The Road to Wrestlemania: A Trip of a Lifetime.

I apologize for the lateness of this article… I moved since getting back from Orlando, and have had some technical difficulties that kept me from uploading the media I wanted to use for this article!

 

As some of you know who read my articles, I have been a life long wrestling fan. I have been watching as long as I can remember and it has always been a part of my life, one way or another. When WrestleMania was announced, and I found out my grandparents friends were getting it on closed circuit tv, I begged to be allowed to watch, as they said it was an “adult party” that I wouldn’t be interested, in wrestling anyway, as it was “for boys”. Begging, pleading, and naming all my favorite wrestlers worked, and I got to watch it with the guys my grandfathers friend had invited over. This was just the beginning. When pay per view became a thing, we would order the special box for the wrestling shows, my grandfather would invite his friends, my moms sister, and her family would join us in watching it at our house, or invite us to theirs to get the PPV. Wrestling was the one sport that brought my family together in any way.

This was my first opportunity to go to WrestleMania, despite many offers and failed attempts in the past. Like when my friend spent $4k on fake tickets, he insisted were real, despite not being from Ticketmaster. He was arrested for trying to sell the fake ticket I refused to attempt to use to an undercover, and spent 2 nights in jail.  (Don’t buy tickets through scalpers who put ads on craigslist, or in the paper, only buy them through Ticketmaster, or verifiable reseller sites.) Even last year I was asked to go to WrestleMania, but the person wasn’t ever intending on taking me, or so it seems…

When the possibility of going this year came up, I didn’t put too much into it, as I rather not get excited about things that may not happen. But when my plane tickets were purchased, and we began forming an agenda, I knew it was real. Holy shit…. I was actually going! We procured tickets to WrestleMania, The WWE Hall of Fame, RAW, and Axxess for Thursday. We also booked for PromoterCon at WrestleCon, and planned on hitting up some of the independent events. When we began looking for a hotel, all that was available was lower end motels, so I began looking at other options. Usually I wouldn’t do this, but since we were heading to Orlando, Florida, I didn’t feel bad about booking an airbnb, as its a city full of vacation rentals. We found a lakeside rental, only 10 minutes from the airport, that could sleep up to 8 people, and it cost less than a small cheap motel for the week!

We flew out last Wednesday, and luckily had no big issues. We got our rental car, picked up our WrestleMania Flyers and went to the spot we rented. It was quaint, but clean and spacious and perfect for working when we had downtime as well as entertaining guests. We called it an early night so we could be ready for the weeks events, and the fact is I am on Los Angeles time, so the three hour time difference made it harder for me to be a morning person. I managed to get up and get dressed up, and we hit the road just about on time. On our way we stopped at WaWa, which is a treat for me as I live in Los Angeles, and we don’t have them there. And anyone who has been involved in east coast independent wrestling knows just how important WaWa can be, and I procured my favorite beverage, WaWa Green Tea!

At #PromoterCon #RoadToWrestlemania #Wrestling #BetWrestling #Orlando #Wrestlecon

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Our first stop was PromoterCon, which was a panel on promoting wrestling shows featuring: WWE Hall Of Famer JJ Dillon, Owner/Founder of WrestleCade Entertainment & AML Wrestling Tracy Myers, Owner/Founder of Gimmick Tree Entertainment & Modern Vintage Wrestling Charlie Armstrong and Owner of Combat Zone Wrestling and WSU, DJ Hyde. The event’s tagline was “Putting Butts in Seats” but honestly they could have done a better job getting folks to this. With my background in promoting shows, and working in production, I was quite interested in this event, but honestly I didn’t learn anything new. It was more geared towards beginners and folks who had limited knowledge of how to run live events. It probably was helpful for a few in the room. And it was nice to see Bill Apter there, who gave a short speech on wrestling media. Bill Apter is the longest running wresting journalist I know of, and he is full of all kinds of useful info, and I wish I would have had more time to chat with him of all people, but we had more to do!

Our next stop was WWE Axxess, which I already wrote a little bit about. The first person I saw that I know was “The Hobo” former CWF Hollywood Champion. The line was huge to get in, it took half an hour but moved pretty quickly. When we got inside it was a little overwhelming, as there was a lot to see and do. Some of the highlights were the Foam Pit Ring, the Superstar entrance way, the promo cutting booth, as well as many other interactive displays.

There was a ring set up for a few 205Live/NXT matches, presentations, interviews, and more. Fans also go opportunity to get autographs and photos with their favorite WWE superstars, and there was a massive WWE Pop Up Shop there as well. Overall it was a fun experience. Here is a clip of WWE Hall of Famer Alundra Blaze on women’s wrestling.

#alundrablayze at #axxess on #womenswrestling #wrestlemania #RoadToWrestlemania #Wrestling

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The next day we attended the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony and watched the class of 2017 be inducted, which included: Beth Phoenix, the Rock and Roll Express, Ravishing Rick Rude, Teddy Long, Kurt Angle, and others. There were heartfelt speeches from Nattie Niedhart, Ricky Steamboat, Jim Cornette, and JBL and Ron Simmons as they inducted this years class.

Day 3 we headed to the WWN shows, which due to miscommunication we did not actually have tickets, for, but due to our connections we did end up attending the afternoon Chikara Pro show. If you are not familiar with Chikara, they are my favorite independent wrestling promotion. They are one part lucha, one part Japanese, one part catch, with some american independent wrestling blended in. You never know what to expect. They kicked it off with a trio’s match, which is a tag team match with teams of 3 instead of 2. Chikara actually has  whole tournament built around these teams called “King of Trio’s” which if you can get tickets, is not to be missed! We also got the rare opportunity to see their trainer and mentor, Mike Quackenbush in some action with Zack Saabre Jr. This match was yet another technical masterpiece. I really enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed the matches so much, I didn’t bother with a review. Its really hard for me to write up reviews when I am really into watching something. The lighting also made it impossible to take photos if you were not sitting at ringside, so all my pictures came out blurry.

After checking out what was going on in the independent scene we headed out to meet up with my friend Melissa Coates, who is currently working with Sabu, as his wrestling genie sidekick.We met up with Melissa, Sabu, Jaime Dauncey, Crystal Carmichael and others, and headed out to Kevin Nash’s Shenanigans VIP Party. Though I did not see everyone who was listed in attendance, I am sure way more folks were there. We got there later in the evening, and the place was packed. It seemed the venue was far from prepared for the madness that ensued. You literally could not walk. Plus as we were in attendance with Sabu, fans were so excited to see him, at times it seemed they were more excited to see Sabu than Kevin Nash! I finally got opportunity to meet Al Snow, and I couldn’t help but mark out a little, as he really has done a tremendous amount for the wrestling industry and those in it. Other notable folks in attendance were: Shane Helms and his lovely wife, RVD, OBD, So Cal Val, Abyss, Amber O’Neill, Billy Gunn, and so many others we either did not spot or can’t remember to name at the time of this article. Shout out to  The Pro Wrestling Report for putting together such a fantastic event! Here is a clip of the the crowd preparing to do a shot with Kevin, as you can see it was packed, and pretty wild.

Kevin Nash’s party #RoadToWrestlemania #wrestlemania #Orlando

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We got back to our rental extremely late/early depending on how you look at it. Everyone else went directly to sleep, but I was so stoked… WrestleMania was only a few hours away! After a couple hours of browsing through twitter, I finally fell asleep. When I woke up it was time to prepare for the biggest day of the year! We got ready to go, waited for the rest of our party to return from their early morning expedition and headed to the Camping World Stadium, aka The Citrus Bowl. One thing that blew my mind was that parking was $150 per car. No I didn’t add a zero or extra digit… you read that right… one hundred and fifty dollars to park a car!!! Seriously that has to be the most ridiculous parking charge I have ever heard of in my life. If I were to pay that, the motherfucking valet better clean and polish my car, and drive me home. My plane ticket home to Los Angeles cost less than parking at the stadium!!! So we did what any smart folks would do, we found a business owner a few blocks away who was renting his trucking company lot for $30 per car. Whoot! If I wasn’t in heels, I would have been down to park even further away. Note to anyone ever going to Orlando for major events, parking is expensive and can be a bitch, as there is not much street parking to be found.

We got inside, and much to my horror, we were sitting up in the top of the stadium. I have issues with vertigo, and an ridiculous fear of falling, (probably because I am a total klutz.) so it took me about 15 minutes to adjust to our seats. I wrote the match results as we sat there, but they were brief as there is no pause button on a live event. I was so happy that we got there in time to see Neville vs Austin Aries. I don’t care what anyone says, I love watching these guys wrestle. I been a long time fan of Aries, and Neville just keeps getting better and better. This was one of my favorite matches of the night and it wasn’t even on the main card! Ambrose vs Corbin was way to short for my liking. Shane and AJ were just as wild as I expected. The Owens/Jericho match was meh. I think I had enough of it the month before. The RAW Womens Championship match was also disappointing as I would have liked to see Nia Jax go further in the match. The 4 way Tag Team Championship Ladder match was OFF THE CHAIN!

Holy shit its the Hardy’s!!!! #WrestleMania #WWE #ThisIsAweome

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We saw the return of the Hardy’s, which though speculated for 2 weeks prior, got one of the biggest pops of the night. The Hardy’s walked away as the new RAW Tag Champions. Next was Miz and Maryse vs Cena and Nikki Bella. Cena Proposed to Nikki after the match. She should have said no. Rollins vs HHH was kinda a snoozer. As much as I love Rollins, I am incredibly bored by HHH. Stephanie saved the match by falling through a table though, and effectively putting her out of commission for a while. Orton vs Wyatt was interesting. Watching them project worms on the ring was a nice touch, though it would have been nice to see Orton sell it as if the ring was moving and writhing under him. Hopefully that storyline gets buried with the worms…   Lesner vs Goldberg… I can’t even remember watching it, I am so bored by those two. SmackDown’s Womens Championship match was WAAAAAY too short. So happy for Naomi, she has come a long way and deserves that belt! And finally the main event… The Undertaker vs Roman Reigns. It was really hard to see The Undertaker moving so slowly, and really having difficulties with things he once made us go crazy for. That man has put his body through an incredible amount of hell for our entertainment. I think it was a huge honor for Reigns to be the one working him in his last match, and to be handed the torch so to say. Overall the match wasn’t of the highest wrestling quality, but for nostagia, and pulling at the heart strings, it was a 10. Wrestlemania ended with The Undertaker leaving his hat, gloves, and jacket in the ring, signalling his retirement.
My first in person WrestleMania was a great one, and probably the most memorable one in the 33 year history of WrestleManias.

Outside #AmwayCenter for #RAW @wwerollins this cracked us up.

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The next night we were back at it, and headed out to Monday Night Raw at the Amway Center. When you watch RAW on TV, some folks don’t realize in order to get the crowd riled up there are often matches for Main Event, or other WWE pre taped shows, so the fans have something to cheer for After the match taped for Main Event, the entire arena chanted “Undertaker” over and over. Those who watched RAW live that night, said the TV show opened with us chanting, and it gave them chills. The first segment was Roman Reigns coming out the the ring for a promo. The fans in attendance boo’d for what felt like an eternity. Roman said one simple statement “This is my yard now” and walked off. Other highlights of RAW were Kurt Angle being named the new GM, Cesaro and Sheamus becoming the #1 contenders for the tag titles, and the return of Finn Balor! The crowd was on FIRE when his music hit. I know I say it a lot, but it is awesome to see those I knew from my independent wrestling days make it to TV.

After RAW was over Goldberg came out and said his goodbyes for now. It was kinda sweet as he brought his kid to the ring and acknowledged his wife, and his life as a dad. Here is our after-RAW report from the rental.

The next day we went to breakfast with Osiris and his entourage, we caught up on some north east indy wrestling. After parting ways we then considered going to Smackdown, but instead decided to hit Disney World, specifically the Magic Kingdom. Can I say Space Mountain might be my favorite ride ever? Also got to spin around wicked fast on the tea cups, and look at the bizarre ideas Walt Disney held of the world.

Last day in #florida at the beach. Its a beautiful day!!! #CocoaBeach #wrestlemania #BetWrestling #Downtime

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Our last day in Florida we decided to hit the beach. Cocoa beach is beautiful! The water was so nice, considering I have been on the west coast so long, I forgot how nice the ocean could feel when its not freezing and full of oil…

Overall the trip was great. It was nice to catch up with long lost friends, and make some new ones! We are already planning on next year, so watch out New Orleans, here we come!!!

SABU: BLOOD, GUTS&BARBED WIRE 2017 Calendar

Sabu recently had hip replacement surgery as I wrote about previously. His manager, and my wrestling comrade, Melissa Coates is doing an incredible amount of work to help him get the funds to pay off the surgery, and to live, as he can no longer get an income from wrestling. The message below is from Melissa, who is currently helping Sabu get merchandising going. If you want to help him out, please buy through the info below, and please share this story!

 

SABU: BLOOD, GUTS&BARBED WIRE 2017 calendars now available. Limited number and these are almost gone! Get this awesome calendar in tribute to the Hardcore Icon Sabu, and help him pay off his hip surgery at the same time!

Go to: Gofundme.com/prowrestlersabu for any immediate donations, or invest in his hardcore calendar. $30 USD plus postage ($5 for US/CAN orders, $10 for international, please US funds only!) to paypal coateswrack@yahoo.com (his Super Genie Melissa Coates is his manager and handling his merchandise at the moment, including the Sabu Souvenir Boxes) as family/friend to avoid excess charges, and include your full address. You can inbox Melissa on her realmelissacoates fb acct, or email her at melissacoates@yahoo.com regarding other payment methods.

Sabu also has turbins, wrestling pants, barbed wire, action figures, kendo sticks, broken table pieces, dvds, 8x10s, tshirt, baseball caps, many other custom orders available. Everything can be verified to be official SABU merchandise through a certificate of authenticity, and photos of Sabu signing the item you have purchased. Be aware that just buying Sabu merchandise from anywhere DOES NOT MEAN THE MONEY IS GOING TO SABU…the only way to do this is to order through Sabu or through his Super Genie Melissa Coates, or through companies like www.prowrestlingtees.com which is the premier wrestling fans’ online tshirt store, and has a selection of amazing Sabu Tshirts, including their HARDCORE LEGEND tshirt which was made as a limited edition tshirt and includes an autographed 8×10 to donate $ towards Sabu’s recent hip replacement surgery.

Anyone wanting to donate directly, can go to gofundme.com/prowrestlersabu. Email melissacoates@yahoo.com for more any questions, comments or ideas.

After The Spotlight Dim’s: Wrestlers Battle for Their Lives

When you think of pro wrestling, you think of athletes, in the prime of their lives, who entertain you with feats of strength, high flying moves, and good old fashioned grappling. However few people think about the injuries, surgery, illness, and lack of resources most wrestlers have access to.

Professional wrestling is not a high paying gig, unless you are at the top level in WWE. Many of the wrestlers you see on TV, make $100,000 or less, with almost all of the women earning far less than their male counterparts. In this article, former WWE talent, Tyler Rex talks about what WWE talent really earns when you look at their expenses.

“It [pay] was getting crappy when I left, and the guys I’ve talked to now say it’s beyond crappy,” Tuft said. “People assume you once you’re on TV you make a load of money and drive Lamborghinis and stuff, and that’s just not the case. Here’s a perfect example: I hate to spill my salary on the internet, but when I left I got a bump to $100,000 a year. But a third of it goes to road expenses. The only thing they pay for is your flight. You pay for your own hotel, and car, and food. Could you imagine trying to eat out five times a day? As a body guy, you have to maintain your physique and that means eating five times a day. Spending all your money trying to maintain that? Good luck. Then Uncle Sam takes 20%-30%. You guys do the math and see how much I walked away with, which was next to nothing. I was making more money fresh out of college as an engineer fresh out of college in an entry level position than being on TV.

 

More than 60% of many WWE stars pay is already gone before they spend a dollar. Wrestlers at this level are expected to maintain a specific look, so they spend money on gym memberships, tanning, ring gear, dietary supplements, not to mention having to pay for health insurance, and other medical related expenses. They are also not employees, they are contracted as “Independent Contractors”. This classification leaves them in a much higher tax bracket than other athletes, as they must pay into unemployment, much more than they would if they were a employee, personal insurance premiums that are extremely high, and workers comp is not available to independent contractors at all. If you are hurt on the job, you are responsible for all bills incurred.

Forbes laid it out in this article stating:

 

An employee only has to pay the employee part of FICA, Medicare, etc. An independent contractor must pay the higher self-employment tax. …

So by listing wrestlers as independent contractors, this actually allows WWE to abuse these peoples rights. The Economic Policy Institute sums it up nicely here: 

Independent Contractor misclassification undermines worker bargaining power, for both workers who are misclassified and the directly employed workers alongside whom they work. As noted, misclassified ICs are not covered by basic labor standards, particularly laws affecting work hours and compensation. It is therefore easier for employers to enforce bargains on work hours and compensation for the self-employed that not only deviate from the workers’ compensation agreement but also result in effective hourly wages below the federal or state minimum and in actual work hours that go beyond 40 in a week, which under the FLSA would require premium pay. It is also easier for employers to renege on a compensation agreement, to pay cash “under the table” (i.e., unreported on a 1099-MISC tax form), or to shortchange workers on agreed compensation. These vulnerabilities of misclassified workers—and the fact that some employers exploit them—have a ripple effect on directly employed wage workers in these workplaces, hemming in their ability to bargain for higher compensation and to resist standards violations by their employers.

And it is far worse for wrestlers who work mainly on the independent scene. These athletes don’t make 6 figures, in fact many have a hard time holding down 5 figures, and usually have other types of employment to supplement their wrestling careers, and many do not carry the proper insurance to protect themselves in case of a major injury. They simply cannot afford it based on how much they get paid to perform.

So what happens to those who have no contracts, no savings, who lack the proper insurance, when they can no longer wrestle due to injury or sickness? They rely on us. Their fellow wrestlers, their fans, their friends. Many of these folks have little to fall back on, and some honestly have worked in wrestling for so long, they have no other options, and are too sick or injured to work.  Just last month Billy Reil wrote about Sabu needing hip replacement.   Just today I found out Rico Constantino, is extremely unwell with complications from head injuries, amongst other afflictions and also has a fundraiser going.

These are just a couple of examples of those who put their bodies and lives on the line for our entertainment, and now are facing an uphill battle to pay for the expenses that stem from their injuries from working as professional wrestlers. There are many more, and sadly there are many who lost their lives to health and wellness problems that stem from putting your body through hell for others entertainment, and for the promoters wallet. We need to recognize these issues and create a greater understanding around what we can do to support these folks, while at the same time putting pressure on the bigger companies to provide healthcare, disability insurance, and pensions for their “talent”.

If you care about wrestling, and claim to “love” the sport,  then its time to show support for those who have put everything on the line to entertain you, and realize its not all glitz and glamour. Its a lot of Blood, Sweat and tears, combined with liniments, pain pills, physical therapy, and surgery.