A Weekend at Wrestlemania 40: A Walk Through WWE World | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

A Weekend at Wrestlemania 40: A Walk Through WWE World

I’m very fortunate to have been credentialed for Wrestlemania XL here in Philadelphia. The 40th Wrestlemania took place on Saturday and Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. On Thursday, I spent a couple of hours at WWE World, the pre-Wrestlemania fan convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

WWE World features a combination of exhibits to hype up the current product, nostalgic bits for older fans who got into wrestling in earlier eras, and appearances by WWE Superstars (they’re never wrestlers, always “Superstars”) who were on hand doing interviews and signing autographs. The set was in place for Pat McAfee to do his show live from the venue, but that was a day later, on Friday.

Also, there was a massive shop set up there, with all the merchandise you could possibly imagine.

Some Highlights:

The biggest name I saw there was Charlotte Flair, the former WWE women’s champion and daughter of Ric. She was there as part of a Make-a-Wish event in which a bunch of kids got to choose their own gimmick and get a wrestler-style entrance.

Ric, during one of his marriages, lived in Minnesota, was married to a Jewish woman, and had kids who went to my same Hebrew school, but Charlotte came along in a subsequent Ric marriage.

The other big star present was Rey Mysterio, Jr., who was interviewed on stage. I remember Rey from when I watched WCW in the NWO era, and the time Kevin Nash threw him into the side of a truck like a lawn dart. Rey talked about how he hoped to talk his son Dominik, who is a heel, back into the fold; this answered my question about whether the laws of kayfabe apply to fan fests. Later that night, after I left, The Rock appeared and got some serious heel heat:

Yet when The Rock appeared on Fox News the next morning, for an interview inside the stadium, he was decidedly out of character.

Also a big part of the day? Belts! It seemed like a third of the fans at the fest were lugging around giant replica championship belts, and when I headed to Reading Terminal Market across the street for lunch, there were lots of tables where the belts were taking up space.

There was also a big belt exhibit, fronted by the biggest belt of all:

Lots of historical belts too, including Ted DiBiase’s old Million Dollar Belt:

Looking at it up close, I’m not convicted it really cost a million dollars, and I don’t think those diamonds are real. (Also, RIP Virgil, who once held that belt.)

With The Rock and Roman Reigns both in the main event, WWE World featured a detailed family tree of the family of Samoan professional wrestlers, nearly all of whom are related to each other:

It’s interesting which names are verboten and which are not. There was no mention of Chris Benoit, of course, nor any indication that Vince McMahon ever existed, much less ran the company for more than 40 years or resigned in disgrace just a few months ago. Yet, there’s Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — who most likely murdered a woman —  right there in the family tree, as well as other places in the exhibition.

Philly being Philly, there had to be an ECW exhibit. Those trash cans, by the way, were removable, so attendees could pretend to hit themselves over the head with them. No barbed wire, though, nor any other vintage ECW weapons.

They also set up the ring, so fans could get their pictures taken at ringside, but no, actually getting in the ring was not allowed. Kids would have been going off the top rope and exposing WWE to major liability. Also, the Slim Jim sponsorship, which of course dates back to the Macho Man era, is back after it was briefly “paused” during the McMahon scandal.

There’s no physical wrestling Hall of Fame, but I bet WWE has enough memorabilia lying around that they could fill a building. Like, for instance, Mr. T’s trunks from Wrestlemania II:

There was also a whole area with Attitude-era memorabilia, all my favorite stuff.

All three faces of Mick Foley — Dude Love, Cactus Jack and Mankind — were represented:

“It’s my life in the box and charred to beat / Taking chalk in my arms, it’s the soul of me / You want fire, ashes see me lying face down / What has caused the thorn in your eye?”

Obviously, they weren’t able to find a Vader-sized mannequin… even in a town where amazing things happen with mannequins…

There was also a tribute to how we used to watch wrestling, back in those days. Including Coliseum Video!

Then there was the shop, which had a massive amount of stuff. And much like Jordan Brand, they’re still moving merchandise featuring the guy from 1984, brother:

Plenty of belts, too, for the folks who didn’t walk in with one already:

Of course, WWE also sought to leverage Philly fandom, by offering Wrestlemania shirts in the style of kelly green Eagles, Iverson-era 76ers and pre-Bryce Harper Phillies. I expect to see all these in the wild and at games for the next several years:

Non-sports Philly icons were also represented:

For those looking at more classic wrestling, there was a Mitchell & Ness NWO hat, which went for $45:

And of course, there were many action figures from different eras, including the ’80s, ’90s and late WCW:

Which brings to probably my favorite thing from the entire day. They set up an action figure array, on a mock-up of Philadelphia’s Art Museum steps, also known as the Rocky Steps. And if you look close, most of them are different versions of The Rock (along with his grandfather Peter Maivia and father Rocky Johnson):

And the Rocky statue — in its position as it was in Rocky III in 1982 —  is also The Rock:

That’s Muhammad Ali, of course, next to him, dressed as the special referee at Wrestlemania I. Even though I was led to believe that Ali doesn’t exist in the Rocky universe, while Joe Frazier does. And why no Thunderlips?

The Rock has been to that statue before:

On to the Wrestlemania card itself, on Saturday and Sunday…

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