Anticipation is growing for wrestling fans around the world as Wrestlemania 31, WWE's premier sports entertainment event, is a mere two months away.
But some early excitement began to build last week for next year's “Showcase of the Immortals.”
While the location wasn't exactly a secret to most fans, WWE made the official announcement on Tuesday that Wrestlemania 32 will emanate from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2016.
The $1.2 billion showplace of the Dallas Cowboys, affectionately known as “Jerry's World” after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, has become a destination for signature events.
Since opening its doors in 2009, the mammoth structure has attracted a number of high-profile events. It was home to the NBA All-Star Game in 2010, Super Bowl XLV in 2011 and numerous college football games. Most recently, it hosted this year's inaugural College Football Playoff championship game between Ohio State and Oregon.
The stadium also has hosted such major musical acts as George Strait, Reba McEntire, U2, One Direction, Beyonce and Jay Z.
The plush stadium's massive hanging video boards alone cost $40 million, or more than Texas Stadium — the Cowboys' former home — cost in its entirety.
The arrangement is a mutually beneficial one for WWE and the Dallas area. North Texas emerged from a field of 14 other regions.
“Dallas and Arlington broke out of a very competitive national landscape to win the right to host Wrestlemania 32,” said John Saboor, senior vice president of special events at WWE. “AT&T Stadium served as the bedrock of the region's proposal ... but they also have key infrastructure to welcome our domestic and international fans, and a strong résumé of success in hosting major sports and entertainment events.”
The mega-event typically draws fans from all 50 states and more than 30 countries. In all, organizers expect 125,000 people to descend on the area for a series of events leading up to the big show.
Landing a Wrestlemania gig is a major get for cities bidding each year for the right to host WWE's marquee event. The week-long spectacle has generated more than $100 million for host regions in each of the last three years, according to marketing analysis studies.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose city hosted last year's Wrestlemania, said in November the event generated a record-breaking $142.2 million, which resulted in more than $24 million of additional tax revenue.
Dallas, though, offers an even greater challenge — and opportunity — with a stadium that seats 80,000 people comfortably and can reach a capacity of 105,000.
WWE prides itself on filling major venues for the annual event, and it's a safe bet that the company will bring in some big guns in hopes of packing AT&T Stadium.
While it's fairly certain that the 2016 lineup will feature stars on the rise such as Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose, fan favorites such as John Cena, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, along with the other surprises that make Wrestlemania the must-see sports entertainment event of the year, WWE faces a tremendous hurdle next year in trying to fill the cavernous stadium.
One built-in advantage is that Dallas boasts a storied pro wrestling history.
The legendary Von Erichs were Dallas' first family of professional wrestling. World Class Wrestling was a staple there and one of the first TV wrestling programs to go international (at one time the show was syndicated on 85 stations across the U.S. as well as in 25 foreign countries). Dallas' world-famous Sportatorium, which resembled an oversized barn, is still fondly remembered for being one of the most legendary venues in pro wrestling history.
It may not have been a church, but it certainly was holy ground to the several thousand fans who religiously packed the building every Friday night for professional wrestling.
And ironically, the president of WWE's main competitor (TNA), Dixie Carter, is a Dallas native. Her parents, Bob and Janice Carter, who provide most of the financial backing for TNA, run the Dallas-based Panda Energy company.
Holding Wrestlemania 32 there opens up some interesting possibilities.
There's nothing like hometown heroes to send a Texas-sized event such as Wrestlemania through the roof.
And WWE just happens to have two of the biggest names in the modern generation of wrestling at its disposal.
The Undertaker and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, among the most iconic figures in the history of the business, both proudly hail from Texas.
Although Taker's win streak was broken at last year's Wrestlemania, there is still major money to be made with a match featuring a retirement stipulation. Having his final bout in his home state would be a fitting finale to one of the greatest careers in WWE history.
And Austin, who retired from in-ring competition in 2003 and will be 51 by the time Wrestlemania 32 arrives, has hinted that he has one more match left in him. And no better way than to have that match at Wrestlemania 32 in front of a raucous hometown gathering.
The Texas Rattlesnake said in a recent interview that WWE would have to load the card to fill AT&T Stadium, perhaps suggesting that a couple of heavy hitters might come back for a chance to make it happen.
Longtime San Antonio resident Shawn Michaels, “Mr. Wrestlemania,” would also surely have a role in the show, although he retired in 2010 following Wrestlemania 26.
One thing's for sure. The signature sounds of shattering glass and an ominous gong would cause an eruption that would be heard around the wrestling world.
There have been some large crowds in Wrestlemania history, but WWE has never broken the six-figure mark, something that WWE CEO and majority owner Vince McMahon has wanted to see happen for a long time. With AT&T Stadium being next year's venue, it's now a very good possibility.
WWE set a record back in 1987 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., for Wrestlemania 3, with a reported attendance of 93,173. That mark for a live indoor sporting event in North America
wasn't broken until 2010 when the NBA All-Star Game hosted 108,713 at AT&T Stadium.
WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, who headlined that 1987 event against the late Andre The Giant, jokingly hinted at a possible return for at WM 32.
“As I look at AT&T Stadium, I picture the ring on the 50-yard line and I picture the whole football field filled with seats,” Hogan said. “I think the WWE is going to break the old indoor attendance record, which fast-forwards me to being a politician and thinking that I haven't had a retirement match yet. I can't think of a better place than out there to have it.”
WWE began the Mania '16 push last week at AT&T Stadium in a media event that featured Hogan, McMahon, Cena and a host of other WWE superstars and divas on hand to celebrate the announcement.
Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones Anderson, daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, also attended the press conference.
“When we set out to build the stadium, we were looking at all the really big events, marquee events,” said Anderson. “This was one of them. When you look at an event this size, and when it has an incredible impact ... it was certainly one we wanted to do our best to secure.”
Anderson and a team that included representatives from the cities of Arlington and Dallas worked several months to prepare their bid for the wrestling spectacular. They closed the deal with a high-stakes pitch at WWE's corporate offices in Connecticut.
“I don't know if you've ever walked into a room with Vince McMahon, but it's certainly an intimidating process,” laughed Anderson. “I know everybody thinks Daddy's intimidating, but that's because they haven't met Vince McMahon yet.”
“April 3, 2016, will be the biggest event in the history of WWE,” declared Cena.
“This is a monster, this is our juggernaut, our Super Bowl of wrestling,” said Hogan. “Wrestlemania is the lifeline to this whole sports entertainment business.”
“AT&T Stadium — it's like sacred ground,” added the 61-year-old Hogan. “It's like in the stratosphere of sports entertainment. We needed to be here.”
But before too much is said about an event that is still 16 months away, there's still some business to tend to at this year's edition of Wrestlemania, which will take place at the San Francisco 49ers' swanky new digs, Levi's Stadium, on March 29.