Like AirTalk host Larry Mantle and Morning Edition host Steve Julian, I too traveled to Phoenix this weekend. However, unlike Larry and Steve, I did so not for baseball spring training, but for... pro wrestling! (I like my sports fake.)
Yes, Wrestlemania, the biggest professional wrestling event of the year, took place this past Sunday in Phoenix. Phoenix also hosted a wide variety of related events, both official and unofficial, including the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, smaller pro wrestling shows, fan festivals, a wrestling comedy show, and even a wrestling art show.
WWE announced over 70,000 fans in attendance at the big show. This year, Wrestlemania will be remembered for what could be legendary pro wrestler Shawn Michaels' final match. He's been wrestling since 1984, but his 25 year career came to an end Sunday night in an epic match against the Undertaker, a rematch of their memorable match at last year's Wrestlemania.
Shawn Michaels gave his retirement speech Monday night on WWE Raw. Click here to view highlights of his farewell. It was an emotional moment for WWE fans, losing one of the greatest performers in pro wrestling history. He left the business once before in 1998 with a broken back, but to everyone's surprise, returned in 2002 and put in another eight years of fantastic performances. This time, though, it looks like he's likely gone for good.
Many wonder whether or not he's actually retiring, as people announce their retirement and come out of retirement all the time (Brett Favre, anyone?), but reports indicate that Michaels has told friends that he's serious about going out on top, spending more time with his wife and children, and doing it before he gets too old to deliver athletically (Michaels is 44) and is free of more serious injuries.
The other most storied match was the return to the ring of Bret Hart, who had a public falling out with WWE in 1997, including having the creative control clause of his contract broken with the way he was written out of WWE storylines. He held a grudge for years against Vince McMahon and, coincidentally enough, Shawn Michaels, who was involved in the affair, but tensions thawed in recent years. Bret was inducted into the Hall of Fame, had a DVD released by WWE covering his career, and now, over 12 years after what came to be known as "the Montreal screwjob," one last match at Wrestlemania against Vince McMahon.
Wrestlemania is always a spectacle, and this year continued that tradition. You can check out more videos on WWE.com, along with other official coverage of the event, and I'll have more on the weekend later this week, including a live perspective on the WWE Hall of Fame.