OK, you might have a picture of the average professional wrestling fan in your head and yes, they exist, but what about the rest of us? Wrestlemania is a fascinating beast, more inscrutable than most will give it credit for.
Of the over 100,000 attendees at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, this past Sunday, it would be generous to say that 60,000 were men in their twenties and thirties living out the hero pornography of their wettest dreams on the world’s grandest stage. These guys are the bread and butter of the WWE’s fanbase, but there’s a change in the air for the company—a demand of diversity, gender equality and better storytelling. On the evening that featured the retirement of the oft-maligned and overtly sexist Divas belt in favor of the first WWE Women’s Championship and one of the strongest all-ladies Mania matches on record, the crowd proved to be every bit as heterogeneous and passionate as the company is slowly creeping around to becoming. (Unrelated: Shane McMahon jumped off of the Hell in a Cell cage and it was great.)
We spoke to over 100 fans about their takes on Wrestlemania and the majesty of the squared circle before the seven-hour sports entertainment marathon Sunday evening. Here are some of our favorites.
Eric: I told my boss I was going to Mania and at first he acted like it wasn’t cool, but then I think he got jealous and now he’s asking me to text him pictures.
Mike: Being a wrestling fan isn’t exactly something you bring up on the first date.
Mark: Yeah, third date at least. It’s like coming out of the closet, a little.
Mike: But this is the weekend where we can just be ourselves, you know?
“I spent twelve grand for two tickets because they wouldn’t give me the tickets I wanted. I want second row tonight. They’re giving me fifth row, but that’s not good enough for me. It’ll be another twelve grand for that. It’s expensive. I do have a choice: I stay home or I come. I come because I love it and life happens just once.”
SECOND OR THIRD WRESTLEMANIA
Taylor: We’re all friends who met through wrestling and Twitter.
Darrell: Coming from Dubai, Wrestlemania is the only time we can really get together.
Adam: We do a wrestling podcast together every week and this is when we can see each other.
Taylor: I got into wrestling about five years ago when I was watching particularly bad Monday Night Football with my friends and we started flipping channels to RAW, and it happened to be the night of the Pipe Bomb [with CM Punk]. I literally had no idea what was happening but I couldn’t stop watching, and now I never miss a week.
Darrell: There’s gonna be a lot of casual fans coming through this weekend, and we’re gonna have to deal with that.
Taylor: This is my favorite weekend of the year. Most of these guys are coming to my wedding this year. I love them.
Matt: I started watching with the first Wrestlemania.
Matthew: Just a long time, that’s all.
“I feel underprepared. I’ve been watching for just a couple weeks. I like it; it’s interesting. [gestures to boyfriend] If he likes it, I like it. I like Roman Reigns. But not as much as, you know, my boyfriend.”
“I came by myself for a little vacation from work, you know. My dad used to watch it with me, but after he wasn’t around I kept watching. I’m so excited from Shane McMahon versus the Undertaker.”
Viola: Chris is a big kid. He loves this. We have big parties every week and watch wrestling as a family.
Manman: Shane McMahon versus Undertaker is gonna be the most exciting.
Bubba: No way, man. Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar.
Chris: I’m excited for Dean Ambrose, too. He’s a psycho and I love him.
Bubba [to Manman]: Told you.
“My daughter got me the tickets for my birthday; we’re going together. I’ve been watching wrestling for over 50 years. My dad brought me in Lubbock, Texas, when I was six years old and I got hooked. My daughter didn’t tell me she loved wrestling for the first 10 years she was watching. She lives about 12 minutes from me and now every Monday, we’re texting, ‘Who’s gonna win! No, you’re wrong!’ It’s been a bonding thing for us.”
“I grew up in the hood in LA, and the riots were going on when I was six years old in 1992. There was a video store around the corner from where I lived, and my brothers and my dad robbed the freakin’ video store. I was there and helped them grab video tapes; just a kid helping out. We stole a bunch of Royal Rumble VHS tapes without knowing what they were. You weren’t allowed to go outside during the riots, especially if you were little, so I stayed locked in the house watching wrestling. It stopped me from crying and being scared, and I’ve been with it ever since.”
Ashley: My dad used to watch it and I liked it, but I’m really here for Edgar.
Edgar: You’re coming around though, yeah?
Ashley: We’re getting married next March.
Edgar: Yeah, and then we’re coming back to Wrestlemania.
Ashley: [laughs] He wants to make it a yearly thing. We’ll see.
“I started hanging out with kids in middle school who liked wrestling and was trying to fit in. We’d have those backyard wrestling matches on the trampoline. I’m legitimately the only person who did not go to the hospital in our backyard wrestling league. Maybe I was the most vicious one, I dunno.”
Sasha Banks [costumed]: I’m Sasha Banks, bitch.
Macho Man [costumed]: I’m Raaaaaandy Savage, bitch.
Big Boss Man [costumed]: I’m the Big got’damn Boss Man.
…But seriously, we’re visiting from Detroit.
Find more of Jamie’s writing on Wrestlemania 32 here