New York Trip 2019

Wayne Lapasa with Kelly Kelly
With social media influencer Barbie Blank fka WWE’s Kelly Kelly

Every April, I schedule the first week off from work. The reason being is because WrestleMania hosts their biggest wrestling card of the year. I’ve always left a vacation week open just in case I decide to attend. Ask me how many times I ended up travelling to wherever the town was hosting the event. My answer? Zero times 😂.

It has been a while since I last attended a WrestleMania event, my last time being in 2004. Over the years I’ve kept an eye on the product from a distance. So here we are 15 years later, I felt now was the time to once again check out the grandeur and spectacle that the event has to offer.

And just by coincidence, the 35th edition of WrestleMania was being held in the New York area, which is one of my all-time favourite destinations to visit. I know what your thinking…you were just there eight months ago and you’re back again? Yeppp!

Getting into town

I flew out of Toronto on a dirt cheap Porter Airlines flight ($256 CDN) on a Thursday afternoon and arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. After I cleared all of the security checks, I was wondering what would be the most cost-efficient way to get into Manhattan since I was travelling solo.

I started Googling on my phone different options and one of them was a van shuttle service that charged only $18 USD to do. They would literally drop you off to the doorstep of your destination. This route made the most sense and was much cheaper than taking a $30+ USD Uber.

An impromptu tour of NYC? 🤭
An impromptu tour of NYC? 🤭

Originally what I thought it would be a 45-minute drive into the city, turned into a two-hour ride. The catch for this shuttle service was that they would drop you off based on proximity, but there were 10 of us. In my case, my drop off point took a little longer as my Airbnb was in the Flatiron District.

Anyways, you live and learn. To be honest I wasn’t upset at all. I got to see different areas of the city in a non planned sight seeing tour of NYC, which is always cool to take in. And this was WrestleMania weekend, I had a full itinerary of festivities to look forward to.

WaleMania V
April 4 – WaleMania V

WaleMania V

The first night in New York I took in the event known as WaleMania, which comprised of both hip-hop music and pro wrestling communities merged all under one roof – Sony Hall. Believe it or not, the two genres are big fans of one another. It is a classic parallel of the artists wanting to be like the athletes and vice versa.

Enter rap personality Wale, the man behind the marquee. The D.C. native is one of professional wrestling’s biggest supporters. He originally burst onto the music scene in 2009 and is still maintaining his relevancy today. The past four WaleMania’s, have grown into one of the best lead-in events during WrestleMania weekend.

WaleMania V
WaleMania V – the union between hip-hop and pro wrestling

Sony Hall was jammed packed and sold out. WaleMania featured a who’s who of the top titans in the industry. There was an urban vibe throughout the whole evening which included wrestler Q+A sessions, rap performances and more. It was great to see many wrestling personalities all over the venue, on stage, by the bar, in the lobby, etc. And all of them were very approachable and down to earth.

I’m glad I was able to take this in, as I had read about it for years. WaleMania delivered and set the tone for WrestleMania weekend. If you like wrestling and hip-hop music, I highly recommend you check out next year’s installment in Tampa Bay, Florida.

WrestleMania Axxess
April 5 – WrestleMania Axxess

WrestleMania Axxess

The next day I met up with my friend Donovan who recently moved from Toronto and now resided in Queens, New York. We headed over to the borough of Brooklyn to check out WrestleMania Axxess, a five-day festival featuring all things WWE.

This was my first time attending an Axxess convention in 17 years. Every year this fan fest continues to grow and get better with time, as WWE pulls out all the stops. They don’t shortchange their audience, collectively marketed as the ‘WWE Universe.’

Outfits worn at various WrestleMania's over the years
WrestleMania Axxess – outfits worn at various WrestleMania’s over the years

It’s a chance to go down memory lane and check out WrestleMania exhibits featuring historical highlights from the past. You can play out to your inner WWE fandom and call a wrestling match, customize your own walkout entrance, participate in photo ops and autograph sessions with several WWE talent.

WrestleMania Axxess had everything that you could ever imagine for the die hard WWE fan. The price of admission was a little on high the side ($77 USD), but justifiable. Truthfully I thought this year’s location at Brooklyn Pier could have been better scouted elsewhere. The venue was just straight up old lol.

NXT TakeOver: New York
April 5 – NXT TakeOver: New York

NXT TakeOver: New York

Later that evening we stayed in Brooklyn and made our way to Barclays Center. Next on the WrestleMania agenda was to check out NXT TakeOver, WWE’s prospect show.

Throughout the years TakeOver has grown into the premier event that emphasizes more wrestling-based action over theatrics. What I mean by this is that wrestlers on the card step their performances up an extra notch and many are being scouted by upper management to be called up to the WWE main roster.

NXT TakeOver: New York
NXT TakeOver: New York inside Barclays Center

The first time I attended a show at Barclays was back in 2013 for the Adrien Broner / Paulie Malignaggi boxing fight. It was a ruckus crowd there that night with rapper French Montana walking out the brashly Broner to the ring. I remember sitting up in the upper bowl area when it was a relatively new arena. The view that night was sub par to say the least, but this time around I made sure to have better seating.

For this TakeOver event, I said to myself if I’m going to get on a plane and travel this far, I’m going to have a great seat. A few days before leaving for New York, I went on Ticketmaster and grabbed an eighth-row ringside seat. It was a sweet view, just along the stage ramp which cost me $800 CDN. The NXT talent delivered a strong show, and everyone from beginning to end worked hard on the card.

WrestleCon 2019
April 6 – WrestleCon 2019

WrestleCon

Saturday morning was a sunny day and I decided to get some cardio in headed up to midtown Manhattan. In about 30 minutes I made my way to the Hilton Midtown hotel, the site of this year’s WrestleCon.

This is an independent gathering, that features wrestling stars from all over the globe from different promotions. This is probably one of the most anticipated events of the weekend not organized by WWE. The convention does showcase a lot former WWE talent who many made a living for the world’s biggest wrestling promotion.

WrestleCon brought out thousands in attendance
WrestleCon brought out thousands in attendance

WrestleCon has become an annual event and usually sets up shop in the same town as WrestleMania. It was my first time attending such a convention and what it lacks in production value, makes up in the wide variety of talent appearances available throughout the weekend.

If you are looking for wrestling superstars of the past, present and future, this was the place to be. WrestleCon is a great avenue to interact with your favourite wrestlers, get an autograph or participate in a photo op, which drew long lines for many high level talent.

Catch Porterhouse steak drizzled in truffle herb butter
April 6 – Catch Porterhouse steak drizzled in truffle garlic herb butter 🥩

Catch NYC

For the foodie component of this trip, I had my eye on this restaurant that was actually walking distance from the last hotel I stayed at in New York.  I had read online good things about this place and was interested to see if it lived up to the hype.

So, a few weeks earlier I placed a reservation for two and headed to Catch. The upscale spot draws attention from celebrity clientele as well as local New Yorkers. I was really looking forward to this dining experience and the over the top experience did not disappoint.

I have to say the service and ambiance were top notch. Located in the meat packing district, the restaurant is a two floor wood textured affair. I was fortunate to get a table on their rooftop level. Their menu offerings were classic dishes dabbed with a modern presentation and feel.

Catch’s positive reviews on their seafood offerings was on my radar. Ordering their Alaskan king crab tempura hot rolls as an appetizer was very delicious! It really complimented the main course, a 36 oz porterhouse steak drizzled in truffle garlic herb butter! That entrée was super blessed to say the least.

To top off a great evening, the server recommended trying their signature dessert, the “Hit Me” chocolate cake. You literally crack the top of the shell with your fork, while the liquid Klondike melts all over the ice cream layered brownie. That was delicious as well and a great IG story shot too.

What I liked about having a table on the top floor was watching the restaurant transform into a nightclub after. You know the music is bumping, the bottles are poppin’ and the ladies are all over the dance floor. I highly recommend you try to get a reservation at Catch. Just a few days later, Dwyane Wade threw his NBA retirement party there!

WrestleMania 35 Viewing Party flyer
April 7 – WrestleMania 35 Viewing Party

WrestleMania at a bar?

The New York weekend concluded with the actual big event – WrestleMania. The card was headlined by the first ever women’s main event, which featured one of my favourites, Charlotte Flair.

For weeks leading up to this trip, I was on the fence on getting a ticket for WrestleMania. I could afford it, but I questioned if there was any real value to it. After careful consideration I decided to skip the big show. The reason being is that overall, I didn’t think the card was that strong and whatever remaining tickets were available weren’t good seats.

When I attended my first WrestleMania in 2002, I literally had first row ringside and those memories will last a lifetime. Nothing can top that nor replicate it. I’ve seen some great wrestling cards over the years, so skipping this year’s show was fine by me.

I met up with Donovan again at the Broadway Comedy Club once he was done hosting a Q+A interview with Post Wrestling and we ended up going to Legends sports bar where it was a full house. Former WWE legends were in the building as well watching the pay-per-view. In attendance were veteran names like Al Snow, Val Venis, MVP and Shad Gaspard of Cryme Time.

The reaction that night when Kofi Kingston won the WWE title was memorable. There was so much celebrating going on, that you probably thought the New York Knicks had finally won the NBA title or something lol. I was in an environment full of passionate fans causing no trouble, what more can you ask for?

Wayne Lapasa in Times Square
Times Square selfie 📸🤳🏻

Final thoughts

I truly enjoyed this New York trip. Visiting this city never grows old on me. On top of all the WrestleMania festivities, I got to take in Sunday mass at the legendary St. Patrick’s s Cathedral on Fifth avenue. I always try to make time for church and give thanks for my life.

Not only did I get to stop by my favourite burger joint Shake Shack, but I also had the best chicken shawarma street meat I’ve ever tried in my life! Our street meat offerings in Toronto could use some work lol. I also got take in a little bit of shopping as well, did some minor damage at Macy’s and Supreme 😂.

On the way back to the airport, I decided to take a chance and take the train for the first time ever. Not only was it a cheap fare ($16 USD), but it took roughly 45 minutes to get there. I got to skip a lot of rush hour traffic in the process. The best part about flying home was that Porter let me catch an earlier flight, so I touched home just before the sun set for the day. That really made my weekend, capping off my NYC voyage.

I’m thankful everything went off without a hitch and this was another example of my adventures in living life. I try to explain this concept to some of my close friends and yes, their plate might be a little fuller than mines in terms of responsibility. But when are you going to take the time to enjoy yourself?

Don’t be the type to just be in a group chat and do nothing with your life. Don’t live life in a bubble. A follower can never be a leader if you don’t step out of your comfort zone. Be like me. Lead by example. Talk it and live it. 🗽