Vince McMahon and the WWE smothered a pillow across the face of New Jersey leading up to WrestleMania.
New York landmarks, likenesses and Diddy were all highlighted. New Jersey was, at best, a silent executive producer. Kind of like George Clooney's role in Argo.
WWE got its point across that this was a New York WrestleMania with special consideration for the Garden State. But as Jersey Shore taught America for six seasons, it never was in Jersey's character to go quietly into the night. In fact, they did just the opposite the following night on Raw.
This was a hostile takeover. And East Rutherford wasn't going to give the WWE back until the promotion knew them by name.
The Izod Center had some stiff competition in terms of post-WrestleMania crowds. Last year's geeked up American Airlines Arena in Miami grabbed hold of a single "yes" chant and it rode it throughout the show. The night ended with a deafening pop for Brock Lesnar.
This year's post-Raw crowd had banged out multiple chants before the first quarter hour, most of which were directed toward John Cena. They would never look back.
Even during moments where they were down on a match, the Izod Center opted to entertain themselves. Never was this more apparent than during a babyface show down between Randy Orton and Sheamus.
The ill-advised clash was for the right to face the Big Show. At WrestleMania, Big Show celebrated what had to have been his 50th heel turn. But most fans lost count, and interest, after the first 10.
Unfortunately, Both Orton and Sheamus have been painfully one-dimensional as babyfaces. Both have seen reduced promo time to develop their characters since losing their respective world championships.
The ingredients made for a segment of indifference. And though it was, an aggressive audience made it their own. Cotton Candy, Mike Chioda, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Justin Roberts, John Bradshaw Layfield and even an office chair were all more over than Orton and Sheamus.
The match lumbered on. Logic dictated the crowd should have died slowly. But the arena crowd only became more fervent with every called spot that fell upon deaf ears. "Randy Savage!" and even "thank you Big Show!" (who mercifully interrupted the match) became part of the festivities.
By match end, New Jersey owned more than just a segment. This was their WrestleMania moment. A mulligan for the one that was so awkwardly compromised by the WWE.
Was the Izod Center the best Raw crowd of all time?
The fun didn't stop there as these fans may have coined the newest mass audience sensation: Humming Fandango's theme music. That chant registered a perfect 10 in the category of creativity.
At the end of that quarter hour, Cole asked incredulously "are we in New Jersey?!"
Why yes, Michael Cole. Thanks for noticing.
It took more than a calendar year—dating back to the first WrestleMania XXIX press conference—for New Jersey to receive this brand of acknowledgement. But on this night, the WWE recognized.
And after more than 20 chants, the Garden State's flowers finally blossomed.