When the Road to WrestleMania winds down there’s a collective feeling of being deflated. I always describe it as the morning you wake to realize the circus has left town. There’s all the marks of tents and remnants of spun sugar and peanut shells, and yet, the magic so recently thick in the air has somehow evaporated. Every true fan, myself included, goes to bed with that “countdown to Christmas” feeling waiting for the next time we can say, “Happy WrestleMania!”
As with all beloved dates on the calendar, the most wonderful take-aways are the suitcases full of memories with which we return home!! Having arrived in New Orleans early and leaving late, I had to ask my girls to sit on the luggage in order to zip every one of my WrestleMania Moments lest any escape! I’ll share them all and should I forget a single one, you can remind me.
On Tuesday, April 3rd I was deployed to the Hire Heroes USA Veteran Career Panel and Networking Event to meet our TRUE Ultimate Warriors, the veterans seeking meaningful employment in civilian life. I was so excited for this day’s assignment since it’s my first interaction with our military partners. I was overwhelmed by The National World War II Museum and awed by the men and women who attended the event seeking new careers. Walking from table to table I was blessed to be able to thank our veterans for their service and ask them about their career goals. From the first person I met to the last, I felt confident employers were in for truly “Ultimate” job applicants! I’d love to hear from our Veterans on how this day unfurled and the new paths their boots will take them.
Next stop was Naval Air Force Station Joint Reserve. Arriving at the hanger, I felt scared. I hold our military in the highest regard so walking into their space felt like passage onto hallowed ground. Interacting with the enlisted was, for me, like meeting rock stars. Learning about their individual specialties was an absolute inspiration. So many jobs must be done to make the engine of the military run and each man and woman executed their assignment with unwavering excellence. Although they asked for photos with us, I wanted a picture with each and every one of them. These are the brave warriors who volunteer to protect our homeland and pledge their lives to serve this country.
I was honored to present the base with our WWE Community Hero Award. Humble, stoic and unwaveringly strong, these men and women accepted graciously what they called “totally unnecessary.” Mind-blowing. I was proud to be able to tell one man’s children who the REAL Superstar was amongst the crowd: their dad.
Visiting Children’s Hospitals was on the schedule Wednesday, April 4th. Another pillar of WWE’s Community activation is putting smiles on the faces of those fighting like little warriors to regain their health. We began the day at Ochsner Children’s Health Center with the bright faces of young patients. Watching the kids stretch like sunflowers to the sun with the arrival of our Superstars is to watch a garden bloom. We were able to visit room to room as well as in a children’s playroom to participate in interactive activities. These visits buoy the children as well as the parents who are tired, and probably very scared too. I stood back and watched Goldust fold one mother into his genuine warm embrace and witnessed her turn to liquid gold. For one moment she allowed someone to be physically stronger than she had to be, no matter how briefly.
Our next hospital visit was Children’s Hospital of New Orleans where Finn Balor, Jason Jordan, Goldust and I were treated to the most awesome party-like atmosphere. Superstars’ faces covered the decorations and adorned festive tables. Arts and crafts projects were prepared so we need only to sit down to be fully immersed with all our little warriors!! We made bracelets, colored titles, took photos, then made frames for those pictures once they were printed!
I was privileged to sit with one warrior girl who was having what the nurse called, “a really rough day.” I asked if we could just sit together and I’d string her beads one by one. We agreed to place a special wish upon each bead. When she started to cry, I told her it took a lot of strength to cry. I told her I always tried to hold back tears, but they have a way of coming no matter how stubborn I might be. I told her tears held in are not healthy, but ones shed heal hearts. For a minute she and I held hands, and together, simply spilled quiet tears.
Thursday April 5th was action-packed with a pink punch!! I was honored to be invited to the Susan G. Komen New Orleans annual luncheon with Titus O’Neil, Dana Brooke, Natalya and Nia Jax to meet the recipients of more than $300K in local grants. I am an enormous supporter of Komen’s advocacy for accessibility to women’s preventive care as well as their focus on eradication of metastatic breast cancer.
October is not the only month in which to UNLEASH YOUR WARRIOR! This “More than Pink” fight is year-round!!
From a pretty-in-pink power woman summit, I raced to The Westbank Boys & Girls Club for our Special Olympics Play Unified basketball game. This is a highlight event for me as it pairs two of the partnerships to which I feel passionately connected. Lucky enough to coach alongside Seth Rollins, Carmella, Alicia Fox, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin and Velveteen Dream with Big Show and Mike Rome commentating, the game was off to an electrifying start! Watching our Play Unified athletes on the court is truly enlightening and uplifting!! It is an education to those not familiar with the Play Unified philosophy. One might be surprised how sports is the ultimate equalizer. Racing up and down the court one cannot tell who is a Special Olympics athlete and who is not since they play side-by-side. These events are uplifting with the best of humanity on display. For the second time, I watched opposing team members stop competitive play to assist another to their feet from the floor. The score of the game means very little when sportsmanship teaches every person watching what it means to truly win.
On Friday April 6th I had expected to be at the Boys & Girls Club Be a STAR rally. Those rallies are something I adore and feel are incredibly important for our kids! I’m so grateful to Titus O’Neil for stepping in and have every confidence I wasn’t even missed. Our Superstars Titus O’Neil, Dana Brooke, Apollo, Carmella, Kassius Ohno and actor Christian Navarro shared their stories with all the Boys & Girls Club members and armed them with ways to combat bullying. The best choice every one of those participants can make is our assigned pledge: “Don’t Be A Bully, Be A Star!”
I was unable to be with my friends because it was Hall of Fame day! This special night I had the privilege of inducting hometown hero, Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, on the very stage the late, great, Ultimate Warrior made his emotional homecoming four years prior. I expressed this was a full circle moment for the girls and me as well as what I recognize, in retrospect, my final roadblock to my personal road to ultimate closure.
Never has a Warrior Award recipient made those in attendance laugh with such delight. So enamored was the crowd you could feel them dancing alongside Jarrius; almost hoping his song would never end. Jarrius “JJ” Robertson has an unparalleled charisma and undefeated record in the mission of “putting smiles” on the faces of others. JJ also put a smile in my heart. As I stood watching him, entirely in his element, commanding that stage with absolute ease, I felt the essence of “Then, Now, Forever.” JJ filled Smoothie King Center with a levity equaling Warrior’s intensity that passed the torch from one Warrior to the next. One Warrior’s spirit will run, the other’s will dance, in the hearts of the WWE Universe....
Make-A-Wish is one of the longest partnerships WWE has fostered. Being invited to Mardi Gras World alongside Samoa Joe, JoJo, Sasha and Natalya to visit with Wish Kids and their families was technicolor fun!! The arrival of surprise guest, John Cena was thrilling to all in attendance.
Riding on a real Mardi Gras float to WrestleMania Axxess where I was pumped to watch pediatric oncology patients unveil their very OWN Superstar personas was a thrill.
Perhaps no place in New Orleans packs more WWE per square foot than Axxess! This event is the culmination of every fan’s WWE dream under one roof!! Generations of history are on display, special merchandise is sold, and Superstars from NXT and WWE abound. On this special day, the next wave of greatness walked down the ramp to take their place in the squared circle! With our champion of children and Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon, calling their names, Daniel Bryan, Asuka, AJ Styles, and I helped introduce: Callan “The Flying Dragon,” “Skull Crusher” T-Vic, “Lae Lae the Unstoppable,” Allen “The Multimillion Dollar Man,” “Super Four” Michael, “Diva Supreme” A’laicha, “Quiet Storm” Jaynea, “Charlie the Champ” Ansley, “Super Messiah,” “Brayden the Punisher” and “Mayhem Maddox,” to the WWE Universe! These warriors had everyone in attendance on their feet. These newly debuted characters remind us of another special character, Connor The Crusher, who’s legacy lives on in our commitment to crush the evilest of villains, cancer, in his name.
WrestleMania Day should be an international holiday. (I’ll check with Rusev to see how he manages to make every day Rusev Day!) Every WWE event leading up seems to amplify the anticipation so when it’s finally time to walk into WrestleMania, the WWE Universe is at a fevered pitch. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome venue certainly did not disappoint and neither did our Superstars!! From first match to Main Event every entrance down the ramp led left everyone in the arena awestruck. We witnessed our first Women’s Royal Rumble with our inaugural winner, Naomi. Titles were defended and titles changed hands. Executives were leveled (for maybe just that moment-lol) and “Beasts” were unleashed. Hours slipped by in the blink of an eye and before anyone saw it coming...another WrestleMania entered the WWE history books.
Heading off to bed that night, we “Warrior Girls,” of course, thought of our Warrior. It is such a mile marker to count four years since he passed onto parts unknown. As with the circus leaving imprints from tents and treats, I still feel the power of one as ULTIMATE as Warrior. I believe his iconic logo face paint is cosmically etched in every arena we visit, beneath every ring built and broken down. Whenever there is a rope shaken or title belt swung overhead, there too, is the essence of the Ultimate Warrior.
I believe WrestleMania Week is the best week of the year. I believe our fans outclass any others. I believe our Superstars are without parallel in any form of entertainment. I believe our community activations and partnerships are the heart of WWE. I believe it will be a long countdown to the next time we gather for WrestleMania in New Jersey... but it will come faster than we think. I believe in the WWE coming to town and living in one’s heart...ALWAYS!!!