Saturday, April 6, 2013

WWE WrestleMania Axxess

So I went to the 1:00 session of WrestleMania Axxess and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  The photos and video packages all made it seem like an amazing experience, but I couldn't imagine a scenario in which there wouldn't be gigantic lines for just about everything.  And while there were plenty of long lines -- more on that later -- overall it was nothing like I had feared.  I honestly thought that there would be lengthy waits to even get your photo taken with the bronze Andre the Giant statue.  Instead, you really could just walk right up to it and snap a photo.  Aside from the autograph sessions, this was pretty much the standard for all of the attractions.  From the WrestleMania banners to the classic championships to the various displays, you were pretty much free to just go right up there and take a picture.  And that was a VERY pleasant surprise for me.

And speaking of photos, I was pretty impressed with the helpfulness of the staff as well.  My friend and I only ended up waiting on two lines -- for the most part, all of the autograph sessions and photo opportunities were way too long to wait -- and in both cases the event staff either took a photo for us, or allowed us to take each other's photos and then switch places.  My only other real experience has been going to book signings, where everything is so incredibly rushed that you're ostracized if you hold the line up for even a second to take turn on your camera.  So, again, this was a very pleasant surprise.

My one major complaint, though, was the lack of organization -- especially in regards to the Superstar appearances.  For example, when you come in, you're given a map and that map indicates where everything is.  Except the map pretty much just says "Superstar Signing Station 1" and "Superstar Signing Station 2."  I recognize that they do this because it isn't entirely feasible to print out different maps for every single session, but even so it would be helpful if they could let us at least know -- in some way -- where everybody is and how long they'll be there.  To an extent they do (if you go down to the actual arena, there are signs above each signing station that says which Superstar is there), but if you're walking around you're roaming kinda aimlessly.  This turned into a bit of an issue about halfway through the session, when the Superstars who were signing swapped places.  We literally had to jump on a line without actually knowing who would be signing autographs or taking pictures.

This whole thing gave me two funny stories, actually.  When Jim (who doesn't watch as often as he used to) saw a sign for "Ted DiBiase," he got excited.  I had to tell him, "No, not the good one."  And then when we got on line without knowing who would be making an appearance, it turned out to be 3MB.  We -- along with a few others -- opted to just get out of line.  Sorry guys!

The two lines we ended up waiting on were ones that were short at the time that we walked by.  The first was the Money in the Bank photo op, which allowed you to reach for the briefcase on a ladder (well, sorta.  You had to keep one foot on the ground).  And the other was with Hall of Famer Ricky Steamboat.  For the brief moment I met him, the Dragon seemed very friendly and personable.  Cool experience.

Just because we didn't wait in line for autographs doesn't mean we didn't have any cool run ins.  While on line for the 3MB shoot, Mr. Theodore Long walked past us and was about 3 feet away as he waved to the crowd.  I crossed paths with JTG at least three times.  Hilariously, Hornswoggle walked past us too, but very few people saw him because he's so short.  He has a really weird body, by the way.  At the end of the session Jim and I also found the exit the talent was using, so we stood there and came within talking distance of various Superstars and Legends.  Superfly Jimmy Snuka actually spoke to us (basically just saying thank you when we said hello).  William Regal came right by us.  Several NXT Superstars and Divas that I didn't quite recognize did as well.

One story I have to share is about the Prime Time Players.  When they were heading towards the back, several children asked them for autographs.  Darren Young said "We're not allowed to" and walked through the curtain.  He then kept his back towards the crowd until his elevator arrived.  Titus O'Neil, on the other hand, stood there and signed every single child's program.  Even as his elevator came (while Darren stood inside, of course), Titus held up as one kid hurried over to him.  It was actually really sweet, and I have a tremendous new level of respect for Titus because of it.  He's clearly somebody who deserves to make it big.

The coolest run in, however, had to be with LINDA MCMAHON!!!!  That's right, Linda McMahon was at Axxess....and she walked right by me on TWO occasions.  The first time was when she walked down one of the corridors towards the arena area, and actually got turned away because it wasn't the right section.  She passed us a second time (and smiled!) as she walked to the next section.  She was with some small children, I presume her grandchildren.  Which means they may very well have been McMahon-Helmsely spawn.

There was some in ring action as well.  Antonio Cesaro fought, which made my friend and I joke that the United States Champion was defending his championship at the 1:00 Saturday session of Axxess, opening for an NXT Divas match (but hey, at least he won).  There was also an awesome in-ring promo with CM Punk and Paul Heyman.  Punk noted that Randy Savage needs to be in the Hall of Fame.  And when asked if he'd be wearing Savage's colors tomorrow night, he said no, but that he would be wearing somebody else's.  As an attires mark, I became intrigued.  In a rather hilarious moment, at the end of the promo, Punk and Heyman recreated the classic Randy Savage/Elizabeth "let me open the ropes for you" routine from WrestleMania VII.  Awesome stuff.

Overall it was tiring, but a whole lot of fun.  If I had one suggestion, it would be to figure out how to incorporate the autograph sessions into the event a bit more.  If your intention was to walk away with as many autographs as possible, you'd be SOL.  I think you'd basically just wait on one line and go to the next, and maybe walk away with 3.  And in doing that, you'd miss out on pretty much everything else.  You wouldn't see any of the displays and you wouldn't catch any of the action (the lines were along the hallways of the arena).  It's a tough thing to figure out logistically, but I'm sure there's a better way to do it.  And maybe having the announcers announce over the house mic who would be where might help as well.

More than anything else, this thing made me wonder why the HELL WWE doesn't have a Hall of Fame.  They have so many cool things on display that they could be making real money all year round, every year, just by charging $20 or so to get people to visit and view it.  Right now they have a warehouse full of old merchandise, PPV/show banners and various other memorabilia that is really just costing them money (due to rent).  Why not put it on display in a facility where they could make some of that money back?  At least give a permanent home to the awesome Andre the Giant statue, instead of trekking it out two or three times a year.

Anyway, be sure to check out photos from the event.  I'll update the page tomorrow with my WrestleMania photos as well:
WrestleMania Weekend Photos

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