Before World Wrestling Entertainment makes its way to Santa Clara, California’s Levi’s Stadium for WrestleMania 31 on March 29, it’s taking care of some business closer to home.
The globally watched, Connecticut-based company has long treated our area as its home turf; eight WrestleManias have taken place in New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania to date. On Monday, March 2, WWE’s flagship broadcast, “Monday Night Raw,” airs live from Newark’s Prudential Center.
Among the stars expected to appear is fan-favorite anti-hero Dean Ambrose, a Cincinnati native formerly from Philadelphia who now calls Las Vegas home.
“It’s not a show you want to miss because all of the stars are going to be there, and it’s the time of year where surprises happen and twists and turns happen,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose, 29, worked his way through the independent wrestling scene before signing with WWE in 2011 and making his proper debut with the company the following year. He’s logged countless in-ring hours in our neck of the woods over the course of his career.
“I spent a lot of time just going up and down I-95 and the Turnpike, doing shows in New York, Philly, Jersey, that whole area, because that was kind of a hotbed for indie wrestling,” he said. “I’ve worked in all of the major arenas. I worked in Prudential, Barclays, Garden, Izod, MetLife Stadium — but also every little five and dime and bingo hall and union workers’ hall and whatever shed or pool hall, anywhere you can set up a ring, any little warehouse. So, that’s been one of my stomping grounds.”
But Ambrose, who was part of the winning side in a six-man tag team match at 2013’s WrestleMania 29 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, said it’s still hard to wrap his head around performing for crowds at some of the biggest arenas in the world.
“It’s always trippy for me to be in front of that many people because it’s just kind of hard to understand,” he said. “Like, wrestling in front of 20 people or 100 people can be a little weird, but wrestling in front of a sold out ‘Monday Night Raw,’ 13,000 people, it’s kind of above your scope of understanding people. It’s just kind of this big, giant mass of noise. So actually, in a lot of ways, it’s easier.”
“But it’s cool to feel the electricity going on in the towns right around this time, getting ready to go out in front of 80,000 people at WrestleMania, and that’s what you look forward to every year.”