Every year around this time, the eyes of the wrestling world turn towards WrestleMania.
It’s at WrestleMania, the most important event on the WWF schedule, where careers are made or broken.
For many first-timers, it can be nerve-racking. With a rabid live crowd, a huge pay-per-view audience and the promise of a large payoff, some crack under the pressure, failing to seize the opportunity that the wrestling world’s biggest stage provides. Other WrestleMania ‘rookies’ grasp their chance and make the most of it.
“Last year was great,” admitted Kurt Angle who competed in his first WrestleMania in 2000. “The whole storyline of the two titles on the line and working with Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho … I think that those two are perhaps among the best wrestlers in the business. For me to go in and wrestle two guys like that in my fourth month in the business, it was a very good opportunity for me.”
Angle views his match last year as a turning point in his career.
“I think being able to produce and from what I saw, have the best match at WrestleMania, that was very important for my career because I think that brought me to a level where (the WWF) could start utilizing me more and possibly bring me into the main event picture which is what happened. So, I’d say WrestleMania last year was definitely the make or break for Kurt Angle.”
For Eddie Guerrero, who jumped to the WWF just two months earlier, WrestleMania was a big adrenaline rush.
“It was really exciting and exhausting at the same time. You’re there a whole week and I’ve never been there before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mentally and emotionally it’s exhausting. After WrestleMania, I was drained emotionally and mentally but it was such a rush, such a high.”
“It’s a little draining but it didn’t kill me by the end of the week,” said Matt Hardy. “For me, it wasn’t bad … we did some stuff here and there. I enjoyed doing (promotional appearances) to a degree. Besides, WrestleMania was such a big deal and I was so excited to do it, I could have gone and did promotional work for two or three weeks. ”
Angle can relate to the feeling of WrestleMania being an exhausting experience.
“You’re pretty drained. You’re going around and doing your appearances, and you’re training hard … you’re getting ready, getting focused for WrestleMania. It’s the biggest wrestling event of all time.”
Still, Angle enjoyed taking part in the festivities of WWF Axcess and the chance to meet the throng of loyal WWF supporters.
“I think wrestling is not only entertainment, but it’s also business as well and you have to make good business with all your fans. I got pumped up for the event because it was my first one and I was excited. I enjoyed the heck out of it. The appreciation I got from the fans, the match I had at WrestleMania, I just thought the whole week was great and if anything it catapulted me to a level where I could show I was a player in the WWF.”
For Jeff Hardy, who grew up watching the event as a teenager, competing on his first WrestleMania was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“It was kind of hard to absorb, hard to grasp at first. Before I knew it, I was in an important match at WrestleMania and I’m out there trying to steal the show at WrestleMania and it’s just hard to believe. It was awesome … totally a dream come true.”
Brother Matt recalled how the twin tandem almost had a chance to work the WrestleMania in 1999.
“We just barely missed appearing in WrestleMania 15. We were in a tag team battle royal on ‘Heat’ before, which initially was going to be on the pay-per-view. It was disappointing because everyone that is in the professional wrestling business wants to say ‘hey, I wrestled in WrestleMania.’ That’s the big goal.”
Even though she didn’t work the show, Lita attended the week long festivities prior to WrestleMania and had a blast.
“Last year, it was great … it was my first experience,” said Lita. “I had just started on TV before that so it was neat.”