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  April 6, 2000

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FAN590 winner recalls WM2000
By RICK JESSUP -- For SLAM! Wrestling

  A state of awe and elation accompanied a phone call from my girlfriend who had heard my name on the FAN 590 morning show as the winner of their grand prize Secret Seats drawing. As a devout wrestling fan from back as far as WrestleMania II, I had just won the ultimate -- five days and four nights in Anaheim, California where I would be the guest of the WWF and Castrol GTX for WrestleMania 2000 at the Arrowhead Pond. As the date grew closer, I found myself preparing for any wrestling fan's dream, and I was not disappointed.

After flying on Air Canada from Toronto to Los Angeles we (myself and my girlfriend, Mary) were escorted by airport limo to the Hilton Suites in Anaheim, just a short walk from the Doubletree Hotel that would house the superstars of the World Wrestling Federation. As a short bit of history, as much as I lived for professional wrestling, my girlfriend found it relatively uninteresting. She would watch small portions of shows on occasion, but was certainly not a fan. This trip would certainly be an experience for her, as I'm pretty sure she only intended to enjoy a few days in California rather than going for the WrestleMania experience. It was Thursday and the wrestlers had been due in Anaheim the previous evening. However, rather than immediately subject her to my dreams of a meet and greet, we took a long walk for lunch at the Block at Orange, a huge outdoor mall. It was on the way back that things took a decidedly great turn.

A Chyna fan at the Arrowhead Pond during WrestleMania. A fun section to sit in! -- Rick Jessup
Feeling the need for a break, we hit the Doubletree Hotel where they had a small bar in the lobby. Mary grabbed a drink and I surveyed. Fifty fans at least lined the lobby with paraphernalia of all sorts in their hands, awaiting the arrival of a wrestler -- any wrestler. I wasn't convinced we would see one, but I soon stood corrected. Out from a room on my right came Christian, who immediately entered himself in the fray and began to sign. He would be followed by a succession of stars including Jeff and Matt Hardy, Ivory, Eddy Guerrero, Stevie Richards, Jim Ross, Mosh, Steve Blackman, the Fabulous Moolah, and others. Kudos to them all for stopping to sign autographs, most notably to Ivory who made sure every fan (including myself, the last one) got an autograph, and to Eddy Guerrero for taking special time with a young disabled fan, offering both a picture and a hug to the youngster.

Afterwards, it was back to our hotel, where the next few days were an experience as well. The 'behind-the-scenes' workers of the WWF and WWF Racing were housed in the Hilton Suites, including a large portion of WWF Canada, including Carl De Marco, who I had a chance to greet and introduce myself to. I had the opportunity to sit idly by as WWF Canada took part in a meeting before heading off to a local restaurant, and even had a chance to listen to preparations for the big show during breakfast on Sunday morning. Everyone was pumped and ready to go, including the fans I had a chance to speak with that same morning. I certainly hope my memory served me well when I drop a name to a face, although I did not have a chance to confirm the identity. However, a man that closely resembled WWF legend Ernie Ladd took time to ask me where I had come from (Toronto) and what I was in Anaheim for (WM2K!), then took the opportunity to take his friends to task for not spending more time finding out where the fans were from. I was certainly enjoying the experience, and my girlfriend was enjoying California, including a tour of Paramount Studios offered to us by the great folks over at Famous Players.

When the time came for the big event, we acquired a taxi and hit The Pond. A lineup already stretched all the way to the back of the arena, but we were inside within 40 minutes. Heat was already in session and we had a chance to view it on the TitanTron, as well as some select live bits. The seats were slowly filling in, and we found ourselves surrounded by other contest winners and representatives of WWF Canada. When the time hit, the crowd was electric. As anyone that has been to a live taping can tell you, the crowd noise never translates well from the arena to the television. Although portions of the evening would find the crowd on their hands, many high spots and most of the main event saw the crowd keeping to only the edge of their seats, cheering each and every move. By the time the last match was over, the fans left satisfied. Perhaps the greatest reward for me was spending the weekend reviewing angles and plots with my girlfriend to make sure she would understand what might happen. Not knowing if she was registering all I was mentioning, all fears were put to rest when The Rock placed Stephanie McMahon in position for the People's Elbow and I heard a voice beside me ask, "does this mean The Rock will win the Women's Championship?" Heck, if she can get into things that much the WWF must have done something right!

All in all, this wrestling fan was happy with the experience. The WWF did a lot towards keeping the fans happy with autograph signings and appearances, as well as an excellent live event. My personal thanks have to go to Nancy Ceneviva of the FAN 590, Michael Birch of Castrol GTX, and Maureen Dennis of Famous Players for everything. They answered my questions, helped out with a few select problems, and overall made a great trip for Mary and I. Further thanks to Greg Oliver of this here CANOE site who met up with a mere fan for lunch at the Alcatraz Brewing Co and invited me to review my experience in California. The Rick will never forget his five days with the WWF in Anaheim, and I urge each and every one of you reading this to attend a live WWF taping any chance you get -- I promise you will not be disappointed.

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