WrestleMania elicits fond memories


Miami Herald Writer

WrestleMania fever was in full swing as the stars of WWE and NXT shined during a show at the Miami-Dade County Fair a little over a week from the biggest spectacle in sports entertainment.

A few hours before the event, WWE superstars Brodus Clay and the Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neil and Darren Young), WWE diva Naomi and NXT up-and-comer Baron Corbin reflected on what WrestleMania means.

For Clay, this year’s big show is extra special. He will participate in his first ever match on the big stage. The fun-loving dancing machine teams with Sweet T and his Funkadactyls Naomi and Cameron to face Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) and the Bella Twins 7 p.m. EST Sunday, April 7 on pay-per-view from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“To be in a WrestleMania match in pretty much where WWE was born and got its roots established is awesome,” Clay said. “I was outside the ring with Alberto [Del Rio], which I didn’t know at the time was a historic match because it ended up being Edge’s last match. Then the following year [in Miami] we shocked the world with Momma Clay and the Bridge Club. So I did around the ring, on top of the ring, and this year, I’m all up in it.

“When I did that dance last year I didn’t know how it was going to go. My favorite part of the whole thing was, whenever I do stuff I always look to the crowd, when I said, ‘Reach out for your phone and call your mama,’ a guy literally reached into his pocket and picked up his phone. The camera hit him, and he was like ‘Damn it.’ He got caught, and it was definitely cool.”

Aside from his own match on the card, Clay is interested in The Undertaker putting his WrestleMania undefeated streak on the line against CM Punk.

“Taker versus Punk is interesting to me because I think if anyone can end the streak, Punk could,” Clay said. “I’ve gone on record to say I’m picking Punk for the upset. Last year I went with Cena over the Rock, and I’m going to go with Cena again. I’m a little impartial to those guys because I see them every day, and they work hard every day. They emphasize everything that being a WWE superstar encompasses, 365 days a year. So I really think it’s their time.”

This time of year is like Christmas for WWE fans across the world. Everyone has their favorite WrestleMania match. Clay’s pick is outside the norm.

“As a fan, my favorite match -- and everyone looks at me like I’m crazy -- is the Colossal Connection versus Demolition,” Clay said. “Andre the Giant’s back was killing him, and he still went out there. Haku fought Demolition and took it to them. Nobody noticed Haku had been in the ring almost the whole time. In the end Heenan yelled at Andre, which followed with him getting backhanded. Then everyone cheered him on the way out. Demolition was some of the toughest guys on two legs, and Haku is out there with no shoes on handling his business. If you get a chance to see that, check it out. It’s such a great match.”

Naomi will never forget her favorite WrestleMania memory of entertaining the Miami crowd last year as part of an elaborate dance number. The WWE diva and one of Clay’s tag team partners is also anticipating her first in-ring appearance at the event. Knowing how not many female performers make it on the card, she is looking to make the most of her opportunity.

“It’s incredible and definitely a blessing,” Naomi said. “I don’t think it’s really going to kick in until I’m walking out. That I’m actually having a match at WrestleMania, I didn’t think it would happen this fast, but I’m glad. I think we deserve it and are definitely ready to show up those Bella Twins.”

Titus O’Neil believes he and his Prime Time Players tag team partner Darren Young will make an appearance at WrestleMania one way or another, even if it’s only to get more than 80,000 people to do the “Millions of Dollars Shuffle.” At the same time, the University of Florida alum is ready for The Rock and John Cena rematch.

“Cena had a lot to go through in the past year,” O’Neil said. “The Rock has had one heck of a year outside of WWE. So I’m pretty sure Cena is looking to push in his face that he does this everyday and all day, every week and all week. He would say he isn’t a part-time champion. He is an all-the-time champion. Although Rock’s a great champion, and I love what he does for the company, I think John being here day in and day out and week in and week out, he is not going to go to WrestleMania and lose.

“My pick is Cena. Last year I picked the Rock, and he won. This year I’m picking Cena because it’s hard to pick the same guy or same team two times in a row. It’s going to be very interesting. By the same token, I just know when you do something day in and day out I just think there is more of a hunger on that side.”

As for his standout WrestleMania memory, O’Neil chooses the stellar contest between Ricky The Dragon Steamboat and Macho Man Randy Savage for the Intercontinental belt at WrestleMania 3.

“It’s still one of the greatest matches to this day,” O’Neil said. “I would take Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels also at WrestleMania 25. I loved it. It was awesome. Those two would be my top two.”

His partner Darren Young recalls a different match from WrestleMania 3 as his favorite.

“[Hulk] Hogan and Andre will always be remembered,” Young said. “When Hogan slammed Andre, and in a few interviews, Hogan said he actually tore [muscles in his back] body slamming Andre the Giant, which I thought was very impressive.”

Talking about past events make the Miami Beach resident excited about what historic moments happen at this year’s spectacular.

“WrestleMania is the biggest pay-per-view of the year,” Young said. “Everyone says it’s the Super Bowl of wresting, and the Prime Time Players want to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing John Cena versus the Rock. That match is almost in Cena’s hometown. Cena is from Massachusetts, which is not too far from home. [Last year Rock beat Cena in Rock’s hometown Miami] So I’m looking for Cena to take this one. The whole card, top to bottom is going to be off the hook.”

NXT standout Baron Corbin is motivated to make it to the big dance in the near future. The multi-sport athlete will never forget attending his first WrestleMania.

“When I was playing for the Arizona Cardinals, I was able to attend WrestleMania 26 in Phoenix, and it was unbelievable,” Corbin said. “The Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels match was out of this world. You get lost in those things, where I found myself connected to it. I was into it and cheering. You just get that feeling. You just get chills watching something like that. It’s like the greatest thing you can imagine. To watch two guys do that just pushes me to get better every day and try to accomplish something like that where somebody will be watching me saying, ‘That was amazing.’”

Like any good sportsman, he is happy for his teammates who have been called to the main roster and have secured a slot on the card.

“I’m definitely looking forward to watching The Shield [NXT alums Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins],” Corbin said. “They’re a product of our system here at NXT. It’s awesome to see guys you worked with starting to accomplish things you want to accomplish. They would give us advice, and I looked forward to watching them on that stage. It’s got to be amazing, as well as Big E. Langston, who is going to be on that stage. I’m looking forward to The Undertaker versus CM Punk. Undertaker is unbelievable. He always manages to put on the best show that you can imagine. So I look forward to that as well.”

• John Cena challenges The Rock for the WWE championship in the main event of WWE WrestleMania 29 at 7 p.m. EST Sunday, April 7 from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The pay-per-view is also headlined by The Undertaker putting the streak (20-0) on the line against CM Punk.

Triple H (with Shawn Michaels in his corner) puts his career on the line against Brock Lesnar. Look for Paul Heyman to stand behind his clients Punk and/or Lesnar.

Alberto Del Rio (with Ricardo Rodriguez) defends the World championship against Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter).

Before the pay-per-view gets under way, WWE is hosting a pre-show at 6 p.m. EST featuring Wade Barrett defending the Intercontinental title against The Miz on WWE.com, Yahoo!, facebook.com/wwe, YouTube.com/wwe and the WWE App!

For the complete card and details on everything during WrestleMania Week, visit www.wrestlemania.com.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.

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