Roman Reigns, ready for action, at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. (Courtesy WWE)

The story behind WrestleMania coming to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome starts at “no,” which is what the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation said after WWE contacted the group about bidding for the 2014 edition.

The foundation felt the wrestle-fest didn’t fit its mission statement for bringing sports events to town, said Alan Freeman, SMG’s general manager for the Superdome and Smoothie King Center, the NBA arena across the street.

The foundation did, however, put WWE in contact with Freeman, who put a host committee together and spearheaded the bid. It was successful in landing the event, WrestleMania 30, which grossed $11 million in ticket sales with attendance of more than 75,000 at the Superdome.

“Our sports foundation didn’t really understand and know much about it at the time,” said Doug Thornton, SMG executive vice president. “We had to sell them on the idea, and it was Alan who led the charge in putting that deal together. 

“Alan has a strong relationship with WWE, in particular John Saboor. Alan knew the strength of this event and felt because New Orleans was a strong destination and WrestleMania attracts people from all over the world, that it would be a popular location.”

WrestleMania 30 was such a huge success in New Orleans that WWE asked the city for a quick turnaround to submit a proposal for the 2018 event, which it won. Those numbers were even higher: WrestleMania 34 grossed $14 million in ticket sales, and the attendance of 78,133 ranks sixth highest in event history. Enigma Research showed 77 percent of attendees came from outside the New Orleans region.


Big Time: At 35, WrestleMania is a stadium-worthy spectacle and more, WWE’s version of the Super Bowl