The Hot Breakfast's Seb Costello is a self-proclaimed wrestling fanatic - so much so that we are sending over to cover WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey. This is the story of how he fell in love with the sport...
It was 1997.
Tom Cruise was atop the box office as Jerry McGuire.
Kieran Perkins was all over our TV screens eating muesli bars.
Chumbawamba were Tub-thumping up the music charts (apologies to millennials unfamiliar with Chumbawamba).
But those iconic moments of mid-90s madness didn’t interest me at the time.
The only entertainment I wanted to watch was available for $5.95-per-night at my local video store (apologies to millennials unfamiliar with video stores).
This VHS came in a black cover and on the front were the flaming words: “WRESTLEMANIA 13: HEAT”.
For a 10-year-old kid, this was the stuff that dreams were made of.
Not because it featured a wrestling match between an undead/zombie/ghost known as “The Undertaker” and an asylum-escapee known as “Psycho Sid”.
But because WRESTLEMANIA is the Super Bowl of professional wrestling and back then, this was as close as I was ever going to get to the event.
Yes, I am wrestling nuffie. I always have been, and I always will be. I understand that the results of the matches are pre-determined.
But how many of your favorite movies or TV shows are 100% real?
For the record, WRESTLEMANIA began in 1985 and has made household names of wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
WRESTLEMANIA is staged annually by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and featured the biggest matches of the year. It’s now considered one of the biggest sports brands in the world (Forbes).
In hindsight, “WRESTLEMANIA 13: HEAT” was not a high point for the franchise.
But it was the first installment that I ever watched, and I’ve seen every one since.
The 1997 version marked the WRESTLEMANIA debut of young grappler named Rocky Mavia.
On this day, Mavia would defeat the dastardly Turkish villain, “The Sultan” (in real life The Sultan was a 150kg Samoan-American in a mask) but Mavia would go on to Hollywood fame as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Must like Johnson, WRESTLEMANIA has evolved to become one of the most dominant forces in entertainment. The event is now held in huge stadiums like the New Orleans Superdome & Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Over the years it has attracted celebrities like Muhammed Ali, Burt Reynolds & Shaquille O’Neal.
This year WRESTLEMANIA turns 35 and New York will host the biggest version ever.
The venue is MetLife Stadium, where the New York Giants of the NFL play.
In a progressive departure from tradition, women will headline WRESTLEMANIA 35.
This is the first time this has ever happened.
Former UFC Champion, Ronda Rousey, will defend her Women’s Championship against Irish-woman Becky Lynch and American, Charlotte Flair.
The multi-national women’s main event is indicative of the global-nature of WRESTELEMANIA.
In 1997, WRESTLEMANIA was largely an American event. These days the wrestlers come from all over the planet and there are more Australian’s than ever involved.
Melbourne’s Buddy Murphy is the current WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Former NRL-star, Daniel VIdot, has recently begun training as a WWE Wrestler.
He’s a few years away from performing at WRESTLEMANIA, but he will be there in New York.
While female wrestlers - Bille Kay & Peyton Royce – will make their WRESTLEMANIA debut at Metlife Stadium.
It’s another dream come true for this pair, who first met at High School in Western Sydney. On April 8th (Australian time) at WRESTLEMANIA 35, Peyton & Billie will wrestle for the Women’s Tag-Team Championship in front over 80,000 people. It’s a long way from Campbelltown!
It’s also a dream come true for your correspondent. I’ve covered AFL Grand Finals, the Mayweather v Pacquiao prize fight in Las Vegas, NBA Finals & NBL Finals for Wide World of Sport. But I never thought I’d make to WRESTLEMANIA.
Well, Twenty-two years after convincing Mum & Dad to let me rent “WRESTLEMANIA 13: HEAT”, I’m stoked to be attending the event in person as a guest of WWE.
The goal is to tell the stories of the Australian’s taking part.
Though it’s hard to find a VHS tape these days, you can stream every WRESTLEMANIA online via WWE’s on-demand service.
With only days until the event in NYC, please excuse me while I fire up the laptop and watch “The Undertaker” lock-up with “Psycho Sid” one more time.