WrestleMania Weekend

April 14, 2012

I'm a couple weeks late with this, and for that I apologize. I don't have the time to sit down and write like I used to so writing commentaries often gets put on the backburner. I've decided to have a relaxing Sunday, so I thought I would finally sit down and share with you my experiences from my trip to Miami for the WrestleMania weekend.

I had a bit more of a roundabout trip than you would expect because I didn't fly in and out of Miami, which would have been the easiest; I flew in and out of Fort Myers, Florida, which is on the other side of the State. I did this because my Mom winters in Cape Coral, Florida, which is right beside Fort Myers and I wanted to incorporate a short visit with her into my trip. I flew out Thursday on an ungodly early flight; to make my 6:30 am flight I had to be up at 3:45 am and out of my house by 4:30. If you remember from my days on the road I'm not a huge fan of the airline industry and while both of my flights that day were on time and landed a few minutes early I have to say that the airline industry has gotten worse in my absence.

Their attempts to streamline the check in process have not been successful. Waiting in line to check in now consists of standing in line to electronically check in by yourself. Most people don't know how to do this so there is an attendant running back and forth between machines trying to assist customers who don't seem to understand the concept of a touch screen, or know what a confirmation number is. Once you've passed that hurdle you again have to wait because you still have to go to the check in counter to check your bags. Checking your bags is a lot of fun because now American Airline (my courier for the day) now charges you for every bag you check. So in addition to now costing you more money (a cost I will have to in future pass on to promoters who book me) there is the delay of people complaining about the fee and eventually having to pay it. This also leads to people trying to take on as much carry on luggage as possible, which is another huge pain in the ass. They of course also charge you for advance seat selection and many of the seats in the main cabin are considered "premium" seats and there is an additional charge if you want to switch to one of those. This results in a much higher likelihood of an undesirable middle or window seat.

There are some new added conveniences however, and I was happy to see that American Airlines offers wifi service on board and I was looking forward to using that during my flight. Turns out there is an additional charge for wifi on board so I decided to just revert to old habits and have a nap and read my book during the flight. I connected in Dallas and had McDonalds screw up both my food and drink orders, which capped off my morning well but when I finally landed in Fort Myers I was on time, my luggage made it to my destination and when I exited the terminal it was a beautiful day and my mom was just pulling up in the car and I hoped right in and was out of there.

I spent the evening visiting with my Mom, which is always a good time and Friday morning it was off to Fort Lauderdale for Showdown in the Sun for ROH. When I booked my travel this way I didn't expect to have to be at the building too early, figuring it was an evening event but the day before I left I found out I had to be at the building by 1 pm, so I had to leave Fort Myers a lot earlier that I expected. I rented a car in Fort Myers and after a quick stop at a Cracker Barrel restaurant (my favourite stop on the road) I was on the road heading to Fort Lauderdale. The drive was great, it was a beautiful day and I do love the solitude of the road. I arrived in Lauderdale early and had no trouble finding the War Memorial because it was the same building we used to run when I worked for ECW, and my long term memory seems way better than my short.

It was great to see everyone again as well as meet several new faces. Like any wrestling event there was a lot of hurry up and wait time, but there was always someone around to chat with so the day passed fairly quickly. One of the highlights of the day was the meet and greet we did before the show. I ended up sitting at the same table as Jay Lethal and we had a lot of fun joking and talking with fans. Jay and I met at my first ROH appearance in New York where I did a promo and set up the angle to eventually work with Bryan Danielson. I talking to Jay that night and even offered him some advice on his match, but he apparently had no recollection of our meeting and greeted me on this occasion with a handshake and the inappropriate "Nice to meet you." As pay back for Jay's faux pas and poor memory, I thoroughly whooped his ass in 8X10 and autograph sales. Jay was a good sport about his crushing defeat, so Jay if you are reading this you are still welcome to crash on my couch whenever you are in town.

The show itself was a lot of fun. I didn't get to see much of it but I was quite happy with how my match went and the crowd response I received was amazing. Whenever I come back after such a long absence I'm always a little leery of how my cardio will hold up but I felt great in the ring and had a really good time. I was nursing a rib injury going in and to be honest wasn't completely sure how it would hold up. There was one bump late in the match that hurt quite a bit but other than that my ribs held up and were not a factor in the match. Highlights of the match and a post match promo aired this weekend on ROH TV and a rematch is in the works. After a long WAR I think we are on the BORDER of a 12 step plan that MAY result in an announcement of the where and when this match will take place match.

After the event I hooked up with several people from the F4W empire, mainly my good buddy Bryan and his far better half Whitney (she such a better half she's likely a 3/4), there were many others worth mentioning such as Bryan's friend Craig, the ever popular Rodney, the not as popular Ed in San Antonio (Who bought me dinner, thanks Ed), I got to finally meet Matt Cleary (the man who designed the covers for my eBooks). There were several others whose names escape me, and conspicuous by his absence Vinny V. I did see Vinny the next day but was saddened by his absence here. After dinner we headed to the hotel for a late night edition of Figure 4 Daily. After the radio show it was time for bed and likely well past 2 am.

Saturday morning I was up early because I was checking out of the hotel and had to be back at the War Memorial by 10 am because I had a couple of promos to shoot and another fan meet and greet that morning. The turnout for the second meet and greet was not as big as the first night but was still a lot of fun; I was hoping my old Internet buddy Chris V would show up and say hi but was disappointed when he did not. My spirits were quickly lifted with the arrival of the Empire and the return of Vinny V. I stayed for a little bit of the show but had to cut early because I needed to be at the WWE hotel in Miami but 5 o'clock to hook up with everyone and attend the HOF. I left just after the power out hit the ROH show. Yes they had a power out during the live iPPV, things were going crazy and I took that as my cue to get the hell out of there and head to another Cracker Barrel; I love me some Cracker Barrel.

After a great meal at Cracker Barrel I was off to Miami, where I arrived early (as I always do) and got to catch up with a lot of great people, the first of which was my good buddy Bill DeMott. There were so many familiar faces I can't even begin to list all of the people I got to catch up with and the even bigger list of those I saw but was unable to speak to. Probably the person I spoke most with was Fit Finlay's wife. We first met in 1993 when Fit and I both worked for Otto Wanz in Europe. She is a great lady and always fun to talk with. After chatting at the hotel it was out front to board busses and head over to the HOF.

I ended up sitting with my old part William Regal on the drive over, which was great. His Lordship is never at a loss for a good story so sharing time with him is always a plus. At the arena it was a bit more hurry up and wait and as we were standing around in the back stage area I started worrying I wasn't in the right place. I was standing around with all of the main roster guys wondering if as a guest (I was on Edge's guest list) perhaps I was supposed to be in a different section. We all had assigned seats and had tickets and everyone I asked had a different floor number and I was worried I'd get out into the arena area and be on the floor with the main roster, while I was supposed to be sitting in one of the upper decks. To make matters worse as we get ushered down a hall I look behind me and see Stephanie and Linda McMahon. While it was great to see them both again, and I got to meet Stephanie's beautiful daughter, I was pretty sure at this point I was going to end up in a better seating section than I was supposed to. While I am in good standing with the company I'm pretty sure Linda and Steph have better pull than me for seats at the HOF.

Once we get into the arena I see guys seating people and immediately ask them if I'm in the right spot and to my relief I am. I end up seated dead center in front of the stage in the second row with Stephanie and her daughter sitting right in front of me. I could not have asked for better seats and I guess since Edge was the Main Event inductee this year his guest list got priority seating.

The Hall of Fame ceremony was really great and I was so glad I was there to see my buddy Edge go in. The HOF didn't air on TV in Canada so I don't know what aired and what didn't so I will give you a quick rundown on what I thought of each induction.

JBL: John inducted Ron Simmons and for my money gave the best speech of the night. Big surprise here JBL is a good talker. He gave a powerful heartfelt speech that really captured the room and opened the show with strength.
Ron Simmons: Ron wasn't as good as John but I thought he gave a good speech and came off well. The main thing that came out of both speeches was the deep friendship these two men have for each other.

Alberto Del Rio: The one stand out moment I had from this speech was at the end of his speech when he was talking about how Mil was the first Mexican to wrestle at Madison Square Garden, the first Mexican to do this, and the first Mexican to do that, which were all no doubt true, Mil Mascaras was a legitimate huge deal in his day, but his closing line was, "and now he will be the first Mexican to be inducted into the WWE HOF" and the whole building went quiet, no doubt thinking what I was...ah...what about Eddie Guerrero and Tito Santana? I assume both Eddie and Tito were born in the US which would make Mil the first true Mexican born WWE Hall of Famer but it sure was an awkward pause.
Mil Mascaras: Mil's speech was not a good one and I kind of felt bad for him. I don't think the majority of the audience understood how big of a star Mil Mascaras really is, and since he stood perfectly still on stage with his hands behind his back his speech was very dull and did not get over with the crowd. I couldn't understand much of what he said and whether that was because of his accent or part of his speech being in Spanish I don't really know. He appeared to talk about having 2 wives, one in Mexico and one in Japan which was odd, but he seemed genuinely pleased to be honored and you certainly can't argue that he deserved to be.

Dusty Rhodes: Dusty inducted the horseman and to be honest I don't remember much of his speech. Dusty is always a great talker but I'm thinking he just kept it short and let the night be about the inductees rather than himself the inductor.
JJ Dillon: I thought JJ did a good speech keeping it short but talking enough about his days with these 4 men to make it interesting and give us a bit of insight into his role in the group.
Ric Flair: I was stunned that Ric spoke first of the 4, I thought for sure he would go last. Ric's speech was very odd to me. Why I have a world of respect for Ric Flair and genuinely like the man, he and I are 2 very different people and the stories he told painted an interesting picture and I question his sharing some of them here. In an interesting statement on TNA, the company that Ric currently works for and gave him permission to appear on this night; when the crowd chanted "Please Come Back" he responded by saying "Believe me I want to" (not an exact quote).
Barry Windham: Barry was up next and I believe he's had some serious health problem of late so I was just so happy to see him up there getting such a resounding show of respect from the crowd. Barry didn't say too much.
Tully Blanchard: Tully was by far the best speaker of this group tonight. Tully commanded the room and gave a tremendous speech; I was hanging off every word. He talked most about the group and their days together as the horseman, which was the kind of speech I was hoping for from Flair. He got real emotional at the end talking about losing his father the week before and his difficulty processing going from the lowest of low in his life on Monday (his father's funeral) to one of the highest of the highs on Saturday (being honoured in the HOF). Arn Anderson: Double A was their closer tonight and judging by crowd reaction he was the most over of the group, the crowd went nuts for Arn. Personally I was disappointed with Arn's speech because he talked more about the people he was working with now than his days as a Horseman. I was a big fan of The 4 Horsemen and I had high hopes for this Induction but felt a little short changed on Horsemen stories.

HHH & HBK: These two guys were so damn funny. I was literally in tears with laughter during their speech. They were absolutely the highlight of the night and the DVD is worth buying for this speech alone.
Mike Tyson: Tyson did not deliver a good speech but he was so full of energy and so happy to be there that he was fun to watch. He was like a big kid up there having fun.

The Usos: The Jimmy and Jay Uso were up to induct their Uncle Rodney better known as Yokozuna. They kept the speech fairly short and more about Yoko than them and did a good job.
Rikishi: Rikishi accepted on behalf of Yoko and a large portion of the Anoa'i family joined them on stage for his speech. This was an emotional induction and well done. On a side note one of the family members on stage was holding his fanny pack in his hand, so I popped for the Fanny Pack appearance at the HOF.

Christian: Last but not least the guys I came to see. Christian gave a real good introduction; his wasn't as powerful of a speech as JBL's or as funny and DX's but hit a good balance somewhere in the middle of the two, and did his best friend proud with his induction.
Edge: Edge's speech was what I think HOF speeches are supposed to be, he ran down his career and talked about and thanked all of the people he worked with along the way. He remembered and put over his roots; he shared some stories from his amazing career, and quite frankly just reeked of awesomeness. I was so happy for my friend and so glad I could be there with him.

After the show it was back to the buses and back to the hotel. On the way out of the building I got to speak briefly with Howard Finkel, which is always a pleasure. The great thing about Howard is that he is the biggest WWE fan there is. He loves being a part of everything and loves being at the events and being with the people and just genuinely has a great time, his enthusiasm is contagious. I ended up sitting with Teddy Long on the bus ride back and I jokingly told him that I'd have been a part of Team Teddy if he'd have just asked. Back at the hotel I finally caught up with Edge and Christian and got to hang out for a little while with them. In order to spend some more time with my Mom I was heading back to Cape Coral that night so I said my fair wells and ducked out early. Relatively early, I guess, as it was well after 1 am at this point. Picking up my car from the valet parking I bumped into Tim White, which was a pleasant surprise. Tim was a referee during my run in WWE and just a great guy so I was grateful for our 5 minute meeting that night.

So I was back on the road driving across the State in the middle of the night. I got back to Cape Coral at about 4:30 am (keep in mind I was up at 8 am that morning after getting to bed after 2am). To keep my car rental as a 2 day rental I had to return the car before 9 am. Getting home this late there was no way I was going to get up in time to take it back in the morning so I decided since the rental lot was only about a 10-15 minute walk from my Mom's I'd just drop it off that night and walk home. I stopped by my Mom's to drop off all my bags then returned the car and walked home.

I got to bed at 5 am and was completely exhausted. At 8:45 my Mom woke me up. She has her house in Florida up for sale and the real-estate agent called and was bringing a couple by to see the house at 9 o'clock. I had to get up make my bed so my Mom could show the house. I got that done and went out by the pool to lay down on a lounge chair and quickly fell back asleep. I napped there for a while then got up and spent the day visiting with my Mom. I talked her in to Cracker Barrel for dinner, my third stop on the trip, had a fantastic meal and even bought a gift for my wife in the Old Country Store part of the restaurant.

My flight home the next morning was of course an early one, so I was up at 4 am Monday morning to head back to the airport for another long trip home. I connected through Houston this time on United, experiencing similar baggage charges but on time flights and arrived home in Calgary by early afternoon. It was an exhausting trip but a lot of fun.

Lance Storm

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