THQ's big, loud Wrestlemania SmackDown vs. Raw event in Florida was an awesome spectacle--we've previously posted some shots and video from the Wrestlemania night proper, but there was much more to that epic week. Between the Super Bowl-plus-sized crowds, some close-up interview time with the wrestlers themselves, the slight firework 'malfunction' you may have heard about, and being turned loose for days on end at Walt Disney World, I'm still reeling. My brain, eyes and ears still hurt--even my Mouse ears--and as a relative outsider to the WWE thing, I totally enjoyed every sensory-overload moment (especially when it looked like Duke might become a huge wrestling star's next target).
Here's a look at the whole sprawling week--enjoy.
Avoid the Topiary: You just know these frickin’ things move around late at night, hunting down any trespassers into Disney’s EPCOT—and in the morning, there are suddenly…new topiary…
Checking Out the Family Tree.
Choking the Duke: SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 videogame competition winner Darren Lavocah, demonstrating his soon-to-be-legendary “Armpit Fury Spinegrinder” move on Duke.
Clean Your Room: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror hotel lobby, Hollywood Studios—thirty years of dust, horror, cobwebs and gloom settle on the world’s premier vacation destination.
Darren Lavocah: Winner of the SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 video game rumble at the House of Blues. Master a video game, get yourself flown to Walt Disney World during the Wrestlemania madness—is life sweet or what?
Day One, One Wristband: 11:45 AM—Chris partakes of the traditional Disney World breakfast, consisting of Beer-Cheese Soup and an Absolut Peppar Bloody Mary or two. Hey, who’s up for some roller coasters?
Dino: Animal Kingdom—we had to take a picture, just to confirm that other people were seeing it, too.
Drunk Driving, Part 1—Two Wristbands: On the Magic Kingdom’s Autopia freeway, just before the, um, Collision (from the point of view of Duke’s car; note the steady accumulation of bands on Chris’ wrist over time, never a good sign).
Drunk Driving, Part 2: From the point of view of Chris’s car, mere instants before the aforementioned ‘accident’. Duke helpfully signals his intention to suddenly slam on his brakes at the first S-curve.
Drunk Driving, Part 3: One hand to signal and another to not grip the wheel.
England (shortly before the drinking begins): Part of EPCOT’s World Showcase Pavilion, a multinational tribute to diversity of culture, history and liver abuse.
English Street Comedy: Traveling comedy troupe in EPCOT’s England. Don’t make eye contact or stand out from the audience in any way, or you’ll wind up being part of the show. Trust us on this one.
Everest: We told a dubious Miranda that she needn’t sweat this ‘mild’ roller coaster—and she totally believed us. Bwa ha ha HAH!
Food Names That Make You Go Brrrr: Who gave the green light on this?
GR and Hissing Cockroaches: Well, that’s what she said was in there—and we sure as hell weren’t going to stick our hands in and check.
GR Field Office: …and now you begin to see one reason why this photo essay is so late.
Having a Friend Choke the Duke: Actually, this is SmackDown tourney-winner Darren Lavocah and his friend, really getting into the spirit of the evening.
HOB Lineup, 1.
HOB Lineup, 2.
I Don’t Even Want To Know: It was late at night; it was on Splash Mountain; and alcohol was a factor; that’s about all we know at this time.
If Your Name Is Tim, Beware: Part of the time-displacement equipment at Animal Kindgom’s Dinosaur! ‘Tim’, having been erased from existence, will never be available for comment.
Kid Wrestles Norwegian Ghost: In EPCOT’s Norway, this fellow was grappling with an unseen foe. WE were doing the international drink-tour, what’s HIS excuse?
Last Will and Testament: Duke calmly notes that the huge wrestler we’re interviewing wants to destroy him. Off-camera, Chris bravely calls dibs on Duke’s PSP.
Me Hearty: The fellow on the left got asked for almost as many photo-ops as Chris did.
Portrait of the Artist: All those buttons and still no invitation to stay at the Cinderella Castle Suite. Hmmph.
Rose and Crown Pub: “Drink up; the world’s about to end.”
Sake-E Ticket Ride!: EPCOT’s Japan pavilion, 11:36 AM—oh yes, this should end well.
Singsong Animals: (Actually, this is a bathroom shot from the last Tokyo Game Show; we totally don’t know how this got in here).
Some Assembly Required: EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion, where the friendly Cast Members welcome children of all ages.
Swan Balcony View: The view from the suite that a very nice woman at the Disney Swan Hotel set Chris up with. It even had a balcony, with teensy little guard-rails. Yeah, this could have ended badly.
The Company: Chris makes friends and seamlessly blends in at the Wrestlemania skybox.
Tin Toy Museum!: An otaku’s dream, tucked way in the back of EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion.
Upgrade to a Kimono: When the pirate getup you’ve paraded around in for three days straight just isn’t quite enough.
Willkommen to My Nightmare: Duke sez, “The first one’s free.” No refunds.
Year of a Million Drinks: The House of Blues, with WWE wrestlers waiting inside to threaten us. Special Guest Star, journalist Harold Goldberg.
‘You Smell Good for a Pirate’: An actual quote, from the girl second-to-left (it’s cute how the kids say “hello” these days). Even in line for EPCOT’s Test Track, Chris represents for the pirates.
Your Disney License Is Revoked: Hitch-hiking in Hollywood Studios—blowback from the Magic Kingdom ‘driving incident’.
Busted! Spending the night in the Disney Drunk Tank.