One Sunday a year causes pandemonium in my house without fail. The tension level builds for months until the big day arrives. People gather together, ready to cheer on their favorite participants. Everyone is practically buzzing with anticipation. Tons of food is prepared and devoured, too, of course. And no, it's not the Super Bowl. That comes and goes in the winter. It is springtime now, and in my house, springtime means Wrestlemania! That's right, sports entertainment's answer to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals and all the rest returns on Sunday, March 29!
I got my first introduction to the world of wrestling and sports entertainment back in 1980 when I was just a kid. My parents were out on a Friday night and around 11:30pm my babysitter got up and changed the channel (by hand back then). She switched our little TV to channel 47, a Spanish language channel. Then she quickly informed my little brother and me that we were watching a show called Lucha Libre, which turned out to be wrestling. The WWE was still the WWF back then. And we were immediately entranced by a colorful cast of characters like Killer Khan, The Moondogs, George “The Animal” Steele, The Wild Samoans, “Polish Power” Ivan Putski and maybe the most recognizable superstar of all time, Andre The Giant.
In 1985, I became hooked for life. On March 31st of that year, my brother and I piled into a van in Astoria, Queens, with what seemed like a thousand other kids from our neighborhood. In the days before Pay Per View, we drove to the Ridgewood Grove Arena to watch the first Wrestlemania competition on closed circuit TV. We were glued to the big screen the entire time. We watched in awe as performers including Andre The Giant, The Junkyard Dog, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Big John Studd, along with celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Liberace and Cyndi Lauper, set the stage for something special for decades to come.
The main event tag-team match between Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper really hooked me. My brother and I agreed right then and there that we'd be watching Wrestlemania every year. Each spring since, we have gotten together with anyone interested, to catch every minute of it. Hard to believe that 25 years have gone by already. Over the years, I have gotten to witness some spectacular moments, everything from ladder matches to street fights, Hell in a Cell to Money in the Bank. I've watched championship dreams come true and legendary careers come to an end.
One of the things that I have always loved about Wrestlemania is that it bridges the gap between generations. When the opening bell rings this year, my house will be full of people: children, teens and adults ranging in age from my 6-year-old daughter to her 60-year-old aunt. And believe me, on the out-of-control meter at my place, it is the 60 year old whom we will have the most difficult time controlling!
As far as bridging the gap between generations, it isn't relegated to the fans. The WWE has a long line of second and even third generation superstars. The organization also believes in honoring superstars from the past who helped pave the way for today's performers. Each year on the night before Wrestlemania, the WWE inducts a select group of individuals into its Hall of Fame. It is always possible that you will see a familiar old face or two make a surprise appearance during Wrestlemania, as well. This year, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, while his son “Legacy” member Ted Dibiase, Jr. competes in a triple threat match the next night that includes second generation superstar Cody Rhodes and third generation superstar Randy Orton.
And in a match that has been building for well over a decade, Bret “The Hitman” Hart returns to that stage where he had some of his most memorable matches to face WWE's own Chairman, Vince McMahon. Making this match even more historic is the fact that Bret's father Stu will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year, while his niece Natalya and nephew DH Smith are both WWE superstars, as well. And let's face it, how many other sports have a boss that is willing to face off against one of his employees? Derek Jeter vs. George Steinbrenner in a steel cage? Tony Romo vs. Jerry Jones in a ladder match? Not in this lifetime. But it's just another day at the office in the WWE.
As the calendar counts down to Wrestlemania XXVI, there is no doubt that it is sure to be a night filled with plenty of unforgettable moments for one and all. On March, 29th, lay out some food, get together with family and friends, and get ready for four hours of nothing but total mania!
If you are looking for the ideal meals to serve during your Wrestlemania party or next special event, legendary WWE commentator Jim “J.R.” Ross offers a few tasty and easy recipes from his book, J.R.'s Cookbook: True Ringside Tales, BBQ and Down Home Recipes. Enjoy
Southwest Chicken Quesadillas
1 10 oz. package Perdue ready cooked chicken
½ cup onion, sliced
½ tsp. seasoned salt and pepper to taste
4 10-inch flour tortillas
8 oz. lite Monteray Jack cheese, shredded
4 Tbsp. Santa Fe Salsa
Chopped cilantro, to taste
Low-fat sour cream
Pam nonstick cooking spray
Course ground pepper, to taste
Spray Pam in a medium pan over medium heat. Add chicken and onion until lightly sauteed or onions are translucent, adding seasoned salt and pepper. Set aside, then spray another nonstick pan with Pam, and place over medium-high heat. Place a tortilla in the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese and top with 1/4 of the chicken mixture and 1 tablespoon of the salsa. Fold the tortilla in half and press with spatula. Cook for about 2 minutes, turn and cook the second side about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cut into triangles and serve hot. Garnish with cilantro and serve with extra salsa and sour cream.
Santa Maria Flank Steak Fajitas
½ cup vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and chopped to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1½ tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1 2½ lb. flank steak
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, onion, jalapeno chili, garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cut rinsed steak a few times across the grain and then cut into 4 pieces. Put the steak in a large Ziploc plastic bag and pour marinade over it. Refrigerate for 3-5 hours (or overnight), turning occasionally. Remove the steak from the marinade.
Prepare the grill (charcoal or gas) for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Grill the steak for 5-8 minutes on each side, turning once or until medium or medium-rare. May be served with grilled tortillas, salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole.