Last night, I went to Wrestlemania 23 with my dad and my younger brother. This was the culmination of a life-long dream for my brother, which just goes to show that if your dreams are really, really reasonable, you stand a pretty fair chance of achieving them.
The basic idea here has not changed since we were little: big guys pummeling each other, mugging for the camera, and flying off the ropes. What has changed is the scale - this is Big Time Entertainment. There were more than 80,000 people at Ford Field last night for Wrestlemania, and there was a tremendous cross-section of fans. It had the feel of a Super Bowl for the rest of us, except it might be more fun.
Where else can you see Aretha Franklin sing "America the Beautiful," Donald Trump in a ringside altercation, and Dusty Rhodes doing anything all in one night? This is before you get into multiple title fights, wrestling "divas," indoor fireworks, and all of the various sub-plots, sidekicks, interfering managers and sideshows that make up professional wrestling. This is part of the American experience, and there's nothing like it.
I don't watch professional wrestling at home, it just doesn't do much for me. I am still glad that I went to Wrestlemania, because you have to love the sheer spectacle.
A word on two things I did not like, neither of which were the WWE's fault: food at Ford Field, and the horrendous traffic situation. New stadiums are supposed to have great food. The Mud Hens dog is terrific, and I had a great barbecue sandwich at a Houston Rockets game last year. Even the wings at the Palace are pretty good, and their hot dogs don't cost a fortune. Good eats have become part of the sports experience, which is why it was such a downer to get freezer fries and a dry, well-done burger on a blah bun for more than $10 last night at a brand new stadium. Maybe the food is better during the football season, but this was just not right. And don't get me started on $11 "premium draft beer" (i.e. Amstel Light) - this isn't Manhattan, enough said.
On traffic and parking: look, I know that when 80,000 people get together, there will be some gridlock. It's inevitable. But I sat in downtown Detroit barely moving for an hour last night because no one was directing traffic. I passed (slowly) people who were waiting in line for shuttle buses, and I can't imagine how late they got home. I have been to the Electronic Music Festival on days with over 100,000 people in attendance, and the traffic was never this bad, and it even seems to move better after the 4th of July fireworks, when hundreds of thousands of people show up. Better planning would have helped here.*
*On my part too. My dad took the People Mover from Cobo Hall, and not only was the parking half what I paid, but he got out a lot faster by parking further from the field.