Talent talks WWE WrestleMania

WWE Superstar Mojo Rawley will be part of WrestleMania 33 Week in Orlando.
WWE Superstar Mojo Rawley will be part of WrestleMania 33 Week in Orlando. Photo By Jim Varsallone

Throughout the year, talent (past and present) shared their thoughts on the Super Bowl of pro wrestling, the modern day grand-daddy of them all, the hybrid of sports entertainment, a Forbes Fab Five...WWE’s WrestleMania.

Last year WrestleMania 32 set a WWE attendance record of 101,763 with fans from 50 states and 35 countries converging on AT&T Stadium in Arlington/Dallas.

The event is so ginormous that WrestleMania made the Forbes Fab 40 Events list, a list topped by the NFL Super Bowl. WrestleMania ranked fifth with a brand value of $180 million, with WrestleMania 32 in Arlington/Dallas registering a 5.9-percent increase from the WrestleMania 31 event in Santa Clara. Forbes is a leading business magazine/website.

WrestleMania is in its 33rd incarnation, emanating from City Beautiful Orlando on Sunday, April 2 at Camping World Stadium, formerly the Citrus Bowl Stadium. Tens of thousands of fans from throughout the world will visit Orlando in Orange County for WrestleMania and more during WrestleMania 33 Week.

WWE Broadcaster and Total Divas on E! star Renee Young

One moment as a kid Renee Young’s watching WrestleMania VI at the Sky Dome in Toronto, meeting Stone Cold Steve Austin, Trish Stratus and Triple H backstage. Fast forward, now as an adult she’s working for the company, answering to Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn and Paul Levesque backstage.

Her father, Tex, is in the entertainment business, thus the WrestleMania VI VIP treatment.

“It was awesome,” she said. “To sit there out in the crowd, to be in Toronto and watch everybody do their thing, the crowd is going wild. It’s unlike anything else. The fans come from all over the world, and they are so pumped to check it out. It’s being able to look at everyone around you and just see how huge of a production it is. Nothing is held back production wise at WrestleMania.”

“My first WrestleMania working [in 2014], I was really stressed out, because I honestly really didn’t know what to expect,” Young said. “Going into the New York/New Jersey area..I had just moved to New York not too long prior to that...Getting my footing in WWE and in the city, figuring it all out, it’s such a huge overtaking obviously, but just seeing everybody in their mode, and everyone’s in their element, and everyone’s bringing their A game, it’s cool. There’s all these celebrities backstage. There’s so much action going on. You’d like to find a spot where you could like hang out for a little bit. Get a good eyeful of what’s going on and then focus on whatever the task at hand is going to be.

“My first year was an interview with Mark Henry on the [WrestleMania] pre-show, and I was very excited because I had people from The Score -- where I used to work in Toronto -- there watching WrestleMania. So they got to see me on the big screen, and everybody was very excited.”

Young attended two WrestleManias prior. Toronto in 1990 as a VIP and Miami in 2012.

“When I went to Miami [for WrestleMania 28], I worked for The Score. We went down to check everything out,” she said. “When I went to Toronto, I went to enjoy it as a kid.”


ECW original Taz, a former wrestler and broadcaster for WWE, said:

“I’ve probably been involved in eight, nine WrestleManias, wrestling in three. I’ve broadcast more of them than I wrestled in. I’ve been behind the scenes on them. I’ve been in production meetings and agent meetings before the show and all that stuff.”

Taz has even flown in Vince McMahon’s jet in meetings.

“I saw a lot of stuff and called so much action, but my favorite WrestleMania that I’ve been a part of was in Seattle at Safeco Field where the Mariners play. It was WrestleMania 19 [in 2003]. Michael Cole and I called a lot of matches including the main event with Brock Lesnar against Kurt Angle [for the WWE title]. That was the most memorable WrestleMania for me. It was a blast, amazing.”

That WrestleMania also featured The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. McMahon. World champ Triple H (with Ric Flair) vs. Booker T. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho. WWE women’s champ Victoria (with Stevie Richards and Jazz) vs. Trish Stratus. The Undertaker vs. Big Show and A-Train. Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy (with Shannon Moore). World tag champs Lance Storm and Chief Morley (with the Dudley Boyz) vs. Kane and Rob Van Dam. WWE tag champs Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Hass) vs. Chris Benoit and Rhyno vs. Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo Guerrero Jr.).


The Taz Show - Bodyslams & Beyond 7-9 a.m. weekdays live at via CBS Radio.

WWE Hall of Famer and iconic broadcaster Jim Ross

Twice during his career with WWE, Bell’s palsy created a roadblock and almost ended his broadcasting journey.

Two friends, his boss and WrestleMania resurrected his career.

Bell's palsy is a form of facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the cranial nerve VII (the facial nerve) causing an inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. It effected Ross’ speech, but with help from some friends, he proved he could still do his job and do it very well.

“My mother passed away, and I found out on the air. After I got that news, I had another Bell’s palsy attack, which tells me it may be stress induced. I had been out for months, and I came back for WrestleMania 15, Rock vs. Austin. I had signed both guys, hired both guys. I mentored both guys. Both are my friends, and they lobbied on my behalf, unbeknownst to me, to Vince McMahon about me calling their first main event at WrestleMania they had together.

“Vince was nice enough to acquiesce and said, ‘Yeah, let’s go. Let’s do it.’

“Before I went out there, I really had a heavy panic attack that day, a Tony Soprano level panic attack. I just lost all my confidence. I didn’t think I could do it. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the mirror. I looked horrible. My one eye was bigger than the other. I had to hold my face up to enunciate. It didn’t effect my passion or my heart, but I actually believed on that night I was going to be calling my last match. I had two bouts with the facial paralysis, and I didn’t think I could get back into the hunt.”

The First Union Center in Philadelphia housed WrestleMania 15 in 1999.

Ross recalled: “The audience in Philadelphia gave my a standing ovation, which was a miracle, and I will always be grateful for that, because it helped pick me up and got me through the match. Not too long after that, I came back to work.”


WWE Raw Superstar Nia Jax

WrestleMania 28 in Miami Gardens changed Savelina Fanene’s life.

That’s where she sat ringside with Ata Maivia Johnson at Sun Life Stadium in 2012 to watch John Cena battle Ata’s son in the historic main event of the annual extravaganza before 78,000 exuberant fans.

“Watching The Rock versus John Cena, I remember turning to my aunt [Ata] and saying, ‘I have to do this,’ and she said, ‘You think you can do this?,’ and I answered, ‘I know I can do this.’ It was a feeling that overcame me that I need to do this. It is something I was meant to do.”

In her blood, Fanene -- better known as NXT’s Nia Jax -- hails from a wrestling family with her aunt, uncles, cousins involved in the business for many years.

“We talked about it, and I was going to attend Uncle Afa [the Wild Samoan’s] wrestling school [in Minneola, Florida],” Nia said. “[The Rock] got word of what I was doing, and he heard about the [WWE] Performance Center opening up [in Orlando], and he thought maybe I should tryout there and see if it was exactly what I wanted to do. After the tryout, they said, ‘We’d like to have you come on board.’”

So Nia received a little help getting her foot in the WWE door, but once she walked through, it was all up to her, and she worked extremely hard to progress, elevating herself to the NXT roster where she continues that same work ethic.


WWE SmackDown Live Superstar Dolph Ziggler

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler said: “I’ve had so much fun. I’ve fallen off ladders at WrestleMania. I’ve beaten up Shawn Michaels with Vince McMahon in the ring at WrestleMania. I’ve been very fortunate.

“What I think would be a cool memory for myself -- and for fans who have followed me over the last 11 years -- would be to finally compete in a singles match at WrestleMania against someone who was either a mentor to me or someone who has been tormenting me my entire career. Either way, it would be a special moment for myself, and I’ve never had one of those. I’m not saying I would live or die by it, but it would be something very special for me as I enter my veteran years, giving back to WWE and helping out some young guys. I’d love to get my hands on a singles match at WrestleMania in Orlando and make it special.”


WWE Superstar Cesaro won the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30 in 2014.

He said: “A historic WrestleMania. Here’s the thing. It’s almost a blur. I had two matches that day. I had a four-way tag match on the pre-show and then the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the main show. Unfortunately, it’s just a blur. I remember winning was just amazing. The crowd, when I lifted Big Show up, was just electric. They all stood up on their feet. I saw so many flags from so many countries. To me, it just meant so much. If I have to pick one moment, that would be the one moment I would pick.”


WWE NXT Superstar Peyton Royce of Sydney, Australia attended her first WrestleMania in 2016 -- WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington near Dallas.

“The atmosphere was insane, and I said to myself, ‘I have to be here. I have to be on a WrestleMania.’ I literally can’t finish up my wrestling career without having made a WrestleMania.”

WrestleMania Week now includes an NXT live special on WWE Network two days before WrestleMania.

“Having it in Orlando [in 2017], which is where I live, oh my gosh, [to be a part of it] that would just be insane.”


Florida indie talent Rachael Ellering, who already had matches for NXT and Impact Wrestling, is newer to the wrestling business, but her family is not.

Her dad is WWE Hall of Famer Precious Paul Ellering, manager of the legendary Road Warriors/Legion of Doom (Animal and Hawk).

When her father was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011, it changed her life.

“That day. Oh gosh. That was the coolest,” she said. “So WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011, that’s when they [Road Warriors and Paul Ellering] were inducted, and yes, I was there. I was that girl sitting in the crowd with goosebumps the whole time. I decided when I was 16 [pro wrestling] is what I was going to do, and then sitting there in that crowd is a moment I’ll never forget. It was the moment I knew 110 percent that I have to do this. This is what I’m meant to do. This is what I love. It’s everything. I just get chills talking about it.

“It was the greatest night, and I was so, so lucky to be there. It was one of the proudest moments I’ll ever have, seeing him standing up there, reflecting on their careers and how responsive the crowd was...just so, so cool to be there.”


Ricardo Rodriguez (Jesus Rodriguez) worked for WWE from 2010-14.

“I was a part of four WrestleManias, and each one was special in its own way. It’s beyond crazy, but it’s so much fun. There’s so much wrestling involved, but not only that, just economically, like how much money gets dumped into the city, which obviously helps, because it brings huge revenue to the city, just helps out the community as a whole.

“I’m definitely excited. I know I’m going to be seeing a lot of people I haven’t seen in years, in a long time. I’m hoping to be a part of something, since I live there -- whether it’s Wrestlecon, Ring of Honor, CCW. Who knows. I just know living there I want to be a part of something. So I’m very excited about it for sure.”


WWE Hall of Famer Diamond Dallas Page Class of 2017

DDP WrestleMania moments

“If you go back to WrestleMania 6 [1990], I drive my pink Cadillac to the ring with Jimmy Hart, Honky Tonk Man and Greg The Hammer Valentine, when they were Rhythm & Blues. On that card, the main event was Hogan vs. [Ultimate] Warrior,” DDP recalled. “Then eight years later, Warrior comes into WCW and is going to do another program with Hogan, and I’m sharing the main event with Goldberg. That Halloween Havoc was almost like a ‘Mania to me.”

WWE beat rival WCW, purchasing the company on the cheap. When that occurred, instead of sitting at home collecting money on his WCW contract, DDP opted to sign with WWE. The move paid off.

“Then getting back to [WWE] to go to WrestleMania 18 where I have a great match with Christian.”

Would that be it? Well, never say never when you’re talking WWE or DDP.

“If you ever would have told me, 14 years later, that I’m going to be at Wrestlemania 32 in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and help throw big Shaquille O’Neal...When I saw Shaq backstage, he gave me the biggest hug, [saying] ‘DDP!’ and then he actually said to me, ‘I was a huge fan of yours.’ I’m thinking, ‘You’re a huge fan of mine? You’re one of my favorite players of all-time.’ It was just great seeing him and helping throw him over the top rope...On the way down, I’m saying, ‘Protect yourself Shaq.’”

DDP shares an athletic bond with Shaq -- pro wrestling and basketball. DDP grew up in Point Pleasant and Toms River, N.J., becoming a star basketball player on the Point Pleasant Boro High School Panthers. FYI: That county also produced Bam Bam Bigelow, Danny Devito, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Springsteen. Good water.

Two days before his 60th birthday, DDP found himself in front of a record breaking WWE crowd in April at AT&T Stadium in Arlington/Dallas for WrestleMania 32. A surprise entrant in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, he joined another jaw-dropping participant -- NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

In the Andre Battle Royal, DDP took the lead to help eliminate Shaq.

DDP didn’t need any help later to eliminate Viktor of the Ascension.

“The kid I hit the Diamond Cutter on, I was like, ‘Don’t go for the Diamond Cutter. Just throw me over the top.’ I was just happy to be there, and Viktor’s like, ‘No. D. I have to take the Diamond Cutter.’ How about that. They want to take it. They were kids growing up with it.”

But then Konnor of the Ascension avenged his partner’s demise by tossing out DDP.

“Two days from 60, all my concern was as I was heading over [the top rope] was, ‘Please God. Please God. Please God. Just don’t let me hurt myself.’ It’s a long way down for 60-year-old me, but with DDP Yoga, I was OK.”



WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley

During a Q&A at Florida Supercon at the Miami Beach Convention Center, he was asked if he could have one more WrestleMania match who would he like to wrestle.

“I kind of like the deal we did in Dallas [for WrestleMania 32] where I didn’t get hurt at all, and we got the nice response from 101,000 fans. That was sweet.”

Foley, HBK Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin surprisingly confronted the League of Nations (Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, Sheamus) during WWE WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington/Dallas.

“I think I would do better in that type of scenario than have another [1-on-1] match at a WrestleMania...If I lose another 30 pounds, I might start thinking of opponents.”

Weighing 268 pounds in July 2016, Foley feels good, moving well. He lost 70 pounds through DDP Yoga, which means he weighed 338 pounds.

“Bray Wyatt. I’m sure we’d cut some nice promos. Ambrose, or maybe an unexpected guy, like Scott Dawson from NXT. He would be good. I know he doesn’t ring a bell with many guys, but someone like that, because a match properly done could shoot that guy up the ladder fairly quickly.”


WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi

Promoting a Paradise City Comic Con appearance, he said: “My favorite WrestleMania moment was when I Stinkfaced [baseball legend] Pete Rose. It’s not so much the wrestling. It’s who gets the Stinkface on the biggest, grandest stage of them all. He helped make me famous by giving him the Stinkface.”


WWE Fan Tyler

A West Palm Beach resident via New Jersey is a third generation WWE fan.

Tyler attended his first WrestleMania last year, WrestleMania 32, in Arlington/Dallas.

“Just the experience of being there I’ll always remember,” he said. “The crowd, the aura, the atmosphere, something I’ll never forget.”

His father, John, was at WrestleMania (the original) at Madison Square Garden in 1985.

“It was the first one, and I just remember being in awe of everything,” John said, “the crowd noise, the excitement, an adrenaline rush. Lou Albano, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace, Billy Martin, Ali. It was one of the most star-studded lineups they’ve ever had.”

Now they are hoping to attend WrestleMania 33 in Orlando on April 2, 2017.

John’s father introduced him to pro wrestling.

John reciprocated by sharing it with his son.

“In 2008 was the first time I started watching,” Tyler said. “Then I took a break for about two years, then I got back into it, and I love it, and I got my dad back into it, too.’

WrestleMania Is A Big Deal

WrestleMania made the Forbes Fab 40 Events list, a list topped by the NFL Super Bowl. WrestleMania was fifth with a brand value of $180 million, with WrestleMania 32 in Arlington/Dallas registering a 5.9-percent increase from the WrestleMania 31 event in Santa Clara. The Super Bowl had a brand value of $630 million. The Summer Olympics with $366 million, Winter Olympics with $285 million, and FIFA World Cup with $229 million were in the Top 5. Notable events that WWE beat were the College Football Playoffs, College Basketball Final Four, MLB World Series, Daytona 500, UEFA Champions League and more.

WrestleMania 24 in Orlando

Orlando (and Orange County) are very excited to be hosting WrestleMania 33.

This marks the second time City Beauutiful hosts WrestleMania, the first in 2008. In the past nine years, WrestleMania has generated more than $700 million in cumulative economic impact for the cities that have hosted the event.

WrestleMania 24 in 2008 at the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium was part of that impressie financial number. WrestleMania 24 drew 74,635 fans and featured The Undertaker defeating Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event, Floyd Mayweather taking on Big Show, and Shawn Michaels defeating Ric Flair in the retirement match for The Nature Boy.


WWE WrestleMania 33 is Sunday, April 2 in front of a sold-out crowd at Camping World Stadium (the Citrus Bowl) in Orlando and live around the world on WWE Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.

WrestleMania is more than just a one day event; it is a week-long celebration.

In addition to WrestleMania 33, other events include:

Thursday, March 30-Sunday, April 2: WrestleMania Axxess – WWE’s four-day, interactive fan festival at the Orange County Convention Center.

Friday, March 31: The 2017 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Amway Center.

Saturday, April 1: NXT TakeOver at the Amway Center.

Monday, April 3: Raw at the Amway Center.

Tuesday, April 4: SmackDown Live at the Amway Center.

Plus, WWE will host activities designed to give back to the local community during WrestleMania Week including “Be a STAR” anti-bullying rallies, hospital visits, a Veterans day salute, reading challenge, park cleanup and Make-A-Wish. There will be more than 20 events hosted by WWE during WrestleMania Week.




- Pro Wrestling On The Web


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