WWE’s WrestleMania came to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara this last Sunday and not only shattered attendance records but also brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the bay area economy. The majority of that money came from the giant swell of wrestling fans that journeyed from all over the world to see what many refer to as the Super Bowl of Wrestling.
But WrestleMania wasn’t the only game in town, and any promoter smart enough to realize that a town full of wrestling fans waiting for the big dance on Sunday would need some entertainment, was bound to get piece of the pie. And much like the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, the numerous members of the professional wrestling world duked it out to entertain the voracious fans that bombarded the bay area.
And entertain they did.
From wrestling conventions, to movie premieres and house shows, you could virtually throw a rock and hit some sort of wrestling entertainment in the San Jose area. And if you weren’t catching some form of entertainment, like say Hardcore legend Mick Foley doing comedy at the San Jose Improv, you could certainly be entertained by partying with your favorite wrestlers at parties hosted by Big Sexy Kevin Nash or lucha libre king, Rey Mysterio.
Perhaps all that is just too exciting for you. Maybe you just want to curl up next to the fire with a good book? Stop by the local Barnes and Noble where The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, WWE’s current dreamboat Roman Reigns and the nimble A.J. Lee were signing copies of their latest tomes.
Or maybe you just want to star gaze. Many a WWE fan did just that once they found out the hotel that all the superstars were staying at. In fact, the hotel in question was forced to put up metal barricades for fans to stand behind in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite star.
But WrestleMania week in the San Jose area wasn’t just all about stars and parties. It was also all about the Wrestling. The San Jose fairgrounds hosted a weekend full of house shows that featured The King of the Indies Tournament and even the Japanese inspired Kaiju Big Battle.
Popular indie promotion, Ring of Honor had a show in nearby Redwood City and WWE’s developmental promotion NXT had a house show at San Jose State’s Event Center.
One of the highlights of the weekend was Wrestlecon at the San Jose Airport Hotel. Wrestlecon was essentially a fan fest featuring some of wrestling’s greatest performers from past, present and future like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Jake The Snake Roberts, Rey Mysterio, Kevin Nash and the Dudley Boys, Samoa Joe and John Morrison.
The set up at the hotel was suspect at first, but it was fairly well organized with many volunteers and signings and photo ops went off without a hitch. The vibe was mellow and great and the fans in attendance seemed genuinely excited to be there.
Aside from signings and photos, Wrestlecon also featured some cool programing from a Colt Cabana podcast with Tommy Dreamer, to a debate on the Monday Night Wars between Eric Bischof and Brother Love to a live match between the Hardy Boyz and Rob Van Damme and Sabu. Wrestlecon could have been a disaster, but it turned out to be a diamond in the rough.
Another hidden treat was WWE’s Dolph Ziggler “tagging” up with his younger brother Ryan Nemeth and Lucha Underground’s John Morrison (Johnny Mundo) for a night of imrov comedy at Comedy Sportz San Jose. Tucked away in the quaint Camera 3 theatres behind the Psycho Donuts, Comedy Sportz SJ gave the stage to the three wrestlers and other guest performers for a solid hour of long form improv also known as “Armando” or “Asscat” style.
Ziggler and Morrison were solid but Nemeth stole the show by going all in for comedy. Nemeth got laughs with his recurring Blue Man group bit and by crawling on the floor but his quote of the night had to be, “One time, I threw a chicken off a roof.”
Another charming aspect of the Comedy Sportz show was that other WWE superstars like Mizdow, Curt Hawkins and Russev and Lana were in attendance to support their buddies and have a laugh.
And if all of this ancillary action wasn’t enough for the hardcore fan, there was also WWE Axxess, the massive fan fest featuring WWE stars, live matches and memorabilia (Stay Tuned for our special report on Axxess) as well as the WWE Hall of Fame that inducted former California Governor Arnold Swartzenegger among others.
All of this led up to the show of shows, the crowning jewel, the big poppa, WrestleMania. The bay area has a ferocious and loyal fan base and they ate up all the entertainment that was available faster than Ryback at a buffet. I’m sure if it were up to San Jose Fans, they’d have WrestleMania in town every year.
Words by Lon Lopez. Images by Lopez and Christopher J. Garcia.