PHOENIX — Nine years ago, WWE held WrestleMania XXVI at the Arizona Cardinals' stadium in Glendale. It was the biggest pro wrestling event the state had ever seen -- until, perhaps, this past week.
WWE held an assortment of events in Phoenix over a five-day span from Jan. 25-29, including WWE Royal Rumble Axxess -- a three-day fan fest-style event at Phoenix Convention Center -- along with three live shows at Talking Stick Resort Arena, and the Royal Rumble pay-per-view at Chase Field, marking the first time the annual event had been held inside a baseball stadium.
Turnout for each event was strong and filled with passionate fans waiting to get glimpses of their favorite superstars. TSR Arena opened up additional seating shortly before Saturday's NXT TakeOver event on Saturday, and nearly 50,000 fans packed Chase Field on Sunday.
And fans showed no signs of fatigue at the end of those five days, as they were just as loud for WWE's SmackDown Live show at TSR Arena on Tuesday as they were for the beginning of Axxess on Friday.
During a conference call after NXT TakeOver on Saturday night, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, WWE's executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, was asked how important that kind of fan enthusiasm is in determining where to hold major WWE events in the future.
"I think all of that comes into play," Levesque said. "I think when you come into markets like this and fans show their excitement for it, then that’s where you want to go.
"To me, nothing is better than knowing you’re going to a market where you’ve been and you know they’re gonna go crazy. If you’re loud and you’re going crazy and you’re just bringing it all the time, that’s where we want to be. That’s at least where I want to bring it, and make it as big as possible. And that’s what you’re doing it for at the end of the day."
WrestleMania 35 will be held at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, in April. Is there a possibility that WrestleMania 36, 37 or beyond, could return to the Valley?
We'll have to wait and see. But if it becomes a reality, fans can be sure WWE will go all out in the same way it did during its recent five full days in the Valley to cater to the passion that fans display for its product.
Levesque, one of the world's most popular WWE superstars for a full two decades, understands that passion as well as anyone.
"There are some teams that have rabid sports fans, but it’s almost like the experience of the thing; it’s not really the team so much. WWE fans, fans of what we do, they’re the most incredible, passionate fans for this. I think it’s why when you do something positively or negatively, they light up so passionately. Everybody has such a strong opinion on it because it’s something they care about deeply," Levesque said.
"WrestleMania to me is probably one of the only things I can think of where fans come all around the world, but it’s almost like a family reunion, if you had a family of 70,000 people and half of them you never met before. It’s the only thing that I can think of like a sporting event where you can be sitting next to someone from another country who you would never speak to or meet in your entire life… and they’re all talking, and it’s just this community. There’s something cool about it. It’s a family, as passionate of a family as they can be. Some of your brothers you don’t like and some of them you love."