The champs are here

Children’s Wish sends St. John’s boy to Wrestlemania

Published on April 17, 2014

The young boy thumps his hand against his chest, screaming wildly.
“He did it!” he cries, his voice hoarse.

orld Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) heavyweight John Cena has just clobbered his opponent, Bray Wyatt, in a Wrestlemania XXX event. And nine-year-old Brandon Bowen of St. John’s is in the crowd to cheer Cena on.

Brandon leans over to hug his father as they celebrate the 14-time world champion’s win.    

On Wednesday morning, Brandon sat, rapt, watching the video clip, a segment of a slides how his mother had put together after their trip a week earlier.

More than 30 people — some standing, others sitting and a few peering in through the doorway — have gathered in a boardroom at the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp.’s headquarters in St. John’s to celebrate the granting of his wish.


Travelled to New Orleans

Brandon travelled with his parents to Wrestlemania, an annual WWE pay-per-view event that started on April 6. This year, the event was held in New Orleans, where the Bowens — who live in Conception Bay South — spent five days watching wrestling matches at the Merecedes-Benz Superdome.

This was all thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.

Brandon was born prematurely, at only 27 weeks, and weighed less than 2 1/2 pounds. There was serious bleeding in his brain, which led Brandon to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

To date he has had 15 surgeries, including one on his spinal cord almost five years ago, and has been hospitalized for varying lengths of time throughout his young life.

Brandon has loved wrestling, his favourite sport, since he was four years old.

“I have over 50-something wrestlers,” he said, referring to his action figure collection.


Met his favourite wrestler

During their stay in New Orleans, Brandon met scores of professional wrestlers, on whose respective matches he offered commentary — including his favourite wrestler, John Cena.

“He never gives up and he does these really cool moves,” said Brandon.

He met Cena at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in the host city, where, as Brandon’s mother Paula describes it, Cena “did a beeline right over to Brandon because Brandon was going crazy in his wheelchair. He’s dressed up in his John Cena gear.

“You’re the champ. The champ is here,” she recalled Cena saying to her son.


Video captures high-five

She caught Cena’s entrance on video, which shows him jogging in to the room where the Wish Children are waiting, and high-fiving Brandon.

Shortly after, Cena presented each child with a personalized plaque. When it was Brandon’s turn, he offered Cena a postcard in return. Then they traded wristbands.  

Later, while organizing a group photo, Brandon, who is sitting front and centre, turns around and says something he can no longer remember to Cena. After the picture is taken, Cena leans forward expressly to hug Brandon.

The two appear to have bonded.

In a different clip, Cena’s name is announced at the Superdome and when he appears on stage, he is not alone. Instead, Brandon joins him — in front of more than 75,000 people.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God!’” said Brandon, remembering their entrance.

He wasn’t nervous, though; he was excited.

Brandon was still excited during Wednesday’s presentation, which showcased the highlights of his trip.

He sat at the head of the table, decked out in wrestling regalia — a black T-shirt and a lime green sweatband embroidered with the words “Never Give Up,” one of Cena’s mantras.

Brandon also wore a child-sized WWE Championship Title Belt, with a spinning WWE logo at its centre. The back of its leather strap is signed by several wrestlers, including Cena.

Brandon’s wrists are swathed in fuzzy wristbands that match his forehead band. The one on his left wrist is particularly important.

Cena had worn it until he and Brandon met in New Orleans.

“It feels awesome” to wear something that belonged to him, said Brandon. “I always wear it, pretty much.”

The wristband bears the words “hustle,” “loyalty” and “respect.”

“Every time that I look at this, it means that I can never forget Wrestlemania.”