WrestleMania: An Insider’s Guide to a Spectacle

More than 100,000 people packed into AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas April 3 to take in pro wrestling’s greatest spectacle: WrestleMania 32.

What is WrestleMania? To know that, you must first know what pro wrestling truly is.

Pro wrestling is, in essence, “sports entertainment”, a term popularized by Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), in the mid-late 90’s to distinguish itself from other sports fighting activities and athletic boards. By calling it sports entertainment, pro wrestling companies don’t have to pay the fees to athletic boards that organizations like the UFC do. Pro wrestling is anything but a sport, in the traditional sense.

It’s theatre at its most extreme.

Pro wrestling is a television show featuring live stunts and characters that tell stories using actions and words. It has more in common with Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead than it does with mixed martial arts.

The characters in wrestling are unique. There’s an undead phenom (The Undertaker), a beast from the farm in South Dakota (Brock Lesnar), a group of foreign-born bullies (League of Nations) and even a stable of people that believe in unicorns and talk nonstop about cereal (The New Day).

It’s anything but a sport. And WrestleMania is pro wrestling’s biggest spectacle.

This year’s WrestleMania set more than just the record for highest attendance at a pro wrestling event in US history. WrestleMania 32 generated $17 million in ticket sales. Economically, the city that hosts WrestleMania benefits immensely. While the numbers for this year’s WrestleMania have yet to come to light, WrestleMania 30 generated $142 million in revenue for the city of New Orleans.

WrestleMania was seen by 1.8 million WWE Network subscribers all over the world. It brought in people from all over the world like India, Australia and the United Kingdom.

There’s more than just WWE events going on during WrestleMania Weekend, which stretches from Thursday to Monday, usually in the first week of April. From fan interaction festivals and autograph signings to parties to Hall of Fame ceremonies, there’s many things to do.

Getting there is a task. You can fly or drive to WrestleMania (a drive from Brookings to Dallas and back varies on vehicle, but cost myself about $130 in gas; the drive lasts 13 hours).

Hotels near AT&T Stadium cost $53 to as much as $300 plus $30-$60 parking per day that you stay there. Tickets to WrestleMania range from $35 for nosebleeds to $2500 for ringside. For $11, fans can get a souvenir soda cup and for $25 a souvenir program.

There’s three major downsides to attending WrestleMania live.

The first problem is waiting in line, whether it be to get into the stadium or getting through the lines at the fan interaction festivals and autograph signings. For instance, I got to the stadium 3 ½ hours before the doors were set to open and did not get in until a half hour after they opened due to there being only three lines of security per gated entry. Much like Ultimate Fighting Championships, WWE has a pre-show with matches and segments to get people excited for the main card. Some people missed the entire pre-show waiting to get into the stadium.

The second problem is seating. When you sit on the floor for WrestleMania, you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbor for the duration of a six-hour show. If you happen to be short like I am, you’re forced to watch on the big screens above the ring as opposed to looking at what is happening in the ring itself. I’d suggest spending less money and getting seats on the risers or in the upper deck.

The other downside is finding a ride back to your hotel from WrestleMania. As soon as WrestleMania got over at 11 p.m., ride-share apps such as Uber and LYFT saw a 300 percent increase in ride fare rates, meaning that simple $15 ride to AT&T Stadium to get there at 11 a.m. was now $90 to get back. As the night wore down, the rates finally started to drop, and at about 1:30 a.m., I was finally able to make it back to my hotel at a 150 percent rate. My LYFT fare was $45.

The biggest takeaway from attending WrestleMania live was that I met tons of people from around the world. If you plan accordingly, you can attend several events during the weekend. There really is no such thing as a dull moment during WrestleMania, and if you do as much as you possibly can, you won’t be disappointed.

On April 2 of next year, WrestleMania 33 emanates from the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. People will come from everywhere like they do every year. That’s the thing about pro wrestling—the story goes on. It never ends, and if WrestleMania 32 is any indication, the story won’t end any time soon.

If you’re looking to attend a pro wrestling event, WWE is hosting a live event that won’t be on television and will only be seen by those attending in Sioux Falls on May 8. Tickets start at $15.

If you want to be a professional wrestler, Midwest All-Pro Wrestling in Sioux Falls will be holding classes starting May 23.