It’s showtime folks… And so it was, Wrestlemania 31 weekend is in the books. This by far, was the best Chair Shot Reality Wrestlemania takeover, ever… at least since I’ve been part of the show. One word can be used to describe this weekend, hustle. Not John Cena hustle, loyalty and respect, more like Deadicated Clothing’s dream big and hustle hard.
Since early November the planning was ongoing. I would send no less than a dozen emails/texts and phone calls to Justin LaBar each and every day. Hotel, airfare, sponsorships, partnerships, tickets, packages, event planning, and anything else you can think of. It was a fun process, but a tiring one.
No sooner did the wheels touch down in San Jose, that I immediately began “working”. First stop was J Lohr wines to meet Lisa Boissier, her staff, and do a walk through for Saturday night’s A Taste of Reality Hall of Fame viewing party. The facilities are awesome, and they produce and bottle their wine on-site. 12,000 cases each day. 144,000 bottles! Following the walk through, Blake Mitchamore and I were invited to a tasting on the spot, with the goal of setting the 6 glass sampling menu. We sipped and sipped, while Lisa was teaching us how to properly taste. We continued sipping…. and sipped some more! An hour later, our menu was decided and it was time to move on to more business.
We summoned a Lyft and made our way to Rookies Sports Lodge, our central hub for the weekend. As soon as I walked through the door I was greeted with pleasantries and kindness from the entire Rookies staff, led by Jordan and Trisha. Let me tell you, this spot has no faults. I met Michael Hobson, owner, in person for the first time. I exchanged dozens of emails with Michael the entire lead-up to Mania. He was likely sick of seeing my name pop up on email, text, and his phone! Everything was great all weekend long at Rookies. Great venue, great staff, and GREAT food! That can’t be mentioned enough. We squared away everything for the weekend and waited for our first event to kick off, the CSR Wrestlemania Welcome Party.
The first fans and friends began filtering in at 4:15, and the entire Tailgate room was filled by 4:45. We had calamari, wings, pizza, and more. Being Catholic, I chose to refrain from the meats this day. We also had our first surprise guest of the weekend make an appearance, Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs. Let’s just say he brought the nastiness to the party, and an armpit to my face. I went to Nastyville!
After an hour break, Vince Russo arrived for the evening and our VIP meet and greet, uncensored Q&A, and he captured the crowd. He discussed everything under the sun, and more. There couldn’t be an easier person to work with in planning and execution of a guest appearance than Vince. Along with past guests of CSR including Matt Hardy, Matt Striker, and Kevin Nash, Vince brought professionalism, integrity, and passion. Night one at Rookies was in the books.
From there Justin and I made our way to the San Jose Sports Bar for the PWR Kevin Nash party, hosted by David Herro, Dameon Nelson, and Linda Kay. Following some quick “business” affairs (shocker) and housekeeping with Dameon, we were set for the evening. PWR is a first class production with awesome people involved. The night was fun, talking shop with Al Snow, Jeff Hardy, Abyss, and many more. Around 11:20 we were to hook up with big Kev for an autograph signing of wine labels for Saturday night. In the madness of the party, a good madness, I slowly and unintentionally let my emotions get the best of me. Picture 300 people in a small space, lots of noise, and a touch of alcohol, and that’s what my roadblock was. I held the labels, a priority for the entire weekend, to be signed and then- in the midst of it all, drop everything, including this iPad I am typing on. I uncharacteristically became rattled, flustered, and not myself. All the planning, all the time and money spent just to get these labels signed and I felt like I was going to drop the ball, as I did with everything in my hand. Well, in the end, everything was gathered, labels were saved, signed, and secure…. though my iPad now has a minor screen blemish!
After all that, I needed to get away. It was time to get out of the best party at that time of the evening. Even though I wanted to stay, my better senses got Justin and I out of there. It was the best business decision I could have made all weekend. On the way home I lost it, all the stress hit me and I broke down. After some reassuring from Justin, I was back to the room and ready to call it a night. Add that entire scenario to the fact that I hadn’t slept in since Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. and therein lies the problem. It was the end to a marathon 42 hours.
Saturday morning our VIP Experience guests Ethian (not pronounced anywhere near Ethan I later learned) and Jean-Francois (JF) joined Vince, Josh, Caroline, Blake and I for breakfast, while Justin was working Axxess. We had a chance to talk about Friday night and more, even though E and JF were 45 minutes late! Following breakfast, thanks to Trevor and Amber Ellison, we had an impromptu day of fun in the sun, pizza, a few drinks and a lot of NON-wrestling talk (which was nice). Somehow, at the end of it all, Justin, Josh, and I found ourselves in the pool. Once we dried out, we all headed to our rooms to get ready for our Taste of Reality Hall of Fame party at J. Lohr.
I led the charge to get everything ready at the winery but, that wasn’t needed. As Blake and I arrived, we saw WWE balloons, title belts, Hulk Hogan standup cut out, and so much more. This was amazing and a relief to me- I didn’t have to lose my mind tonight. I did make sure everything was ready, looked over the menu, and pulled up the WWE Network. We were ready to roll. Soon thereafter, Justin led in the rest of our team of friends. At 6:00, all guests had arrived, and I welcomed everyone and introduced Lisa to the room. From there, she took over with her team and we were in to our first tasting in the reception room. For 3 hours came wine and cheese/salami pairings, as well as candid Vince Russo reaction to the Hall of Fame. When I mean candid, I mean dying of laughter! As the night continued, I asked Lisa if I could purchase a bottle or two of their Mourvèdre to sample. We are talking $40 bottles of wine and she said “we will take care of that,” in the words of the Miz, awesome! This wine hits the pallet like a Mike Tyson right hook. So hard and so good, and goes well with any wild game meat. It’s so good, I purchased a bottle to take home for dinner this week. I will also be purchasing a case, soon. Only 470 bottles of the vintage remain. We began our final tasting prior to Kevin Nash’s induction, where we presented our special gift- an autographed bottle of special label, collectors edition (25 bottles) Kevin Nash J. Lohr 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Following our final tasting, we gathered for a group toast and pictures to end our evening with applause for J. Lohr.
We then headed back to the hotel to drop off our wine, and headed to the casino for dinner. We were 20 deep, and soon were joined by the PWR team of Herro and Nelson. We always get a group shot at Mania, so we did so for 31! Vince and I sat side by side and had a very special 30 minute conversation over dinner, discussing everything from wrestling to family, career goals, life goals, and so much more. I can’t thank our second package winners John Thomas and Will “The Thrill” McNiff enough for picking up our dinner tab, they damn sure didn’t need to do so. These two guys were awesome all weekend long, had intelligent wrestling conversations, and John had the booking moment of all time, but I doubt WWE will be as smart as he is on booking! Following dinner we retired early for the night, knowing the marathon of a day that was to follow on Wrestlemania Sunday.
6:00 a.m. My alarm went off. I jumped out of bed, full of piss and vinegar, and said to Blake, let’s do this! We called a Lyft and made our way to the gym. We clanged and banged non-stop for an hour. Super setting everything, we covered all muscle groups. It was officially time to play the game. We then walked back to the hotel, all the while I am- you guessed it- working. I received a text from the humble one, Brian Karavlan, that he wanted to purchase our second and final Wrestlemania Sunday package. So, in order to secure his tickets, I was on Eventbrite trying to close ticket sales, not wanting to oversell. It all worked out and soon enough, Blake and I were already back to the hotel. After a shower and change of clothes, it was off to Rookies for our CSR tailgate party.
Bloody Mania’s were the drink of the morning, and that is confirmed by our tab! Once again we were joined by 40 friends and fans, as well as Knobbs. Bob Dunn, formerly of Pittsburgh, also purchased a Sunday package. He arrived and we were officially game on. Also on hand, were Brian and Kate Kelly. Talk about some cool cats, these two were a joy to be around. Down to earth and full of knowledge. They purchased the Raw with Reality package, which included 2 tickets to Raw, Friday night tickets, and Mania after party as well.
As the tailgate continued, I decided to hand out 14 Wrestlemania tickets, making sure nothing went wrong. Zig Daniels, a rockin’ friend, had already picked up his ticket in the morning. The last ticket to give out was Isenberg’s… and the first ticket to go missing and needing replaced was, Isenberg’s! No less than 2 minutes after having it, he lost it! The following 45 minutes wasn’t fun, BACK TO WORK! We fixed the ticket fiasco and were in a car on our way to Levi’s Stadium.
We were there, met the group and made our way in. Of course, drama ensued as Caroline couldn’t take her purse in. We all warned her! Oh well, it was a nice Coach clutch while it lasted. We made our way to our seats, encountering many CSR fans on our way. Took a few pictures, and then took over section 131, row 29, seats 5-20. Justin, Josh, Caroline, Blake, Trevor, Amber, Bam, Zig, John, Will, Brian K, Bob, Trisha, Ethian, JF, and me. I shouldn’t say Zig, he showed up 2 hours in to the show!
Wrestlemania was amazing. Top to bottom, including the pre-show, the 31st edition of the Super Bowl of wrestling was sound. There were a few low spots, but for the most part the night was great. Check out Chair Shot Reality this weekend for full reaction. One match I will detail here though is Sting v. Triple H. Goosebumps and silence, that is all that needs said. The reason I am in the wrestling business, let alone a fan, is because of Steve Borden. His entrance was similar to the grand entrances of his in IWGP and NJPW. He took his sweet ass time to the ring, and rightfully so. This was his one, and maybe only, Wrestlemania moments. The first time I twitched a muscle was his first howl to the crowd, and I was as loud as could be. Next out was Triple H, and his entrance was nothing less than spectacular as well. We immediately got a stare down, a this is awesome chant, and a collar and elbow tie up. Sting’s first bump was a shoulder block from HHH, and Justin turned to me and said “do you see his rope burn already?!” The next sequence let everyone know Sting “still got it!”
After a crotch chop from Hunter, Sting then provided an arm drag followed by a “patented Stinger drop kick” in the words of Dusty Rhodes. The crowd of 76,000 plus went off with a you still got it chant. As the match progressed, no one sat down. And then, in the middle of a scorpion death lock, out comes DX! Of course, it makes sense. And Sting took them down! HHH then nailed a pedigree, and Sting kicked out. And, just before a sledge hammer could be used… NWO! The Monday Night War had been reborn as all hell was breaking loose. After some one ups on both sides, Sting sat down on the death lock again when, surprise, sweet chine music from HBK! At this point I am expecting either Ric Flair or Shane McMahon to come down and even out the score, again. The finale in that scenario would have seen Vince McMahon end WCW once and for all. Though that never happened, neither was the realistic chance of WCW’s all time top draw defeating WWE’s COO at Wrestlemania. As Triple H stood victorious, and the handshake followed, even though Sting lost, he lost in a strong showing. It took HHH, DX, a super kick, and a sledge hammer to the face to keep Sting down. I was very happy with the match and representation of Sting.
The rest of the night played out and those thoughts as mentioned before will be heard on CSR. No sooner did Seth Rollins get the three count, that I said to everyone “I gotta get the hell out of here.” I grabbed Josh and Blake and we were off to hunt down a Lyft. We literally jogged no less than 2 miles, as far away from the stadium we would get to secure a ride. We did find one after some heated moments between Blake and several drivers, and we arrived at Rookies by 9:00 p.m. As we walked in, again I was assured our evening would be perfect and that the staff would cater to all our needs. Michael and Nikayla made sure we were set to go and the food soon came out as the fans began arriving (what a traffic nightmare it was for some). Wings, calamari, chicken quesadilla, chicken parm, loaded mac and cheese, salads, pizza! Holy spread! Vince arrived and we kicked off our final event of the trip, the Hot Tag Reaction with Vince. Great insight from the Godfather of the Attitude Era. As the event ended, thanks in part (all) to Blake, we were able to thank Vince with a piece of San Francisco Giants memorabilia. You can hear more about this at this link https://t.co/81MODvOKcB (first 5 minutes).
Justin and I were the last to leave Rookies and, after a final shot with Michael, he offered us a ride back to the hotel. Needless to say, my eyes were no longer capable of staying open to watch Sting v HHH back in the room. Justin and Blake can attest to this! I was ass-kicked and down for the 10 count.
Upon waking Monday morning, Bam (who is just a great person top to bottom- especially his hair) was hungry! So, already planned, we headed across the street for our Wrestlemania Hangover Brunch. We talked about the weekend, and had some great laughs. Vince, Josh, and Caroline were on their way home already. Our remaining group made our way to San Pedro Square and O’Flaherty’s for an unscheduled Raw tailgate party. We ran in to fans, friends, and had a group shot (both Jameson and picture definition). We then headed over to SAP for Raw! And then, what a mass of disaster outside the arena.
17,000 fans, and 3 lines to get in… Talk about poor planning. I sneaked one in and slipped in line with a CSR fan. I was in the arena for Superstar’s, the rest of the crew barely made the start of Raw. But good thing they did because Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were on a rampage! More on this on CSR.
After Raw, we made our way back to the Square to Blush Sushi. It was a much needed sushi dinner. After another minor mental meltdown from the 4 days of nonstop action, Blake, Trevor and Amber reassured me that all the work I did was worth it and everyone appreciated it all. I needed to hear that. And back to the room we went.
We wrapped up our trip with breakfast at the hotel. We all said our goodbyes to Bam, Trevor, and Amber. Then there were 3- Justin, Blake, and myself. We made out way to J. Lohr to ship some wine home and proceeded to the airport. We got to the airport at 10:15. We went to grab some food not knowing that 2 gates away were Undertaker and Sting boarding a flight to Dallas. This was a YOU’VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME moment. Why did I have to eat? The pictures that surfaced that everyone was afraid to ask to be in, I would have done just that. If I ever regretted anything in my life, it would ALMOST be this lost chance! C’est La Vie!
We finished eating and all three went our separate ways. I had an hour to kill so I sat in a corner and watched Sting vs. HHH once more. It was at that precise moment in time that I realized “holy shit” – I was there for Sting and Wrestlemania. Of all the ringside seats, Raw’s, Mania’s, and wrestler interactions over the years, this was the crowning jewel. That match, that moment, and that guy was the entire reason was there, that I am in the business, and that I am writing this blog. Everything happens for a reason, Sting is the reason for ALL of this… For meeting Blake, Trevor, Amber, Bam, JF, Ethian, Brian Kar, Brian and Kate Kelly, Kamp, Jose T, Enrique, Bob Dunn, Zig, John, Will, Justin, Josh (working with those two), Vince Russo, Matt Hardy, Matt Striker, Kevin Nash, David Herro, Dameon Nelson, Vic T, all the fans, all the boys, and all the memories. The partnerships with Rookies and J. Lohr, TagMeADate.com, Brad Bohannan, Spirits on Bourbon, the Avenue Pub in New Orleans… Jaime from Maniacrawl, and giving back to Connor’s Cure. Vince Russo said it best, God has a plan (regarding his running in to Bubba and Velvet)- and for me, he put Sting on a TV screen for me to see 27 years ago and, because of that, I have all of this! This I am thankful for.
Most thankful though of all, I am to my wife, Dayna. She puts up with a lot from me and this wrestling gig. It’s one thing to work 50 hours a week during the day, it’s another to sacrifice my space time to work another 10-20 hours on CSR both on screen and behind the scenes. I love it though, and I love her more. She was unable to come this year, but she will damn sure be in Dallas for 32! She enjoyed 30 in NOLA, and she even likes wrestling (a bit) now! Oh, and speaking of Dallas, plans are already in the works for the biggest and best CSR Wrestlemania weekend, ever! More fans, more friends, more special moments, and more CSR!
Once again, thank you thank you thank you – Michael and the entire Rookies Sports Lodge, Lisa and J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, TagMeADate.com, Vince Russo, my co-hosts/CSR team, most importantly Justin LaBar. Bro, the potential is endless! All the fans, more of the friends, and all of the memories. Dream Big Hustle Hard!