It was decided in 2011 that I was going to Miami for WrestleMania XVIII. I had been watching the Raw after WrestleMania XVII with Moose, Anthony, and Thomas. The moment The Rock and John Cena agreed to face each other in 1 years time, we also agreed that we would be in attendance.
We began to prepare that very night. From each one of our paychecks we would make sure to save so much and put it into a joint account. We needed to buy tickets, we needed to buy plane tickets, and we needed to book a hotel room. It was WrestleMania or bust.
Moose, Thomas and myself had been wrestling fans for most of our lives. Since we had met Anthony about 3 years earlier, we had brought him into the fold. He went from a non-believer to being excited to watch most wrestling matches.
When I went to college I lost touch with WWF/WWE. In 2007, I bought the WrestleMania 23 DVD after I had watched The Undertaker win the Royal Rumble on a torrented rip in January. From there, I would have Raw on most Mondays as background noise but I still wasn’t too invested.
Deeply regretting that I missed WrestleMania 25 and Undertaker/Michaels I, I started keeping tabs on the storylines more. As WrestleMania season approached in 2010, I decided that I wanted to watch every pay-per-view leading up to Mania. Thomas, Moose, and Anthony all joined me for those pay-per-views and thus the squad was born.
There may or may not have been something to do with a pipe bomb in the summer of 2011 as well that really thrust me back in the wrestling fandom, but I digress.
Every payday, I would give my then -girlfriend/roommate whatever money she needed from my paycheck and then sock some away for the trip to WrestleMania. Even when a major life change occurred in the summer of 2011 (I don’t want to talk about it), I still was managing to save money. As balance was restored to my life in late August/early September, I realized the dream to go Miami for WrestleMania was closer than I knew.
I don’t recall exactly when we all met up to discuss purchasing options. But soon after, Moose had secured us four obstructed view tickets to WrestleMania XXVIII as well as plane tickets and a hotel room with two beds that we would share. It was around this time I had a realization:
I’ve never been on an airplane.
My entire life, anywhere I’d gone, and it had always been in a car. And now, at age 29, I was about to board my first flight.
To say I was shook was an understatement.
The morning of, I woke up early. I was so terrified in fact that I wrote a letter to my mother just in case the plane would go down. Shortly after, I met up with the guys and we drove to Aliquippa, PA to do a few last-minute things before we caught our flight out of Pittsburgh. We saw Moose’s mom, I got an aggressive haircut, and we may or may not have been drinking a 30 pack on the way to the airport. And maybe singing Lady Antebellum. I’ll never tell.
Was the flight scary? Nah. I fell in love with flying. Pittsburgh to Atlanta and Atlanta to Miami. Well, 40 or so minutes outside of Miami.
From here, I’ll hit the highlights of the weekend:
- We landed Friday, ended up in the hotel club before discovering liquor stores were still open. And not only were the liquor stores open, they were 24 hour liquor stores! Probably bad for us at the age we were and from the town we were coming from (Morgantown) but Thomas and I still picked up two huge jugs of Canadian whiskey.
- We rose early the next morning, tired but determined to make it to WrestleMania Axxess. We spent a few hours looking around at memorabilia, we saw Zack Ryder and Drew McIntyre wrestle at the height of Ryder’s popularity, and I took a picture with the WWE championship belt. We saw Paul Bearer and exchanged kind words but none of us took the time to actually meet him or get a picture. Hindsight being 20/20, that was my only regret from the weekend.
- After we arrived back at our hotel, we checked out the mall for some food. And me and the crew saw some THINGS. In fact, I’m willing to bet that mall is the reason why Moose married a Latina woman.
- After we ate, we napped real hard. Then we met up with my friend Brandon who I worked with at the college radio station back home. We were ready to tear the town up… until I drank too much, ran into a wall full speed, and then passed out on the floor. #nohope
- I woke up cold on the floor the next morning, so I climbed in the bed with Anthony and scared him. After finding sleep difficult with how drunk I was, I awoke early, took some Canadian whiskey downstairs in a cup, politely asked the staff to find me some towels, and enjoyed the pool all to myself until my friends came and found me.
- It was time to go to WrestleMania. There we met Dylan and Jarred, two super fans with the right vibes. We were drinking in the hot Miami sun outside of the stadium. And then it was time to go inside.
Remember when I said our tickets were obstructed view? Four palm trees were placed in the corners of the ring to hold up a canopy in case it rained. Our view was straight at a palm tree. I’m proud to say that f*** these palm trees was chanted throughout the evening.
- After an amazing night at Mania, we had to get back to our hotel, try to sleep, and then catch a ride back to the airport. It took Moose pretending to be diabetic in order to get us into a cab but he got the job done.
- I don’t remember if we actually slept once we arrived back at the hotel. Shortly after, Thomas, Anthony, and I were packed and heading for the car. Moose was staying a few extra days and I wish I could’ve too. Soon we said our goodbyes to Thomas temporarily as well as he had different flights than we did. Anthony and I flew to Charlotte (I slept), then Newark (I slept), and then back to Pittsburgh (but I did get to see the Statue of Liberty when we left Newark). Back to the cold; back to reality.
I’ve been on a few flights since. Been to Jamaica and Disney World now. But I always would say how my friends and I had gone to Miami to WrestleMania as if it had just happened. But as the old saying goes, life comes at you fast.
Moose now lives in Miami. Anthony and Thomas still live in Morgantown with me but I don’t get to see them as much anymore. And just like that, I realized it had been 10 years since the trip to Miami. We all have a standing invite to come to Moose’s house sometime and I’m optimistic that one day it will happen. But do you know how hard it is to recreate the magic of four dudes singing “Need You Now” as loudly as possible en route to the Pittsburgh airport?
So maybe Thomas and I immortalized the trip on a podcast long scrubbed from the internet but I’m sure I didn’t write down what happened. And maybe before this is scrubbed for the internet at some point down the line, someone will read this and feel some version of the joy that I experienced with my friends that weekend. Maybe it’ll make them grab some friends of their own so they can create some memories that they can write about on the internet at some point. Or even better, they can share the stories with their loved ones.
At the time I wrote my mom that letter, we weren’t speaking. I think she called me Saturday morning in Miami. My letter gave us a starting place to rebuild our relationship from. It didn’t last because I’m hard-headed but Miami and a plane ticket gave me my last good memories of my mom before she died three years later. So not only did Miami give me memories that would last me a lifetime, it gave me back one of the most important people that’s ever been in my life, even if it was only for a short time.
For that, I’ll forever be grateful.