On April 5, 2009, World Wrestling Entertainment will celebrate 25 years of WrestleMania. Titles will be on the line. There are daily blogosphere updates as to “will he or won’t he?” Mickey Rourke WrestleMania XXV appearances. For those not living near Houston, TX and Reliant Stadium, pay-per-view preorders are already being accepted.
The often celebrity-studded annual pay-per-view event is considered to be the Super Bowl of professional wrestling by many. Vince McMahon, Chairman of the Board of World Wrestling Entertainment created WrestleMania in 1985 as a means to compete with the ever-increasing popularity of other wrestling companies.
Known in 1985 as the WWF, or World Wrestling Federation, McMahon’s stable of professional wrestlers included Hulk/Hollywood Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy. The concept of pay-per-view was relatively new, enabling cable subscribers to contact their service provider, pay a fee and order very limited special programming.
Vince McMahon combined the concept of pay-per-view with selling seats in a venue that would broadcast WrestleMania via closed-circuit television. The WWF contracted with movie theaters and auditoriums around the country to broadcast McMahon’s wrestling extravaganza to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. However, there was a problem.
The World Wrestling Federation had a large financial commitment to the venues they had contracted to show WrestleMania. Tickets were not selling as expected. McMahon began cross-promoting with the booming MTV and procured Cyndi Lauper as a celebrity guest. Other celebrities were lined up for various positions. Liberace, with the assistance of the Rockets, was the guest time keeper for the event. Billy Martin, then-manager of the New York Yankees, was the guest ring announcer. The main event, a tag-team battle matching Hulk Hogan and Mr. T versus Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff was guest-officiated by Muhammad Ali.
The success of the infant WrestleMania was a learning experience. Through the years, the WWF (later the WWE) experimented with celebrity guests. Some years had several; some none and some had the perfect mix of celebrity and wrestling. In more recent years, McMahon declared that the WWE’s entertainers ARE the celebrities and guest appearances have been rare.
With the exception of the original WrestleMania, all subsequent WrestleManias have had a title at stake in at least one event on the card. Undertaker, a fan favorite for years, holds the distinction of the longest undefeated WrestleMania run – 16-0. WrestleMania 13 signaled a change in the WWF attitude with a main event featuring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret Hart.
What will be the standout WrestleMania XXV moment? Will Mickey Rourke make an appearance? Will there be success to guarantee WrestleMania XXVI?
Wrestling fans pay with dollars. Vince McMahon discovered a formula that works in 1985 with the creation of WrestleMania.
Sources: http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/history/wm1/celebrities/; http://www.bebo.com/Chapters.jsp?ChapterId=4902806355&MemberId=4876670635; http://www.bebo.com/Chapters.jsp?ChapterId=4902806355&MemberId=4876670635