Sports

Local Businesses Brace Themselves For a $250 Million-Weekend Thanks to WrestleMania

Marshall and Ross Von Erich are two of the wrestlers coming to DFW this weekend for WrestleMania.
Marshall and Ross Von Erich are two of the wrestlers coming to DFW this weekend for WrestleMania. MLW/Harry Aaron
WWE’s marquee event, WrestleMania, will hit town for a two-night show this weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. With an estimated 75,000 fans — many traveling from out-of-town — expected to fill the stadium, local venue and bar owners are preparing for the influx of wrestling fans looking to fill their entire weekend with entertainment. Wrestling promoters are, too.

There are roughly 50 complimentary, non-WWE affiliated wrestling events taking place in DFW from Thursday to Sunday. There will be wrestling-themed podcasts, trivia, concerts, and of course, all the actual wrestling that fans can handle.

“We are the hometown promotion and we want to show all the wrestling fans coming to town our own spice and flavor,” says Lou Gotti, promoter with the local, independent VIP Wrestling.

The last time WrestleMania was in town was 2016, and Gotti took a chance and ran an afterparty wrestling show that took place at midnight immediately following Mania. Gotti is running another afterparty this year which is being referred to as the “Mania After Mania.”

VIP Wrestling will be showcasing local talent, but they are also bringing in big names such as WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi and Japanese legend Minoru Suzuki. With so many shows all competing for the same audience, it's important that they stand out. Gotti believes that running a midnight show immediately following WrestleMania will help set his promotion apart.

“It was risky running a show immediately following Mania in 2016,” he says. “You risk fans being too full on wrestling. But we are pioneers of the midnight show, and we had to do it in our hometown. A lot of people will leave WrestleMania feeling happy to mad, but we want them to come stay late with us.”

There are many local wrestling shows going on this weekend, and several national wrestling promotions will also be coming to North Texas to capitalize on the massive number of fans who can’t get enough of body slams and elbow drops.

One of those national promotions, Major League Wrestling or MLW, is based out of New York and will be running two shows at Gilley’s in Dallas. MLW showcases a wide variety of talent that includes former WWE stars such as Enzo Amore, the world’s smallest luchador Microman and Dallas wrestling royalty Ross and Marshall Von Erich, sons of Kevin Von Erich.

“Ross and Marshall are here to rekindle that Dallas tradition of watching old-school wrestling but with the new generation of Von Erichs,” says MLW CEO Court Bauer. “It is inspiring to watch the Von Erich legacy continue.”

Bauer is a former WWE creative executive who's been in the professional wrestling business for over 20 years. With seemingly the entire wrestling world in town for a single weekend, Bauer sees WrestleMania as something that is not just for fans.

“You get out of the elevator and you’ll run into somebody that you haven’t seen in 10 years,” Bauer says. “It is a homecoming for both fans and people that work in the wrestling industry alike. This weekend will be euphoric for fans and performers because it is a reunion after a long sabbatical.”

There is plenty of in-ring action for fans to enjoy but for those who want to take a break, there will also be several ancillary wrestling events.

WrestleCon has been around since 2014 and this year they will be at the Fairmont for four days where WrestleCon’s owner and operator Michael Bochicchio is anticipating nearly 10,000 fans.

“This is the only time of the year that these global, independent companies will be in the same place and work together,” Bochicchio says. Along with featuring wrestling from all over the world such as New Japan Pro Wrestling and Triple A Mexico, WrestleCon will bring over 200 retired and active wrestlers (not currently employed by WWE) to sign autographs and meet fans. With WWE’s meet-and-greet event Axxess canceled this year, WrestleCon is filling the void with former wrestling greats such as Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jake “The Snake” Roberts but also active, not-current WWE wrestlers like AEW’s Adam Cole and former WWE champion Bray Wyatt.

"This weekend will be euphoric for fans and performers this weekend because it is a reunion after a long sabbatical.” – MLW CEO Court Bauer

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“Fantastic complement to all the things that WWE is putting on that weekend,” Bochicchio says. “This is the week that wrestling fans from all over the world come together and we give wrestling fans the chance to meet their favorite wrestlers of years past.”

For local bars and venues, WrestleMania is as good for business as the Super Bowl or NCAA March Madness coming to town. Dallas Sports Commission Executive Director Monica Paul said recently that WrestleMania is expected to bring over $250 million dollars in economic impart to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Three Links in Deep Ellum is trying to capitalize on the number of fans coming to town by programming nights such as “Wrestling Trivia Happy Hour” and the “We Watch Wrestling” live podcast.

“It was a real eye-opener the last time WrestleMania came to DFW,” says Three Links owner Scott Beggs. “Every single day we had people from all sorts of nationalities hanging out at the bar. And everyone is in a great mood because they are in town for something that they love.”

Just as fighters prepare to throw down, business owners, traveling promoters and fans are gearing up for WrestleMania weekend.

“It’s a wrestling buffet,” says Bauer. “Fans can experience as much as they want for four straight days and this is the only time of the year that is like that. People are ready to knock down the gates and run to watch wrestling.”
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