Photo by Mike Lano
Gordon Solie in the ring announcing for WCW
The Solie Chronicles – #28
Gordon Solie and Wrestlemania XXIV: Part 4
On Sunday morning, Pam and I did not exactly spring out of bed. We had been up late for two nights in
a row trying to take in as much as possible during the Wrestlemania XXIV festivities. I wandered down to
Starbucks at the Marriott and grabbed an assortment of goodies for breakfast.
We took our time eating breakfast and getting ready before heading down to the hotel lobby. Pam
boarded a bus that was headed to the Citrus Bowl for the Wrestlemania XXIV rehearsals. After she
departed, I turned around and saw Harley Race so I naturally went over to say hello. Although I had
spoken to Harley on the phone, it had been three years since I saw him in person. Harley was as friendly
as ever and we had a nice visit.
Since I was on my own, I decided to chill for a while and I went directly to the indoor pool and swam for
a bit. I couldn’t resist spending a little time in the Jacuzzi after which I wandered to the outside pool. Ric
Flair and his wife were catching some rays on the pool deck. I decided not to bother them because Ric
was swarmed by admirers everywhere he went and he appeared to be enjoying some quiet time with
Besides, it was getting closer to the time for me to join the other family members so I went upstairs to
change. Unlike the night before when I wore a suit and tie, I was able to dress casually for the trip to
Wrestlemania XXIV. I found Sheila Solie, Greg’s wife, and joined her for the ride over to the Citrus Bowl.
Upon our arrival, we were directed to the press box area at the stadium. Once again, there were tables
of food ready so I loaded up a plate and grabbed a seat with Sheila and some other family members.
As I looked out into the stadium from the press box, I saw a very tall tower in the center of the stadium
which dwarfed the wrestling ring underneath it. I could see a stage to the far left side of the stadium
with a runway protruding from it all the way to the ring.
Wrestlemania XXIV was about to happen! By the sound of the music resounding through the stadium,
it was obvious that WWE had a kick-ass sound system. I expected nothing less. One thing that Gordon
Solie was familiar with was the production of televised live events, both big and small. In addition to
producing his share of televised wrestling programs, Gordon and Dusty Rhodes had co-produced a WCW
event called “SuperBrawl” many years before. Gordon would have appreciated the sound, the sets and
the laser light show that was about to begin.
Once Wrestlemania XXIV was under way, the WWE Hall of Fame inductees and/or recipients took the
traditional walk onto the stage and were introduced to the crowd. By this time, there were over 74,000
excited fans in the Citrus Bowl. Again, it was cool to see Pam onstage at such a large event. She followed
Jack and Jerry Brisco onto the stage and waved to the fans with the rest of the group.
With all the matches that were featured, there were some that left significant impressions with me.
Chris Jericho, CM Punk, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin and John Morrison participated in
one of the best ladder matches that I had ever seen!
The match between the Big Show and Floyd Mayweather had been highly publicized and reminded me
of “Rocky” with the boxer versus the wrestler. I’ll never forget the day before when I went to take an
elevator upstairs to my room. One of the elevators was being held open for a special party while those
of us outside stood there and waited. I noticed Floyd Mayweather standing to my right and I asked
him, “Are they holding this elevator up for you and your entourage?”
He looked at me and calmly replied, “No, man…I’m just like you. I’m waiting my turn.” I appreciated his
sentiment. Just then, Linda McMahon and Stephanie came around the corner and got into the elevator.
Once they were inside, some of the rest of us followed suit and entered the elevator. I was facing both
of the ladies so I said hi and made a little chit chat before they departed.
I was constantly amazed at the hotel, the Hall of Fame ceremony and in the press box at the Citrus Bowl
by the sheer volume of WWE personnel that I encountered. While sitting in the press box, for example,
I turned at one point in time and Hornswoggle was standing next to me. I saw Finlay there and over the
weekend got to speak to the Wild Samoans, Ata Maivia, and Lillian Garcia. Pam and I sat in the hotel
restaurant with Mike and Diane Graham and got to catch up on news with them. Mike looked great and
seemed as happy as I’ve ever seen him.
Going back to the matches at Wrestlemania XXIV, the bout with Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels was about
as emotional as they get especially because Ric had announced that it was his last WWE performance in
the ring. I must admit that it had some significance for our family as well. Over the years, Gordon Solie
and Ric had made numerous appearances together and each man held the other in high esteem.
About half way through the Flair/Michaels match, I looked up and saw Pam, Greg and Eric Solie. They
snuck out of the tent beneath the stadium seating to come up and get their respective spouse. Sheila,
Jolin and I joined them and we took off for the tent. As I entered the tent, I got a hearty greeting from
Rocky Johnson. There was a TV right there so I sat by him and Mae Young to watch the end of the
match. Then I headed into another tent for what else? More food.
I came back and ate while I watched a great bout between Edge and the Undertaker. Some people
stated that the match was too long, but my only thought was that both men were superb!
As things were winding down, we hopped on a bus and went back to the Marriott. The lobby outside a
ballroom was packed and inside, there was a band playing and tables of food all around the perimeter.
Again, Pam and I spoke with the Jack and Jerry Brisco, Ric Flair, Jim and Jan Ross and a sea of other
celebrities. It was another late night but well worth it.
The following morning, we headed to the Orlando airport to catch our flight home.
As we waited in the airport security line, we were standing by Michael Hayes and he shared the last
Gordon Solie story of the trip. Michael remembered boarding a plane years before and noticed that
Gordon was already seated. Gordon had finished a vodka and cranberry and was working on another.
There must have been a look of surprise on Michael’s face as he glanced at Gordon and the drinks
because Gordon said something like, “Hey babe; I like to take off at the same time as the plane does.”
We chuckled and headed toward the next security stop.
As I look back on Wrestlemania XXIV, I have a few thoughts that really stick out in my memory. First,
I was happy for my wife because of all the praise shared with her in regard to her father by the WWE
folks. There were many tears of joy in Pam’s eyes as she listened to the respectful stories about Gordon.
Second, if you ever get a chance to attend the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and Wrestlemania, I highly
recommend it. Like me, you will go away with some great memories.
Finally, if you get an opportunity to stay at the host hotel for Wrestlemania, definitely do so. I remember
that the WWE staff was very approachable and very gracious.
More tales about the legendary Gordon Solie are available at www.soliesports.com