It was a big slobberknocker last night at AT&T Stadium as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the WWE kicked off their “Road to WrestleMania” the only way they know how, with a great big wrestling party.
On hand for the rumble were retired wrestlers Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mark Henry and Booker T; Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams; Dallas Cowboys executive Vice President Charlotte Jones; as well as NXT wrestlers who were performing that night. It was a night of bodyslams, Wrestlemania trivia and wrestler impressions, all to celebrate WrestleMania 32 tickets now being on sale to the public.
“We want to see how many people we can fit in this building. We’re looking to break the indoor attendance record,” said Stone Cold. That was a theme throughout the night. Former Olympic Gold medalist and wrestler Mark Henry has no doubt that Wrestlemania 32 will be a record breaker. “Without a doubt. This building already holds 100,000 people. The record is going to be shattered.”
WWE is estimating over 125,000 fans to be in town for the entire week of WrestleMania. In addition to the “grandaddy of them all,” WWE is planning a Hall of Fame ceremony, a Fan Axxess event, and at least 20 social events to run the entire week. Last year’s Wrestlemania brought an economic impact of $139 million in Santa Clara, and community leaders believe this year will exceed that number.
“It’s very exciting,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. “We want to make room for WrestleMania to come back many times. Now is that something that a mayor can get excited about?”
Texas, and specifically Dallas, has a rich wrestling history. Many wrestling legends made an impact (most famously The Von Erichs and The Freebirds) at the infamous Dallas Sportatorium and World Class Championship Wrestling. Texas-born Stone Cold Steve Austin is among those who broke in through WCCW and he remembers his time in Dallas fondly.
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“I couldn’t afford to buy any food,” recalls Austin. “I was working at the dock. Clock in and clock out, but on Friday and Saturday I’d go wrestle in World Class Championship Wrestling and pay my dues. I [started] feuding with the late Chris Adams and won the 1990 Rookie of the Year. This is where I started and paid my dues. This is another home for me.”
Wrestling has changed quite a bit since the '90s and has varied in popularity. As evident from the NXT wrestlers who performed last night, the wrestlers today are much better athletes than they were 10-15 years ago. And as the industry has transitioned from “wrestling” to “sports entertainment," Wrestlemania has become a titan in live entertainment. When asked why non-wrestling fans should come, Austin didn’t hesitate.
“Wrestlemania is more than a one-day event. It’s a spectacle. The showmanship, the energy, the fans, the WWE superstars giving it all they got; it’s going to be crazy.”
And that’s the bottom line.