Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Sports

Could Wrestlemania be coming to Tampa?

The city of Tampa, set to host its fifth Super Bowl in 2021, now is pursuing the super bowl of professional wrestling.

Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins announced Thursday evening his group is set to submit a bid Friday to hold Wrestlemania — World Wrestling Entertainment's signature event — at Raymond James Stadium in 2023, '24 or '25.

The group also will bid for the Royal Rumble, another major WWE showcase, in 2022 or '23.

"I think it's something we've been taking a hard look at for quite some time," Higgins said Thursday evening at the Sneaker Soiree, an annual celebration of bay area sports held by his group.

"Naturally, we think with the rich tradition of professional wrestling in our community, with so many (WWE stars) who live here, with how much passion there is for professional wrestling, that it makes a lot of sense to try to host the premier event in Wrestlemania."

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission successfully has attracted a plethora of marquee events to the area including the 2017 College Football Playoff national title game and the NHL All-Star Game earlier this year.

The original Wrestlemania, held at Madison Square Garden in 1985, was headlined by a tag-team event featuring bay area-reared Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and former University of Tampa football player Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff.

Since then, it has grown into something of an international pay-per-view phenomenon as the WWE — headed by Vince McMahon — has evolved into a global brand.

Similarly, the Royal Rumble — first staged in 1988 — also has skyrocketed in popularity. In the main event of the Rumble, roughly 30 WWE superstars compete in one ring with the intent of trying to toss one another over the top rope. The last one remaining in the ring is the winner.

Fittingly, one of those WWE stars, former University of Florida defensive end Thad Bullard who wrestles under the moniker Titus O'Neil, helped Higgins make the announcement Thursday.

"They'll take some time to evaluate (the bid), and then I'm sure we'll be in conversation with them to see where it takes us," Higgins said.

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