Sometimes I can’t grasp how quickly time flies by. I can’t believe that is has been 7 years since I was signed to WWE and can’t believe that it’s been just over 5 since my release. Sometimes I really enjoy talking about my experiences there and sometimes it’s the very last thing that I want to talk about.
Reading some of my old columns I realized that I’m so down on WWE’s booking and business practices that I ask myself do I even care anymore? And the answer is yes. For some reason they make it so easy for people to not like what they are offering that it seems like they forget the old business rule: If you make a customer happy they’ll either tell one person or nobody at all…but if you make a customer unhappy then they’ll tell everybody. And judging by some of the fan reactions lately, there are a LOT of unhappy customers. But I made the point of this column is not about the bad. From time to time I do enjoy discussing my WWE experiences and today happens to be one of those days. Since it’s about that time of the year I decided to relive one of the most satisfying moments of my nearly 14 years in professional wrestling.
One of my most frequently asked questions that I get about my almost 2 year cup of WWE flavored coffee is “Did you ever go to WrestleMania?” And the answer is yes. I was signed in January 2007 and of course NOBODY is gonna make it from developmental to WrestleMania in 2 ½ months, so WM23 I watched from my good friend and former independent wrestling star Jacey North’s house. So imagine my surprise a year later when Mark Carrano from WWE talent relations tells me at a TV taping, “Well kid I made your dreams come true: you’re working WrestleMania!” Mark was always awesome to me and talked to me at every TV we were at together, and he was right on the money, he sure did. Everybody has different reasons for wanting to break into the wrestling business, and many of us have multiple reasons. And if the SLIGHT possibility of ever being booked on a WrestleMania is not on your list of reasons for being in this business, then maybe you need to get out. Yeah I’m critical of WWE’s booking, but I was before I signed with them (although I didn’t write a column about it haha). Maybe not everybody wants to wrestle in WWE full time, but how can you not be attracted to the possibility of working that show? Record breaking crowds, the electricity, the payoff (a thing of the past?), and the satisfaction of knowing that your name is on a select list of performers who appeared on that year’s version of the biggest professional wrestling show that there ever will be. Hey, and forever you will be able to walk into a Walmart, Target, Best Buy, FYE or various retail stores and know that they will likely have a copy of a DVD that you appeared on. Pretty freakin’ sweet if you ask me (not that you did).
So when I get the news that I’m going to be assigned to the opening show battle royal to determine the #1 contender to the ECW Championship, I was pretty freaking stoked. Well that excitement multiplied by 1000 when I was told that I was going to be needed in Orlando 4 days before WrestleMania to assist with the crew work! I would get to go to the Hall of Fame ceremony, which is a tremendous honor to attend, because they pay tribute to the wrestling superstars of the past. It can be debated all day long who belongs in and who doesn’t but on that day, I sure didn’t care. I was there to see Ric Flair, the Brisco Brothers, Mae Young, Peter Maivia, Rocky Johnson, Eddie Graham, and Gordon Solie inducted and hear stories from the past.
Then the next day, it was the big one. WrestleMania XXIV, in my opinion one of the best the company has had. And I didn’t get to enjoy it until about an hour before the show started! At the talent hotel, WWE had taken one of the ballrooms and had us bring the FCW ring and set it up in there for the talent to work out in during the weekend. I knew that early that Sunday morning, I and several of the FCW talents were assigned to take the ring down. And for those of you that have ever assisted in the set up and breakdown of a WWE ring you know how big of a pain in the ass that is! There are so many small ins and outs to get it set up right that it takes a crew of 10 about 2 hours (maybe more) to get it set up CORRECTLY! So we all chip in, break the ring down, and load it into the FCW truck and hand out around the hotel for a little while before we get ready to go to The Show! We were all pumped as several of the FCW guys had gotten Druid duty and a few were assigned to Floyd Mayweather’s entourage. So imagine my surprise when Michael “P.S.” Hayes comes charging out of the ballroom shouting “WHERE IN THE HELL IS THE RING!” A sinking feeling came into my stomach because this is the kind of stuff that you can get fired for up there, but I knew Mike Posey and I had followed the instructions we were given as to what time the ring was to be taken down. We were both a big ball of nerves as we cautiously approached the Fabulous Freebird and told him that we took it down at the time we were told to. He was another that was always super cool to me as well and he calmed down as he explained to us that (and I can’t remember exactly which one so forgive me here) either Mayweather or Big Show had an early morning appearance and had wanted to bounce around the ring before Mania. And we knew what was coming next: “So you need to put it back up.” Say WHAT! It was already past lunch and Posey and I were supposed to be at the Citrus Bowl by 4. We KNEW that we weren’t gonna be able to put the ring up, wait for the workout to end, take it down, and then drive to the Citrus Bowl in WrestleMania traffic in just a few hours! Well, we put the ring up, the workout was done, and all of us were BUSTING our asses to get it down and get on the road in time and hope that none of us were fired over this! As Mike and I were weaving in and out of traffic trying to get to the building on time, we’re both frantically trying to call and text the other referees to tell them what happened and that we were on the way.
So we finally get to the building and the atmosphere just immediately made all of my worries disappear. It was a feeling of-“Hey they could fire me right now, but they can never take this memory away!” But all of my worries were for nothing, as we quickly changed clothes, and were able to enjoy the amazing backstage atmosphere of WrestleMania for about 45 minutes before the event started. I’ll never forget the enjoyment of meeting legends, and the celebrities that were there. I tried to do the right thing and shake every one’s hand and introduce myself but there were so many people there that it was impossible! And finally, it’s dark match battle royal time! Posey and I make our way down the ramp to our assigned corners and just watch the magic happen. Posey had refereed a couple of my matches on the independents so it was pretty cool to be working side by side with him at one of the biggest shows of all time. We walked down the ramp and it was surreal as we actually got a mild pop as once the Orlando crowd saw us, they knew it was time to start!
We reported to our assigned corners, and watched one by one as all of the entrants in the battle royal made their way in. Kane’s entrance, one of the most intimidating of all time, was a highlight. The Miz, Mark Henry, Elijah Burke, Brian Kendrick, Snitsky and Val Venis, all were there. All were extremely nice guys to talk to. I was so excited to be out there for my buddy Kofi Kingston’s WrestleMania debut. He was one of the hardest working guys in developmental and was now getting his due on the ECW show and was starting to get over. Speaking of ECW, it was always a pleasure to work with ECW originals Tommy Dreamer and Stevie Richards. Deuce and Domino, Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes all came out. Jimmy Wang Yang and Shannon Moore were in it. I had refereed several of their matches and they were starting to really click as a tag team. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch were there and I always enjoyed their work. They were a throwback tag team to another era, and were a pleasure to watch. I still get a kick out of their theme music to this day. Jamie Noble and Chuck Palumbo were participants. I had been assigned to many of the matches during their ongoing TV angle with Michelle McCool, which was getting good responses from the live crowds. Jesse and Festus made their way to the ring, and it was always crazy to be in there with Festus during the “crazy” spell. That was starting to get over as well. After the melee died down, Kane stood tall and was going to be up against ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero Jr. on the PPV. We made our way to the back knowing that our moment in the sun was over, but that we had enjoyed every second of it.
The PPV began and opened up with a stiff brawl between Finlay and JBL. Next up was the Money in the Bank match with CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Carlito, Montel Vontavious Porter, Mr. Kennedy, and John Morrison. I remember there being a lot of backstage talk about this match as no one was quite sure who was going over. This is exactly the way the match at WrestleMania should be. Unpredictable. As I mentioned in a previous column, I was never sure if WWE was going to go all the way with Punk, so it was an awesome surprise when he came out victorious. I had actually thought that MVP was going to win, as he was picking up major steam as a heel, but we were treated with a great WrestleMania moment when Matt Hardy returned from injury and resumed his feud with MVP. Batista defeated Umaga in the “Battle for Brand Supremacy” Match. Kane defeated Chavo Guerrero Jr. for the ECW Championship in 11 seconds. Then, in one of the best stories WWE ever told, Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair in the Career Threatening Match. WWE played this angle up for month on end, and Ric worked his butt off at house shows, TV’s and PPV’s working with talent that he hadn’t worked with yet, like Mark Henry, Ken Kennedy, and MVP. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work a loop of house shows in which Mark Henry wrestled Flair in Career Threatening matches.
Like most my age, it was surreal watching Flair be so over as a babyface when my whole childhood was spent booing him for being the amazing heel that he was. There was a large group of the boys watching the match together and I remember getting so caught up in the match that I wasn’t paying attention to anybody else. Now I’ve probably watched over 15,000 matches in my lifetime, and never once has one been so emotional that it nearly moved me to tears. When Ric was struggling up with his fists up, and Shawn mouthed, “I’m sorry…I love you” before giving him the sweet chin music and ending Ric’s WWE in-ring career, I felt the tears start to well up but I thought, “Damn, I’m gonna get ribbed forever if anybody sees this!” So I bit my lip, composed myself, then turned around and saw about half the group boohooing like they just found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. So I felt better. Beth Phoenix and Melina defeated Maria and Ashley in a Lumberjill match. The only thing that I can remember about that match that it was mostly held in the dark due to a lighting issue. Then Randy Orton defeated John Cena and Triple H in a Triple threat match for the WWE Championship. Nothing memorable about this match at all, in my opinion. I think at that point people were starting to get tired of those guys working each other constantly and were ready for them to move on.
Floyd Mayweather defeated The Big Show by knockout in No Disqualification match that generated tons of publicity for WWE, and was very fun to be a part of. I remember being booked for a Raw event so that I could take part in a pull apart between the WWE and Mayweather’s entrourage. And in the main event The Undertaker defeated Edge with Vickie Guerrero, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder by submission. That was fun to watch as the two men who had been making the Smackdown brand a can’t miss show! Vickie gets nuclear heat as always, and I was so happy to see that Hawkins and Ryder had received a meaningful role on the show after floundering around as the Major Brothers (a column for another day). Jimmy Korderas took one of the best referee bumps of all time and the memory of Charles Robinson sprinting down to the ring just in time to make one of the closest two counts ever was another great moment in WrestleMania history. Once Taker defeated Edge, WrestleMania XXIV was in the books.
After all of the congratulation hugs and moments, it was time for the nearly-as-legendary-as-Wrestlemania After Party. All of the crew referees took the ring down and loaded it up, and got ready to haul it out only to find there were about four 18 wheelers of TV equipment blocking our way. We had to wait nearly 2 hours to get our stuff loaded onto our truck. By the time we got to the hotel, the party was nearly over. One of my childhood baseball heroes, Wade Boggs was there and I was able to take a picture with him, and a few people were left, but the bulk of it was over. And it didn’t bother me at all. I made a few rounds, talked to a few people, and headed up for the night. I had officially worked a WrestleMania, and no matter what, nobody anywhere can take that away from me. Nobody can take it away from anybody that’s been there. WrestleMania had come and gone, and I was and still am entirely grateful for that opportunity. I just didn’t think at the time that it will probably be the only WrestleMania that I ever go to. And if that’s the case, I’m perfectly content with that. Thank you for that memory, WWE. I’ll rip on your booking some other day.
What do you think? Post your thoughts, opinions, feedback and comments below.
Thanks for reading.
About Wes Adams: Wes Adams is a former WWE official/referee. Adams signed a WWE developmental deal in early 2007, and was assigned to Deep South Wrestling. After working as a official/referee on WWE television, he opened his own wrestling promotion “PowerSlam Productions.”