Next Avenue Logo

A Mother and Son's Journey to 'Wrestlemania 39'

It had been a rough couple of years for our family and this trip helped to make both of our dreams come true

By Lisa Iannucci

My phone dinged — it was a text notification from my son, Travis, to me and his two sisters in our group chat. "Should I do it?" he asked.

It was August 2022, and he sent us a screenshot of the ticket he wanted to purchase for "WrestleMania 39" — the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. He needed to decide immediately and I didn't hesitate to respond.

A young man smiles and points to a stage in a stadium filled with people. Next Avenue
Travis Brinkley doing the traditional 'point to the stage' move at Wrestlemania 39.  |  Credit: Lisa Iannucci

"Yes!" I texted back. "Bud, this has been your dream since you were little. Go!"

I have watched professional wrestling since my brothers introduced it when I was seven. It was the days of the legendary Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Andre the Giant, Chief Jay Strongbow and my favorite, Dusty Rhodes.

I had a bout with breast cancer, the pandemic hit, and their grandmother passed away last year. It was time to do something special.

My then-husband Jeff, who was also a big fan, and I introduced it to our children when they were little. Travis has dreamed of going to WrestleMania since, but the biggest wrestling event of the year is different from the other WWE events. It can come with a Super Bowl price tag, too.

Our Family Tradition

We had hoped going would be a family event, but his sisters had work obligations. However, Nicole and Sami encouraged his purchase. It had been a hard couple of years for our family. I had a bout with breast cancer, the pandemic hit, and their grandmother passed away last year. It was time to do something special.

Travis didn't know that once he texted us, I jumped online and immediately started searching for my ticket as close to him as possible.

I thought, '"I want to share this with him. I want to see his face when he gets there. I want to watch it, too."

Since the kids were little, we watched professional wrestling as often as possible. After Jeff died in 1999, we made it our way of connecting. No matter how busy we were, we came together for the show. Special pay-per-view events became our special traditions of hot chocolate and baked chocolate chip cookies, and, on many occasions, the kids invited friends over to watch and have fun with us.

We also saw many events live, bought a lot of merchandise and attended several meet-and-greets. The memories we created will last forever. The kids are grown and out of the house now, but we do our best to continue watching and texting during the shows. We also Skype during the PPVs (Pay-Per-Views) and keep track of our predictions in a spreadsheet.

No sooner did I pay for the ticket than I started panicking.

"What if I join you, bud?" I replied.

I attached a screenshot of my ticket.

The excitement emojis poured in. This was happening.

WrestleMania 39 would be held at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in April. Travis lives in Arizona, a short flight away. I live in New York. No sooner did I pay for the ticket than I started panicking. I love to travel and have dreamed of living on the road and driving across the country, but the pandemic changed me. I hadn't flown since the shutdown, and the idea of driving from New York to California suddenly paralyzed me. 


Worried About Traveling Again

I didn't want to let Travis down but was buying the ticket a mistake?

Months ticked by. Christmas came, and I still hadn't decided how, or if, I would go.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I knew if I didn't do this road trip now, it would be harder to get behind the wheel later.

"Mom, you can do this," the kids told me. They are my biggest cheerleaders, and this was the best reason to travel again. I have to do this, I thought. I knew if I didn't do this road trip now, it would be harder to get behind the wheel later. Book one hotel room, that's all.

I planned a three-week road trip from New York to Phoenix for me and my significant other. From there, we would fly to California, where Travis and I would attend WrestleMania and then tour Hollywood for a few days. We would then fly back to Phoenix, and I would drive home.

It took months of planning and budgeting. Travis and I regularly discussed our plans for WrestleMania and our time in Los Angeles. As each month passed, our excitement built.

I overcame my nerves and thoroughly enjoyed driving again. We visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio and stopped to see America's kitschy attractions like the "Big Things Small Town" Casey, Illinois.

I took an emotional tour of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and saw a few national parks where we got our souvenir passports stamped. I drove a large part of Route 66. We slept in an RV and a WigWam, stood on the corner of Winslow, Arizona (famous courtesy of "Take It Easy" by the Eagles) and witnessed someone complete a 72-ounce steak challenge (with all the fixings) at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. I also indulged my love of "Breaking Bad" while visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Taking In the Moment

I was feeling more alive than I had in years.

After arriving in LA, Travis and I took a SONY Pictures Tour and checked out The Hollywood Museum, The Broad and the Getty Museums before the spectacular two-night event.

A mother and son taking a selfie in front of a "wrestlemania" sign. Next Avenue
Lisa Iannucci and her son Travis Brinkley  |  Credit: Courtesy of Lisa Iannucci

"Mom, do you want to look at it for the first time together?" Travis asked as we finally stood inside SoFi Stadium. We were about to see the stage and the ring and do what we've waited years to do – point at the WrestleMania sign, a WWE superstar tradition. We took that moment in, and I watched my now 28-year-old son's face light up as his dream came true.

My seat was only one row behind Travis, and we were fortunate to be close to the action. We screamed, cheered and booed with over 80,000 WWE universe fans. To see our current faves in person including Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, was electric, and we still had another night! We didn't want this to end. I teared up several times, just remembering how excited Travis was.

On the drive back to New York, my significant other and I saw more of Route 66, where we stayed at a historic motel. We also stopped at more national parks, and at The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Missouri, I released a butterfly (her favorite) in my mother's memory, who I knew would be proud of what we did.

It was one text from my son that not only made his dream come true but was the catalyst I needed to find myself again on a three-week, 5,600-mile cross-country road trip. We are already talking about doing it again.  

Lisa Iannucci writes about travel and entertainment. She is the founder of The Virgin Traveler, a travel blog for those who are finally getting a chance to travel later in life, and Reels Travels Magazine. She is the author of "The Film/TV Lover’s Travel Guide" and"Road Trip: A Sports Lover's Travel Guide." She is also the host of The Write Start podcast. Read More
Next Avenue LogoMeeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media
©2024 Next AvenuePrivacy PolicyTerms of Use
A nonprofit journalism website produced by:
TPT Logo