The Showcase Of The Immortals

“We are all mortals. Our bodies, though strong, can’t defy time. One day, we will die. What matters most is the legacy we leave behind. Did we become all that we are capable of becoming? Did we make the difference we came here to make? Did we pursue our dreams when all around us thought we were chasing illusions? Only those that dare to rise are able to lift themselves above horizons. Only those bold enough, to chase dreams, are the ones who catch them. Wrestlemania. The Showcase of the Immortals.”
-Promotional material for Wrestlemania XX

This is it. This is the spectacle of excess. This is Wrestlemania. This is the big time, the granddaddy of them all, the global phenomenon. The spiraling summit of a pseudo-sport.

This is the culmination of 365 days on the road of near constant travel by the men and women who have earned the right to call themselves professional, professional wrestlers. This is the finale, the capstone of their performances in arenas across the country and across the world. Wrestlemania is their reward for taking right hands in Topeka, and for dishing them back out in Tucson. Wrestlemania is a thank you for the cheap heat in New York City and the big spot in New Orleans. Wrestlemania is the reason for the razor blades in Vegas, the chokeholds in Orlando, and the chops in D.C. The promise of Wrestlemania keeps them awake nights in limos and buses, from Biloxi to Memphis, it is where their thoughts drift at night in Minneapolis, staring at the ceiling of small hotel room. Wrestlemania had absolutely nothing to do with the drunken plane ride to Mexico City. It had everything to do with the concussion in London and the painkillers in the airplane bathroom on the way back home. Wrestlemania is the result of that promo in Green Bay, and the mixed tag match in Kansas City, the Cage in Philadelphia and the double count out in Houston that almost caused a riot

This is it. The road ends here, right in the center of Madison Square Garden, New York City. This is Wrestlemania XX, “The Showcase of Immortals”.


“I was there.”

Those words were in the minds and on the lips of the 20,000 professional wrestling fans descending upon New York City one fateful Sunday in March. They took the city by storm, they were on every street corner, in every bar, restaurant, and parking garage.

They came from everywhere, from near and from far. There were two guys from London, England, who had sold their old car to pay for their tickets and their flight out of Heathrow. A black man from Brooklyn carrying a large gold replica title belt, the words, “King Waldo” engraved on the nameplate. A couple who made the drive up from Nashville, they had bought each other Wrestlemania tickets every Christmas for the past eight years. They’d seen every Wrestlemania since 1992 when Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart to win his first ever World Heavyweight Title in a 60-minute Iron Man match. A boy in a mask was perched on his father’s shoulders, high above the sprawling crowd. There were the four guys from Ypsilanti, Michigan who, dressed as their favorite wrestling characters, had driven 16 hours straight in an old green Ford Escort station wagon. They’d parked their car a few blocks from the Garden, opened the trunk and sat on the bumper polishing off a handle of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. They sang Hulk Hogan’s theme song to themselves and to the New York City streets as they stumbled their way towards the Garden, towards Wrestlemania.

“I am a real American.
Fight for what’s right, American”

Outside the arena, the line was wrapped all the way around the block. People wore costumes and face paint; some wore wrestling t-shirts, some held title belts, some carried homemade signs.

20,000 people of all races, creeds and colors flowed into that building, cramming into the concrete cavern of Madison Square Garden. They walked through the labyrinth of tunnels and stairs deep in the bowels of the arena. They bought t-shirts, hats, and programs. They bought popcorn, they bought beer, they bought bratwursts.

The 20,000 made their way to their seats. It was 40 bucks a pop for one of the nosebleeds. At face value, ringside seats were just a shade under a thousand dollars, but guys were selling them online for ten times that.

Once inside, it didn’t matter how much the tickets cost. People looked at themselves, and they looked at each other. Some of them couldn’t believe that they had made it. The lights went down, and the fireworks went off, they all knew that they were one entity now, a strange mix of humanity unified by this one moment in time that they will each call their own.

The focus of all the attention, all the excitement, all the energy, is a small wrestling ring- a 20’ X 20’ piece of blue canvas in the middle of the hollow shell that is the Garden.

* * * * * *

The lights go out, cue the fireworks. They come blazing down from the rafters, along the entrance ramp, shooting from the ring posts themselves. The official Wrestlemania XX theme song blares from the loudspeakers.

1, 2, 3 - Go!
Yeah, you've been living on the edge of a broken dream.
Yeah, that's the only thing you'll ever take away from me.
I'm never gonna stop,
I'm never gonna drop,
Ain't no different than it was before.
So take some good advice,
You better stop and think twice,
Before you take your first step,
Out that door.

A man shouts over the chaos,

“This is the pomp, the pageantry, and the passion, known as Wrestlemania XX!!”

Jim Ross, or Good Ol’ J.R. as he’s known to wrestling fans, handles the telecast. A mush-mouthed Oklahoman in a black Resistol Cowboy Hat, J.R. has been the voice of World Wrestling Entertainment for nearly a decade. There are few in the game better than him.

“Welcome to the sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City. Where tonight, Raw and Smackdown Superstars have the chance to earn they way into immortality.”

Hello everybody, I’m Jim Ross, alongside Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. King, I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready than I am tonight for Wrestlemania XX…”


Over the next two hours, the wrestlers, or Superstars, as they are known, will perform Wrestlemania XX for the crowd. They do what they do best, that is, they pretend to beat the living shit out of one another. They slap, claw, slam, choke, whip, knee, kick, punch, chop, and toss each other from one end of the ring to the other. They hit each other with chairs, they jump at each other from ladders, they smash one another through tables. They put their bodies on the line for the approval of the crowd.

That night, in the main event, “The Crippler” Chris Benoit squared off against “The Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels and “The Game” Triple H in a Triple Threat match for the biggest prize in the wrestling business, the World Heavyweight Title. Twelve Wrestlemania matches, including seven title defenses, made it a long night for Good Ol’ J.R. He was hoarse as he made the call.


“Benoit has locked in the Crossface! Benoit has gotten him in the Crossface! Triple H is desperate, the sense of urgency is overwhelming. The champion is reaching for the ropes. When will Triple H tap? Can Benoit do it? Triple H is fading away, as Benoit is this close to winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Triple H is being tortured by the Wolverine. He is torturing the champion with the Crossface! Will he tap out? Will the champion tap out?”

J.R.’s voice was a rasping yell as Benoit continued to wrench Triple H, trying to remove Triple H’s head from the rest of his body.

“The title is on the line! Benoit is ripping the champions head off!”

It’s too much for the champ. He raised his hand and slapped it back on the mat.

Triple H tapped out, said “uncle,” given up.

J.R. is still going,

“It’s over! It’s over”

Howard Finkel comes over the P.A.

“The winner of this bout, and NEWWWW World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Benoit!”

In the middle of the ring, Chris Benoit lay facedown on the canvas. He was crying. Not just crying, sobbing. His tears mixed with the blood and sweat that stained the blue canvas. The ref walked over to Benoit and handed him the belt. Benoit held it with both hands. And for a moment, just a moment he became what he once was, a skinny fifteen-year-old kid from Edmonton, Alberta with a dream.

J.R. did not stop shouting.

“This sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden has erupted! Chris Benoit’s eighteen year odyssey has culminated by winning the World’s Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania XX!”

As Chris Benoit rose to his feet, the years visibly, rapidly, piled onto his shoulders. He was no longer the skinny kid from Edmonton. He had packed over two hundred pounds of muscle mass onto his small frame. He was losing his hair, he was missing a tooth, he had lost most of the feeling in his right arm, and a year earlier he had to have his neck surgically fused back onto his spine.

But as the new champion raised his title in the air, the illuminated Wrestlemania XX logo looming behind him, it was clear that this night belonged to Chris Benoit.

“Benoit, so many times, has been so close. Year after year, mile after mile, continent after continent. But Benoit never gave up, he never gave up. Benoit has done it. Benoit is living his dream. Finally, finally, by God, finally. Chris Benoit has become the Heavyweight champion of this world!”

As J.R. continued his call, another man entered the ring. Benoit turned around. It was his best friend and fellow wrestling champion, Eddie Guerrero. Nobody outside of the professional wrestling universe can understand the places that these two men had seen together, the sacrifices that they, together, had made for this sport. They had battled and bled across continents, across countries. They’d fought each other in Japan, a match that ended in darkness after Benoit knocked Guerrero out cold after a vicious snap-suplex. Together they’d moved on to Mexico, where Guerrero would teach Benoit the traditional, native, high-flying and fast-paced Lucha Libre style of wrestling. From Mexico they went on to Philadelphia, taking incredible punishment and pulling insane stunts for a rabid group of misfit wrestling fans in a small rundown Bingo Hall. Benoit sat shotgun in Eddie’s car as they criss-crossed the country, logging mile after mile, Guerrero reciting his favorite bible passages. Nobody told bible stories better then Guerrero. They listened to each other, they helped each other, they watched out for each other. They were soul mates of sorts, united by their passion for professional wrestling.

This night, this moment, was theirs and theirs alone. They had reached the pinnacle of their journey, the respective high points of their nearly twenty-year careers. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, wrestling champions both, sharing the ring at Wrestlemania XX, in the heart of Madison Square Garden.

The fans watched as Guerrero moved toward Benoit. They cheered as the two men hugged, Benoit’s eyes welling up with tears.

Not even a professional like Jim Ross could keep it together. With his voice cracking he shouted through millions of television sets,

“Eddie Guerrero with a heartfelt embrace on his friend Chris Benoit. These two men have traveled the world over so many times, and they are both shedding tears of joy, because Chris Benoit can say ‘I won the Heavyweight Championship of the World in Madison Square at Wrestlemania XX”

Eddie Guerrero lifted Chris Benoit’s arm victoriously in the air, as confetti fell from the ceiling and into the ring.

The moment became a part of Wrestling’s mythology. It became an iconic image of the sport, of the culture, of the industry. As the camera faded out, as the 20,000 fans made their way back out into the New York City night, the official theme song echoed in the background.

You had your chance to walk away.
Live to see another day.
And now you've crossed that line...
You must be out your mind.