally got through. When I finally got there I let out a big sigh of relief and I heard a familiar voice greet me by saying “That’s ok let it out, you made the flight and now it’s officially Wrestlemania, nothing else matters!”.  It was WWE hall of famer Howard Finkel who happened to be on our flight (You can go back and read my post about meeting Howard at a Dean Ambrose signing to get an idea how big a fan of his I am).

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Nothing Says Wrestlemania more than the sight of the Wrestlemania City Banners! 

Once you arrive in the city, it’s all about Wrestlemania! In the past the airports have been decked out in WWE decoration.  It literally feels lke if you’ve ever flown into Orlando and taken the Magical Express back to Disneyworld except instead of the world of magic, this is the world of wrestling.   I’ll never forget when we landed in New Orleans a couple of years ago and were greeted by a brass band playing John Cena’s theme song.  Or last year when we were greeted at the airport by Dean Malenko.  This year, we ended up flying into a smaller airport in Dallas so there wasn’t as many Wrestlemania signs at our airport but enough to let you know that you arrived and it was Wrestlemania.

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My girlfriend Eri, excited to see the boss get her own Wrestlemania city banner

What we do each year is start our week off at the  with a trip to the Wrestlemania store.  We did this on Friday morning and it was a lot of fun.  If you have time to set aside for the store, I suggest doing it as a separate time then axxess.  If you’re like me, you’re pretty tired after Axxess and the store is so big that there is more than enough to do there to spend an hour of time there on it’s own.  As we walked up into the Wrestlemania store, every nearby street post had a different superstar banner hanging proudly.  Everyone from the Rock to The New Day to Charlotte were represented proudly.  By the entrance of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center, there were a number of larger banners with every superstar you can think of taking up their spot on the walls of the building.  These are always great for some photo ops and to go and see all of the different decorations.  The KBH center was the home for all things WWE this weekend and there were just loads of fans everywhere.

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Fans from all over the world take to the WWE Superstore

As we made our way upstairs into the actual store, there was a large WWE painting booth featuring the great work of WWE artist Rob Schamburger.  Rob is always on hand at Axxess working hard creating his next masterpiece.  Even though he’s hard at work, Rob is always very gracious and down to earth.  He’ll always stop to talk to you and is glad to sign any painting that you purchase of his.  Rob started out as a fan and has been embraced by WWE for his talent but is still a fan at heart and just an all around great person.

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WWE Artist Rob Schamberger paints for the fans outside of the WWE Superstore

The store itself is a sight in an of itself and a reminder to us long time fans of what the old WWF New York Store used to be like back in the day.  There are different types of shirts everywhere you look, whether it be related to the members of this year’s hall of fame, the NXT Roster, the premier matches on the wrestlemania card or Wrestlemania event specific shirts they have everything you can think of.  The people working the store are also generally pretty cool about letting you pose for photos in the different masks (who woudn’t want to take a photo as Asuka or a couple photo as Gold and Stardust?)  or hats.  Decked on the walls of the store are different images of the WWE superstars and divas wearing all of the different memorabilia for sale, which always reminds me of the old superstar catalogs in the old WWF magazines.  The store also has some rare pieces of merch that you won’t find anywhere else like the new Sting Defining Moments figure that won’t be released for months or the new John Cena coffee table book(my favorite are always the replica Slammy and replica Undertaker’s Urn).  Lastly in the center of the store is your high end pieces of merch that can go from anywhere from $90 to $3500.  These range from signed figures to plaques featuring event used mats or even a replica winged eagle scale belt.  While it’s not realistic to expect everyone to have the dispsobable income to afford such pieces, they are great to look at.

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Eri channeling her inner boss

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Checking out the NXT section of memorabilia, surprised they didn’t have one of these Chad Gable towels on sale, which my girlfriend was nice enough to surprise me with before going.

When in Texas…

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Two great couples, eh?  The Authority & Tom/Eri…by the way you all know what a huge fan of Shane McMahon I am but could he look more awkward on the wall of the superstore here?

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Eri is a proud resident of Suplex City! By the way, I can’t believe Brock agreed to pose in his T shirt for the store.  Pretty cool!

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The Black and White Wyatt masks are two of the more popular items available for sale at the Superstore!

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It doesn’t get much cooler than these high end plaques which will run you $1500!  That said, such a badass replica belt and Wrestlemania 12 Tribute! 

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If you noticed that we look a little different, good job this was taken last year but nothing beats a Dust couple photo and the Rhodes masks join the Wyatts and Kalisto as the most popular this year.

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At some point I will justify dropping the $40 for one of these urns and yes this photo is here because my girlfriend can do picture perfect Undertaker Eyes and I think that’s pretty cool!  

One frustrating piece was that the wristbands for the free superstar signings were given out randomly 2-3 hours prior to the signing but there was no way of knowing that ahead of time.  Thus we showed up at 11:30 hoping for a chance to see Sheamus or Kane (one of my girlfriend’s favorites) and were told we needed a wristband to wait on their line and the bands were all given out before 10AM.  That said, it was still cool to see both Sheamus and Kane on hand in the store, who were in years past VIP only signings at Axxess.

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“The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus awaits the fans at the Wrestlemania Superstore 

That’s going to do it for me for right now but I want to take a minute to thank WWE and the folks running the superstore for letting us run around the store like kids and try on a number of the pieces for sale.  Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at WWE NXT Takeover, one of the best events of the entire weekend.

 

Site Relaunch, Back From Wrestlemania & More- The Daily Spotlight for 4/10/2016

Coming to you live here from a virgin airlines flight, I am officially on my way back from a very fun weekend in the state of Texas.  My plan for the rest of this week is to breakdown all of the wrestling happenings from this weekend and then once I’m caught up on all of the programming I missed while I was away, I am going to break down everything as this is the official relaunch of the daily spotlight.

Let’s start with a little housecleaning as to what I plan to give you from this site.  My plan is for some WWE news each and every day. I’m going to breakdown each week’s Raw, NXT and smackdown as well as some of the bigger stories as they unfold throughout the week.  Then every Sunday morning I’m going to present you with the Spotlight Small Package which will be your one stop source for all of the week’s news and wrestling breakdowns on the site.  That said, I don’t want this to solely be a wrestling website.  Thus I’m going to also be breaking down a variety of sports, travel and reviews.  The reviews themselves will come out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and focus on my experiences with a particular product, restaurant and/or travel destination (This week’s will focus on Wrestlemania week in Dallas!).  As for the spotlight videos, those are going to be reserved for Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekend and my plan is to really try to be a bit more consistent with those.  The problem with some of the videos is the quality but my hope is that as we go through the videos, the quality will only continue to improve.  As far as the new schedule, I’d look for that to really begin tomorrow morning, April 11th!  I appreciate all of you being so patient with me over the last couple of months.  It’s been a hard time personally with the death of my father as well as trying to really hit the ground running with a new job that I literally started the day my father passed away.  It’s been crazy but I’m at a point now where I think I can really get things back up and running on a more consistent basis.  We hit one year on the daily spotlight this part week and I couldn’t have been happier to hit that resubscribe button on the site when it came time to do that just last week.  The first year of the daily spotlight has been a lot of fun, I’ve gotten to interact with a ton of people and do a lot of things that I normally wouldn’t have been able to do without the site and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.  I plan of taking the daily spotlight to much greater heights as we take on year two of the blog!  Now let’s get onto this weekend.

I do things for Wrestlemania week a lot different then most fans that come in front out of town for the big show. This is mostly because my girlfriend comes with me for the show and she does so for her birthday.  My job is generous with time off but not generous enough to where I can take a vacation without her, nor would I want to.  My girlfriend has become a pretty big fan of WWE ( so much so that if she hears you say that she only watches because of me, it’ll be sure to tick her off) and I couldn’t imagine going to Wrestlemania without her.  Watching her marvel at the spectacle of Wrestlemania and jump up out of her seat for every big return or nearfall is half of the fun of it for me.  That said, I pick and choose my spots when it comes to going to shows with her.  We always attend Wrestlemania, Axxess and usually one other wrestling show of the weekend (which has become NXT, it was Raw two years ago and NXT has taken over that slot the last two years).  One thing I learned three years ago was that the hall of fame isn’t for her.  We went in 2013, and got dressed up for that matter, and after thoroughly enjoying Mick Foley, Trish Stratus and Booker T, my girlfriend looked at me and said, “ this is cool and all but when are the matches going to start.”  She couldn’t believe a show was dedicated simply to speeches and really struggled through those last few hours of, what was a great hall of fame class.  Thus, we skip the hall and it is a shame for a historian like myself who loves seeing the legends honored.  We also don’t go to any shows that are non WWE related which includes wrestlecon.  At some point I’m going to have to attend some of these shows as some of the lineups that Ring of Honor and Evolve, to name a few, put out seem to be really good and I’ve also been dying to check out one of JR’s shows .  With that said the WWE events we attend tend to get a little pricey so we agree to skip the other shows.  What we also do though is really engulf ourselves into the city that plays host to Wrestlemania and were finally able to do so with plenty of time this time around as we arrived Thursday and stayed until last Wednesday after Wrestlemania.  Thus over the next several posts I’m going to break down each one of the different wrestling events that we attended this past weekend and I encourage you to also do so in our comment section below or interact with us over on twitter @daily_spotlight or on my personal twitter @TommyOnTheSpot!  As always we can also be reached by Email at thedailysptolight2@gmail.com! Don’t worry I have spent the last few days really catchng up on the rest of the WWE content that rolled out during Wrestlemania weekend on the Network and I will get to all of those as the week rolls on!

The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 33 Coming To Orlando!

Well it’s official, WWE will be returning to the sunshine state next year for Wrestlemania 33 on April 2nd, 2017! WWE held a press conference earlier today officially announcing that Wrestlemania will return to the, newly renovated, Citrus Bowl for the first time since Wrestlemania 24 in 2008.  This is huge news for vacation goers as Orlando is one of, at least to me, biggest vacation spots in all of the United States. Last year my girlfriend and I had an amazing time at Wrestlemania in California and created our own Wrestling & theme park week! Thus, I’m excited to be being able to recreate some of the grandeur of last year, next year in Orlando! Let me get into all you need to know about Wrestlemania from the press conference today.

-First off, we’ll start with some important dates and locations. WWE Axxess will take place at the Orange County Convention Center throughout the weekend. While I haven’t been there myself, I spoke to a friend who lives in Orlando & he told me that the building is really nice & spacious. The Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic, will play host to both The 2017 Hall Of Fame, April 1st and Monday Night Raw the night after Wrestlemania, April 3rd. There was no date announced for NXT but with the performance center & NXT headquarters, they film most television out of Full Sail University, being right in Orlando, I’d bet NXT will have quite a prescence Wrestlemania weekend. 

– As far as the press conference today, kudos to WESH news in Orlando for broadcasting the press conference live. I was able to follow along while at work & it was really cool to see. That said, it’s a shame for those folks that couldn’t follow along live, 11AM on a Tuesday few can, that can’t watch the press conference if they wanted to. WWE has its own network & really should make this stuff available for subscribers who want to watch it. Especially if they aired this kind of stuff live, I feel it would draw more people to the livestream on the WWE Network. 
– From the looks of it Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, John Cena, Ric Flair, Charlotte, Roman Reigns and the New Day were all on hand for the press conference and joined different politicians in the local area in sharing their excitement over Wrestlemania returning to Orlando. There were also a number of NXT talents on hand, said to be greeting folks as they entered the conference, including Bayley, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and others. John Cena acknowledged the NXT talents, who were sitting front row, and joked that they were given time off to come watch them talk.

-The biggest piece of news, aside from the announcement, was that John Cena officially announced that he will not be taking part in this year’s Wrestlemania. Cena mentioned that for the first time in a decade and a half, he’ll be enjoying Wrestlemania as a fan. I know Cena was doing all he could to return, and it’s tough he won’t be able too, but it’s for the best that he takes his time to recover.  The last thing anyone wants is for Cena to return too soon and injure himself more. 

Overall this was a nice day for WWE and a big win for the city of Orlando, which Stephanie noted has become the WWE’s second home. Wrestlemania raises hundreds of millions of dollars for any city that plays host for it and it really looked like next year was going to be Minnesota. Thus, Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer had every right to dance with the New Day! As a fan, no offense to Minnesotans but nothing beats that combination of Disney and Wrestling…I can’t wait! 

That’s going to do it for now but tomorrow morning I’ll be back as it seems that WWE may not only bringing Wrestlemania to Orlando. Tomorrow we’ll look at whether or not the rumors are true…is WWE creating a physical hall of fame?!

The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 8

I’d like to start off by pointing out that as I got older, I grew an appreciation for Ric Flair. To me, he’s one of the best and most exciting wrestlers of all time. With that said, back in 1992, at the ripe old age of 5 years old…I hated Ric Flair. I didn’t understand what claim he had to the world title and I found his work boring. Back then my family family never watched WCW, so we didn’t understand why Flair was such a big deal.  We watched one WCW Clash of the Champions and we really didn’t enjoy it. To my family, WCW was just a lot of chops and didn’t have those larger than life characters that WWE had ( I realize how silly this is now by the way).   We all laughed when Flair came into the Rumble 92 at number 3 and thought, thank god he isn’t going to win. Of course, Flair would go on to win the Rumble, in arguably the greatest Rumbles of all time, but still we didn’t want Ric Flair as the world champion. At the time, we got our wrestling news from WWF magazine and from the Slammer, who wrote a quick article every Friday about the state of pro wrestling in the New York Daily News.  Thus it wasn’t like today where everyone knows Kevin Steen’s entire history and can’t wait for his first match.

I remember for Wrestlemania 8, they did a press conference where they would announce the new number one contender to face Flair at Wrestlemania for the title.  The likes of Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Randy Savage & Roddy Piper were all in attendance and it was made to be a big deal. You can watch it below, if you’d like

I was pretty surprised when Savage got the call as Wrestlemania really was the Hulk Hogan show up to this poing & the Slammer was telling us WWF was going with Hogan and Flair so Savage seemed a bit out of left field.

As for this Mania itself,  I remember being really confused as to why the world title match didn’t go on last and looking back, I’m still a bit confused.   Savage and Flair had a natural story going into their match and it was a really great match, filled with a lot of passion that resulted in a clean finish and title win for Randy Savage.  To me this would have been a great way to end WrestleMania.

Instead the main event was Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice.  It ended up being the first time in WrestleMania history that the world champion wasn’t at least involved in the main event.  I want to say the reason was because it was being teased that the Hogan-Justice match was going to be Hogan’s last match in the WWF but that wasn’t true as Hulk returned to the WWF the next year.  As for this match itself, it ended in a disqualification which would then also make this the first time in wrestlemania history that the show ended without a clean finish.  Sid ended up getting disqualified when newcomer Papa Shango hit the ring and began attacking Hogan. This led to a really surprising and great return for the Ultimate Warrior who hadn’t be seen in about six months.  What’s funny is that I remember Warrior was a lot leaner and had a haircut so this led to the popular belief that the Ultimate Warrior had actually been killed and replaced by someone else, the belief was Kerry von Erich.

Looking back at this show, it’s really almost like a changing of the guard with that Wrestlemania.  Following this show, Hogan & Piper took time off.  Jake Roberts also left the WWF for several years following this show and by the next year’s WrestleMania, Flair and Warrior would be gone too.  Instead Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart were getting ready to take on more prominent roles as the years went on.

Before I close the door on WrestleMania 8, I’d like to mention a personal story from later on in 1992.

I have mentioned in the past how I’ve had a history of being afraid of some WWE superstars and storylines. Giant Gonzales, Doink The Clown & the time the Undertaker came alive in the casket and flew out of it at the Royal Rumble 1994, to name a few. Well, if there was one guy who I feared more than any other it was unquestionably Papa Shango. Shango didn’t only look creepy but he performed voodoo on his opponents and made strange black goo pour out of the Ultimate Warrior.

On September 11th, 1992, my father got he and I two tickets for the WWF at Madison Square Garden.  I couldn’t believe it as this was going to be one of my first live events, I didn’t even know what to do or think.  We jumped on the Long Island Rail Road from Bayside to MSG and it was a feeling like none other.  Everywhere  looked there were wrestling fans, everyone was wearing a shirt and holding a sign, it was great.  It would be the same feeling I would feel during every show I’d end up going to, but there was something that felt big time about MSG.

A we arrived to MSG, following an embarrassing moment where I took a leak in a potted plant at penn station, my dad told me he had a huge surprise for me.  Before he revealed that, however, my dad bought me a program which always showed the match card.  I opened it up and screamed off every big match on the card.  Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker!  Randy Savage vs. Razor Ramon!  Then my face sank…I nervously proclaimed to my dad ” Dad, Papa Shango is wrestling tonight, he’s wrestling Bret Hart”.  This only got worse when my dad revealed his surprise, which were front row seats!

I immediately began to scream as this was unbelievable and intimidating at the same time. I told my dad as great as this was we had to give the seats away.  I couldn’t sit there petrified of Shango.  I’m sure my father wanted to kill me but, being a good father, agreed to make someone’s day, by asking some fans to switch seats with us.   We enjoyed the show from the sixth row until the Hart-Shango match.  At this point, I had to use the bathroom and the only way this was possible would be to walk against the barricade and passed the first row.  We tried to do this while Hart had Shango in a headlock and we were in the middle of tiptoeing past the front row when Shango disposed of Hart and ran at the ropes as quick as possible taunting the crowd.  Well, that was it!  I was off to the races as I ran quickly into the lobby.  I had never seen my father run faster in his life as he screamed for me to stop.  I eventually did but we hung out by the souvenirs until Hart won.

To make matters worse, I then pleaded with my dad to run up to the barricade to see the Undertaker up close.  That’s right, the deadman was fine but Papa Shango was the problem!  As for what happened to ole Papa Shango?  Well, he had to retire as he soon realized that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”

That’s gonna do it for now but next time I’ll be taking a look at the WWF in 1993.  Wrestlemania the album is released and WWF head’s to Ceasar’s Palace for Wrestlemania 9!

The Mania of March- The spotlight on Wrestlemania 7

Wrestlemania 7 was the first pay per view that my family ordered as we had gotten cable television not long before this… As a matter of fact, we tried getting the Rumble before this but had a problem with our cable connection as it had just been installed so we got the tape (remember those?) of the show the next day. Thus, I was pretty excited about the idea of watching a WWF pay per view live. Understand that the early 90s was during a period of time in which there wasn’t Monday Night Raw every week with high profile matches pitting main eventer against main eventer. You had Saturday Night’s Main Event every other  month or so but other than that, WWF television consisted of Saturday and Sunday morning programs, as well as prime time wrestling, centered around promos and preliminary matches. This made the pay per views feel so much more important as their were only four a year & they were your only real chance to see high profile matches.

The main reason why  I was so excited that we were going to be getting Wrestlemania 7 live on pay per view was that this meant that I would  finally get  to watch the countdown show, I’d get to see the matches as they were happening and I wouldn’t have to wait until they got the event at Blockbuster or depend on my father’s friend, this was amazing! This was also the beginning of watching WWF Pay Per Views together as a family, a tradition that continued for many years.  My dad would spend the day bar be cuing, my mom would make dessert and it would be the one night my sister and I were able to have candy and soda.

At the time, I was a huge Hulkamaniac, as I assume any four year old would be.  It seems looking back that Hulk Hogan was probably a bigger star in the 80s but in 1991, at least in my eyes he was still all the rage.  I remember Hogan was also everywhere, I distinctly remember that there was a special that ran on Nickelodeon at the time called “Stories From Growing Up” and it played constantly.  The special was about Hulk Hogan and how he used to be fat and got made fun of growing up.  It was ridiculous but I feel like I watched it every time it was on TV. You can watch that at the link below.

I also remember in 1991 being stuck in a Kids R Us with my mom as we had a flat tire and so we were stuck there for hours.  On the television, they kept playing all of these little commercials promoting items in the store.  One of the commercials featured Hulk Hogan and was a little of the Real American music video and then Hulk showed up to shill the WWE merchandise they had which included an awesome bedding set that I got later that year.  I had an absolute blast being stuck in the kids R Us because of this commercial and I remember doing everything I could to do my best Hogan impression I was entertaining customers and store security the whole day.

Thus, going into Wrestlemania 7, I was really happy to see that Hulk Hogan would be coming to his country’s defense against the evil Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter.  I remember i thought Slaughter’s win at Royal Rumble that year came out of nowhere and I hated seeing a bad guy walk around as the WWF champion.

I remember my father saying as that show began, “Wait what happened to the LA Coliseum?” which was a good question because WWF was really pushing the Coliseum hard especially at the Rumble that year.  I don’t recall it ever being revealed that Mania 7’s location was going to be changed to the LA Memorial Arena.

As for the show itself, I believe this was the last year for a while that they still put a ton of matches on the card in an effort to get everyone on the show, with an insane 14 matches.  That said, I did think that the matches helped the show fly right by as no match seemed to go too long. This also was during the period of time where the Rockers were kicking off most WWE shows and getting the crowd hot with a great fast paced match, similar to the ways that the Usos are used today. On this night they faced Haku and the Barbarian, a match I love to this day.   Aside from the top two matches, Warrior & Savage and Hogan & Slaughter, I remember being most excited Virgil vs. Ted Dibiase, believe it not.  I felt that they did a great job in, again, letting a long story unfold, that this match had a ton of heat behind it.

As for the two top matches, Warrior and Savage really stole the show for me.  The fact that Randy Savage hit five top rope elbow drops and they still weren’t enough to put the Ultimate Warrior away, just made Warrior seem so unstoppable.  If you couple that match with the excellent post match reunion between the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth that left members of the crowd crying,  I’d say that this would be the type of match & moment I’d suggest anyone to watch if they were wondering what makes Wrestlemania so special.

Of course though, in the end, I was just happy to see the Hulkster back on top as the WWF World Heavyweight Champion after a full year away from the belt.  On paper this may not read as a classic but if you go back and watch that match, Slaughter was so good in his role, especially with General Adnan in his corner, that he had so much heat.  Further than that, Sgt. Slaughter does a great job bumping his ass off and really selling for Hogan.  Thus, maybe it’s just the nostalgia of this being my first ever Wrestlemania I saw on pay per view or what, but I loved this match and really enjoyed this Wrestlemania.

Next time we’ll take a look at Wrestlemania 8 which really brought a lot of change to the WWF.  Plus I’ll throw in a fun story about my first WWF live event and how scared I was about Papa Shango.