News: National Guard tag teams with WWE for WrestleMania in Miami
Story by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
MIAMI – If you don’t know what the “Cenation” and the “Rock Bottom” are, then you probably shouldn’t have been at WrestleMania.
WWE’s annual showcase of professional wrestling superstars drew an estimated 78,000 fans to Miami April 1 and the Florida National Guard took center stage in a cross-promotion at the epic sports entertainment extravaganza.
Throughout a day packed with body slams and hardcore fans, citizen-soldiers gave wrestling enthusiasts a look at National Guard equipment and introduced them to the stable of superstar wrestlers taking part in Wrestlemania XXVIII. Early in the day the National Guard sponsored the WrestleMania Axxess fan zone at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where fans were treated to autograph sessions with popular wrestlers and interacted with Army National Guard exhibits.
“I’m a real big fan of the men and women in the armed forces," said 7-foot-tall WWE icon Big Show while signing autographs in the Axxess fan zone. "So the fact that we get to bring in outside talent and help promote the National Guard - as well as WrestleMania - gives a chance for people to see the great things the National Guard has to offer."
Big Show, who later that day knocked out wrestler Cody Rhodes to claim the WWE Intercontinental Champion belt, said he truly respected the people that make up the National Guard.
"If you can’t be a sports entertainer in the WWE, the National Guard is definitely a great option," said the 441-pound Big Show, whose signature Chokeslam and Colossal Clutch have struck fear throughout his WWE career. "It develops strong values, strengthens you, and develops career options for the future."
English professional wrestler Wade Barrett, also signing autographs and posing for photos with WWE fans, said he enjoyed the chance to work alongside the National Guard members during the WrestleMania weekend: "It’s great for us as superstars to interact with everyone here at Axxess, and cross-promote with the guys at the National Guard too.”
Barrett, a 6-foot-7-inch former bare-knuckle boxer from Manchester, England, said he has toured military bases in the U.S. with the WWE, and is always proud as an "Englishman" when the United Kingdom’s military works alongside the U.S. military.
His statement to the National Guard was as direct as a suplex slam: “Thank you very much for your work.”
Spc. Andrew Siguenza of the 50th Regional Support Group admitted that supporting the WWE event was more than just another National Guard mission to him; he said the day was special since he grew up watching professional wrestling on television.
“I love being here! Obviously I’m still at work, but seeing the wrestling superstars walk by has been really fun," Siguenza said. "I can’t ask for more.”
After posing for photos with Big Show and masked WWE superstar Rey Mysterio, the 22-year-old Siguenza was all smiles.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was six years old,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to meet some of these wrestlers, and I get to do it now as an adult so it is even better.”
The Florida National Guard took part in the WrestleMania spectacle at Sun Life Stadium where soldiers lined the stage with American flags. At the start of the event, when the Guardsmen took the stage, the sellout crowd broke into chants of "USA! USA!" and applauded the citizen-soldiers.
"WrestleMania was a great opportunity for both our soldiers and the wrestling fans to interact with the WWE superstars at a high-energy event," Lt. Col. William Mitchell, Florida National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion Commander, said. "And just to see our soldiers out there being cheered by so many people was a testament to this partnership between the WWE and the National Guard."